How to Build Your Own Website for Free

Learning how to set up a website is easy, especially if you have a handy guide to follow. Essentially, a new website requires domain registration, hosting, an attractive design platform, installation of WordPress, selection of appropriate themes among others. Use the following stepwise guide to launch your own website:

About This Guide

This guide is beginner-friendly, up to date, fast, platform – specific, and comes with free support. Using it, you will learn how to choose the right website-building platform, choose your website address, and set up and customise your website:

  1. Choosing a Website Building Platform

Even before you dive into domain names and colour schemes, you have to make a choice on the platform you wish to use while building your website. These days, content management systems (commonly abbreviated as CMSes) like WordPress are widely available for anyone looking how to set up a website.

Essentially, a CMS is a user – friendly platform for building sites and managing online content. The most popular platforms at the moment are Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. However, WordPress beats the other two. Nearly half of the sites on the internet run on WordPress.

a) WordPress

Apart from being awesome, WordPress is free and comes with many layouts that you can choose from. It is also friendly to beginners. So long as you can use Microsoft Word, you should be able to add content to your website. Additionally, you can expand WordPress using plugins to handle your website.

From beautiful online stores and business sites to basic blogs, this platform can handle the online capabilities. This is, perhaps, why it is used by NASA, Google Ventures, CNN, Reuters, Mozilla, McAfee, eBay and even Facebook.

WordPress is also mobile-friendly. This means that the websites you use it to build will be responsive and look/perform well on all tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices.

Similarly, there is a large support community – both from WordPress itself and online. You can also dig into the free resources available on the internet whenever you need help.

b) Drupal

On the other hand, Drupal is pretty powerful. This is why it is popular with experienced coders and web developers. However, it requires a steep learning curve that most beginners are likely to find exhausting. Remember, Drupal isn’t ideal for beginners. However, it is still a powerful platform that you can use to build your new website.

c) Joomla

Joomla is ideal for building online stores. It works similar to WordPress, although you need some level of technical coding knowledge and experience to understand how it works and make it perform certain tasks. In terms of difficulty, Joomla is somewhere in between Drupal and WordPress. It requires a larger learning curve compared to WordPress, although it is somewhat simpler than Drupal.

If you are looking to learn how to set up a website, therefore, consider sticking to WordPress. It is easy to work with while remaining flexible enough for just about anyone – from freelancers and small business owners to bloggers and creative artists.

At this juncture, you won’t have to set up or install anything. In the next step, you are going to learn about domain names and how to find the best hosting plan for your site. Then, the guide will walk you through the installation and customisation of a WordPress website.

  1. Choosing Domain Names and Web Hosts

To go online, you will need a domain name (web address like mysitename.com) and a hosting service (that will connect your website to the internet). Although WordPress is a free platform, you still need to pay for the domain name and the hosting service. Typically, the service will cost you between £2 and £5.

Owning a unique domain name is more professional than having a website on another domain (such as mybusiness.freewebsite.com) and it is affordable. Additionally, having your own web host ensures faster website load speeds and fewer down times.

There are a number of domain registration and web hosting services out there. Most of them are affordable, have excellent customer support and sometimes offer free domain names. A good example is http://www.bluehost.com.

Once you get the domain name, the service will also provide you with personal email accounts (s) for a more professional web experience (e.g. me@mysite.com). Once your website is hosted and you have a domain name, you can skip to step 3 to set up the site.

To select a domain name, ensure it matches your regular company name, like MyCompanyName.com. Similarly, if it’s your own website, then MyName.com will be a good option.

Remember, domain names typically end with .net, .org, or .net. Recently, however, there have been new domain extensions, including .pizza and .agency. Although these are alluring, consider avoiding them and going with .org, .net, or .com unless they describe your exact offering.

Whereas .net, .org and .com are easy to remember, the new extensions are not yet common on the internet. Therefore, people are unlikely to find you if you choose a different extension.

Consider the following while choosing a domain name:

a) Can it be branded?

b) How memorable is it?

c) Is it catchy?

Whatever the case, go for the domain name you like. After all, you own the website.

  1. Setting up A WordPress Website

After you have set up hosting and bought an appropriate domain name, the next step would be to get your site up and running. Start by installing WordPress on your domain.

a) Installing WordPress

WordPress can be installed in 2 different ways.

The first is through the one-click installation for sites like Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. Most hosting companies have integrated the 1-click-installation, meaning it is pretty easy. The 1-click-installation is typically found on the account control panel. To install WordPress, therefore, log into your hosting account, visit the control panel, look for the WordPress icon and select the domain where you wish to install the site. Then, click the ‘Install Now’ button. This will give you access to the new WordPress site.

In case your hosting company does not have the one-click-installation, then you might have to do it manually. However, keep in mind that the best hosts do have it.

b) Choosing a Template/Theme

After successfully installing WordPress to your website domain, you will get a basic clean site. However, since you certainly don’t want your website to look ordinary, you need to get a theme for it. Themes are design templates that tell WordPress how your site ought to look like.

There are tens of thousands of amazing professionally-designed themes available. You can choose from these and customise them to meet your own unique specifications.

To select a theme, log into your ‘WordPress’ dashboard (or type http://mysite.com/wp-admin). On the dashboard, everything is perfectly labeled. From the dashboard, you will get access to more than 1500 free themes. Click ‘Themes’ from the ‘Appearances’ side bar.

For a more elegant and professional theme, go to ThemeForest.net. They have a large library of themes at different prices. However, first check the available free themes.

Search for more specific keywords and / or use filters to locate themes that would suit the style you have in mind. Finding the right theme might take time but it’s worth every single second spent looking.

Additionally, try to get themes that are responsive so that your website will look good and easily accessible on any given mobile device.

c) Installing Themes

After you’ve found the right theme, just click on ‘Install’ and ‘Activate’ in that order. Note than changing themes will not delete your previous content, pages and posts. Therefore, you should not worry about making changes whenever the need arises.

d) Adding New Content/Pages

Once you have installed your theme, you can start creating and adding new content and pages. To add a new page, click on the ‘Pages’ from the WordPress Dashboard sidebar and hit ‘Add New’. A new screen will appear. Add images, text and any other content you desire before saving it.

In case you need the new page to be linked to on the navigation, save the changes you made by clicking ‘Update’. Then, click ‘Appearance’ and ‘Menus’ on the WordPress Dashboard sidebar, find the page you just created, click the checkbox next to it, hit ‘Add to Menu’ and it will be added to the list.

e) Adding/Editing Posts

If your website has a blog, you should concentrate on the ‘Posts’. Start by grouping similar posts into different categories for greater visual appeal. To create a new category, just add it to the menu and you’ll be ready to make posts. For this to happen, you should click ‘Posts’ then ‘Categories’, or go to ‘Posts’ and hit ‘Add New’. After you write a post, you ought to add it to the right category.

f) Tweaks and Customisations (Comments, Widgets, etc.)

You also need to know how to tweak your site. The following tips will help:

i) Changing Titles and Taglines

Page titles are designed to explain what your website is about to visitors. Search engines also use titles to determine the rank of a website. Therefore, you need to naturally include keywords in the titles. Always use unique titles for each page on the website.

Taglines, on the other hand, are added at the end of a page title. To change the tagline and title on your site, go to ‘Settings’ and click ‘General’. Then, fill out the form that appears.

ii) Disabling Comments for Pages and Posts

Some sites (organisation and business websites, in particular) do not want comments on their web pages from visitors. To shut off these comments, click ‘Screen Options’ from the top right corner whenever you are writing a new page. Then, hit the ‘Discussion’ box to reveal the ‘Allow Comments’ box at the bottom. Untick this box.

To disable comments on all your new pages by default, go to ‘Settings’ and click ‘Discussions’. Then, untick the ‘Allow people to post comments on new articles’ box.

iii) Creating Static Front Pages

If your home page looks too much like a blog, you ought to make it static. This means that it will not change. To do this, go to ‘Settings’ then ‘Reading’. Then, choose a previous static page you had already created. While doing this, remember that your website home page is marked ‘Front Page’, while ‘Posts page’ is the front page of the blog.

Failure to do this will automatically instruct WordPress to show your latest blog post as your homepage.

iv) The Editing Sidebar

Most of the WordPress themes you will come across have sidebars to the right. You can get rid of this side bar or edit items (such as Archives, Meta, and Categories) out. To do this, click ‘Appearances’ then ‘Widgets’ from the Dashboard.

Then, drag and drop to add different boxes to the sidebar. Alternatively, remove all items you do not want or need.

For more experienced web developers, there is a HTML text box where you can code in HTML. Learning HTML takes some time. However, it is not as difficult as most people thing. Actually, it is highly advisable that every webmaster (actual or aspiring) to have at least some basic knowledge of HTML coding.

If you are a beginner, you should not worry about the HTML text box. Simply drag and drop those elements you need on the sidebar.

g) Installing Plugins

To get the most out of your WordPress experience, consider installing plugins. Essentially, these are extensions designed to expand the capabilities available to you. You can, therefore, use them to add functions and features to your website.

There are shortcuts you can rely on to get your website to do exactly what you need without necessarily building that feature from scratch. Plugins are ideal for adding submission forms, adding photo galleries, creating online stores and optimizing your site.

To install a new plug-in, simply click ‘Plugins’ then hit ‘Add New’ and search for an appropriate plug-in. There are more than 25000 free plugins, meaning you need to spend some time finding the right one. Once you have found it, simply click ‘Install’.

Excellent plugins to consider include the Contact Form 7, Yoast SEO for WordPress, and bbPress for creating forums, among others.

Launching Your Website

Once you have followed the above steps, you will be ready to launch your new website. This guide, when followed, will help you learn how to set up a website. In case you encounter any problems, just refer to the right step and you should have a fully – functional WordPress website.

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