Introduction to Build a Website
Since 1997 I’ve developed two primary skills. How to build a website and how to manage website projects. Now it’s time to share my knowledge with you.
What I am about to teach you is the step by step process to learn so you can become proficient at how to setup a website.
I’ve used this plan dozens of times to setup websites for myself and my customers. It has been refined over many iterations to make sure it is as smooth as possible. It is both a tutorial and a project plan.
You can come back to it over and over again whenever you have a need to setup a new website. I know technology changes and in the future there will be new and better techniques for constructing websites. I will continue to maintain this series as website construction evolves.
You can rest assured that if you bookmark this page and return to it in the future you will find it fresh and ready to help you through the most current approach of how to setup a website.
Some of the links in this post are Affiliate Links. That means that if you use them and then make a purchase, I will be paid a commission. I only recommend products and services that I use myself and believe will be useful to you.
Sound good? Let’s start with a solid website plan.
Solid Website Plan
A lot of websites start off with only the barest level of planning, or, with no planning at all. Worse yet, a lot of website owners don’t even ask themselves, “Why do I want a website?“
I can understand that. For you this may be the first time you’re setting up a website. How could you know what to include in your plan for how to build one?
That is one of the main motivations for me to write this guide on how to build a website. I want to help you skip the trial and error phase and get right into the success phase.
There’s no better instructor than hands on learning. By doing the steps as I lay them out here, you’ll be learning what it takes to setup a website in a structured and logical way.
If this is your very first website setup then I expect this exercise will take you most of a day to complete. If you’ve setup a website before, many of the steps will be familiar to you and you will finish more quickly.
Appendix A of this guide includes my Project Plan that I’ve created for this guide. It uses the Pomodoro Technique to help you tackle building your website so that you have frequent breaks along the way but still stay focused on the overall goal of getting the project done on time.
This plan will help you track your progress and serves as a checklist along the way.
Still with me? Great! Let’s tackle the first step, establishing website hosting.
Establish Website Hosting
Every time you build a website it must live somewhere. Where yours lives depends on the hosting company you select for your site.
I’ve used numerous hosting companies since I started building them in the late nineties. My current preferred hosting provider is Bluehost.
The sites I’ve hosted with Bluehost run quickly and are easy to setup and manage. They offer annual plans for a discount and include a free security certificate which is important if you don’t want your website visitors to see a big, ugly, “This Site is Not Secure” message in their browser when they come to visit.
Go ahead and click here to establish hosting with Bluehost. The rest of this project assumes you are using Bluehost for your web hosting provider to keep the instructions clean and simple.
Get Started with a Hosting Plan
On the Bluehost website, click the green “Get Started Now Button”.
Choose a plan for your web hosting. The higher priced plans offer additional features, one of which is unlimited storage space.
This is something I HIGHLY recommend you consider. You won’t have to worry about how many files you are adding to your website or other websites if you choose this option.
The next page will prompt you for the Domain Name, or website address, that you want to use for your website. You have two options, you can register a new website domain, or you can use a website domain that you already own. I will assume you are registering a new website domain.
A Brief Detour
Before you register your domain, it will pay to do a bit of research and plan your strategy for the domain name you select.
Brainstorm some ideas about what you would like to use as an address as you build a website. Some rules of thumb to keep in mind are:
- Relevant to the Topic of Your Website
- Short, Easy to Spell Words
- Words that people search for about the topic of your website
- Avoid homophones (like way and weigh)
Keeping these in mind will help you avoid a domain that’s confusing and hard to direct people to.
*** Warning ***
It is all too easy to get hung up on this phase. I recommend you spend no more than half an hour on brainstorming and researching your website address. As important as it is, a website address is nowhere near as important as the content you put on it when it comes to how successful the site will be.
Use the search tool at Bluehost.com to find out if the domain you want is available.
Finishing up Hosting Setup
Now that you’ve found the perfect domain name, you can finish setting up your website hosting.
Enter the name you would like to register in the New Domain registration box and click the “next” button.
You’ll have two options on the next screen for creating your account. You can either use a Gmail account to log in or enter your details to create an account.
Once your account is created select the package and length of time you want to purchase, enter your payment details and click the “Submit” button.
Bluehost will create your account and you will be ready for the next step in building a website.
Take a Break
Now is a good time to take a minute to stand up and stretch your legs. Get a beverage and work the kinks out of stiff muscles.
For the next fifteen minutes get away from your computer screen. It will help you regroup and be motivated for the next step to build a website, setting up WordPress.
Setup WordPress for your Website
Bluehost makes it very easy to set up WordPress. In just a few clicks you will be all set and ready to launch.
Log into Bluehost at https://Bluehost.com.
Select the “My Sites” option in the left navigation column.
Click the “Create Site” button to start making a website. You’ll be asked for a site name, like a book title for your website, and a tag line, like teaser text for your site.
On the next screen select the domain you registered from the drop-down list. You can also specify a directory to put this domain into which is helpful if you are going to have multiple websites but is optional.
Now the wheels will spin for a minute or two while your site is created.
And then you will be shown you your installation details.
Technically, you now have a website. It’s not very functional at the moment. In fact all anyone can see when they visit your website address is a “Coming Soon” page.
But your site is up and running. Now it’s time for you to finish up the site configuration tasks by adding the “All Important WordPress Plugins”.
Build a Website Adding WordPress Plugins to your Website
WordPress plugins add additional functionality to your website. Everything from security options to electronic commerce come from installing and using plugins.
There are a few critical plugins for you to install and configure as you build a website to make it the best it can be. We’ll walk through each one here.
This is a Swiss Army Knife plugin of there ever was one. It offers multiple features from adding widgets to providing statistics for your site. Other plugins also build on top of it to add even more functionality to your site.
Bluehost has already installed this plugin for you. Simply click the Plugins link in the left navigation panel of your WordPress dash board and you can begin setting it up.
Click the “Set up Jetpack” to get started.
You will be taken to WordPress.com to connect your account to the site and enable Jetpack. If you do not have a WordPress.com account, you will be walked through the steps to create one.
Afterwards you will be presented with options for which Jetpack package you would like to use. For this setup we are going with the “Free” option.
Scroll down the page until you see the “Start with free” button. Click it to continue.
You will be returned to your website and informed that “Your Jetpack site is ready to go.”
Click the “Activate recommended features” button to turn on the most common features of Jetpack for your site.
Repel the Barbarian Hordes! Beat Spam with Akismet Plugin.
The second plugin that is a must have is the Akismet plugin. It stops spam comments dead in their tracks.
To set it up go back to the Plugins link in the left navigation panel. This is another plugin that Bluehost has already installed for you. Click the “Activate” button to start configuring it.
Click the “Setup Akismet Account” button. Here’s where you can take advantage of one of Jetpack’s features. You are given an option to “Connect with Jetpack”. Click that button to continue.
All the default settings are fine. However, I do recommend you turn on the option to “Silently discard” the most pervasive spam.
Save your changes and you are now protected against comment spam.
Enable Email with WP SMTP Plugin
Email is an essential part of your website’s functionality. Sending and receiving email messages is still the most commonly used and efficient means of communication today.
The WP SMTP plugin enables you to send email from your website. It’s a simple plugin to configure, but first you’ll need an email account to connect it to.
Fortunately, when you setup hosting with Bluehost it included email hosting as well. You just need to create an email account for your website to use.
Setting Up Email with Bluehost
Log in to your Bluehost control panel. The easiest way to get there from your WordPress dashboard is to click the Bluehost >> Back to Bluehost option in the left navigation panel.
It should be at the very top.
Click the Email option when returned to your Bluehost dashboard.
Click the “Add Email Account” tab and fill in your email account information.
Click the “Create Account” button to create your email account. Make a note of the email address and password.
Now you are ready to install and configure the WP SMTP plugin.
Go back to your WordPress admin dashboard and click the Plugins link in the left navigation panel.
This Plugin has not yet been installed. Click the “Add New” button. In the “Search Plugins” box enter “WP SMTP”. It should be the first one in the search results.
Click the “Install Now” button. Once it is installed click the “Activate” button.
Next you will configure the plugin to use your email account to send mail. Click on the “Settings” link for the WP Mail SMTP plugin on the list of installed plugins page.
Enter the email address you created above in the “From” email address text box.
Enter a name that will be familiar to website visitors in the “Name” text box.
Select the “Other SMTP” radio button.
In the SMTP Host text box enter “mail.yourdomain.com” replacing “yourdomain.com” with the website domain you registered.
Select the “SSL” encryption radio button.
Make sure the SMTP port is populated with 465.
Toggle the “Authentication” button to the On position.
In the SMTP User Name text box enter the email address you created earlier.
In the SMTP password text box enter the password you set for the email account you created.
Click the “Save Settings” button.
Now test your setup. Scroll back to the top of the page and click the “Email Test” link. Enter an email address that you can receive email at. Click the “Send Email” button. You will receive a message indicating whether the email sent successfully. If successful, you will also receive a test email at the email address.
Your journey to build a website is almost complete. Next, it’s time to Pause and Reflect.
Build a Website Pause and Reflect
At this point you’ve made significant progress in getting your site up and running. You’ve established your core services and set up the features that will allow your site to be secure and communicate successfully with your visitors.
Now you are ready to start creating the pages and posts that will attract visitors and keep them coming back.
Before you go…
I want to help answer any questions you may have. Sometimes it takes some one-to-one conversation to help get past a point you may be stuck on. That’s why I offer live consults to readers of this guide. It’s amazing what just thirty minutes can do to help solve problems.
If you’ve gotten stuck or have an advanced topic you would like to discuss, please use my online calendar to book a one-to-one call with me.
I’ve seen a lot and can help you get past your current challenge.
Book your session today! https://calendly.com/obsidianriver/30-minute-website-consultation