Learn How to Build Your Own Website

When I first built this website over ten years ago there was only one way to build it- Using an HTML template and a Web Editor.

A good knowledge of HTML, basic web design, and a web page editor like Dreamweaver or FrontPage were essential.

Today the changing technology has made building your own website much easier.

There is no need to:

  • Become a web designer
  • Purchase expensive software
  • Become an HTML or PHP guru
steve-copeHi .. I’m Steve – Join me, and learn how to create your own professional looking website from scratch, and at a fraction of the price you would pay for a simple site from a web designer.

Why Build Your Own Site?

Building your own site isn’t for everyone. However building it yourself has several advantages:

  • DIY (doing it yourself) is cheaper.
  • You can make changes whenever you want.
  • You have complete control
  • It’s a useful skill to learn

Getting Started

What makes Self built or DIY websites possible today is the availability of content managements systems like WordPress with a vast choice of professionally designed templates or Themes

These themes can be modified by a web designer or knowledgeable web site owner, or can be used without modification.

By using an existing professionally designed theme/template you don’t need to learn about web design, and don’t really need a designer.

Whether you’re building a business, personal, or hobby website there are 3 main steps involved.They are:
  1. Decide on the site building technology
  2. Decide on the Domain Name and hosting provider.
  3. Build and publish the site

Site Technology

steps-1
In my opinion this is the most important step, as choosing the wrong option could cause you to spend a lot of time, effort and money without a result.

Over 50% of the new websites being built today will use WordPress .

Over 76 Million websites run on WordPress. Well known brands like CNN and UPS use it as well as over 50% of the top 100 blogs on the web.

WordPress isn’t the only option but it is the one I would recommend you follow.

You can find an overview of the other options with their pros and cons here.


Domain Name and Host

step-2Once you have decided on the technology you will need a domain name and hosting account to host the website.Generally you will use the same company for your hosting and domain name registration as it makes it easier to manage.

I use a UK host ( 1&1-UK) for my UK sites, and Blue Host for all other sites. They both support WordPress.

See Choosing a Domain Name and Website Hosting for more details


Build Your Website With WordPress

step-3
Although WordPress was originally designed for building web blogs it can be used to:,

  • Create a standard blog
  • Create a standard website
  • Create a website plus blog combination

simply by making some control panel changes.

Getting Started

You first need to register your domain name and get your hosting space as previously discussed.

Then you will need to install WordPress . The install is probably the trickiest part. If you need help then I do offer install services.

After installing WordPress the first task is to login. You will need to know the user name and password that you created as part of the install.

There are two methods of logging in to WordPress

  • From the Home Page- Most templates include a login link on the pages/posts so if you go to any page of the Site you can use the link to login.
  • Go direct to the admin Page- This is located normally at: domainname/wp-admin, or www.domainname/wp-admin or domainname/wordpress/wp-admin. It all depends on how you installed WordPress.

The Control Panel

Once logged in the first thing you need to do is to get familiar with the control panel.

Video Introducing the WordPress Control Panel

Once you are happy with the control panel then you need to do some basic initial changes to the settings like setting permalinks,setting a static front page etc- See changing Important WordPress settings, -Important- Don’t skip this

Adding Content -Pages and Posts

When you create content it will be in the form of a page or a post. For beginners the difference between pages and posts can be difficult to understand, as they appear to be the same,

Pages are used when you are using WordPress as a standard website and posts are used when using WordPress as a blog.

Most WordPress websites will use a mixture. Static content like contact page,about us pages will always use pages.

Other Pages like the home page and content pages can use either depending on your preferences.

I prefer to use:

  • A static home page
  • Pages for contact, About us,testimonials and other very static content pages.
  • Posts for news and general articles etc.
  • Small sites (<10 Pages) should just use pages.

Here are some important points

  • Posts can have categories and tags but pages can’t have either.
  • Posts appear in the WordPress loop and on RSS feeds and Pages don’t.
  • Pages can be parent pages to other pages to create a hierarchy.
  • Posts can’t have sub posts.

See Posts vs Pages on WordPress support for more details

Related Articles – Page titles, Using the WordPress editor

Understanding Categories and Tags

Categories and tags are both used to organise the content of your blog and can only be used with posts.

The generally accepted usage is that categories are for broad topics and tags for finer detail.

A blog about films for example might have categories of

Horror,Drama,Thriller,etc

and use tags like actors names,year,director etc

Posts should generally only be assigned to a single category were possible, and can have as many tags as necessary but 5 is probably the practical upper limit.

You can read more about them here:

  • WordPress Support- Categories vs tags
  • Categories vs Tags – SEO Best Practices for Sorting your Content

Theme Basics

WordPress comes with several default themes depending on the version.

If you are new to WordPress then it is a good idea to stay with one of the default themes while you find you way around, and unless you have very specific needs then you should stay with it.

Note: I use the 2012 theme on most of my sites- including this one.

Themes and Layout

The theme you use will have its own layout and some themes allow you to change the layout.

In General all themes will have a:

  • Header Area – Contains header Image and Top Navigation
  • Navigational Area – Usually At the top above or below header image
  • Content Area – Immediately below header area
  • Sidebar – Usually on right but can also be on left or not used. This is usually the primary widget area
  • Footer Area – Mainly used for copyright and navigation

Here is a screen shot of this site showing the main theme elements

wordpress-theme-layout

 

If you change themes then you will change the layout and the style. Sometimes this change can be drastic and other times not.

It is for this reason that you should be careful when changing themes.

Related: Guide to WordPress themes

Plugins

Plugins let you expand on the core functionality of WordPress, and some plugins are almost essential.

For example, one of the most common pages on any website is the contact us page.

However WordPress doesn’t have a contact form built in, and so to add this functionality you will need to install a contact plugin.

However only install plugins you actually really need and uninstall ones that you aren’t using.

Related Articles: Installing and managing plugins

WordPress Widgets

WordPress Widgets add content and features to your website.
Wordpress Themes have dedicated widget areas assigned.

The main widget area tends to be the right sidebar, but widgets areas in the header and footer are also available in some themes.

They can be added, removed, and rearranged on the WordPress Administration Appearance > Widgets panel.

WordPress comes with default widgets e.g. for post categories, tag clouds, navigation, search, etc. which can be added to the widget areas, and many plugins will often add their own widgets e.g. the WP-Polls plugin.

The order and placement can be changed by dragging and dropping the widgets.

Video WordPress Widgets Overview- Creating and arranging

Please leave your comments if you have any

Menus

A fresh WordPress Install will use a default menu which usually includes all pages in the the site.

You can create you own customised menus and add them to your site but the location on the menus is determined by the theme you are using.

Most themes have a top navigational menu which appears either above or below the site header image.

In the Video Below I will take you through the process of creating menus and adding them to your WordPress website.

Video -Wordpress menus overview- Creating and editing

Please leave your comments if you have any


Common Questions

How Much does it Cost? – Around £8/year for a .com domain name and approximately £50/year for hosting. However most hosting providers provide a free domain name with the hosting package.

Do I need to Learn HTML? – Yes and No. Having a basic understanding is necessary regardless of what most other sites would like you to believe.

However you don’t need to be an expert. My starting HTML course covers all you really need to get started.

Do I need to Learn Web Design?- No -There many professional designs available in the form or themes( WordPress) and templates (HTML/PHP).

Providing you don’t want a completely bespoke design, then It is simply a question of choosing a design for the site rather than creating a new design from scratch.

I’m Not very Technical Can I still do it? - If you can use a modern Word processor like Microsoft Word then you should be OK. Technical aspects like installing,backups etc have become much easier but you don’t have to do it all yourself if you don’t want to. You can always outsource more technical tasks if you need to.

Can I really Create a Professional Looking Website myself? -Yes because you will be using a theme from a professional web designer.

What About Building a blog? – Many people get confused between websites and blogs.

A blog is a Website with the content arranged by date, and is the online equivalent of a newspaper. It is used for presenting time sensitive information.

See a beginners guide to blogging for more details.

Why Do I recommend different hosting providers for the UK and USA? – Because search engines appear to take the host location into account.

What if I get Stuck? Then just ask me and I will do my best to answer as quickly and accurately as possible. I also offer very reasonably priced web master services if you need hands on help.

If you like this site then please share it or tweet it,and please rate the articles on the site as it will help me improve their quality.

Regards
Steve

Test Your Knowledge take the Website Basics Quiz

Need Help ?

Just because you’re building the site yourself doesn’t mean that you need to do it all by yourself I offer affordable WordPress install and setup  services ,help and advise to make building your own site that much easier!

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