Now that you’re ready to build your first website it’s time to start planning, but where do you begin? Let’s talk a little about some of the things you need to think about before you start building.
– Which platform?
This is just what the name implies; it is the base that your website will be built on, think of it as your foundation. For beginners, WordPress is one of the most popular choices. It’s a CMS (content management system) platform. It’s used by millions of website owners and developers because it’s free, powerful and relatively easy to use.
Other free CMS options include Joomla and Drupal, which are also very functional, with a slightly bigger learning curve. There are also drag and drop options like WIX, SquareSpace, and Websitebuilder.com that offer a free version but do charge monthly fees for a fully functional website.
– Domain Name
One of the first things you will need to buy is your domain name. This is the web address (URL) of your site. When it comes to choosing a name, ask yourself these questions:
– What will your site be called?
– What is your website about (your niche)?
– What is your focus?
Use these answers to come up with a name. Write down several and then check online to see if the one you want is available. You can purchase a domain on websites like GoDaddy, Namecheap or Domaincheap.com. You can also use a domain name generator, that will spin out names based on keywords you type in.
It may take a few tries to find one you like that no one has taken. It is a good idea to associate with your business, niche or topic so that people will have a good idea of what your website is about just by looking at your URL. You also want to keep it as short as possible so it’s easy to remember. Buying a domain name will cost a few dollars for a year’s registration, but it’s worth it to have your own business name.
– Web hosting
You can’t have a website without a host. The hosting service is where your data will be stored, on their servers. Depending on how much space you need now and in the future, it might be worth a few more dollars a month to ensure that your site won’t crash or get turned off. Keep in mind that there are free web hosting services, which is fine for a personal blog, but they usually don’t provide enough bandwidth for a business website and most of them display ads on your web pages.
– A site map
Before you begin building your website, you need a plan. Creating a site map can be as simple as jotting down a list of pages you need on a piece of paper. You can also sketch out your pages: headers, content, images and positioning of these elements.
My preference is to use a note card for each page I plan to build, that way I can lay them out on my desk and arrange the way they will link to other pages, how they will link, pull down menu options and the like. Knowing roughly how you want it to look will help the building process go much smoother.
– Install your platform
For this, we are going to assume you’re using WordPress. This can be installed with one-click from inside your hosting account. If you aren’t sure that your hosting has it check with your provider and they should be able to help you. You can also find plenty of tutorials online that can help you through the process.
Once it’s installed you can then log into the dashboard, have a look around and see how to set up pages, edit posts, upload content and more. There are many options with WordPress you can create a simple website with only a few pages or set up a full-blown e-commerce site ready to take sales.
– Start building
Now it’s time to start building, WordPress offers a variety of options that make your job easier. From free themes for design to plugins and widgets that add functionality. These are all available from your dashboard. Don’t be afraid to click around and test out different themes until you find one that looks good, you won’t break anything. If you can’t find a free theme there are also paid themes available simply do is search online.
If you know a little bit of coding, you can use HTML or CSS to change the pages to look like you want them to. HTML can be used in a simple text editor to get your content to show up the way that you want it.
These steps will work for Joomla and Drupal as well. If you decide to go with a drag and drop builder, they should provide you with all the documentation and tutorials you need to get your website up and running.