Whether you’re an aspiring blogger or a business owner, a website is one of the most important things you’ll need in your internet arsenal. Making your own website used to be a difficult process, but now, it’s easy for anyone to create a beautiful website.
This is a guide is for everyone, at any level of technical expertise. I’ve used this exact process to help hundreds of people set up their websites for blogs, businesses, even online shops – and dozens more websites for my own projects and clients.
This guide is constantly updated and improved, so if you have any thoughts on how to make it better, I’d love to hear from you.
As a digital consultant who also builds websites, I found myself frustrated at the amount of misinformation that’s spread across the internet. This is especially the case for anything remotely technical, such as building a website. Even worse, I’ve seen “web designers” installing $50 templates and charging thousands of dollars to unsuspecting customers.
Making a website is so much simpler than you might think, even if you have no previous technical experience. All it takes is a willingness to learn and an hour of your time.
So get yourself comfortable, and let’s begin.
How to Make a Website With WordPress
To make a website, there are four main things that you need: a domain name, web hosting, WordPress and a theme. An easy way to understand how everything fits together is to think of your website as your “house” on the internet.
- Domain name – this is what people will type into their web browser to get to your website. Think of this as the address of your house. You might know it by its more common names “URL” or “web address”.
- Web hosting – this is the physical land on which you’d build your house. It’s important to choose a fast, reliable web hosting service to build your website with. More on this later.
- WordPress – this is much like a pre-built framework for your house (and millions more around the web). It can be installed in seconds, and is constantly updated to ensure everything works perfectly.
- WordPress theme – think of it as a pre-designed IKEA room, but for your website’s design. Once installed, you can move furniture around, paint the walls, and so on. Themes make it easy to make your website uniquely yours, with almost unlimited opportunity for customisation.
Now, let’s get into the details.
A domain name is the virtual address of your website. The domain name is often referred to as a “URL” or “web address” – they’re essentially the same thing.
For this website, the domain name is “nomadtoolkit.com”.
Your domain name can be whatever you like, as long as no one else has already claimed it. I’d recommend thinking carefully about before making a decision, as changing your domain name later on can be a bit painful process.
Here are few things you should keep in mind when choosing a domain name:
- Be relevant. Your domain name should be relevant to your name, business or blog. This is a no-brainer. Both people and search engines will look at your domain name, and this will end up affecting whether they click onto your website and possibly even your search engine rankings. As an example, this website’s domain name is “nomadtoolkit.com” – simple, and 100% relevant to the brand.
- Be brandable. Treat your website like a brand that you’re going to build and nurture. Try to choose something that’s memorable. In my case, I wanted to create something provides travellers with tools and information, so “Nomad Toolkit” and “nomadtoolkit.com” proved itself to be a good choice.
- Be simple. Avoid long names, hyphens, unusual spelling, jargon and abbreviations. Complicated domain names are much less memorable, and may result in typing errors when people are looking for your brand. In some cases, they might even end up on your competitor’s website!
- Be contextual. Adding contextual information can be a good way to help people understand your website’s purpose. This is especially useful if you find your chosen domain name isn’t available. For example, “hello.com” is a strong, punchy domain name but is already taken – so you could opt for “hellomarketing.com” instead. This increased relevancy helps people understand your website, and also helps with SEO.
- Be local (if applicable). If your business is a local one, show it! For example, a business that only serves customers in the UK could opt for a “.co.uk” extension, while an Australian business might choose “.com.au”. Doubling down with context as well (such as “hellolondon.co.uk”) can also be helpful for branding and SEO.
- Use the .com extension (when possible). While it’s tempting to get creative with domain extensions such as “.cool” or “.xyz”, the best practice approach is to choose a “.com” domain. This domain extension has been around for decades, and it’s what people are used to. If you’re a not-for-profit, “.org” is a decent alternative. Choosing “.net” might be a good option as well, but keep in mind that people might type in “.com” out of habit, and end up on your competitor’s website.
To get your domain name, I’d recommend getting yours while signing up for a web hosting package with Siteground. Read on to learn how this works.
I’ve spent years and thousands of dollars trying out different web hosts – from the popular, mass-market web hosts to the little boutiques. To date, there’s only web host that I’d recommend to friends and family, and that’s Siteground.
Siteground is hands-down one of best web hosts today, hitting the sweet spot of quality and price. While other companies were pushing their aggressive marketing campaigns at the expense of quality, these guys have taken the effort to make sure that their trademark speeds, class-leading security and customer service are up to scratch.
And it’s not just me – even WordPress (the CMS a quarter of the internet) has featured Siteground on their “recommended” shortlist! While there are hundreds of cheaper web hosts around, you won’t get rock-solid web hosting and truly exceptional customer service at anywhere near a similar price.
It’s a couple dollars extra, but a whole world of difference.
Over the last few years, Siteground has built a reputation as a market leader in terms of overall speed, uptime reliability and amazing customer support that responds in minutes – not hours or days. The last point is especially important, as the only time you’ll end up contact customer support is during a crisis. The last thing you want is a slow, unreliable, unhelpful customer support team.
And if you’re worried about future-proofing your web hosting – not to worry! Along with their standard shared web hosting, Siteground also offers cloud hosting and enterprise-level dedicated servers for when your website starts to get higher volumes of traffic and needs a performance upgrade.
I personally switched over all of my websites over after spending years researching and trialling different web hosts, and I’ve been happy to report that Siteground has surpassed all of my expectations.
Which Web Hosting Plan Should I Choose?
Siteground‘s web hosting options start from $3.95 per month, which also comes in three options: StartUp, GrowBig and GoGeek. Be sure to navigate to the “WordPress Services” section to get the right package!
All three plans come with a number of “Essential Features”, such as a free domain name, free site transfer, free SSL certificates, unmetered traffic with SSD storage, 24/7 support, free daily backups, free Cloudflare CDN, unlimited MySQL databases, and free email accounts.
In short: it’s a lot of “free” – most web hosts charge for these features are addons.
And if you decide that Siteground isn’t for you, they also have a 30-day money back guarantee. That’s how confident they are with their service.
- StartUp is is their basic plan, which should be enough for most personal blogs and small businesses. The main limitation is that you can only host a single website (domain name) on this plan, while the other two plans allow for unlimited websites. If you’re only making one website, StartUp should be enough for you.
- GrowBig is the popular middle ground, for people who want to make more than one website. The main difference here is that it allows you to created an unlimited number of websites on one web hosting plan. You also get a number of “Premium Features”, such as priority technical support, website caching, a free wildcard SSL certificate and 30 website backups. If you might be creating more websites in the future, or expect to receive large amounts of traffic, you should choose the GrowBig plan.
- GoGeek gets you everything from the Plus plan, plus faster server speeds and “Geeky Advanced Features” such as fewer accounts on your server (which means faster website speeds), free PCI compliance, website staging services and one-click Git Repo Creation. For most people, I’d typically recommend starting with either the StartUp or GrowBig plan, as it’s always possible to upgrade.
For more information and to find out which plan is the best fit for you, have a look for yourself at Siteground’s website.
At this beginning of this guide, I mentioned something called “WordPress”. You might be asking: “what is WordPress, and why should I be using it?” – great question.
WordPress is a content management system (or CMS), which is a platform that organises all of your website content into an easy-to-use dashboard. These are common among a lot of websites since publishers are typically non-technical creative types, who would find using a hard-coded website extremely difficult to use – not to mention, almost impossible to set up in the first place!
So, why choose WordPress? Here are a few reasons:
- It’s very beginner friendly. The fact that this guide can help you get a website up and running in half an hour (with no technical experience!) is testament to that. Best of all, it’s completely free to use and is being constantly updated with design, usability and security updates.
- It’s extremely customisable. Despite it being so easy to use, WordPress has endless opportunity for customisation. This can be through themes, plugins, or even through custom code. This allows both you and your website to grow and improve over time.
- It’s trusted by millions. Since it was first created in 2003, WordPress is become the most trusted content management system (CMS). Of all websites that use a CMS, around 70% of these are built on WordPress, and that number grows every year. Even more amazing is that over 25% of all websites on the internet are built on WordPress.
- The community is huge. The WordPress forums are highly active, and there are literally thousands of free plugins that can be used to add functionality such online shopping, contact forms and social widgets. A large number of plugins are free, or at least, have a “light” version for you to try before you buy. Premium plugins add even greater functionality.
- It’s used by both one-person blog and big brands. Here are few names you might recognise: TechCrunch, Harvard Business Review, The New Yorker, BBC, eBay, Facebook, Google Ventures, NASA, Reuters, and my personal favourite: the official Star Wars blog. They all use WordPress, as do a lot of websites you’ll find on the internet.
I can navigate my way around HTML and CSS without a CMS – and yet, even I use WordPress for every single one of the my websites, whether it’s for a personal project or for my clients. WordPress does the heavy lifting, which allows me to get from “I have an idea!” to a fully functional website in less than ten minutes.
Once you’ve bought your domain name and web hosting (again, I recommend Siteground), you’ll soon receive a confirmation email with all of your account details. With this information, we can get started with setting up your website.
How to Install WordPress
If you’ve purchased one of the three WordPress packages from Siteground, you’ll be prompted to use the Siteground Wizard. This is the simplest way to install WordPress onto your website, following step-by-step prompts until you complete the process.
If you bought a standard package or don’t see the Siteground Wizard for some reason, you can log onto cPanel (your web hosting control panel) yourself to do it manually. Don’t worry – it’s still a simple process!
To get to cPanel, you’ll need to use the username, password and links that were sent to you in a confirmation email. Use your account details to log in and you’ll see the admin options for your Siteground account:
Click on “Go to cPanel”, and you should see a rows of icons. Find “WordPress” under “Autoinstallers” and click it.
At this stage, you’ll see a page like the one below, with a blue “Install” button. Click it, and you’ll be presented with some boxes to fill out. Put the following information into the boxes:
- Choose Protocol: http:// (unless you’ve bought an SSL certificate, in which case you should select “https://”)
- Choose Domain: <select your domain name here>
- In Directory: <leave this blank>
- Site Name: <type in your website name here>
- Site Description: <type in your website description here>
- Enable Multisite (WPMU): <leave this unticked>
- Admin Username: <create a secure admin username>
- Admin Password: <create a secure password>
- Admin Email: <type in your email address>
- Select Language: <select your preferred language>
- Limit Login Attempts (Loginizer): <optional>
- Choose a Theme to install: None
Leave the “Advanced Options” as they are, unless you’re sure you know what you’re doing. Finally, click “Install”.
Congratulations – your website is now live!
Now we get to the fun part of designing the look and feel of your website. This can be done by choosing and customising a WordPress theme.
Your WordPress theme will determine the basic design, layout and functionality of your website. This can be completely optimised, locked-down designs that might look great but with limited flexibility, a bare-bones design with huge opportunity for customisation, or something in between.
Now this is where the real fun begins!
Go to your browser and type in your website’s URL to see what it looks like with the default WordPress template. It should look a little something like this:
What you see here is the default “Twenty Seventeen” theme, designed by WordPress. It’s not bad by any means, but if you want a design that’s a bit more unique and customised, you’ll want to change your theme.
Here, you have a few options:
- Use a free theme. You can see the full list of free themes by going to your WordPress dashboard and clicking on Appearance > Themes > Add New. Alternatively, you can find the full list here.
- Use a premium theme from ThemeForest. This is the leading marketplace for WordPress themes with talented developers from all around the world. Themes are professionally designed and typically cost between $30-60 and come with a minimum six-month guarantee from the developer. In fact, Nomad Toolkit was built using a theme on ThemeForest! Check out thousands of premium themes on ThemeForest.
- Use a customisable theme such as Divi. If you want to be a bit more hands-on with your web design check out Divi by Elegant Themes. For $89 per year, you get hundreds of themes and plugins (including Divi). Personally, I went for the once-off payment of $249 for lifetime access and rely on Divi for my custom design projects. Divi makes it easy to have complete control over your website design, and has a huge community of who share ideas, offer templates and help each troubleshoot problems.
I personally like using ThemeForest for more complex, technical features (such as in this website), where most of the heavy lifting has done for me. This allows me to focus on creating content with only a few little design tweaks here and there.
However, for more unique, visual designs such as business websites and portfolios, I prefer Divi for its flexibility and endless customisation options.
Elegant Themes (the creators of Divi) also have a magazine template called Extra, which is a great foundation for a custom publishing design. I’ll likely be moving this website to Extra at some point in the future.
Both Divi and Extra are included in the Elegant Themes membership, which costs $89 per year or $249 for a lifetime membership, which gives you complete access to all of their themes and plugins.
Once you’ve chosen a WordPress theme that you like, it’s time to get installing.
Installing a WordPress Theme
Head to your new website and add “/wp-admin” to the end of your URL, and you’ll be prompted to enter your username and password. Once you’ve logged in, click on Appearance > Themes > Add New.
Here, you can either “Upload Theme” or search for thousands of free WordPress themes. Follow the prompts and “Activate” you’re theme.
That’s it! Not too difficult, was it?
Your WordPress theme should look pretty good out of the box, but it’ll be immediately obvious that you’ll need to make some tweaks to make it perfect.
If you bought a theme from ThemeForest, the developer should have some custom documentation on how to set up the theme – some might even have installable demos. Elegant Themes also has a lot of documentation, but the best thing you can do is get experimenting.
It’s a little difficult to guide you through the specifics as every theme is set up differently, but before anything else, I’d recommend starting with:
- Uploading a logo
- Uploading a favicon
- Setting up your homepage
If you’re really struggling, your premium theme’s developer should have a contact form or support forum that you can use. If you’re using a free theme, it’s a bit more difficult – but Google is your friend.
Next, you’ll need to create some Pages and Posts – the bread and butter of your new website.
Adding New Pages
To create pages on your new website, click on Pages > Add New to get started.
Here, you’ll see a text editor that looks similar to Microsoft Word (or Pages, if you’re a Mac user). From the editor, you can add text and images to craft your first page. The editor will save automatically from time to time, however, it’s best to click “Save Draft” at regular intervals to make sure you don’t lose anything.
Some themes such as Divi have a page builder built into the framework, which you’ll be able to use to visually design your new page.
To see what the real thing will look like, clicking on “Preview” will give you an idea of how things are going. Once you’re finished, click “Publish” to make the page live.
Adding New Posts
If your website has a blog, you’ll want to start creating some posts as well.
This process is almost identical to creating a new page. Click on Posts > Add New, and you’ll see a text editor is almost identical to the Pages editor.
At this point, you might be wondering about the difference between Pages and Posts. Here’s a simple explanation:
- Pages are static, timeless content. Examples of this are the homepage, “services” pages, or a “contact us” page. These typically don’t need to be updated very often, and serve as the backbone of your website.
- Posts are topical, timely content. Examples include news reports or opinion pieces. In web publishing, you might know these as “blog posts”, which are published at more regular intervals. “Categories” and “tags” can be used with posts to group similar topics and ideas together.
Categories and Tags
Each post that you publish can be also be sorted into categories and tags. This makes it easier for people to find what they’re looking for, especially when the number of blog articles starts reaching the hundreds or thousands.
The difference between categories and tags can be summarised as:
- Categories are broad topics. Examples include Technology, Lifestyle or Entertainment.
- Tags are more specific concepts or ideas. Examples include Apple, Google or Samsung (perhaps under a Technology category).
Typically, posts should have one category and several tags. The point of these is to make it easier for people to navigate your website, so be sure to keep your readers in mind!
Creating Custom Menus
Almost all WordPress themes give you the option of customising your website’s menus. In some cases, you’ll be given the choice of two, three or more!
To create a custom menu, go to Appearance > Menus.
If a custom menu doesn’t exist already, click on “Create a New Menu” to get started.
Select the menu items you want to add, then click “Add to Menu”. If your theme supports multiple menu locations, you may have to specify where your new custom menu/s will be located by using the “Manage Locations” tab.
Customising Sidebar Widgets
Your theme will most likely have a sidebar, where you can customise “widgets” that show different elements such as text, latest posts, or even email subscription boxes. To add, edit or remove your sidebar widgets, navigate to Appearance > Widgets.
Here, you can use the drag-and-drop interface to add, remove and edit the widgets for your widget areas. Don’t forget to click “Save” before exiting the editor – while it sounds obvious, a surprising number of people get stuck at this point!
Now for some housekeeping. Click on “Settings” in your dashboard to work through some of the basic settings to keep your website optimised.
You might have already specified your “Site Title” and “Tagline”, but if you haven’t – now’s the time! To give you an idea of what these two things mean, here’s an example:
For this example, “StarWars.com” is the Site Title, and “The Official Star Wars Website” is the Tagline. Figure out what you want this to be for your website, type it in, and click “Save Changes”.
While you’re in the General Settings area, you might also want to update the other fields here, such as:
- Date Format
- Site Language
This is optional, but you may as well tailor it to your personal preferences.
Under Settings > Reading, there are two main settings that you might want to update under “Front page displays”. Choose between:
- Your latest posts
- A static page
By default, it should be set “your latest posts”. This is fine for some people, but if you want a static homepage instead, this is where you can change it. A lot of themes rely on the static page option, and a guide for customising this page should be in your theme’s documentation.
Permalinks define what your URLs will look like. The default setting for WordPress is not user-friendly (and even less so for SEO purposes), so it’s worth updating this before you start creating content.
To update this, go to Settings > Permalinks. I’d recommend one of the following:
- Post name. Tick this option and you’re ready to go.
- Custom Structure. Type in “/%category%/%postname%/” (without the apostrophes) to include the post category in your URLs.
Personally, I prefer including the category in the URL structure, but only having the post name is fine too. By changing this over, you’ll notice your URLs will switch over from “www.hello.com/p=123” to “www.hello.com/page-name”. This is much better for your readers (as well as search engines).
WordPress plugins are one of the main reasons that makes this platform so great. Plugins are little packages of code that integrate with WordPress to instantly add extra functionality such as analytics, contact forms, photo galleries, or even SEO tools.
Thanks to plugins, features that would have taken hours to develop now take seconds to install.
How to Install a WordPress Plugin
If you’re anything like myself when I started using WordPress years ago, the word “code” would have sent you into a mild panic attack. Don’t worry! Finding and installing WordPress plugins is an extremely simple process.
First, navigate to Plugins > Add New. Here, you’ll be able to access WordPress’s huge database of free plugins.
If you know the name of the plugin you’re after, you can type it directly into the search bar on the top right-hand side. If you’re not sure, you can search for keywords to find the best plugin for your needs.
You’ll quickly fine that there are hundreds of thousands of options to choose from, some which sound like they do the exact same thing as each other. To make sure you get a quality plugin, look for the following details:
- The number of downloads
- Compatibility with your version of WordPress
- Date of the last update
- User review scores
This can be found by clicking on “More Details”:
For click through the tabs to see more information:
Click “Install Now” then “Activate”. That’s pretty much it!
Similar to themes, there are also premium WordPress plugins that offer even more advanced functionality. Some plugins do both – they have a “light” version available for free, with premium features that you have to pay for.
Premium plugins are also maintained by its developers to ensure that the plugins are bug-free, reliable and are compatible with the latest versions of WordPress and themes. If you’re having any issues, you can usually contact the developer for help. Free plugins also provide the option to contact the develop, but they have no obligation to respond – after all, it was free!
A big plus for CodeCanyon over some other premium plugin sellers is that they have a solid peer-review system where each plugin is rated out of 5 stars by buyers. If you encounter any issues, the customer support team is also very helpful.
Recommended WordPress Plugins
I use WordPress a lot, which means that I’ve had a lot of experience with WordPress plugins. To help you out, I’ve created a guide to the best WordPress plugins (in my opinion, of course).
Once you understand the power of plugins, it can be tempting to go on an adding spree! But keep in mind that plugins are modifying the base framework of WordPress (as do themes), which means that they can sometimes clash, have compatibility issues, or become outdated.
Not all plugins are created equal, so keep the following advice in mind:
- Test, test, test. There are lots of plugins that do the same thing, so try out a few to see which one works best for you – and pick just one.
- Check for quality. Check the number of downloads, average ratings and reviews of each plugin before installing it onto your website. Also ensure that the plugin has a good history of being updated for compatibility, security and bug fixes.
- Keep your plugins updated. This is essential to ensure that your plugins don’t have performance or security issues, and continue to work well with WordPress.
- Deactivate or remove unused plugins. Having too many plugins running in the background can sometimes put strain on your website’s resources. If there’s a plugin you don’t really need, consider deactivating or deleting it.
- Compatibility and conflict. Some plugins might clash with each other, or even worse, cause your website to malfunction. Choose your plugins carefully and ensure they play nice with each other.
But as long as you’re careful and test everything, you’ll find WordPress plugins are extremely helpful at adding extra functionality to your website.
Put it this way: whatever you can think of, “there’s a plugin for that”.
Well done for making it this far! At this point, your website should be ready to go, and you should have a pretty good understanding of how to work with WordPress.
From here on, it’s up to you to experiment and self-study to keep improving your website and your working knowledge. Google is a great resource, and I will be continuing to add to my WordPress section of this website.
If you have any thoughts or feedback, I’d love to hear what you think. Leave your comments below! And finally, it would really help me out if you’d share this guide to your friends, family, and anyone else you think might find it useful.
Thanks again for reading!