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In 2020, designing a website ranges from simple to extremely advanced. It’s down to the creator to figure out what’s best.
Knock something beautiful up quickly, no matter your level or free time? Or focus on SEO, features and design? WordPress is typically your gold-standard in the latter case...
But even WP can create headaches. If you have zero design experience, consider a ‘drag-and-drop’ website builder like Wix, Squarespace or Weebly.
Whatever your level, we’ll give you a careful and quick overview of what to expect.
We don’t promise to make you a skilled web designer in five minutes flat. But you can go from nothing to online in six simple steps.
Beginner’s Step-by-Step Instructions:
#1 Decide What You Want to Write About
First, it helps to know what you’re going to share before setting up your website. This will help you choose appropriate themes and capabilities.
Maybe you want to launch one of those amazing online business ideas you’ve been ranting about to your friends for the last year-and-a-half...Or, you could just want a convenient place to share and store private ideas, or for a course you’re subscribed to.
Generalities to follow when creating a plan:
- ☑️ Know your audience
- ☑️ Put the best info higher up
- ☑️ Keep sentences short, easily scannable
- ☑️ Talk directly to your audience
- ☑️ “Show” when you can (images, videos, descriptions)
- ☑️ Use varied content forms, like lists
#2 Purchase a Domain Name
A domain is the first step to getting online. Domain registrars specialize in buying and selling URL names, e.g. YouTube.com - though you are obviously very unlikely to find that name up for sale.
Alternatively, you can think of a unique URL name that doesn't exist. It's usually wise to find one that matches your company name or brand.
For example, if you are setting up a personal website, perhaps use your name - or something that alludes to the valuable content you'll be sharing with your visitors.
A “.com,” “.net” or “.org” extension is recommended, if you want to
target international visitors. For British traffic, a “.co.uk” extension could be suitable.
(Hint: You can skip this step and hop over to step #2. Some web hosts also offer free or paid domain services. Though not specialist, it’s typically more than good enough.)
Related Read: Web Hosting vs Domains
#3 Set Up Your Web Hosting
Website hosting or web hosting puts the content you create online, for computers connected to the internet to see.
Host providers own huge servers that give your website an allotment of storage space on the internet.
When you pay for a web host, you are technically renting out one of their servers. You connect your domain name to that server. And the server sends what files you have stored (or will, once you get to step #4) to the browser your visitor is using.
Not all web hosts are made alike. Some specialize in specific hosting types (like fast VPS hosting), while others offer all-in-one solutions… Many offer things like email addresses and site-building tools (next step in this guide).
Related Read: How to Switch Web Host for WordPress Site
#4 Decide on a Website Builder
Here’s a popularity-contest, er marketshare chart, to let you know who's-who around school.
There are few names, who you might be looking for, that are hidden in this list - buried inside of the category labeled “Rest.”
Popularity isn’t everything… Have a look at our WordPress vs. Wix review, to see one of the strongest drag-and-drop website builders around - and how it held up.
You may also notice that Joomla and Drupal take second and third-place. This is because they are developmentally very strong CMS providers. (We tend to recommend those two for programmers/coders.)
The gaping obvious other thing - in this pie chart - is the complete dominance of WordPress, in market share.
Let’s backtrack a little… It seems popularity does count for something. And WP really is remarkable. It offers the developmental power of Joomla (arguably) with the ease of a drag-and-dropper like Squarespace (relatively: WordPress vs. Squarespace review).
Using WordPress.org (Free )
It's a misnomer that WordPress.org is not free. People assume this because you need to find a third-party host (see the section above for more on web hosts) in order to get your website running. (Just find an awesome free web host and you’re good to go.)
The CMS is completely free to download. And there are 1500+ completely free themes to choose, with which you can customize, as you add content.
Once you download the CMS, you can access the user interface, which has a dashboard. There, do everything: create, modify and customize content and page designs/arrangements. On top of that, there are over 15000 plugins. These can boost performance and expand the functionality of your website.
Using Paid Website Builders
Let's say you get WordPress but want to increase its capabilities beyond those available for free... Get extensions and themes that cost. Premium website design templates can cost up to 250 quid. And plugins can be extra costs per pop, as well.
Some website builders only offer paid plans (such as Squarespace). Others, like Wix (Wix review) and Weebly, will give you more storage space and more advanced features - like online shops and advanced shopping carts - if you climb to a paid tier.
In general, it is very difficult to create a website that can handle a strong amount of visitors, or one with a competitive brand. This is particularly true if you are looking to convert... For that, you will likely need lead generation and eCommerce tools. Most providers limit access to those kinds of tools, unless you pay.
#5 Pick a Theme
So, you have a stellar WordPress host (or for Squarespace, or Joomla, etc…). Every CMS offers a selection of free templates to choose from, unless your CMS-of-choice charges for even the most basic plan.
These design groupings are often referred to as “themes.” Just think of your favorite genre of movie. The same applies to your site… If you are a thriller author, your visitors would expect to see a website with lots of fast-paced images of people on the run, shadows, and glocks held by people with thin, leather gloves.
More broadly speaking, there are templates that fit somebody who wants to show off an architectural portfolio, or someone who simply wants to run to blog, or a salesperson who intends to run an online store.
Finding the right theme can be tricky, you need to cover a lot of ground - think of your target audience, will you be able to edit it with ease, but also a big criterion is whether you enjoy it or not. Like with anything that has a sprinkle of design in the mix - planning a trip, buying a house or finding the best blogging platform research is crucial.
Free Themes & Templates
Search for the most suitable template in terms of the framework. From there, you can often publish it right away.
Here, you can see the selection screen for popular, free WP themes.
Depending on the CMS, at very least, you'll be sent to a preview mode where you can see the changes that happened to your website, either in real-time or after each time you update changes.
You don't have to make any commitments.
If you play around with your chosen theme and decide it’s not for you, update your website with an alternative one… To choose, click “install,” and your website would automatically update to that framework.
Drag-and-drop builders like Squarespace and Wix are excellent for allowing you to preview your edits, as they will look exactly to the visitor, in real-time .
Designing Your Own Theme
A much harder challenge than choosing the best web host services by yourself... No need for alarm. There are courses you can find on how to create your own website using programs like Bootstrap. Check out online training sites like Udemy.
In order to design your own themes, you need to develop a basic understanding of code languages like PHP, CSS and HTML. You also need access to a code editor like Coda 2. You should learn skills that let you turn static websites into dynamic ones.
This is a popular work-from-home freelancer job that can also pay very well. There will be a large learning curve, so put aside lots of time - to develop the necessary competencies. Many graphic and web designers have these talents.
Because so few people know how to design websites from scratch, it is a relatively rare ability. It can also be useful for those who don’t intend on hiring an expert, as you’ll have a basic understanding of how your website functions.
#6 Start Posting
So, it looks like you have the 3 things needed, to successfully attract online visitors to a working website:
- a domain name
- an awesome web host
- & a great content management system
All that's left is for you to create materials that gleam, like diamonds in moonlight. Shouldn't be too hard… The biggest mistake new writers make is to think THEY are the most important thing.
For even a best-selling novelist creating his or her own unique characters, the writer will pay careful attention to the genre, reader expectations and how to best give a satisfying reading experience. The other THEY is the most important person in the room.
Writing Your Own Content
Sorry to say, but writing is a skill - no different from learning martial arts or the piano. It takes time to learn... If you intend to write your own content, here are a few powerful tricks:
- Focus on writing the type of content you consume on a regular basis
- The “Crystal Ball Technique...” Look for pieces of content that are very well-performing in your niche
- Make sure that you make it original in the actual wording! Use Copyscape, to double check
Freelancer websites like Upwork.com allow you to hire professional freelance writers who create content for a living full-time (don’t look at me).
Popular types of content include SEO content and copywriting, which includes very specific forms of sales writing such as press releases, sales funnels and sales pages.
SEO content - or search engine optimized content - is similar to what you're reading right now. It manages to attract high-ranking positions in Google, while offering great value to the reader.
For more on this, skip ahead to the SEO Section.
The rule of thumb is to fire quickly and hire slowly... Some people take a quantity over quality approach, but this often amounts to the hiring manager getting entangled quicker than he or she can disentangle. It takes time to fully train your writer and to develop a working, trusted relationship.
Scheduling Content Posts
Scheduling posts allows you to space out your content during the week strategically, in advance.
This has several key benefits, whether on social media or your web page.
One: Having a schedule keeps you organized, and makes sure you consistently release content - whether you want to or not.
You tend to get into a rhythm, where your brain expects you to submit something on a particular time and day
Secondly: You can be intentional about what you release and when you release it. For example, creating posts that relate to a product you want to sell in the lead-up to Easter...
And Finally: When you work in a “batching-styled” process, you tend to get more efficient. This frees up time for you to work on other aspects of your business.
You can typically schedule posts in a few short steps, using an extension or an in-built feature. A few popular scheduling apps include WP Scheduled Posts and Auto Post Scheduler.
#7 Relentless SEO
Search engine optimization gets you traffic from organic search patterns that happened inside search engines.
In this way, it's different from advertisements, which you typically pay for, each time that your website or product is shown in a search.
If you manage to build up strong SEO, you can keep attracting a strong amount of traffic without doing anything more.
Overall, search engines like Bing and Google make algorithmic decisions on the value of your content...
These are based on how well your pages are optimized, for that for the search engine - at least in the way that search engines understand optimizations. And how well visitors respond.
So, you have to streamline your material to talk to both search engines and your target audience. This is quite a fine art. But, you can pick up the basics simply enough.
Optimize Each of Your Posts
The starting-point for optimizing SEO metrics of your posts is to determine exactly what people are looking for online. And to be clear on exactly WHO you want to target.
When we say “exactly,” we really mean it!
Do your research, by finding what words and phrases are related to your topic. Google AdWords is a good tool to use, as well as Semrush.com.
These websites even allow you to secretly peer in on your competition, to find out what keywords and phrases they are specifically targeting in order to bring in more traffic to their websites.
Look and Feel
“Keyword-spamming” is strictly against the online law... Well, not literally - but let’s just say most search engines severely punish for spammy uses of keywords… This could permanently affect your website.
Example: Many people are looking for the “best window cleaner in Chicago, Illinois.” Don't copy-and-past that keyword/phrase over-and-over in the post where it doesn’t belong… Make it flow into natural sentences and even use synonyms:
“Here is a list of top window cleaners in Chicago Illinois.”
You saw what we did there… Don’t get us wrong: Try to use keywords throughout your post, in places where they can have the most impact for the reader as well as search engines:
- Title tags & meta descriptions
- Anchor texts
- Titles, headings & subheadings
It’s crucial to remember that you are writing for somebody, if that is indeed what you are doing. In other words, to create high-conversion traffic, you need to keep the reader in mind, always.
Understand what your target audience expects. If you are writing for a highly technical community, they may want little in the way of entertainment - and just hard facts. If your community is very artistic and visual, they may want lots of images and less prose...
When creating content, you want to have the structure in mind, too. Know where you're starting, the main points you want to cover, and how you will conclude your post. This will give your post a direction, rather than making it tediously waffly.
You may have developed a strong personal brand. In which case, people may want to feel that the content you post reflects you as a person.
Website Speed & Uptime
Speed and uptime are the two most important factors for giving your website’s visitors a great experience - and giving yourself the highest chance of high conversions.
People tend to quickly leave a website - to never return - if they experience downtime and/or sluggish speeds.
The most important thing is that you are online.
Uptime is a measure of how reliably available your website is, to somebody who wishes to see your content.
Many top web providers offer a 99.98+ guarantee i.e. in the vast majority of cases, your website will be available.
In terms of speed, anything under 3 seconds is a sin… Taking 3 seconds, or more, to load can seriously harm your conversion rates. The optimal time is under a second.
In both cases of uptime and speed, look into the quality of your web host and also its location, e.g. if most of your target audience is based in the UK, find a web host that has UK or European-based servers.
Relationships With Other Websites (Link Building)
You’ve come very far, We’re drawing to the end of our guide.
Let’s end with how to build a website beginner sub-tip #7 - a powerful tip for getting organic traffic to your e-store (Shopify review)... Google has confirmed that link-building is its number one rankings factor .
We call it a link if another site cites yours, by linking to it. Google treats this as a sign of that page/site being important.
People also refer to this dynamic as “backlinking.”
Which means another website has referenced one of your pages. (This is different to your website referencing somebody else’s. That’s inbound attention.)
Try things like guest-posting, reciprocating links, posting in forums, building relationships, offering testimonials, and even just … asking.