Looking to DIY your website, but don’t know where to start? With so many different options out there today, creating your own website is easier than you might think. Creating your own beautiful website is no longer reserved for the technically savvy! Website design has come such a long way in the last few years that virtually anyone can do it. Keep reading to learn how to get started…
4 Basic Steps to Making a Website
1. DOMAIN NAME
The first thing you need to do before even touching a bit of code or design is to choose your domain name. Your domain name is essentially your network address. It’s the address people type in when they want to visit your site. For example, mine is dapperfoxdesign.com. When choosing your domain, there are a couple of things to consider:
- Be unique! Nobody likes a copycat, and you’re more likely to be noticed if you have an original domain name that stands out. Your best bet is to have your business name be your domain. If the name you want is already taken, don’t worry! You can include a dash, add ‘the’ in front of the name (only if this applies to your company name) or include part of your tagline.
- Make sure your domain name isn’t longer than 2-4 words. Having a painfully long domain name can lead to misspellings, is difficult for email accounts using the domain, and is generally harder to remember! I’ve seen clients make the mistake of purchasing domains that were way too long, and ended up forwarding the address to another, shorter domain. If in doubt, keep it short!
Since you’ll want to keep your domain name and hosting (see below for more on hosting) together, I recommend purchasing the two together. I typically recommend bluehost.com or godaddy.com for domains and hosting. GoDaddy has incredible customer service, while Blue Host provides extremely fast hosting. There are more options out there, so do some research on which provider suits your needs best.
Once you choose your domain name, you’ll need a service to actually be able to use that domain. This service is called hosting. When you choose a hosting company, you’re essentially “renting” space from them for your website. All your files and data for your website are stored here, so think of it as virtual office space. That office space is essential to store all the files that make up your website!
3. DESIGNING YOUR WEB PAGES
The options for designing your actual website are limitless. I’m going to give you a couple different services and software that I’ve worked with in the past, but this certainly isn’t the entire list.
- WordPress – A CMS (content management system) for bloggers and websites of all kinds. Flexible, and free,wordpress.org provides the framework for an awesome website. You’ll need to decide which theme to download for your website. While there are thousands of options from different creators, I recommend the Genesis theme by Studio Press. When you choose the Genesis theme, you have tons of options in the form of “child themes”. Child themes are created from a parent theme, and uses the same base code and framework. Themes for WordPress is another topic entirely, and will be covered in a future blog post.
- Squarespace – A brilliant, clean interface that allows you to purchase hosting, a domain, and a website design software all in one. Squarespace uses “templates” that can be customized to some degree, and allows the user to add their own content. I love these templates because of how user-friendly they are. Definitely a great site for anyone looking to create a website without any knowledge whatsoever of code.
- Wix – Wix is a website design software online that is similar to Squarespace. Wix used to only offer flash sites, but introduced HTML5 when flash began to go out. (Don’t EVER build a site on flash these days. There are far too many compatibility issues across browsers and devices to make it even remotely worth your time!) I personally don’t love Wix as much, as I found that their search engine optimization tools were sub-par. I’d recommend Squarespace over Wix personally.
4. SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION (SEO)
Now that you have your site all set up and the content is finalized, you’re ready to get your hard work noticed! Performing some basic search engine optimization techniques are critical to helping your website thrive. Advanced SEO techniques are covered in the Dapper Fox Design SEO Mini Series, but here are the basics.
- Submit your site to search engines. If your site is being linked to by other websites, then chances are you don’t even need to do this step. Better safe than sorry. Click here to submit your website to Google and click here to submit your site to Bing.
- Keywords. Figure out what kind of searches you want to come up under, and select keywords that fit into those descriptions. You’re going to have much better luck choosing keywords that are two to three words versus only one or two. The single word keywords have already been dominated in search results, so starting out on your website, you’ll want to focus on highly specialized keywords that are slightly longer.
- Run an SEO plugin (for WordPress). My favorite is Yoast SEO. It’s free, easy, and best of all- this plugin is effective! Check out their website for details on how it works. If you’re using Squarespace, check out this link here for tips on how to increase your visibility to search engines. Start by adding information to your meta tags and data, and add alt text to images. The full how-to is all covered in Squarespace’s article. Remember that good content is the major factor for good search engine rankings. If your site isn’t useful for anything in Google’s eyes, your rankings will probably reflect that. Make sure you invest time and effort into making your site worth reading.
Hopefully you now have a better idea of where to start when creating a website on your own. What’s your biggest challenge when creating a website?