How to Build a Website in 2020 – A Guide for You to Get Started

I admit. This might not be the first time you would have come across a guide to build a website. Simply because there is are a gazillion of resources telling you how to build a website. And some of you might have already messed your hands with web design and got a beta version of your site up. Then why this guide? Because web design is a constantly evolving space and a lot of rapid changes are happening when it comes to integrations and applications. So this is an updated guide which I have put together to be newbie-friendly as well as to cater needs of advanced users. Before we get to the core of this article, web design goes through various stages. We are not talking about a wireframe or things that are too technical, but the overall phases that you need to pass through.

Stage 1: Planning

Web design needs planning. And it starts with a clear definition and purpose of your website.

Purpose

What is the sole purpose of your website essentially? I mean, will the website be a simple website to showcase your profile, or will it be a corporate website or an eCommerce portal? Or you want to start a simple blog for documenting your ideas and thoughts. What about an online course, is that on your mind? Or it could be a website that also wants to host some custom applications. Will it be a review and comparison site? Because there are hundreds of types of websites you can design. So you begin with a clear purpose and start collecting other pieces of data you need to accomplish your purpose.

Budget

You should also assess how much budget you are allocating for the website? I am bringing this point here because, though you can build a website even in the stiff budget, however, a more advanced version of websites usually need some budget allocation. For example, e-commerce portals, custom applications. Even if it’s a simple website you will need some budget for premium themes, plugins, content etc. We will discuss themes and plugins that later in this guide. Budget always depends upon the nature and purpose of the website.

Platform

What type of web design platform will you need? There are several web design frameworks available and I always recommend WordPress.org for 3 core reasons & this guide will predominantly focus on WordPress as a content management system.

  • WordPress is Open Source & hence free (It’s a PHP & MySQL based framework)
  • Quick learning curve (Drag & drop interface)
  • Endless integration possibilities (Through themes, plugins, 3rd party integrations)
  • You can literally build any type of website using WordPress

Content Planning

Your website will have content and you need to plan those pages or posts for creating a website structure. You can do a rough sketch on paper (my favorite) or you can use a mind mapping software like mindmester.com for more complex websites that have hundreds of pages and subpages.

Maintenance

You are not done once you create your website and publish it live. A website is an evolving digital property. You might want to update it frequently, publish new content, add new images or even the routine maintenance/housekeeping. There are effort and resources needed to maintain a website. Do include this in your planning section. Now, let’s jump to the core section of this guide. Before we do that, let me answer a very common question that a lot of people whom I meet ask me. Should I be a technical person to build a website? Well, the answer is ‘NO’. Having said that, you will need to learn a few key concepts for putting together all pieces and move towards completing your website and meet the original purpose you aimed for. This guide will EXACTLY teach you that.

Stage 2: Domain Name & Choosing the Host

We are now discussing two core concepts here for creating a website.

Domain Name

First thing in your web design journey is choosing and buying a domain name. Before even you buy a domain name, you will need to come up with a good name for your website. Because the domain name can’t be changed once you are up and running with your website. So, take your time, brainstorm and figure out a good domain name. In fact, there are a good number of online tools that suggest a good domain which you can try. NameMesh.com https://www.domainit.com/domain-suggest-tool.mhtml Bust a Name However, pick up a domain name that’s highly relevant to your website’s purpose and reflects the brand or objective. What about the domain name extension? A .com extension is highly preferred since that’s what people usually remember or even type when they directly want to reach a website. However, you might not always get a .com extension since the number of new websites built every day is an astonishing figure. Having said that other extensions such as .net or .org are great too. Just look at the hosting fact’s article & do come back to this guide 🙂 How to register your domain? You will need a domain registrar for registering your domain name. You will have two options here.

  1. Choose a company that provides both domain name registration and hosting (most of the companies do this)
  2. Choose a different provider for the domain name and hosting (A very common scenario as well)

Some of the domain name providers

  • Godaddy.com
  • Namecheap.com
  • Hostgator.com
  • Bluehost.com
  • Bigrock
  • Hundreds of others (really)

I personally use Bluehost & BigRock, however, I do have a couple of websites that are in Godaddy.

Type the domain name you want to register and then click on continue and buy the same.

Fill in all necessary details such as your name, contact details etc and once done, you will be prompted to pay the domain name fees via various payment options. Make the payment and the domain is yours. Please note that the domain needs to be renewed every year or depending upon the number if years you have chosen. Congratulations for registering your domain name. You will be provided with a domain login. Please keep the login credentials secure and easy to retrieve upon need. Please note that the login credentials are extremely important and keeping a Google Calendar to alert you the expiry date in advance is a smart thing to do. I own and manage about 25 websites currently and my Google calendar is updated with expiry dates of all domains well in advance so that I don’t miss out renewals.

Hosting

Choosing the right hosting is probably one of the most important decisions you will make during your web design process. Why? Simply because there are a few pivotal aspects to consider. I am breaking them down into 4 main core aspects to make it easier for you to understand. [su_note note_color=”#f3eaea”]In simple words, hosting means, a place to store all your files that are related to the website. You might choose a hosting that charges based on the space or many of the hosting are offering unlimited storage these days.[/su_note]

Type of Technology Stack

While choosing the right hosting provider, you will have an option of hosting on a Windows server or Linux server. Which one to choose? If your website is not hosting applications that are developed in Microsoft technologies, then in most of the cases choosing a Linux based hosting is the best choice. Linux is open source and excellent integration options are available. I choose Linux hosting for all websites of mine and clients.

Type of Hosting

Even in hosting, there are several types. Mainly

  • Shared hosting (most of the newbies opt for this)
  • Dedicated hosting (expensive when compared to shared hosting)
  • Reseller hosting (Ideal for web designers who want to host all their client websites under a single roof)

If you are just getting started, I recommend you to start with a shared hosting such as Bluehost or siteground or BigRock. All of them are known names and offer robust hosting experience.

Space Constraints

This is one area where there are rapid changes happening. When I got started into web design, I always went for limited space since I was trying out a lot of websites. Now, most of the hosts are offering unlimited space, domains, emails and etc. Choose the one that gives you the best price and features.

Server Location

One of the most underlooked aspects while choosing a host. Your hosting server should be located as close as possible to your target audience is (at least country level). For example, if your website is purely for the Indian audience, it does make sense to choose a hosting server based in India, not elsewhere. Same applies to websites that are in the U.S.A. Again, many hosts offer CDN (Content Delivery Networks) features, we will park that topic for now since it can be covered when we are talking about website speed and more advanced topics. Go for a good hosting according to your need and after evaluating the above points. My favorite ones are Siteground & Bluehost.

Stage 3 : Installation & Setup

Now that you have a domain name finalized & picked up, it’s time to integrate that domain name into your hosting account. If you have bought your domain and hosting from Bluehost, the dashboard looks like below. Now, it’s time for you to install WordPress CMS on your domain. WordPress is a free opensource software and all hosts will have a quick install link to install WordPress directly from dashboard or cpanel (Control Panel). In the below screenshot, click on Install WordPress.

You will be asked to choose the domain on which you would like to install WordPress. Please note the ‘directory’ field in below screenshot. It’s meant for specifying the location where you want to install the WordPress. If you want to install at the root directory, leave the ‘directory’ field blank. Click on next and you will have your WordPress installed in just a few minutes. You will also need to specify a username and password for your WordPress admin.

After the installation, you now have your CMS (Content Management System) installed on your domain/website. You will be now using WordPress Admin login for entering into your website and for any updates you can do within WordPress admin.

Stage 4: WordPress Dashboard & Initial Setup

Login to your WordPress website by typing www.yourdomain.com/wp-admin

From here onwards, you will be creating and publishing your website content from within the WordPress interface. Most Important Links for you to learn are;

WordPress Theme

A WordPress theme determines the look and feel of your WordPress. By default, you will be activated with a default theme. However, you will need a different theme based on the design requirements. You have thousands of free themes and a lot of marketplaces for buying premium themes.  I usually buy my themes from ThemeForest.com, FameThemes.com, StudioPress and in fact, I have bought themes from dozens of other marketplaces. You can upload the theme that you bought from above marketplaces from your WordPress admin and activate the theme. Please note that premium theme usually come with advanced website builders such as a Visual Composer that allows you to rapidly build website section blocks that look professional. We are not covering website builders in this guide since it requires more of a video guide than a blog post.

Pages & posts

You can instantly publish content using pages and posts. However, please note that there is a difference between pages and posts. You can use pages for static, standard pages such as about us/contact/product details etc. Posts are usually used for blogs, news, and announcements. Just create a sample page and post and publish them to see how they are appearing in live.

Widgets

Widgets allow you to control various parts of your website such as the sidebar, footer, header to quickly add or remove some data.

Media

Using media link, you can upload images on your website. In fact, you can upload media directly within a page or post. Try uploading some pictures and see how they look on your website.

Menus

You can create a few menus and place the respective links under the menu as per your plan. It’s all drag and drop here. That’s about it! You have just created your first website. Congratulations!

How Does Your Website Operate from a BackEnd Perspective?

Alert! Technical stuff inside. You can skip this section if you think it’s going to be more technical to understa

nd. However, I advise you to read this and internalize the way a WordPress website looks from the backend. Basically, when you install the WordPress, it creates two things

  • A Set of front-end PHP files organized into respective folders such as wp-admin, wp-content etc. All these folders will be created under /public_html folder
  • A brand new MySQL database in your hosting space. This is the database where all the data will be stored and retrieved upon the activities that happen on your website. Remember, WordPress is not a static framework, but a dynamic one. Everything is stored and retrieved from the database.

You can see the databases from cpanel using phpMyAdmin and the physical files using FileManager icon within your Cpanel dashboard. You will need to click on the below icons in your cpanel dashboard to enter into database area (backend) and file section (front end) File Manager – Screenshot

Caution: Don’t do any changes in this section unless you know what you are doing. So I think we have reached the end of this quick guide and hope it was useful for building your dream website from scratch. Please note: Some of the links in this posts are affiliate links and I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post

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