Making a good website is much easier than it used to be. At least, it’s easier if you’re making a standard website, such as a personal blog, small business store, or simple online store. Building a complete system for a major business or large brand is vastly different from the processes described here.
In this guide, you’ll learn about how to build a website through either a website builder or through WordPress, including numerous tips and tricks for creating a site well.
Option 1: Use a Website Builder
The easiest way to make a website these days is by using a website builder. These come in many forms, but most follow the idea of using tried-and-tested website templates that match what users expect to find on the web. Many of these offer extensive customization, and you can edit it later if you hire something with coding expertise.
How to Build a Website in 10 Steps
1: What Kind of Website Do You Need?
What kind of website do you need? Your goals have a massive impact on what type of site design makes sense for you. Some website builders are better with specific goals, so figuring out what you’re trying to do is the first step.
Local business websites are among the simplest sites that most people visit. These usually consist of several pages detailing the business and its products or services, plus some way to contact the company. Some local companies have online stores, but most don’t.
The primary goals of a local business page are telling customers who you are, where you are, and what you sell. For example, restaurants usually put their menus front-and-center, while vehicle repair companies show what types of vehicles they work on.
Local business websites have a significant advantage in that you usually don’t need to update them regularly. You may link to them as part of other advertising campaigns, but the sites themselves are simple and easy to set up.
One advantage that local business sites have is that they tend to get priority for local searchers over big brands that aren’t physically present in an area. While this isn’t immediately obvious from a search engine interface, it means registering with things like Google Business Profile makes it easy to get found.
Another thing to consider here is that first impressions matter. If your website looks old or spammy, people may conclude that you’re too far behind the times and aren’t keeping up with technology. Even if your business doesn’t relate to technology, this can hurt potential customers’ trust or drive them away entirely.
That’s why it’s better to invest in making an excellent local business site. It’s generally a one-time expense aside from hosting fees (which are low for sites like these), and that investment can provide significant returns over time.
Large businesses and brands need an entirely different setup from small businesses. Ideally, you’ll have a large site that covers each aspect of your operations, including any sub-brands and departments.
Business-focused websites usually have an online store. What defines “large” in this context is mainly a matter of interpretation, but it generally refers to companies with more than 50 employees or 3 locations. The number of employees does not directly correlate to company profits, but businesses with many employees tend to have higher revenue.
The thing to remember about websites for larger businesses and brands is that they’re primarily about sales, but not the same way that other company sites are. Instead, large companies often want to establish trust with customers before anything else and may not sell everything directly to their customers.
The point of detailing each part of a company’s operations is also for the benefit of non-customers interested in the business and could be relevant to it. Some examples include investors and potential owners who want to research the company and see if it’s a good fit for buying stock or merging.
If the website is comprehensive, explains the operations, and makes people believe the company is trustworthy, its overall value will increase. On the other hand, if a large company barely has a presence on the web, people may wonder if you’re trying to hide things.
Direct sales to customers might be important, but many large brands and businesses sell through other companies and don’t care about their store other than having a steady source of extra revenue.
Online Service Business
Online service businesses are web-focused companies with no physical locations, which is a sharp contrast to local and large businesses. The critical distinction here is providing services rather than products. Companies like these sell things online but don’t have a store as Amazon does.
Online service businesses have the most sales-oriented websites, focusing on convincing any customer to buy a particular product or service. Some of these cater to the general public, but most online services have a niche that they specialize in. Companies that are too broad may split themselves across several sites to advertise different services.
As sales-focused sites, online service pages usually state what they’re selling, why the company is a good choice for that service, and add pricing information (often with sales tricks, like ‘discounts’ that are just the standard pricing).
For example, websites that sell written content may detail the kind of content they specialize in, how fast they can deliver it, and how much customers will pay for a certain number of words. These sites need to be high-quality because there’s often a lot of competition, so you may want to hire a professional designer for them.
Blogs and portfolios are personal websites. Companies may have a blog, especially for marketing purposes, but this is different from sites that are primarily blogs or portfolios of work. These sites function in slightly different ways.
A portfolio is primarily proof of work. It’s not necessarily about attracting many visitors, but rather impressing people when they visit. For example, artists may host a website that showcases their best work and what they’re good at, and this can help a potential customer decide whether to commission them. The actual advertising probably happens elsewhere.
A blog is (usually) a regularly-updated series of written posts on a particular topic. Some people run these for fun or as hobbies, but you can also monetize blogs through affiliate links and other strategies.
2: Choose the Right Website Builder For You
Once you know what type of website you’re trying to make, it’s time to pick a website builder. There’s already an in-depth guide to the best website builder, so I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but it’s worth looking at Wix as your first choice because of its overall reliability for most purposes.
You may also want to look at Shopify or BigCommerce, both of which are solid choices for creating online stores. Now, remember that while building online stores is easier than it used to be, you could still be looking at days or weeks of work even if you know what you’re doing. The more complicated a store is, the more time it takes to make. Plan things accordingly.
Which Website Builder Should You Choose?
Wix is an excellent overall choice for general websites, thanks to its robust options and user-friendly interface. I recommend starting with Wix and only moving to other options if you decide it doesn’t meet your needs. Don’t try to push a bad fit with your website builder, either. If it doesn’t work for you, just accept that and find one that does.
Weebly is a good backup choice for smaller sites and businesses, as are Squarespace and Site123. If you can’t get a good website structure after looking at any of these builders, you may need to hire a developer to create a wholly customized site for you.
It’s tempting for larger companies to outsource this type of work, but that usually leads to cheaper, cookie-cutter websites that don’t reach their full potential. Big companies should consider hiring a developer full-time to program and improve the site, which will make it significantly better.
How We Make Our Website Builder Research
I’ve recommended a few website builders so far, but before we continue, I want to take a moment and explain why those builders made it to this list and others didn’t. I rated builders on several key factors, emphasizing how they perform for people who are unfamiliar with making sites.
Ease of Use
Ease of use covers factors like the user interface, drag-and-drop systems, and how easy it is to go back and modify things when you’re building a website. Perhaps this is the single most crucial factor in a website builder because if it’s too hard to use, I can’t recommend it to anyone.
Value for the Money
Value for the money considers how much you’re getting for whatever you pay. Consider various factors, like the number of existing templates, how complex you can make the site, and what additional features it might support. Note that an expensive website builder isn’t necessarily a bad value as long as its features and support justify its pricing.
Design and Flexibility
Design and flexibility cover the range of websites that a builder can create. Most builders use templates that you can adjust to customize things further. Put simply, it doesn’t matter how good a builder is on its other merits if it can’t create a website that meets your needs. Great builders are those with a lot of flexibility.
Features include helping build web pages beyond just the overall site structure. These can consist of helpful add-ons, automated suggestions for content, or anything else that makes it easier to build a site. Some builders offer these for an additional fee, while others include them as part of the basic package.
Help and Support
Most people have at least a few questions the first time they’re building a website, regardless of how user-friendly the builder is. A robust help section paired with widely-available customer service makes it much easier to create a good site.
Customer support may also include the presence of an active user community. If other customers are willing and able to help answer questions, that counts towards a builder’s final rating.
Finally, what do customers think about the builder? Honest impressions from previous users are the single best indicator for whether a service is genuinely good or not. A great builder will have hundreds or even thousands of public reviews that you can peruse. This kind of volume accounts for odd experiences people might have.
Test Your Website Builder
Once you’ve selected a builder, it’s time to test it out. Most good website builders have some type of free trial where you can, and should, experiment with their options. Testing this way gives you time to set it up at your own pace without the fear of paying too much and not knowing what you’re going to get in return.
3: Sign up for a Plan That Suits Your Needs and Budget
Once you’re done testing things, it’s time to find a payment plan that meets both your needs and your budget. You can find a free website builder or some cheap website builders if money is an issue, but I suggest being cautious with those outside of free trials.
Remember, a website is an investment. If you make a great website, you’ll probably get a much higher return from it than you would from trying to save every penny while building it. Wix has reasonable pricing for different needs, with most of their paid focus on website hosting rather than the builder. This solid option works well for many people.
If you’re running a store, consider using Square Online Checkout. You can integrate this with different websites and take advantage of Square’s expertise for shopping even if you aren’t using their site builder.
Wix remains a good plan for eCommerce, but you can also look at our guide for the best eCommerce website builders if you want to build an online store and not just a regular website. Stores have different needs, so make sure to use a specialty builder.
Is It Possible to Build a Website for Free?
Yes, it’s possible to make a website for free. This method is easiest if you’re only trying to make a simple website with a few pages and minimal content. Some companies will even host such sites for free. However, it’s better to invest in professional systems if you’re doing anything business-related. Check out our list of the best free website builders for more about this.
4: Choose a Unique and Relevant Domain Name
Choosing a unique and relevant domain name is also essential. You can get a domain through sources like Domain.com, though some website hosting companies and building services can also get you a website domain.
There are four essential principles to follow when getting a domain name.
First, make it relevant. Ideally, your domain will provide some kind of clear indicator about your business to help people understand who you are or what you do. For example, calling a brand “Krimson” is unclear. However, “Krimson Coffee Company” clearly tells people what sort of products they can expect from you.
Second, keep it short. Failing that, keep it memorable. Either of these will work fine, but people find it much easier to remember short phrases. 1-3 words are best if possible (Amazon, Google, and Facebook are good examples), but you can go a little past this if needed.
Short domains are easier to remember, easier to write, and easier to link. That said, many of them are already taken, so you might not be able to get the one you want. Adding something relevant to the domain name, like your industry, can be helpful.
Third, avoid numbers. If you absolutely must use numbers, try to write them out if you can or limit them to basic and well-understood combinations. Some acceptable numbers include 123, 101, and 911, depending on the context of the website. However, it’s still better to avoid numbers if you can, especially if you can’t write them out.
Numbers are bad choices for most domain names because they tend to look suspicious and unprofessional. People associate numbers in domains with scams, fakes, and impersonators. That may not be fair, but it’s how things are.
Finally, check to be sure the branding doesn’t exist. Few things are worse than spending days or weeks building a site and planning your brand, only to find out that someone already has it. Checking for brands only takes a few minutes, so you can easily do it before you finalize your name and begin further work.
5: Pick a Design Template You Love
Once you’re ready to start using your website builder, it’s time to pick a design template that you love. Most basic site designs are well-established at this point, and it’s better to avoid deviating too far from these. People expect websites to look a certain way, which is why things like shopping carts tend to be in the upper-right corners.
Good website builders often provide a selection of templates for different categories to help you narrow down your search. These can include things like photography sites, restaurant sites, church sites, and so on. Start by searching relevant categories, but don’t be afraid to branch out a little if you don’t find something you want.
Also, remember that most templates are customizable. If you see something close to what you want but not quite perfect, there’s a good chance that you can edit it to your liking. In other words, don’t get too hung up on trying to make something perfect in every detail before you even start building your site.
6: Customize Your Template Design
Speaking of customizing things, you’ll probably end up doing that even if you love the design you picked in the previous step. Builders like Wix make it easier to customize websites, occasionally using drag-and-drop systems which can program most details for you. This is more than enough to create basic personal or business websites.
Systems like WordPress.org also allow customization through add-ons and similar services. We haven’t discussed this important point yet, and it’s an easy one to overlook.
There are many add-ons and plugins that you can add to websites. These range from the simple to the complex, and with them, you can build nearly anything you can imagine with existing pieces for sites. They also allow for customizations that go far beyond reorganizing things on the page.
Consider researching relevant plugins for your site as you start to build it. It’s hard to develop good ways to integrate content if you don’t even know the options exist, but if you start planning for them, you may get more inspiration. There’s no single way to do this, but there are a few sound principles to follow.
First, think about how customizations will affect your visitors. Anything that harms their experience is better off avoided. On the other hand, anything that improves their experience is worth doing if it’s not too expensive.
Second, be careful about customizing too much. It’s easy to change things because you want to stand out, but that can end up working against you. Most people already know what to expect from site layouts, and changing things for the sake of changing can end up working against you.
Third, consider saving copies of your design so you can revert things. You may want to go back and change a few things, but if you only have one copy of your site, you could end up feeling trapped by the work you’ve already done. Having backup points is always a good idea.
Fourth, prioritize your customizations. In an ideal world, all of them will work together. However, you may end up picking plugins or add-ons that are incompatible with each other. In these cases, you’ll need to decide what to keep and what to remove.
7: Upload and Format Your Own Content
Once you have your basic site done, it’s time to start uploading your own content. This includes things like contact information, pictures of your company and staff, and so on.
As part of this, make sure you study how to write a call to action, how to write an about us page, and how to write a product description. Visitors will judge you on all of these things, and in many ways, they will define how visitors think about your company.
After uploading your content, take a few moments to look at it and consider how it feels. Try asking someone else to read it too, and see if they can spot any obvious errors. Issues with spelling or formatting will make your company look sloppy and unprofessional, so it’s crucial to fix problems immediately.
Similarly, make sure every page on your website has content. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a lot of content, but many templates have several less-than-obvious pages. If visitors find those and see that you haven’t touched them, they’ll wonder how you missed it.
8: Choose and Download Apps
You can add apps after your initial site design, too. We discussed these earlier, but take another look at places like Wix Apps, which has everything from seasonal effects to affiliate and loyalty programs.
The difference here is that some apps are good for basic website design, while others offer new features and enhancements. Not all of these are visible to customers, either. Apps can help you optimize elements on each page, manage security, or collect information about visitors.
Even non-business sites can benefit from apps. Just hosting advertisements can draw in a tidy stream of money, especially if you have enough traffic coming. Websites benefit from different apps, so think about what works best for your site and go from there.
9: Preview and Test Your Website
Once you’re done building things, it’s time to preview and test your website before it goes live. Make sure you check every page you’ve made, ensure links work, and view it on different screens to ensure everything scales properly. Builders automate most scaling, but verification is always essential.
How Do You Preview Your Website?
Most website builders have a preview function where the site acts like it’s live, even though it isn’t. The method to turn this on varies, but there should be an option in your builder control panel to turn this on.
Don’t forget to check how to make a website accessible on your builder. Accessible websites are those friendly to people with disabilities and include things like alt-text for images and user-friendly color schemes.
Remember, many of your potential customers may have disabilities. Creating a website that’s friendly for them can help convert them and significantly increase your profits, all without negatively affecting other customers.
10: Publish Your Website On the Internet!
Once you’ve finished building your site, it’s time to publish it. Most website builders have a button for this, but you may need to find or buy the best hosting for your needs. You may also need to transfer your site from your builder to your host. This process can become technical, but hosting companies are generally able and willing to help with this as needed.
Using a Website Builder: FAQs
Here are some of the most common questions people have about making a website through a builder.
How do you create a website for free?
The best way to create a website for free is to use a builder. Some will let you make an entire basic website for free and only charge you if you purchase add-ons, while others have a free trial system where you only need to pay when you’re ready to publish your site.
Completely free website builders exist, but these usually have far fewer features and options than comprehensive builders, so your final website probably won’t be as good.
Don’t forget that time is money. If you’re a small business owner, any time you spend working on a website is time you can’t dedicate to anything else. Building a website for free can sound appealing, but if your time is valuable, it might be more cost-effective to hire someone else and have them do it for you.
Can I move from one website builder to another?
That depends on the builders you’re using. Some website builders can import existing pages and convert them to function with their builder, while others don’t. The only way to be sure is to look at the list of features for the builder you want to use and see if it’s possible.
Switching website builders is inconvenient even at the best of times, which is why it’s better to investigate your options before you start and figure out which of them makes the most sense for your current and future needs. In the worst-case scenario, you may have to redo your entire website from scratch, and that will significantly delay you.
How long will it take to build a website?
The time it takes to build a website depends on details like how much content you need, how much customizing you need to do, and how large your site will be. That’s why there is no universal answer to this question. However, a few standard metrics can help you estimate the timeframe.
If you’re using a website builder and don’t need to customize things or add too much content, you could build a website in as little as one or two days. It won’t be large or fancy, but you can do it. This option is popular among people who need to get a site up as soon as possible while working on a larger, better one.
A moderately-customized website made with a builder usually takes several weeks to build. Customization delays can involve going through things page-by-page, waiting for answers to questions, and the time needed to produce the content for each page.
If you’re doing a lot of customizing or writing things from scratch, the site can take up to several months to build. Larger websites are inherently more complicated and may need rigorous testing to ensure they perform as intended.
All of these estimates assume some familiarity with creating websites. If this is your first time building a site, it will probably take at least an extra week or two.
Will my site appear in search engines?
Most websites will start appearing in search engines soon after they launch. A typical site starts appearing on Google anywhere from a few days to a few weeks after publishing it. This timeframe gives Google time to see and monitor the site to ensure it’s not fleeting.
You can speed up the process a little by using systems like Google Business Profile, which lets you tell Google that you have a web page and provide additional information it can display when people start looking for you.
You probably won’t hit the top of the search results immediately, especially if you’re in a competitive area. It takes time and effort to rise through the rankings, so set your expectations and advertising plans accordingly.
How do I build an online store?
The easiest way to build an online store is through a dedicated store builder like Shopify. Stores have different rules and requirements, especially for website security, so it’s better to go with a builder specializing in creating them.
Stores should look professional and function well at all times. These can be tough for amateurs to make, even with a builder, so consider hiring an expert to do this. It’s more expensive this way, but it’s usually better for your long-term profits to invest in an excellent site design.
That said, if you’re only selling a handful of products in small volumes, you can still build the site yourself without worry. Essentially, the more products you have, the more vital it is to get a professional’s help for creating your site.
Remember that online store builders work well for regular stores, but you may have to do some custom coding if you want to change your site’s navigation system. For example, you may want large buttons that lead to different subsections of your store, but your builder might not natively support these. It’s possible to solve this problem, but you’ll need a coder for it.
Which is the easiest website builder?
When it comes to website builders, ease is mainly subjective. People learn differently, so what works in one situation won’t necessarily work for everyone else. However, in my experience, many newcomers find Wix to be beginner-friendly. That’s one of the reasons I recommend starting there and only branching out if you have to.
How do I make a website to sell products and make money?
The best way to make a website to sell products is to use a good store builder. These simplify and automate many essential parts of having a store, such as adding checkout systems and maintaining site security.
Wix is fast and great for small stores. Shopify is highly customizable and better for experienced users, but it also has the most potential. Weebly is a good choice for small businesses, while Squarespace has high quality throughout.
Finally, if you don’t want to build a whole website, you could try selling through a marketplace like Etsy or eBay. These offer minimal control and take a cut of the profits, but they’re an option if you want the simplest site possible.
What do I need to create a website?
All you really need to create a website is a concept and a builder. When you know what you want to develop and have a builder that lets you drag-and-drop sections to make that, you can figure out the rest from there.
Everything else depends on the type of website you’re making, but most sites need some form of content. This may include photography, background art assets, written material, contact forms, and anything else users expect to see when they visit.
Don’t order your content too far ahead of time. Instead, make the basic structure of your site and figure out where things should go. Once you have your structure, you can start adding your content. Go back and review the design after adding your content, and adjust it if needed to ensure everything displays correctly.
How much does it cost to make a website?
The price for a website depends on things like what add-ons you’re using and whether you’re hiring someone to do it for you. A small business can realistically build a simple website for less than $500, and barebones websites can be under $100 even with hosting costs.
If you’re looking for a website with a lot of content and customized coding, the price could be $30,000 or more. However, most people and businesses won’t get anywhere near that price tag. The truth is that companies want the process of making websites to be easy and affordable so they can sell hosting services. Making website creation expensive doesn’t help them.
These prices do not include the time you spend working on the website. Time is money, especially if you’re a business owner, so you should carefully calculate how much you can afford to spend learning how to build a website. It may be more affordable to hire someone else to do it for you.
What is the best software to make a website?
The “best” software is subjective. You can only determine what’s best for you by evaluating factors like ease of use, number of features, and pricing. Some people need robust website builders with options that are only available with premium pricing, while others can get by with a basic template and no add-ons at all.
I often recommend Wix to people who are just starting because it’s the best basic builder. Other builders may be better for specialist sites, such as eCommerce stores.
How many different ways are there to make a website?
Realistically, there are only three ways to make a website, and everything else is some variation on these options.
The first option is coding the website yourself. It’s the most challenging option because you may need to study several programming languages. However, it also offers you full control of the website because you can manage every detail. People used to primarily build websites this way, but it’s fallen out of favor because most people no longer need this much control.
The second option is hiring someone to make the website. Most coders and agencies prefer to work from a selection of templates they have, adjusting and customizing them to fit your needs. Good coders will focus on your website’s needs, while bad coders often try to get through customers as fast as possible.
The final option is using a website builder. These are intuitive systems, often with drag-and-drop components, and they offer extensive customization and control through add-ons and other features. Most people prefer using website builders thanks to their low cost and ease of use, but they aren’t quite as flexible as wholly custom coding.
Specialized content management systems, such as WordPress, fall under this category. These are all website builders, but they have a layer over the top that affects how much you can do with the site. Most of these are still quite flexible if you begin editing the code directly, but their overlays and control systems limit regular control to specific areas.
How do I build a professional-looking website?
The best way to build a professional-looking website is to hire a professional to do it for you. Hiring someone who is genuinely good at making websites can help you avoid common pitfalls. Outsourcing is more expensive than doing it yourself, but visitors can distinguish between a professional website and a cheap one. When quality matters, get a pro.
The easiest way to build a professional-looking website yourself is by using a website builder and selecting a suitable template for your starting point. If that looks good, avoid making too many changes to the site structure, and it should maintain its appearance going forward.
Systems like WordPress can also make professional-looking websites, as proven by the number of businesses and governments that rely on it. However, this is somewhat slower than using a website builder unless you have a lot of expertise. A website builder’s templates are easier to work with.
Where can I hire someone to build a website?
There are many places where you can hire someone to build a website for you. Some website builders have job postings from people. You can also look at online job boards or post a hiring ad.
Regardless of where you try to hire someone from, make sure that they have proof of their previous work. Don’t be afraid to ask someone how they plan to approach your project and what issues they anticipate along the way.
Option 2: Use WordPress
The second option for building a website is using WordPress. Honestly, this is just a fancier version of using a website builder, but WordPress is so large and so flexible that it’s functionally a separate category from other websites.
How to Create a Website with WordPress in 9 Steps:
1: Decide If WordPress Is Right for You
WordPress powers more than 40% of all websites on the internet, and that’s up significantly year-over-year. It’s probably going to peak eventually, but WordPress works for many people.
WordPress has several advantages that make it worth considering over other systems. First, WordPress is free, so anyone can use it and start making a site. You’ll still need to pay for hosting and any add-ons, but WordPress is accessible on any budget.
WordPress also works with practically all website concepts, from online stores to photo galleries and blogs. It’s outstanding for informative websites, to the point that even government agencies often rely on it to help communicate with the public.
As if that wasn’t good enough, WordPress has built-in flexibility thanks to a split between its design, content, and add-on components. Basically, this means you can alter a design without changing the content or install add-ons without totally redoing the layout. This feature is great if you expect to change your website frequently.
If it sounds like I’m praising WordPress too much, I probably am. The truth is that WordPress is an objectively good option for many people, as demonstrated by its massive market share. Over 450 million websites use it, and the number wouldn’t be anywhere near as high if it wasn’t working for them.
For fairness, though, here are some reasons not to get WordPress.
First, WordPress isn’t as flexible as sites that are made with builders or created entirely custom. It needs to maintain functionality, so there are some things you can’t change. This limitation won’t bother most small, simple sites, but anything outside the standard path could be in trouble.
Second, WordPress is a little less secure than many other options. It has more points where hackers could break into the system, and it’s a tempting target because so many sites rely on it. This factor is especially relevant to online stores, which demand the highest level of security at all times. Even a single breach is a significant failure.
Finally, WordPress isn’t automatically great for SEO and visibility, although the ads often suggest otherwise. Most of its benefits are standard practices, so you’re not getting a leg up just by using them.
Still, for all these potential faults, WordPress remains an excellent option for most people. None of these problems are severe enough to warrant discouraging its use. Even the security aspects are easy to solve with the right plugins.
2: Buy the Right Hosting Plan (We Recommend Bluehost)
If you think WordPress is a good choice for you, the first step in learning how to make a website with it is finding a good hosting plan.
1. Choose a provider
What is web hosting, you ask? Web hosting is how your site lives on a server and gets shown to the internet. If you don’t have hosting from a provider, then as far as anyone else is concerned, your site doesn’t exist.
We’ve already discussed the best WordPress hosting options, but Bluehost is a particularly good choice. It’s one of WordPress’ few recommended hosting services, which represent companies that are particularly attuned to the unique needs of WordPress sites.
Be sure to check out our Bluehost review for more information on them, as well as Bluehost pricing, so you can see if their payment plans fit your needs.
2. Pick a plan
Once you’ve picked a provider, it’s time to pick the plan for you. Most smaller websites and businesses should look for the best shared web hosting, which is a cost-efficient way of hosting sites that don’t receive too much traffic.
Sites with more visitors should consider shared hosting vs. VPS hosting. VPS hosting offers faster and higher-volume support, which is essential for online stores or places that get many visitors at once.
Essentially, your goal here is to select a plan that meets your current needs. You can always upgrade your plan later, and most hosting companies are happy to help you transition over as needed. Don’t hesitate to contact your host and ask them for more information about when and how you can do that.
3: Choose and Register a Domain Name
Once you have a hosting plan, it’s time to pick a domain name and register it for your site.
How much does a domain name cost?
Most WordPress hosts include a custom domain name as part of every package, so this doesn’t have a separate cost.
If you’re buying a domain name separately, typical domains cost around $10 per year to maintain. If you’re using a subdomain, you don’t need to buy it separately, so there’s usually no added fee for that.
However, prices go up considerably if you’re buying an aftermarket domain. Existing domains often have a value associated with them, and sometimes you might want a particular domain name that will match your business. These domains can go from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Owners of large companies probably find it worth the money to get the right domain name. A short, simple, and applicable domain name is invaluable to businesses with a large customer base. Other people usually don’t need an aftermarket domain, though, so it’s better to look for a professional-sounding domain that isn’t already taken.
Choosing a good domain name
This advice is the same as for building a site with a website builder, so I’m not going to copy and paste it. As a refresher, though:
- Relevance is key.
- Short and sweet.
- Don’t use numbers.
- Be unique!
As long as you follow these four basic principles, your domain name should work out fine.
4: Install Your WordPress Site With One Click
Installing WordPress is easy through most hosting companies, including Bluehost, where you can get started with a single click. Keep in mind that installation doesn’t take care of your website’s theme, design, or content aspects. Getting started with a single click is only this easy because developers have streamlined and automated the entire process.
For more help, follow this guide on how to install WordPress with Bluehost. Other hosting services usually have similar functions, so it shouldn’t be much harder, even if you aren’t using BlueHost.
5: Choose a Theme For Your Site’s Design
Here’s where things start to get tricky when deciding how to make a website. WordPress has over 9000 free themes available through WordPress.org, and it offers many more available as paid options.
WordPress relies more on themes than other website builders do. While those may have themes, they also tend to have fully drag-and-drop items where you can create each component yourself. WordPress mostly limits this in favor of using an existing template, though you can start customizing things afterward.
The main thing to know about WordPress themes is that they’re sold on multiple sites, so you may have to check out several places to find the perfect option. The good news is that most developers name their themes to clarify what sort of company they’re for, which makes it possible to use keywords and narrow things down to a sensible number of options.
There are functionally three types of themes you’ll find by looking around.
- Free themes are the basic options. While the fact that they don’t cost anything is appealing, they also vary widely in overall quality and usefulness. Some are practically high-end choices, while others are made by amateurs and may not function as well as their design implies. The best way to evaluate free themes is by looking at reviews and commentary from other people.
- Premium themes are generally better than free themes, especially if they’re reviewed well. Most of these cost in the $20 to $100 range and include better SEO optimization, more customization, and often comprehensive support from the developer if you see any real problems. Premium themes are usually worth the investment for businesses.
- Finally, you can order custom themes from developers to fit your specific needs. These can cost up to $3000 for their time, but a wholly customized theme is the best way to go if you don’t see anything else that meets your needs.
The downside of custom themes, besides cost, is how long they take to make. Realistically, it will probably take a developer several weeks to complete a custom theme, and that’s after they find the time in their busy schedule to start it. This wait can significantly slow down your timeline, so make sure to account for this if you expect to order a custom WordPress theme.
6: Create and Customize Your Content and Pages
Once you have your theme, it’s time to start adding and customizing your content. The theme should provide a framework for new pages, but from there, it’s up to you to add content effectively.
Try to plan out each page before you start making it. Your WordPress site builder may allow you to save page templates, too, which is handy when you want to have a lot of pages, and you want them to look similar to each other.
Add a Blog (Optional)
Blogs aren’t necessary on WordPress sites, but they’re often valuable additions. Make sure your theme supports blog pages, or you may end up having some trouble with it.
There are many ways to run a blog, but the most critical part is considering what sort of content you want to focus on. Most people prefer reading blogs that address a specific niche or topic. For example, some companies only use a blog to publish announcements and essential information, while others provide industry analysis.
Some WordPress sites are also primarily blogs, which is effective in its own way.
Adding an Online Store (Optional)
While WordPress is especially famous for running blogs, it also supports several types of eCommerce stores. WooCommerce is particularly notable here, functioning as a plugin you can use to instantly add eCommerce functionality to almost any WordPress site. Don’t forget to manage security settings, though, or payment processors may refuse to work with you.
The vital thing to know about adding an online store to a WordPress site is that most don’t natively support stores. Instead, that functionality comes through plugins, which we’ll discuss in more detail in a moment. You may need to do some additional testing to be sure all of the plugins for your online store work like they’re supposed to.
BigCommerce and Shopify also work with WordPress, and they’re worth considering depending on the type of store you want to run. Shopify is particularly notable because it’s incredibly customizable, but you may need to edit things on its end instead of through your WordPress control panel.
This fact reinforces a fundamental point about making websites: using a basic design is easy, but expect to spend time learning if you want to customize things or get a complex design. It doesn’t take long to reposition a box on a page, but it does take time to add new search or sorting systems, populate a page with content, get pictures of products, and so on.
You have to be particularly careful with online stores because they have incredibly high-security standards to help maintain the integrity of the financial system. Your goal for an online store should always be upholding the strictest security standards, even if that’s expensive or inconvenient. Anything less can lead to a total shutdown of your store.
7: Choose and Install Useful Plugins
Outside of eCommerce needs, there are plenty of other plugins that you can install onto your WordPress site. Which ones make sense depends on the type of site you’re making, but a few plugins are useful for almost everyone.
Jetpack is automatic security and backup plugin. You should have some type of security even if you aren’t collecting information or letting people make accounts, and this is a great way to do it.
Jetpack’s features include real-time backups with unlimited storage, help with site migrations, security logs, anti-spam, downtime monitoring, access to two-factor authentication, advanced site statistics, and automatic publication for some content.
Even better, Jetpack is available in free and paid versions. Naturally, the free version doesn’t have all of the features, but it’s enough for regular sites. Ecommerce stores should strongly consider getting one of the paid upgrade plans. Jetpack is one of the most-used WordPress plugins of all time, and its paid features more than justify its status.
Google Analytics Dashboard
There are several different plugins for Google Analytics, with varying price points. The best of these is the dashboard from MonsterInsights, which has more than three million active installations and a vast array of features to justify its cost.
That said, the real value here is its user-friendly design and customized reports. Google Analytics is one of the most powerful information-gathering tools on the internet, but it also has a steep learning curve, and it can be hard to filter out the noise until you spend time practicing with it.
MonsterInsights simplifies things with a selection of customized reports that focus on the things most website owners care about. These reports provide information on audiences, user behavior, content, forms, search engine performance, and eCommerce activity. It has excellent integration with WooCommerce, too.
No other GA dashboard has the same reach and power as MonsterInsights. ExactMetrics is the closest, but it includes some advertisements and isn’t rated anywhere near as high as MonsterInsights.
Regardless, having an analytics dashboard only matters if you’re serious about growing your site or selling things through an online store. If you’re only publishing a casual blog and don’t care about performance, you can ignore this category entirely.
Social Media Share Buttons
Social media sites are a powerful way to share content and lead people to your website. However, it’s hard to share some web pages on smartphones and tablets. That’s where share buttons come into the picture. These offer a one-click way for people to spread your content, and they’re both simple and easy to install through this plugin.
There’s no particular reason to avoid using share buttons unless you don’t want people to find your content.
There are a few other things to keep in mind when looking at plugins. For example, you may want to see our guide on how to make a multilingual site on WordPress if you’d like to reach an international audience.
If you want to accept messages from people through your site, a plugin like Contact Form 7 can manage multiple ways of doing that. You don’t need this for every type of website, but it is helpful for blogs and some business sites.
8: Configure SSL
SSL is a security technology for websites that helps ensure all connections are secure. The actual SSL technology is no longer used in most areas, having been replaced by the Transport Layer Security system, but most people still refer to the old term for ease of reference.
SSL is suitable for all websites, whether they collect information or not. Still, it’s a must-have for eCommerce or any site that gathers sensitive information like people’s names or addresses.
SSL is affordable, easy to set up with the plugin above, and adds an essential layer of security to a website. Even if you don’t need it, it’s best to enable it anyway.
Once you’re done adding your other plugins and content, it’s time to configure SSL on your WordPress site. This can be a little tricky unless you know what you’re doing, so naturally, there’s a plugin for this, too.
Specifically, unless you have a good reason to do it another way, just install the Really Simple SSL plugin after you do everything else. The basic version will search for an existing certificate, help you add and install one if necessary, and dynamically ensure that all pages go to secure ones.
Automating SSL is significantly faster and easier than doing it manually, so using this plugin makes sense for most users.
9: Make Final Checks and Publish!
Once you’ve finished enabling SSL, all that’s left is making the final checks on your website, then publishing it and going live. At this stage, you may want to check our WordPress.org review to learn more about their system and see if you should do anything else. If you haven’t picked a hosting company yet, Bluehost remains a great option for nearly everyone.
Final checks for a WordPress website include:
- Looking at each page
- Testing links and other features to ensure they work
- Visually inspecting pages to be sure they look good
Most people find a few issues at this point, but solving them is usually a fast and easy process.
Once you publish your site, which is usually as simple as clicking one button in your control panel, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for your page to start showing up in search engines.
Using WordPress: FAQs
Here are some of the most common questions that people have about how to make a website with WordPress.
Is WordPress free?
Yes. WordPress itself is free and will remain that way, so you don’t need to pay anything to use the base software. However, you may need to pay for hosting services or plugins that provide additional options and support.
Is WordPress easy to maintain?
Most WordPress sites are extremely easy to maintain. Hosts often provide automatic updates and support for WordPress, which means they’ll take care of most updates independently. In that regard, WordPress is easier to maintain than almost any other type of website.
Most WordPress plugins are also easy to maintain, with automatic updates and only minimal requirements from the administrative end to configure things. Of course, this doesn’t offer as much control as doing things with customized code, but it’s user-friendly, and most website owners don’t need total control of their site anyway.
How long does a WordPress site take to set up?
It’s possible to build a basic WordPress site quickly and even cut down on the amount of time it takes to make content by ordering it from professionals.
Realistically, you can make a simple WordPress site in about an hour of work, especially if you’re familiar with the software and have a little experience with it. This setup process includes selecting a theme, adding some basic content, configuring essential plugins, and going live.
Businesses and individual users who customize their site can usually put it together within a week. This period may include time for developing custom assets or getting answers to technical questions. If you need to set up a complex store, you can expect it to take a few weeks.
At the far end, a fully-customized WordPress site with a unique theme will likely take several months. Heavily customized sites require a lot of back-and-forths to ensure that everything looks just right, and many also have lots of custom content that someone needs to write before the site goes live. However, most businesses won’t need to spend this long making a site.
Should I use Wix or WordPress?
Overall, Wix is a more powerful platform than WordPress. Nonetheless, power isn’t the only consideration to think about when you’re comparing these systems. Notably, they do fundamentally different things.
Wix is a website builder. It’s beginner-friendly, has a nice interface, and is ideal for creating a wide variety of websites. With all these features, it might be better for creative people. Still, you don’t need any coding expertise, so you can start here with any skill level and still do well.
WordPress is functionally a content management system. It has both power and flexibility, but you may need to do some custom coding to make everything work nicely. WordPress is a little like a puzzle in that the primary goal is taking a lot of plugins and putting them together on a board (your basic site), then making sure everything fits correctly.
You don’t have to be an expert to use WordPress, especially because you can find someone willing and able to answer almost any technical question that might come up. For that matter, the sheer market share of WordPress shows just how easy it is for people to use.
Both systems have their advantages and can produce great-looking websites. The easiest way to think of it is that Wix is better but more expensive, while WordPress is more affordable but ultimately harder to use. Only you can decide which of these makes more sense in your situation.
Do I need a web host to create a website?
Yes, but the answer here is a little complicated.
Many companies let you start building a website before signing up with them under a paid hosting plan. Although this may seem odd from the outside, the truth is that hosting websites is their primary business – and that’s what they want to push people towards.
Hosting companies know that building a site can take days or weeks, and many people hesitate to buy a plan before they know what they’ll need. That’s why it’s often possible to create a website without paying for your host.
You must have a web host when you’re ready to publish your site, though. Some companies let minor sites stay on their servers at no cost, but anything much beyond that will require a paid plan to keep it on the web. Many sites can get away with hosting costs of less than $10 a month, but bigger sites may need a more expensive plan.
There’s one other option here: hosting the website yourself. If you don’t expect too much traffic, you can set up a server at home and run the site from that. Most people find it more affordable to have a dedicated host in a high-quality data center, but that’s not your only option. Large businesses, in particular, may prefer to host their own content instead of renting space.
Is WordPress the best CMS?
“Best” is a subjective term because CMS systems often focus on different things.
WordPress is indeed the most popular CMS, with plugins and hosting support to back it up. No other CMS comes anywhere close to the amount of help and options that WordPress has available, and in that sense, it’s objectively better than the competition.
However, there are a few other options worth considering. For example, HubSpot has a business management CMS designed specifically for physical and digital commerce. It’s not the best choice if you want to make a casual blog, but it has obvious appeal for businesses.
Similarly, Wix is technically a CMS, although most people focus on its abilities as a website builder. Wix doesn’t have the same number of options or plugins as WordPress does, but it’s faster and easier to use for making various types of websites.
The critical thing to understand here is that there’s no universal “best” choice that’s suitable for all people in all situations. Every CMS platform has a focus, so the best way to decide between them is to look at what they’re good at and how that compares to what you need.
What’s the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?
WordPress.org is the primary source for WordPress software. It’s the official home of WordPress and includes robust features like a list of plugins, recommended hosts, and updates from the developers.
WordPress.com is primarily a hosting provider that lets people use WordPress software. As a host, it offers a selection of different plans for people. However, it also has relatively severe limits on what you can do with your site, especially if you’re on the free plan. If you have a simple blog page, you may not notice these hindrances; but it will definitely be an issue if you need to manage a larger website or run ads.
Should You Use a Website Builder or WordPress?
Ultimately, the choice between website builders and WordPress comes down to personal preference.
Website builders are more flexible and more manageable for beginners to use. Many of them feature drag-and-drop control systems for designing your site, so you can edit things without knowing anything about coding. They also come with a wide selection of possible themes and additional features.
The primary downside of website builders is that they’re somewhat more expensive than WordPress. You might be able to build the website itself for free, but expect to pay as soon as you want to go live. It’s fair to think of website builders as the premium option, though the price difference is negligible for smaller sites.
One other thing to keep in mind is that website builders produce sites that are somewhat easier to edit later. You can add more custom code to them, which is helpful if you need to expand beyond your basic theme and plugins.
WordPress is more affordable than high-quality website builders, which makes it appealing to people who only want to create a simple, casual site. It doesn’t have as much pure flexibility as a website builder, but it has an incredible number of plugins. Plus, plenty of people are familiar with making custom code for it.
WordPress is also powerful enough to be the dominant CMS system on the internet by a significant margin. From blogs to online stores, you can do almost anything you want with WordPress. It’s not hard to use, but you will need to get more hands-on to ensure everything works correctly.
Ultimately, website builders are a better option for high-quality websites, but they have a price tag to match. WordPress is better for casual websites or anyone working with a tight budget.