When I started building this site, my knowledge of website design was absolutely zero. I had no idea about building a website, choosing and registering domain names, finding a web hosting service, marketing the website, how to show up in search engine rankings, or anything else for that matter.
This was my very first website, and as a result it can now look a little mixed up in places. As I learned new things I had to change the structure, the design, page titles and ultimately what the site is really about. However, I learned a huge amount while developing this site and I would like to try to summarise the results of my own efforts into a simple guide on how to make your own site quickly, easily and at very low cost.
The following is not what I did for this site, but it took me years of trial and error, sweat and tears to find all this stuff out. What I aim to do on this page is provide a much quicker way to take your first steps to being a webmaster, providing you with something I wish I had when I started out.
This is a beginner’s guide to setting up your own proper website as easily as possible, so does not involve any techy knowledge at all. Having to know loads of new stuff before you can do anything would stop most people from even starting, so this is a way of bypassing all that sort of thing. That is not to say that it is not a good idea to expand your knowledge once you have your first site, but it is better to do that from the position of being up and running with a site of your own first. Once you are used to the basic principles, it is easier to start looking further into how things work and how you can do more complex things with your site.
I think it can help just to have an understanding of what a website is, so that you know what you are trying to create. When someone taps in a website address on an internet browser, they are directed to a unique address where the pages of that website are stored. To view those pages they are downloading information from a powerful computer where those pages are maintained. These computers are owned by web hosts, which are companies that are paid to store websites and make them available online.
We create website pages through various means, but no-one else can see them until we transfer them to the web host computer through a process called uploading, which just takes seconds. One they are there anyone in the world with internet access can view them, either by typing in the website address or by following a link to that address from search engine results or from another site.
You may be aware that there are various options for getting some web pages through huge free sites, but these are only recommended if you do not mind having no control over your site and you do not plan to attract many visitors. If you are even remotely serious about setting up a website you will need to avoid the free hosts because you simply do not have enough control over many of the things that are essential to developing your website.
All you will have is a sub domain of some huge site, with strict limits on all sorts of things. If you only want to stick up a few photos of your family and have them seen by your friends and relatives than a free site is fine, otherwise you need to have your own domain name and full control over your pages.
The domain name is the unique address of your website homepage, such as your-own-website.com. You will need to check whether the name you want is available and then register it in your name. There are thousands of domain name registrars and this is a very simple process, but you do not even need to do that if you use a web host that includes a free domain name, which many of them do. See the hosting section below for more details about this.
Your domain name can be important, depending what you are going to use your website for. It should obviously be something that sums up what your site is about, but if you hope to attract visitors from search engines, then you may also want it to reflect what people are searching for. For example, if you want your website to promote the dog walking service that you offer in Surrey, you might want the domain name to include 'Surrey dog walking' rather then just your name. Something I wish I had known when I set up this site!
All websites have to be hosted and this is a service provided by specialist companies that provide lots of computers where many different websites are stored and accessed from. There are thousands to choose from and many offer very cheap hosting. This should be pretty much your only cost to get up and running and we are talking about a very small outlay.
It is easy to go wrong with a web host because a lot of them are actually very unreliable and fail to offer effective support when you have problems. This can make a huge difference to your efforts to develop a website, so you do need to choose carefully. You can find reviews and recommendations for hosting companies on my web host review site.
My top recommendation for a web host is for Fat Cow hosting, not just because of their good value hosting, but for their free site building tool that I discuss further below.
Choosing the right web host is probably your most important decision regarding your new site. As well as obvious concerns like making sure they keep your site online 24 hours a day and provide help and support quickly when you need it, there are other things they offer too that can make a big difference.
As mentioned earlier, if you choose the right host, you can get a domain name thrown in free, but there is something else that is more important than that. Without technical knowledge, you are going to need a system to help you build you site in an easy to understand way. Some hosts offer site building tools for free, and this is what you need to go for when you are just starting out.
There are various website design tools out there, the best known one being Dreamweaver. However, Dreamweaver is very expensive and you do need to have some technical knowledge to use it properly, so that is not really a sensible option for someone without experience looking to set up their first site.
There are various tools around that are designed more for people without knowledge of HTML, etc and these are generally known as WYSIWYG or what you see is what you get tools. What they basically do is allow you to work in a simple and familiar environment that you can understand and the tool translates what you do into the relevant website language. A few of the better hosting companies will provide a site building tool as part of their packages, or as an extra. Some of these are a waste of time, but I can recommend the free drag and drop tool provided by Fat Cow hosting, which you can see a demo video of below:
As you see, this tool takes all the technical know how out of making a website, so you just choose from a range of templates and create your pages by adding text and dragging in images etc until you get the look you want. As Fat Cow’s hosting packages are extremely good value anyway, this is an excellent way to get up and running quickly and cheaply. Find out more on the Fat Cow website.
So that's it! It really is as simple as that to get yourself up and running with a website. Read on to find out about a few other areas for developing your website.
How far you go with regard to website development very much depends what you want your site for and what you want to get out of it. An important thing to understand before you start is that you can create a site about anything at all and make money. You do not need to sell anything to get a steady income from a website. Find out more on my page about how do websites make money.
The other thing to understand is that your site will not get lots of visitors from search engines unless you have an understanding of search engine optimization. This is an enormous subject in itself and you can find out more on my search engine optimization pages. The most fundamental thing you will need to know about are keywords. You have to know what people are searching for in order to enable your site to target them and attract them. The only way to make sure you are targeting the right search terms is to use a keyword research tool. I use Wordtracker but there are other good ones such as Keyword Discovery.
A very popular alternative to the route outlined above is to go for an all in one website creation package that is specially aimed at people who want to create effective websites that will attract visitors and generate an income. There is one system called SiteBuildIt which not only includes the obvious hosting, domain name and design requirements, but also various research and SEO tools to help you choose a subject for your website that is most likely to attract visitors and make money. It is a step by step guide to the whole process of developing an online business, even if you have no idea what your site should be about.
Find out more on the main Find out more on the main SBI website.
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