How to Make a Website: Complete Beginner’s Guide

How to Make a Website: Complete Beginner’s Guide

So you want to learn how to make a website? Congratulations! You’re about to join hundreds of thousands of others who have embraced the web and jumped into building websites.

Better yet, nowadays you can build a detailed website without knowing a single line of computer code.

Yup! You really can learn how to start a website without knowing a single thing about PHP, HTML, or any of those other scarily complicated acronyms.

In this massive guide, we’re going to show you exactly how to make a website – step-by-step. We’ll take you through the whole process from nothing to completed website – with tons of helpful screenshots along the way.

Create a Website using WordPress

If you’re ready to get started, here are the basic steps you’ll need to complete to build your website:

  • Choose a content management system to act as the foundation of your site
  • Get a domain and hosting to make your site available on the Internet
  • Install and customize WordPress (that’s the content management system we recommend)
  • Publish content and share your site with the world

That’s all there is to it! Let’s jump right in…

Step 1: Choose Your Content Management System

A content management system is basically a piece of software that makes it easy for you to manage aspects of your website without needing to resort to custom coding everything.

The name describes it pretty well – it “manages” your content so that running your website is significantly simpler.

Having a content management system ensures that:

  • You don’t need to know how to write complicated computer code
  • You can add content to your site just as easily as you can use Microsoft Word or Google Docs
  • It’s easy to extend your website with “plugins” or “modules” that connect to your content management system

Common Content Manage Systems Compared

There are a huge number of content management systems out there. But the three most popular, by far, are:

  • WordPress – 59.4% market share
  • Joomla – 6.8% market share
  • Drupal – 4.7% market share

While there are plenty of small differences, the core differences between the three come down to a balance between ease of use and flexibility.

Here’s a quick comparison before we go a bit more in-depth below:

WordPress

Joomla

Drupal

Ease of Use Easy for beginners and advanced users alike Not too complicated but beginners might be a little confused You really need to be a developer to get the most from this system
Flexibility Fairly flexible, but not quite as good at handling huge amounts of data A good middle ground commonly used for eCommerce or social networks Flexible and great for managing huge amounts of information

drupal

Drupal is incredibly flexible, especially for categorizing large amounts of data. Many large enterprises use Drupal for that reason – it’s a strong base that knowledgeable developers can build on.

But that’s the problem – you almost need to be a knowledgeable developer, or at least be familiar with how to make a website, if you want to get the most out of Drupal.

joomla

Joomla sacrifices a tiny bit of flexibility in exchange for ease of use. It’s like a middle ground between WordPress and Drupal.

Joomla is commonly used for social networking sites and eCommerce sites. But if you’re just running a static website or a simple blog, it’s a bit overkill.

wordpress

WordPress is, in part, the most popular content management system in existence because of how easy it is to use. It’s incredibly beginner friendly, while still maintaining flexibility thanks to a large ecosystem of extensions called plugins and themes.

For most webmasters, WordPress is the best choice. Here’s why:

Why We Recommend WordPress

The numbers speak for themselves. That is, WordPress controls 59.4% of the content management system market for a reason.

But here are some specific things that we think point to WordPress as the best solution for how to make a website:

  • It’s easy to create content – if you can use Microsoft Word, you can create new content with WordPress.
  • There’s tons of help material – because WordPress is so popular, you can find beginner-friendly help for pretty much anything about the content management system.
  • It’s easy to add functionality – a huge ecosystem of plugins and themes (more on these later) make it simple to add functionality to your site, even if you don’t know how to code.
  • WordPress is free – oh yeah, did we forget to mention that WordPress is 100% free? You may opt to pay for some extensions, but the content management system itself is always free.

If you want to learn more about WordPress, we wrote a whole post on why you should use WordPress.

WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com

wordpress.org

When we said that we recommend WordPress, you might be thinking, “aha, I already know about WordPress.com!”. And that’s true, WordPress.com is an example of WordPress. But it’s not the WordPress that we’re talking about.

We’re talking about something called WordPress.org, also known as self-hosted WordPress. This is the actual standalone WordPress software that you install on your own web host and domain name.

We have a detailed post on WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org, but generally here are the reasons we recommend WordPress.org, NOT WordPress.com:

  • Content ownership – while WordPress.com lets you export your content, you’re never really fully in control of it because it always sits on WordPress.com’s servers.
  • Monetization with WordPress.com, you’re limited in the ways in which you can monetize your site. When you use self-hosted WordPress, you can do whatever you want.
  • Flexibility – Most WordPress.com sites can’t install third-party themes and plugins, which is one of the major benefits of using WordPress (WordPress.com did recently add this ability to expensive business plans, though).

Basically, it comes down to ownership and control. With self-hosted WordPress, you’re always the one in the driver’s seat.

Because we truly do believe that self-hosted WordPress is the best option for how to make a website, we’re going to continue this guide by showing you how to set up self-hosted WordPress and launch your website.

Step 2: Pick a Domain Name and Purchase It

In order to create a self-hosted WordPress site, you’ll need two basic building blocks:

  • A domain name – this is your website’s permanent address on the Internet. For example, our domain is “wpkube.com”
  • Web hosting – this is the engine that powers your site. It’s essential if you want other people to be able to access your site.

We’ll cover your domain name below and then knock out web hosting in the next section!

What Makes a Good Domain Name

Choosing a domain name is a bit like getting married. Sure, you can always get divorced down the road…but it’s messy and something no one is planning for when they get married.

That to say, you should put some real thought into choosing a domain name! If you change your mind down the road, you can change your WordPress domain name. But it’s something you’d rather avoid if at all possible.

So what makes a good domain name?

Generally, you want something that’s:

  • Memorable you want your visitors to be able to easily remember your domain name so they can come back and visit again.
  • Brandable – you want something that lets you create a brand, rather than just a generic name.
  • Easy to pronounce out loud – if you choose a domain name like “go4ward.com”, it’s going to be a massive pain to tell people to use the number every time you have a conversation in real life. Trust us!
  • A .com (if possible) – while it’s not as important to choose a domain that ends in .com as it once was, it’s still the most recognizable domain ending.

Here’s an easy formula to create a topical, brandable, and memorable domain name:

Combine a word that describes what your blog is about with a noun that’s catchy.

For example, WPKube is a blog about WordPress. The domain name combines:

“WP” (relevance) with “Kube” (brandability)

You’ll see this combination all over the Internet. Of course, you don’t have to follow it. But if you’re stuck on choosing a domain name, it’s a good place to start.

To make things even harder, each domain name can only be registered once worldwide. So sometimes you’ll come up with a great domain name only to find out that someone already beat you to the punch.

Speaking of…

How to Come Up With a Good Domain Name That’s Actually Available

If you’re really struggling to come up with good domain names that are actually available, using a domain name generator can be a big help.

These tools help you come up with unique domain names that are still available for sale. Some good tools are:

  • Lean Domain Search
  • Name Mesh
  • Panabee

For example, with Lean Domain Search, you just enter a seed keyword and it generates a whole heap of ideas:

how to find a domain name

Where To Buy Your Domain Name

Once you find a domain name that you love (and is available), you’ll need to purchase it.

While there are third-party services that help you to purchase a domain name, it’s often easiest to just purchase your domain name when you sign for hosting.

We’re going to cover hosting next, so we’ll show you how to purchase a domain name during those instructions. Keep on reading!

Step 3: Choose and Sign Up For Hosting

Your web hosting is what stores all the information about your site. Then, whenever someone from around the world wants to visit your site (by going to your domain name), your host serves up your site so that person can access it.

There are a ton of hosting options out there, ranging in price from a couple dollars per month to thousands of dollars per month.

Don’t worry – those thousand dollar hosts are only for big business! To get started, you can do just fine with hosting that only costs $3-$5 per month.

Shared Hosting vs Managed WordPress Hosting

You have a ton of options when it comes to WordPress hosting. Beyond the sheer variety of hosting providers, you’ll also need to make a choice between something called shared hosting and something called managed WordPress hosting:

  • Shared hosting cheap hosting that’s great for beginners but offers limited power and lacks helpful features offered in managed WordPress hosting.
  • Managed WordPress hosting – usually a little more expensive, but offers concierge services that help with maintaining and securing your WordPress site. Learn more about managed WordPress hosting.

Thankfully, you don’t have to choose between the two!

We recommend a host called SiteGround because it offers some managed WordPress hosting features at shared hosting prices.

For as little as $3.95 per month, SiteGround will not only host your site, they’ll also:

  • Automatically install WordPress for you
  • Apply updates to your WordPress software automatically
  • Offer advanced WordPress security

Without boring you with the details, we’ll also say that SiteGround uses the latest hosting technologies, which gives your site better performance than many other hosts.

Here’s how to get started with SiteGround…

How to Sign Up For Hosting at SiteGround

To get started, click below to head to SiteGround’s WordPress hosting services:

Get Hosting From SiteGround

Make sure to click this button so you can use our SiteGround coupon to get 60% off.

On that page, click the big Choose Plan button:

siteground hosting

Then, select your plan. We recommend the cheapest plan – StartUp because:

  • It’s affordable – just $3.95 per month
  • You can have up to 10,000 visitors per month, which should be enough for all new sites
  • It still includes the helpful managed WordPress features

Just click the Get Started button:

choose siteground plan

On the next screen:

  • Choose Register a New Domain
  • Enter the domain name that you chose before:

register a domain name

Your domain name will cost $14.95 per year. Once you entered it, click Proceed.

On the next screen, fill out your own information in the areas for:

  • Account information
  • Client information
  • Payment information

In the Purchase Information area, you can configure some add-on services and choose the billing period.

If the Extra Services pique your interest, you can purchase them. But we don’t recommend it – the basic plan is fine as is.

Once you’ve filled everything out, just click Pay Now to complete your purchase:

And that’s it! You now have a domain name and hosting. Now you just need to install WordPress and you’ll have the skeleton of a fully-functioning website.

Step 4: Install WordPress Via Your Host

One of the reasons that we recommend SiteGround is because of how easy SiteGround makes it to install WordPress.

Instead of needing to dig around for a WordPress installer or manually install WordPress like with other hosts, SiteGround gives you an easy setup wizard.

When you sign in to your new SiteGround account for the first time, you’ll see a popup titled Welcome to our Website Setup Wizard. Choose the option for Get WordPress preinstalled on this account and click Proceed:

how to make a website with wordpress

On the next screen, enter your desired:

  • Email
  • Username
  • Password

You’ll use these details to log in to your WordPress site in the next section:

Then, you’ll have the option to choose a free theme. Don’t worry too much about this setting – we’ll show you how to choose your own theme from a wider selection in the next section:

choose theme

Once you click Submit, you’re all done! On the next page, SiteGround will give you the link where you can sign into the dashboard of your brand spankin’ new WordPress site!

A Quick Tour of the WordPress Dashboard

The WordPress dashboard is basically the control center for your site. It’s where you’ll add new content, configure how your website looks, add functionality, and lots more.

You can always access your dashboard by going to:

yourdomain.com/wp-admin

Of course, you need to replace “yourdomain.com” with your actual domain.

Once you sign in with the credentials that you set up during the SiteGround wizard in the previous step, you should see a screen that looks like this:

On the left-hand side, you have links to access all the various areas of your dashboard. And on the right-hand side, you have a basic summary of your WordPress site.

Step 5: Install and Configure a WordPress Theme

When you first install WordPress, your site is probably going to look something like this:

That’s ok if you’re a huge fan of succulent plants on desks…but we’re guessing you’re going to be itching to change how your WordPress site looks.

WordPress themes are what allow you to change your site’s style. Think of them sort of like your website’s “clothing”. That is, themes change how your site looks on the outside, but don’t change the core content or functionality underneath the theme.

Adding your own WordPress theme is easy. All you need to do is:

  • Choose a WordPress theme
  • Install that WordPress theme
  • Configure the WordPress theme to make it your own

Where to Find WordPress Themes

You can find both free and premium WordPress themes.

Here are some of the best places to scope out a new theme:

  • WordPress.org theme directory – great for finding free WordPress themes.
  • ThemeForest – a huge marketplace of exclusively premium themes.
  • Elegant Themes – a popular developer that sells high-quality themes. You can read our Elegant Themes review here.
  • Google – no shocker here, but it’s easy to find topical WordPress theme lists with a simple Google search

Once you find a theme that you love, you’ll need to install it on your WordPress site.

How to Install WordPress Themes

There are two ways to install WordPress themes (detailed guide). The method that you use depends on where you found your theme.

  • If you found your WordPress theme at the official WordPress.org theme directory, you can install it right from your WordPress dashboard.
  • If you purchased a premium theme or found a free theme somewhere else, you’ll need to install your WordPress theme by uploading a ZIP file of your theme to WordPress.

We’ll show you how to do both.

How to Install a Theme From WordPress.org

To install a theme from WordPress.org:

  • Go to Appearance → Themes in your dashboard
  • Click Add New

  • Search for the name of your theme
  • Hover over the theme and click Install

  • Wait until the Install button changes to Activate
  • Click the Activate button

Your new theme is now live!

How to Install a Theme From A ZIP File

To install a WordPress theme from a ZIP file, you’ll get started the exact same way:

  • Go to Appearance → Themes in your dashboard
  • Click Add New

  • Click Upload Theme

how to install wordpress theme

  • Click Choose File to select the ZIP file
  • Then, click Install Now

  • Wait while WordPress installs the theme
  • Click the Activate button

And that’s it! Your theme is live.

How to Configure WordPress Themes

After you install your WordPress theme, you can usually tweak some optional settings to further make the theme your own.

To make most changes to your theme, you can use something called the WordPress Customizer. The WordPress Customizer lets you:

  • Make real-time style changes to your site (when supported)
  • Add helpful “widgets” to your theme. WordPress widgets are basically little content blocks that you can drag and drop into your theme
  • Set up navigation menus

To access the WordPress Customizer, go to Appearance → Customize:

In the WordPress Customizer, you can play around with your theme by using the options on the left. You’ll be able to see a real-time preview of your changes on the right:

None of the changes that you make will affect your live site until you hit the Save & Publish button.

Some themes also add a custom Theme Options panel under Appearance in your WordPress dashboard. Because this varies by theme, though, we can’t give you specific instructions for how to use such panels. If you have such settings, you’ll need to explore and consult your theme’s documentation.

Step 6: Start Adding Content To Your Site

Ok! You’re doing great. At this point, you’ve got a functioning WordPress site with your very own theme.

Now, you’re ready for the fun part:

Adding content to your WordPress site.

After all, your site isn’t very helpful to visitors if there’s no content!

By default, WordPress gives you two ways to add content:

  • Posts
  • Pages

The Difference Between Posts and Pages

Posts and pages both offer the same basic options, but you should use them differently.

A post is basically like a blog post. That is, it will have a “Publish date” and show up in in a reverse-chronological list on your blog post.

A page, on the other hand, houses more permanent information like an About page or a Contact page.

Again, that’s:

  • Post use these when you when to create a time-stamped blog post
  • Page – use these when you want to create a static page

How to Add New Posts and Pages

To add new posts and pages, you can go to either:

  • Posts → Add New
  • Pages → Add New

how to add new content in wordpress

There, you’ll be in something called the WordPress Editor. The WordPress Editor lets you:

  • Give the post or page a title
  • Add content
  • Format content
  • Upload images and other media to use in your content
  • Add a category or tag (only for posts)

To add content, just type in the box. You can format it by using the icons at the top, and you can upload images to your site by clicking Add Media:

how to format text in wordpress

When you want to make your content live, just hit the Publish button to publish it to your live site.

Step 7: Explore The WordPress Settings Pages

Out of the box, WordPress is pretty much set up and ready to go. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some small things that you might want to change. For many of those changes, you can use the Settings tab in your WordPress dashboard.

Don’t feel like you have to dig into this area and make changes right away. We’re just adding this section because the Settings area includes options that many new webmasters want to change.

Here’s some of what you can do:

  • Make your homepage a static homepage (instead of a list of your latest blog posts) by going to Settings → Reading
  • Change the structure of the URLs on your site by going to Settings → Permalinks.
  • Alter how people are allowed to comment on your site by going to Settings → Discussion

how to make static homepage

Step 8: Add Plugins to Extend Functionality

Plugins are another type of tool that help you extend WordPress. Unlike themes, which primarily make style changes, plugins are all about adding new functionality to your WordPress site.

That functionality might be something small, like a contact form or a new button, or it might be something massive, like turning your site into an eCommerce store or a social network.

Basically, plugins unlock new features without requiring you to know anything about code. They’re pretty awesome!

Where to Find WordPress Plugins

Like themes, you can find both free and premium plugins for your site.

Here are some good places to look:

  • Official WordPress.org plugin directory – contains over 50,000 free WordPress plugins
  • CodeCanyon – a third-party marketplace from the same company as ThemeForest
  • Google – like with themes, you can find plenty of plugins just by searching Google

How to Install WordPress Plugins

Installing WordPress plugins (detailed guide) is just as easy as installing themes. And, again like themes, there are two methods for installing plugins depending on whether you found the plugin at WordPress.org or somewhere else.

How to Install WordPress Plugins from WordPress.org

If you found a free plugin at the official WordPress.org plugin directory, here’s how to install it:

  • Go to Plugins → Add New
  • Search for the name of the plugin
  • Click Install Now

  • Wait for the Install Now button to change to Activate
  • Click Activate

That’s it! Your plugin is installed and active on your site.

How to Install WordPress Plugins from ZIP File

If you purchased a premium plugin or found a free plugin that’s not listed at WordPress.org, you can install it by uploading a ZIP file. You should receive this file from the source where you found the plugin.

  • Go to Plugins → Add New in your WordPress dashboard
  • Click on Upload Plugin

  • Click Choose File and select the ZIP file
  • Click Install Now

how to install wordpress plugins

On the next screen, click Activate to make your plugin live. That’s it!

Plugins That Are Helpful to All Sites

While you’ll almost always need plugins that add functionality that’s specific to your site, there are some general plugins that are helpful for every single WordPress site out there.

Here are some options for what we think are essential WordPress plugins:

  • Contact form plugins
  • Photo gallery plugins
  • Social media plugins
  • Caching plugins
  • SEO plugins

Again, you’ll probably use more than just those plugins. They’re just a good jumping off point for you to get started!

Step 9: Publicize and Get Visitors

Congratulations! With that, you should have a fully functioning website built on WordPress. You just learned the complete process of how to make a website, hopefully without too much hair-pulling and frustrated screams!

Now, all that’s left to do is promote your site and start getting traffic.

For that, you’ll probably want to learn about SEO, find out what content drives traffic, and, if you’re a business, learn how to get more customers via your site.

Beyond marketing your site, you’ll probably also continue to improve your site with new plugins, content, and maybe even a new theme as you become more accustomed to WordPress.

That’s totally fine! WordPress makes it easy to change things down the road – you’re never locked into the themes and plugins that you chose as a beginner.

We hope you enjoyed this guide. And we just want to congratulate you one more time on learning how to make a website with WordPress!

If you have any further questions about how to make a website, please leave a comment and we’ll do our best to help out.