A beginner’s guide to building a website without writing code
If you want to learn how to build your own website but don’t know where to start, this page contains a complete overview of everything you need to get going.
Want to start a blog instead? Try reading how to start a blog.
Carry on reading if you want to learn about:
- The best platform to use for your brand new website.
- Choosing, buying and managing a domain name.
- Finding a reliable and affordable web hosting company (many people choose BlueHost).
- The best software to use for building your website.
- Installing the website software.
- Making your website look good.
Sound good? Great! Let’s get started.
Choosing the best platform for your website
Most websites are built using something called a Content Management System (CMS). Which is typically accessed through a web browser such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer (now Microsoft Edge). This means you don’t need to buy software for your laptop or computer to build a website or update it in the future.
The most popular CMS, or ‘platform’, for building websites is called WordPress.
I’ve used WordPress to build websites since 2006. Prior to that I used a program called Dreamweaver, which is a great program but you need to know HTML and CSS to use it properly. WordPress makes it easy to build websites without knowing how to code – which is perfect for people who want to build a website for their business, project or local community group. It’s also a great system for budding web designers to learn the basic skills.
There are other Content Management Systems around. Three of the most popular are Joomla, Drupal and Wix. For now though, let’s stick with WordPress.
The main reason I like working with WordPress is because of the huge community that’s built up around it. You see, the basic WordPress software is just that – basic. To make a WordPress powered website shine you need to add components called plugins, and to make it look good, you need to add something called a theme.
Don’t worry. You might be thinking it’s all starting to get a bit technical, but these things are easy to install and setup, and often they’re created by professional coders and designers and provided to you free of charge.
It’s worth mentioning at this point the Premium side of WordPress. When you see the word premium attached to a plugin or theme, it means there’s a cost involved. The cost varies depending upon the job the plugin does or the complexity of the theme. I’ll dig a little deeper into these topics later on, and I’ll finish by saying you don’t have to spend money on any of these things to build your first website, but you may have to in the future to get it looking and working the way you want it to.
How long does it take to setup WordPress?
Minutes. Most web hosting companies provide a quick way to install WordPress.
Here’s a screenshot from inside my hosting account with Vidahost. Clicking the large blue button starts the WordPress installation process. That’s all you have to do to with most hosting companies. Looks simple, right? That’s because it is.
Who uses WordPress?
Official figures state that 27% of all websites run on WordPress, making it the most widely used Content Management System out there.
If you’re a regular blog reader, most of your favorites run on WordPress too.
WordPress also provides a VIP service for really big sites like CNN, TED, UPS and TIME.
So far we’ve covered the software we’re going to use to run your brand new website. Now it’s time to explore the rest of the process.
Finding the perfect domain name
A domain name is the address people type into a browser to visit your website. Before you start a website, you’ll need a domain name. They typically cost between $1 and $10 for standard domain extensions.
Ideally, it’s best if you choose a domain that reflects your business or the topic of your website. If you want, you could even use your own name.
Some folk use keywords in their domain(s) as they believe it helps improve search engine rankings. As Google uses over 200 factors to determine which sites appear in the results, the words used in the domain probably do have an effect, quite how much impact is another matter.
Domain name extensions
A domain name extension is the second half of the URL. The most popular is .com.
Recently, a whole host of new domain extensions have been made available. They include words like .photography, .agency, .pizza and .coffee.
You could grab one of these if you like, but really, you’re best staying with the ones everyone know about for now: .com, .net, .org etc.
If you want your website to target people from a specific country, buy a domain with the relevant extension: .co.uk (UK), .fr (France), .it (Italy) etc.
If you need more tips, read our guide to choosing the perfect domain name.
Registering and managing a domain name
Once you decide upon a domain name, the next step in the process is buying it. It’s an exciting time!
The average cost for a domain is around $10. But you can get them cheaper if you shop around.
Typically, you register a .com domain for one year at a time, but you can register them for longer.
Choosing and buying web hosting
This is where things start getting a little tricky.
While it’s a lot of fun and incredibly exciting choosing a domain name for the first time, looking for a suitable hosting company could give you a massive headache.
There are tons of companies to choose from and loads of technical jargon to get your head around: storage, bandwidth, servers, cloud hosting, Apache, FTP, SSD, PHP. The list goes on.
If you’re starting a website for the very first time, it’s a good idea to stick with one of the more popular hosting companies.
As you learn more, if you don’t like the hosting company you initially signed with, you can easily leave and go elsewhere (and yes, you should get a pro-rata refund if you paid for a lengthy term in advance – but do check with your provider first).
Many hosting companies offer a migration service, where they move your site (and associated email accounts) from your old host to the new one.
Typically, changing hosts shouldn’t affect your search rankings as long as both servers provide the same experience. Page loading time is a ranking factor, so if you move from a fast server to a slow one, your rankings might drop. Probably not overnight, but certainly over a period of time.
And if you move from a slow server to a past one, your rankings might improve.
Let’s go through the process for buying a domain and hosting from Bluehost.
Step 1: Visit Bluehost.com and click on the ‘get started now’ button
Step 2: Choose a plan – the Starter plan is good enough for beginners
Step 3: Choose a domain name
Step 4: Success! Now enter your personal account information
Step 5: Setup your hosting package
You should pay careful attention to the detail at this stage otherwise you could end up paying more than you want to.
The image below shows the default options offered by Bluehost. If you don’t change any of these, the bill for setting up your blog could be more than you expect.
You probably don’t need Site Backup Pro or SiteLock Security, but if you want to keep your personal name and address out of public databases, such as WHOIS, you do need Domain Privacy Protection.
(Many businesses choose to reveal their name and address on public records to improve customer confidence (should anyone ever check). In some countries, businesses are required by law to make this information public.)
Tick and untick the boxes relevant to you.
Pay special attention the information in the Account Plan box at the top as this is the one that determines the length of service and the amount you pay.
Step 6: Enter your billing information
Here’s a mind-numbing statement for you: WordPress powers a quarter of all websites!
That’s because it’s easy to install, and although there is a learning curve at the start, once you get to know how it works, it’s fairly easy to use.
Bluehost, and other web hosting companies make it easy to install. All you have to do is click the install button and follow the on-screen instructions.
Instead of walking you three each step with a series of screenshots, take a look at this video to see how easy it is. Skip to 1.25 if you want to get straight to the instructions.
Making your WordPress website look good
Once you’ve installed WordPress, the next step is making it look good.
WordPress uses something called a ‘theme’ to create the design. You can choose from thousands of themes, many of which are free. You do this from inside WordPress.
The default theme that comes with WordPress changes each year and it’s usually good enough to get going. The current theme is called 2017. This is what it looks like:
Once installed, you can make changes to theme. All you have to do is login and look for, and click, the blue Customize Your Site button in the dashboard.
Once clicked, you’ll see a list of options which enable you to do many things including: enter your site’s name, change colors, add a video to the front page, change the default photo and create menus.
Play around with them to see what you can do. If you like what you’ve done, hit Save & Publish. If you don’t like the changes, hit the X button to switch everything back.
Changing the default WordPress theme
If you don’t like the 2017 theme and prefer choosing another, while in the dashboard, click the Appearance link in the menu or change your theme completely under the blue button.
On the next screen you’ll see the currently installed default themes. When you move your mouse over the icon for the theme, two text boxes appear – Activate and Live Preview.
If you have content on your site, use the Live Preview button to visualize how your site will look if you use the new theme. If you like it, click Activate. If you don’t, keep looking.
This is how you test and install any new theme you want to use. Not just the default ones.
To find themes created by the WordPress community, click on the Add New button or enter a keyword into the search box.
On the next screen you’ll see a few recommended themes and a menu you can use to switch the filter between: Featured, Popular, Latest and Favorites and you can use the Feature Filter to search for themes with the features you want.
And the features you might want to search for:
As you can see, there are loads of themes you can search through to find the perfect look for your website. When you find one you like, just click the Install button, as shown here.
That’s how to make a new website!
I hope this page helps you understand the process for making a brand new website? As you can see from each of the steps I’ve described, the process is reasonably straightforward. And it’s probably one of the easiest and cheapest ways to setup a personal or business website.
If you have a question about any part of the process, please feel free get in touch through the contact page and I’ll do my best to help you.
Best of luck!
*Please note, this article contains affiliate links, which means, if you buy after clicking one of our links, we earn a commission from the sale.