Today I wanted to give you all a rather quick walk through that details how to create a website & online presence for next to nothing. This guide is aimed at businesses that are running on a shoestring where every penny counts and simply cannot afford to hire a freelancer such as myself, let alone a web agency.
I will try to keep this page as up to date as I can.
Creating a website will feel like childsplay if you follow each of the steps listed below. Before you know it, you will be online and ready to promote your site to the world.
1. Register Your Domain Name
There are a slew of places where you can purchase a domain name, the one I use is Go Daddy. They seem to offer the best prices and have decent support too. It has nothing to do with that fact that they usually have a nice looking girl on their homepage, no no, I’m not that shallow (kinda am!).
Anyway, the process of actually buying a domain name is rather simple, as with any web service these days you will need to register with them before you can buy anything so once registered with Go Daddy, simply log in and start searching for names that are relevant for your business, once you find one that is available and of interest, add it to your basket.
One thing I would warn you about regarding Go Daddy is that they do enjoy an aggressive upsell, once you actually head to your basket please be aware of the fact that they are now going to try some tricky shenanigans (“shenanigans”, I love that word. If you try and say it over and over if just becomes a undecipherable noise) and try to sell you a whole lot on worthless add-ons to your basket before you actually hand over your cash.
With that in mind, I thought it may be a good idea to walk you through the important parts and the not so important parts when purchasing a new domain.
1.1 Brainstorming Your Domain Ideas
For this example I will be creating a site for a fictitious company called “Legendary Carpet Cleaning”.
The domain search tool on the Go Daddy homepage can be a great way to brainstorm ideas for the name of your new site. Simply enter what you want then select the domain extension you wish (.com, .ca, .net etc) and then hit “GO”. If the domain is available you can add it to your basket, if it is not available then keep trying with different variations of domain extension.
I was lucky enough that the .com version of “Legendary Carpet Cleaning” was available, however if it was the case that it was already taken, then I could simply then try some of the other domain extensions. I have been asked whether it matters what domain extension you use, my advice is usually tailored to the specific business at hand. The general rule of thumb is that if you are a business who solely wants to offer their product or service to the country you reside in and have no intentions of selling abroad then get your own countries domain extension.
For example, as I reside in Canada if a business approached me who only serviced a particular city in Canada and nowhere else (think plumbers in Toronto) then I would advise them to take the .ca domain extension as I feel that it may get benefit from local searches done in Canada paired with the fact that the visitor may be more inclined to visit a site that has their own country as the domain extension as opposed to other sites with .com’s, .nets etc.
Having said that, its really not the end of the world if your own countries domain extension is taken, simply get a .com or a .net the world will not implode and you will still have a groovy website once we are done here, I pinky promise!
Ok, so now you have your rocking domain name, next its time to navigate your way through the ridiculously aggressive upsell from Go Daddy. Don’t worry, its pretty easy to get past once you know what you are doing but also difficult to not add extras to your basket if you do not. Lets take a look at the next few screens when buying a domain from Go Daddy and what I advise you do when you are on these pages.
1.2 Navigating Your Way Through Go Daddy’s Upsell
1.2.1 Additional Domain Extensions
The first thing they will hit you with is the option to buy the same domain name with different domain extensions, as we purchased legendarycarpetcleaners.com they give us options to buy the .net, .org, .info, .us and .mobi versions. As you are starting out I would advise that you simply ignore this and click on “No Thanks” or “Continue to Registration” depending on what screen they show (I think they may be split testing these upsell pages). Reason being is that for this tutorial, one of our goals is to keep the costs down, plus you are not even established yet, you don’t even know if your website will become a success so why waste cash on the other domain extension versions?
Sure, if you are adamant that your site is going to be the greatest thing since beans on toast then fair enough go ahead but keep an eye on costs. Another reason I hear from clients regarding whether they should purchase different domain extensions, is that they are afraid if they get a .com, their competition will get a .net or a .org or a .info variation of their domain name. What I would say is to simply not worry about because if you had competition with that kind of underhand strategy in mind, they will always find a similar domain to yours anyway, after all there are a ton of different domain name extensions out there so if they were really that determined, they will find a way.
1.2.2 Your Domain Settings
Once you have decided on sticking with only one domain extension for now, you will be greeted with the above screen. We can now see that there is a simply 3 step process still to go (actually its a 4 step process however we have already completed step 1 which was the domain extension upsell.). You will now see that there are specific domain settings you need to confirm before you advance and become the proud owner of your new domain, for the time being they are as follows:
- Your Domain Names
- Registration Length
- Registration Contact
- Certified Domain
- Hosting these domains elsewhere?
- Includes FREE Auto-Renew Protection
Your Domain Names: This area is straight forward enough, it gives you one last chance to revise the domain you have purchased, useful if you notice that you have made a spelling mistake or something similar in the domain. If you are happy with the domain name you are buying, move on to the next are.
Registration Length: Does what it says on the tin, for all domains you buy, no matter where you buy them from, will require you to register that domain for a specific length of time, the longer you register a domain for the longer it is your property however it will be a more expensive investment. As we are starting out and looking to keep costs down we will select the option to register for 1 year only. It is important to note, currently (correct me if I am wrong) the minimum duration you can register .co.uk domains is 2 years. I just wanted to make you aware of that if you had purchased a .co.uk domain and were confused as to why you didn’t have the option for one year.
Registration Contact: Go Daddy will fill this out using the details you gave them when you registered with them to begin with. If you are setting up this site for someone else, here is where you would fill in the details of that person.
Certified Domain: Apparently this is to “gain consumer confidence and ease fears” by way of adding a badge to your site which will only be displayed once you go through a few validation checks that you are indeed the site owner. In my god knows how many years of doing this, there has never been one moment any of my sites required this certification. It’s complete tosh, ignore it.
Hosting these domains elsewhere?: This is actually a really important step which we will come to later, for now simply ignore this.
Includes FREE Auto-Renew Protection: Here we have the option to select a free auto renew of your domain registration, what this means in plain English is that once your 1 year (or however many years you decided to register) is coming to an end, Go Daddy will re-register the domain on your behalf without you needing to log in and go through the process manually. You will be billed for this re-registering obviously but you will be notified about it prior through email communication. My advice is to leave this the way it is as it is already set to auto renew, better safe than sorry.
Ok, now we have completed the “Your Domain Settings” step, lets move on to step 3.
1.2.3 Your Privacy and Domain Protection
In this section we are presented with 3 different privacy & protection options, I am going to just tell you now that standard registration is perfectly suitable for pretty much every website, in the name of thoroughness however, I will touch upon the other options just in case you are in the rare situation that you feel the need for the extra privacy/protection.
Private Registration: Getting private registration means the details you used to register the domain, will not appear in the whois database. It can be a good idea to select private registration if you never want anyone to know your name or address when operating your website.
Just so you are aware, I never select this. Look here for proof, all my details in the Whois database. Again, if you are a private person and are worried that someone may do something malicious with your personal data then I hate to break it to you, if someone is that way inclined, whether you have private registration or not, they will find a way to get your details if they are really determined.
Business Registration: Pretty much the same deal as above however it gives you the option to register the domain using the details of your business as opposed to you as an individual. It also has the same issue as above in that if someone was really that determined to find out who you are, they will through other means.
Expiration Protection: This protects you from the situation if say that in one years time you were unable to renew your domain, Go Daddy would hold it for you (put their own holding page on your website) for 1 year until you are able to re-register (pay). There is little need for this right now as we have already selected auto-renew from the previous step. Having auto-renew enabled throws away any need for this protection.
Deadbolt Transfer Protection: This feature protects you from any malicious or accidental domain transfers. Again, I’ve never used this feature before in the many years of me doing this. If you are paranoid get it, if you are like me (not paranoid) then save yourself some money and don’t bother with it.
So just to confirm, take the standard registration option. Its what I do and its the one I have taken for years. If you feel like you would sleep better at night then upgrade to the other options however this will impact your budget as the upgraded security comes with an upgraded price.
1.2.4 Activate Your Domain
Hang tight, just a few more options to take care of before we run naked in the streets proclaiming ourselves as the proud owners of legendarycarpetcleaning.com. The last step we need to take care of covers a couple of things, hosting & email.
Hosting: Since we will be using Eleven2 instead of Go Daddy for our hosting (the reasons for this will be covered briefly in section 2) we have no need for us to select any of these options
Email: Eleven2 give us free unlimited emails with their hosting service meaning there is no need for us to spend additional funds to buy any with Godady.
There are a couple other tick boxes for you to check (SSL & Online Storage) if you are interested.
1.2.5 Review Your Shopping Cart
If you have ever purchased anything online you will already be accustomed to this type of screen, shock horror, Go Daddy take this opportunity to try and get some more pennies out of you before you actually buy the thing you came here for. Simply be strong and stick to your guns here folks, double check all the details are as you intended.
You will also see that there is an are to the right where you can “Enter Promo or Source Code”, when you click on this a small text box will appear that allows you to enter any discount codes you may have. It is a good idea to search for something along the lines of Go Daddy discount codes and browse a few of the sites on offer. There will be a ton of codes available, some will work, some will not. Just perceiver and try a few of the codes until you reduce your overall price.
Congratulations! You are now the owner of a domain, well done for getting this far. Once you make the purchase you will get the customary email confirmation from Go Daddy, keep that just incase.
2. Get A Hosting Account
Now you may be wondering what a hosting account actually is or does, never fear though, Wikipedia is here at hand to answer your prayers.
A web hosting service is a type of Internet hosting service that allows individuals and organizations to make their website accessible via the World Wide Web. Web hosts are companies that provide space on a server owned or leased for use by clients, as well as providing Internet connectivity, typically in a data center. Web hosts can also provide data center space and connectivity to the Internet for other servers located in their data center called colocation, also known as Housing in Latin America or France.
In short, a hosting account is pretty much vital if you are to create a website.
I have used a countless amount of hosting providers in my time and the one provider that has performed above and beyond everyone else is Hostgator.
I will briefly touch on why Eleven2 remains my preferred host of choice, then I will continue with this tutorial:
Main Advantages of Using Hostgator
- Control Panel Integration
- 99.9% Uptime Guarantee
- 24/7 Technical Support
- Unlimited Email
Main Disadvantages of Using Eleven2
- There are no unlimited bandwidth and web space.
- At peak times there can be a longish wait (around 10 mins) to get to a live chat operator
2.1 Choosing A Hosting Plan
On the Eleven2 homepage you will see a rather large red button that states “Order now”, click this and it will take you through to the next page where you need to select a hosting plan.
Currently they have 4 main shared hosting plans, the S-100, S-200, S-300 and Shared SSD. As we are only creating one website in this example, we can select the S-200 Plan. Simply select the “Sign Up” button on the S-200 plan.
Now Eleven2 are asking us if we would like to register a new domain with them or if we already have an existing domain. As we went through the hell that was the Go Daddy upsell unscathed and came out with legendarycarpetcleaning.com, we are going to want to type our already purchased domain name from Go Daddy into the 2nd box on the right hand side. Once typed, click “Continue To Step 2″.
Here you will need to fill out your account & billing information, you will need to pay attention to the top section of this screen as it confirms what plan and what payment method you wish to set up.
As we are trying to keep the cost down on this tutorial, lets make sure we are on the S-200 plan with the billing cycle set to 1 month. Although setting the billing cycle to 1 month means that our monthly bills are higher, it also means that there is no large lump sum to be paid up front if we were to select a lower monthly plan as those need to be paid up front.
Once the plan and billing cycle are taken care of its all pretty straight forward from there. Remember, you have the option to pay through your credit card or via Paypal, whatever is most convenient for you. After sign up you will receive an email from Hostgator that contains your account info as well as the nameservers, keep this somewhere safe as these are important for the next step also in case you forget your login details at any point.
3. Point Your Domain To Your New Hosting Account
OK if you have got this far you are doing really well, I know this is a ton of information to cover but just remember, once its done its done, this entire process is a one off so when you complete it you wont need to do any of this again. Sounds blissful doesn’t it?
Right now we have successfully set up our domain name & our hosting account, we now need to tell our domain name to point to our hosting space. Things may be starting to sound a bit technical for you here but trust me its not a difficult process, simply follow the step by step I have provided below and you will be doing this in your sleep in no time.
3.1 Log In To Go Daddy And Access Domain Management
3.2 Access Set Nameservers Screen
You will now see a screen that contains the domain you purchased, simply tick the checkbox next to the name then hover your mouse over the nameservers icon at the top until a dropdown appears, the drop down should have an option that states “Set Nameservers” click on that and proceed to the next screen.
3.4 Add Nameservers Information From Hostgator Email To Go Daddy
Again, really straightforward this part, simply copy and paste those nameservers that were sent to you from Go Daddy into the first two boxes found on the below screen then hit “OK”.
Once that’s done we can take the rest of the night off as it usually takes 24 hours for the domain to propagate at the new hosting account. Well done, you have worked your wee socks off for getting this far, go and reward yourself with a cookie/cup of tea/Valium and rest for the remainder of the day, back to work tomorrow to get your site live and looking beautiful!
4. Set up new email accounts in Eleven2
Right, rise and shine its a new day and hopefully by now that will have been enough time for the transfer of your domain to your hosting account, next we want to set up an email address because if we don’t how are your future lovely customers going to get in contact with you???
By phone you say? Yeah … well … still set up an email for the folk that hate talking to humans!
You will be happy as an alcoholic squirrel in a bowlful of vodka-soaked nuts to know that this is a pretty painless process, simply follow these steps, before you know it you will have your very own @yoursite.com email address that you can use to impress your friends, family and of course the opposite sex (having your own domain name email address is apparently the number one thing people look for in a potential partner*).
4.1 Log in to Cpanel and Access Email Accounts Section
When you select the above button/link, you will be directed to a page that asks you for your new email address. You can add anything you want here whether it be your own name or something more generic such as “info” or “inquiries” it really doesn’t matter, as long as you are happy with your choice.
Here you can also assign your Mailbox Quota, 250MB is more than enough right now but if you find that you are running out of space simply come back to this screen and amend the figure to something more suitable.
4.2 Accessing Your New Email Account
Right, you are now the proud owner of an email address linked to your domain name. For this tutorial, I have set up the email address to [email protected] ”But Scott, how do I access my email!?” I hear you sing with that soulful voice of yours, simple really. Just take your web address and add “/webmail” to the end of it. So, to access any email sent to [email protected] all I need to do is type in “http://legendarycarpetcleaners.com/webmail” (without quotes) into my browsers address bar and it should take me/you to the login screen to access your email.
With Cpanels Webmail, you are asked to choose 1 out of 3 possible web based email providers to view your inbox. They are all pretty much the same so try them all out and see which one you find the best.
And that is pretty much that for setting up a new email address in Cpanel, pretty simply huh? I plan to write a guide on setting up your email with the likes of Outlook and/or Thunderbird at a later date and link to it from here, but for now this is all you need to start sending and receiving emails through your new domain.
5. Installing WordPress as your Web Content Management System
Wait, installing what as my what?!
Here is an explanation of these two beautiful things if you are not already aware of them.
What is a Web Content Management System?
A Web Content Management System (WCMS) is a software system that provides website authoring, collaboration, and administration tools designed to allow users with little knowledge of web programming languages or markup languages to create and manage website content with relative ease. A robust WCMS provides the foundation for collaboration, offering users the ability to manage documents and output for multiple author editing and participation. Taken from Wikipedia’s Web CMS Page.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog. We like to say that WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.
The core software is built by hundreds of community volunteers, and when you’re ready for more there are thousands of plugins and themes available to transform your site into almost anything you can imagine. Over 60 million people have chosen WordPress to power the place on the web they call “home” — we’d love you to join the family. Taken from WordPress.org.
In short, a web CMS is used by website owners to allow them to add text, video, pictures etc to their website and WordPress is the best one out there.
5.1 Access Fantastico Deluxe Within Your Cpanel
You will be wiping the sweat of your brow once you know that installing WordPress is a piece of cake using a tool within our Cpanel called Fantastico Deluxe. Its just a case of a few mouse clicks and we have a website, here is how its done.
Locate the above link within your own Cpanel and click through to the next screen.
Fantastico De Luxe is an amazing piece of software that allows anyone from novices to advanced, to install open source software (in our case WordPress) in literally seconds.
So we need to locate the WordPress link within Fantastico De Luxe and here we will enter our login details for the new WordPress Installation. Make sure you write these new details down as you will be using them often for when you wish to edit or upload information to your site. So write them down somewhere safe, I recommend tattooing them to your butt.
Congratulations, you should now have WordPress installed on your domain. Please celebrate by giving yourself an almighty pat on the back or by kissing your reflection in the mirror!
6. Choosing Your Site Design
One of the many advantages to using WordPress is the fact there are literally thousands of pre-made designs just waiting for you to install onto your site. No design knowledge necessary all you need to do is find a design that that you are happy with that suits your sites general feel. These pre-made designs are commonly known as “themes”. So with that in mind, lets go to our good old friend Google and look for some free WordPress themes.
Now, as legendarycarpetcleaning.com intends to be a site aimed at targeting individuals who are looking to get the carpets in their house cleaned, I have decided that it would be a good idea to give the site a nice warm, clean style design. I have chosen the free design called “ColorWay“. All I need to do for now is download the zip file to my desktop and we can proceed to the next section.
6.1 Installing Your Theme Into WordPress
Once the design/theme (I am going to start to refer to it as a theme from now on) is downloaded to my PC, I then need to access my WordPress dashboard and find the appearance section on the left hand side and select “themes”.
From the above screen, navigate to “Install Themes” at the top and select. Here you can now browse to the theme file you downloaded previously and upload it to WordPress, simple huh?
After you hit the install button you will need to wait for a few seconds to allow the file to upload to the site, once uploaded remember to hit activate to make sure that the theme you have uploaded becomes … um … activated.
WordPress themes come with their own specific settings, its going to be down to you to peruse these yourself and choose settings that you feel help your own individual site. It should be straightforward, however if you are having a problem with any of your theme settings leave a comment at the bottom of this article and I will try my best to respond with a solution, or at the very least, point you in the right direction.
7. Create The Content of Your New Site
Lets recap, we now have a domain (purchased from Go Daddy) live at our new hosts (Eleven2) and we have installed a web CMS (WordPress) to allow us to add content to the site. The 1st content we have added was the WordPress theme (in this case ColorWay but you can use any theme.).
Exciting times indeed. What we now need to do is create the content for our website so that when someone visits they have something to chew on before they hopefully pick up the phone and call us to make an inquiry.
So this section is basically up to you, as it will be your own business website you really need to think of what a visitor to your site will want to see/read when they get there. If (like this example site) you are a carpet cleaner, well talk about how amazing you are at cleaning carpets. If you are an accountant, talk about how professional you are and the amount of money & time you can save the visitor by hiring you. If you are a gardener, have some photos of your previous work and mention that you offer free quotes. You get the idea.
For legendarycarpetcleaning.com I will be focusing my content on some nice images of clean carpets as well as try to convince the visitor with written text that we are the best darn carpet cleaners in the city/county/state/country/continent/world/universe.
For the images themselves, I will be using the Creative Commons image search, using this will allow you to be safe in the knowledge that the images you find will be free from image rights, I highly recommend you do the same when building your first site.
Let me know what you think of the guide, if there is anything you think I have missed or anything you would like to be added please let me know and I will update this page with the new information.