How to Make a Website
Following these steps on how to make a website to get yourself up and running in 20-30 minutes.
- Register a Domain Name
- Set-up your Hosting, SSL, and CMS
- Design and Develop your Website
- Search Engine Optimization (optional)
- Launch your Website!
Sounds easy right? Unfortunately it’s not, especially if you don’t know what you are doing. But this guide is designed to help beginners get started and teach you how to make a website. Steps 1 and 2 are extremely easy, they require no prior knowledge of coding, web design, or web development. You just need a credit card and an account. However, steps 3 – 5 are more difficult and the most important. If you are not too sure what you are doing, you’re probably better off hiring someone to do it for you.
As a web design company, we usually get our clients to do steps 1 and 2 on their own, and we’ve created this little guide to help our clients – or anyone who stumbles across this page – get set up.
Table of Contents
Please note, this is the process that we use with our clients, and also the one we use when creating our own websites. This tutorial will walk you through how to make a website with your own domain name and hosting. As mentioned before, steps 3 – 5 are what we are normally hired to do – design, develop, optimize, and launch your website. And we do so using WordPress as our CMS, to which we train our clients how to use as part of our website design package. So steps 1 and 2 will be in much more detail to help you get those done yourself, while steps 3 – 5 will be brief overviews of what we do. With that being said, read on to learn how to make a website!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which we may receive compensation from if you purchase certain products based off of our recommendations. With that being said, we are only affiliated with companies that we personally use, trust, and recommend to our own clients. Their are many affiliate programs out there that we are not a part of – even though we would profit from them – because we do not believe in endorsing products we do not use ourselves.
1. Register a Domain Name
What is a domain name?
A domain name is the address you put in the top search bar of a browser. For example, the domain name of this site is NANUQdesign.ca, while the domain name of Google is google.com. You’ll want to make this easy to remember, with no special characters or symbols, and be a representation of your business/brand identity online.
To make this clear right off that bat, your domain name has nothing to do with your hosting. You are simply purchasing the right to own and use that name on the internet for a website that doesn’t exist yet. If you purchase a domain name and try to access it on the internet, you’ll just see a blank page, because you have no hosting/website yet (we’ll get to that in step 2).
To register a domain name, you need to choose a domain registrar (company), create an account with them, search to see if your desired domain name is available, and then purchase said domain name. Many hosting companies offer free domain names with a purchase of a hosting package – which you need anyways – but we still advise our clients against it. We recommend purchasing your domain name through a different company than the one they plan to host with. This is for the sole reason of “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. If something goes wrong with one company, or one of your accounts gets compromised, then you’ll be in a better place and you won’t lose both.
If you want to purchase your domain through your hosting provider anyways, skip to Hosting a Domain Name Registered at the same company, if not, then keep reading.
Choosing a domain provider.
We personally like to use NameCheap, they specialize in domain names and we find their interface very user friendly and easy to use. But there are hundreds of domain registrars out there: GoDaddy, Host Gator, Google Domains, BlueHost, DreamHost, Siteground, etc… So feel free to do your own research, all the prices are roughly the same (around $15) and they all provide the same basic services. The rest of this domain tutorial will be showcasing NameCheap, but which ever domain registrar you choose should have a similar set up.
Purchasing your domain name.
- Search for your desired domain name
Head over to NameCheap (or your domian registrar of choice) and type in the domain name you want.
For this example, we’ll be searching for polarbearsarecool.com (Why you ask? Well, at NANUQ, a portion of all our proceeds go to organizations dedicated to preserving the polar bears and the sea ice they depend on.)
2. Purchase your desired domain name
Usually a bunch of similar recommended names will come up, as in this case, we were suggested polarbearsare.cool as a name, but we will stick with polarbearsarecool.com. On average, a domain will cost you $10-$15 per year depending on the top-level domain you choose (.com , .ca , .org , .io , etc…).
You may be offered a bunch of other promotional items along with your domain name, such as discounted hosting, email setup, premium features, etc.. but you can ignore them for now. You will get most of these from your hosting provider which we will set up in step 3.
Another reason we like NameCheap is that they offer WhoisGuard for free, forever. This helps keep your personal information safe online. When you purchase a domain name, you are required to fill out personaly information such: name, address, email, phone number, etc… which anyone can look up online through ‘whois’ data bases. WhoisGuard redacts this information on ‘who is’ sites, preventing anyone from finding out your personal information.
Note: Due to registry restrictions, WhoisGuard cannot be used with: .ca, .gg .cn, .de, .eu, .li, .ch, .fr, .sg, .com.sg, .in, .uk .co.uk, .me.uk, .org.uk, .nu, .us, .es, .com.es, .n m.es, .org.es, .com.au, .net.au, .org.au, .nyc, .paris, .id, .vote, .voto, .在线 and .移动 domains.
3. Create your account
Once you’ve reached the check out and are ready to buy, you’ll be prompted to create an account with NameCheap. Follow the provided instructions and fill out the required information.
Even if you don’t need a website for your business right away, it’s a good idea to register the domain name you want anyways. It’s cheap and it guarantees you own the name once you do decide to create a website. Remember that domain names are first come first serve, so get it while you can, even if your business is just in the idea stage.
2. Set-up Hosting, SSL, and CMS.
What is Hosting?
Website Hosting is a service that allows you to make your website accessible on the World Wide Web (www). Just like a hostess of a party, a hosting provider ‘hosts’ the location that people can visit.
What is an SSL?
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and it is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private and integral.
In Laymen’s terms, this puts a little lock icon next to your URL and changes your URL from http:// to https://, where the ‘s’ means secure. It lets visitors know that your site is secure and safe to visit. This is mainly used for sites that plan to sell products/services online because they require the collection of personal information such as credit card numbers, shipping addresses, names, etc… It is still recommended that you get yourself an SSL certificate even if you don’t plan on making online sales because 1) if you ever decide to do online sales in the future, it is much more difficult to properly set up the SSL after your website is already complete, 2) SSL is part of Google’s ranking algorithm, so you’ll rank higher on Google if you have one, and 3) some browsers will warn users before they visit your site if you don’t have one, saying that their connection is not secure/private. This will definitely scare off some potential visitors away from your site.
What is a CMS?
CMS stands for Content Management System, and it is a set of processes and technologies that supports the collection, managing, and publishing of information in any form or medium. Simply put, CMS is the software that your website can be built on and what you use to make any future updates or add-ons to your website (adding/removing pictures, modifying pages, adding blog posts, changing wordings, etc…). We use WordPress as our CMS, to which we train our clients how to use as part of our website design package.
Choosing a hosting provider.
Assuming you already have a domain name purchased at this point, the next step is to give it a home on the internet through a hosting provider. We personally like to use DreamHost, they have great pricing, reliable hosting, 100% guaranteed up time, an easy to use interface, and amazing customer support. But just like with domain names, you have hundreds of other options out there: GoDaddy, Host Gator, BlueHost, SiteGround, etc… The rest of this hosting tutorial will be showcasing DreamHost, but which ever hosting provider you choose should have a similar set up.
Purchasing a Hosting Package.
Choosing the right Hosting Package
Every hosting provider offers many (almost too many) hosting packages for you to choose from, all with different features and advertised purposes. The main types of hosting options you have are:
- Shared Hosting ($): your website, along with other website, are hosted on the same server.
- VPS Hosting ($$): a Virtual Private Server, which is a virtualized server. A VPS hosting environment mimics a dedicated server within a shared hosting environment. It is technically both shared hosting and dedicated hosting
- Dedicated Hosting ($$$): your website is hosted on its own personal server and is not shared with anyone else.
What you need will depend on your website, most people will be fine with just a basic package, but if you expect high traffic, have a lot of images, want faster loading times, or want the extra features that come with bigger packages, then maybe a larger package is better for you. We personally use and recommend using one of DreamHost’s DreamPress Packages, which are their specialized WordPress hosting packages. They are a mixture of VPS and Dedicated Hosting, which mean you get the security of a dedicated server but the pricing of a VPS. They also come pre-installed with WordPress (your CMS) and an SSL certificate.
Choosing Package Features
We will be setting up the basic DreamPress package for this tutorial, but any package from DreamHost will follow the same steps, and hosting packages from other hosting providers should follows similar steps. If you want to follow along, then click here to get DreamHost’s DreamPress Package.
Choose the High Performance package to start setting up DreamPress.
There are 3 DreamPress packages to chose from. We find that the DreamPress Basic plan is more than enough for most of our clients, but the choice is ultimately up to you. You can always upgrade or downgrade at a later point.
DreamPress Basic Features:
- 100k Monthly Visitors: Your website will be able to comfortable handle this many monthly visitors.
- 30 GB SSD Storage: SSD storage gives you 200% better performance than traditional hard drives. This makes file transfers and storage more efficient and secure, which improves site performance and load times.
- Unmetered Bandwidth: Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time. For digital devices, the bandwidth is usually expressed in bits per second (bps) or bytes per second. Unmetered means they don’t track your bandwidth, so you don’t have to worry about them slowing down your site or charging overage fees if you reach max bandwidth.
- Staging: Staging is a clone of your live website. It enables you to test any changes or major new features that you plan to implement in a secure, non-destructive, environment. Developers often use staging sites as a testing ground in order to prevent errors occurring on ‘live’ websites, thus avoiding the issues and/or downtime that might otherwise result.
- SSL Certificate: We already discussed this at the beginning of step 2, but this packages comes with a Pre-Installed SSL certificate, so you don’t have to worry about buying one and setting it up!
- Daily Backup & 1 Click Restores: DreamHost will atomically backup your site onto their servers everyday to ensure you never lose any part of your website. Sometimes things happens, you click the wrong thing, you’re hacked, or whatever the reason, you can visit DreamHost and choose from a library of backups to restore to. It’s quite easy to break a site if you don’t know what you’re doing, so having this easy and automatic fail-safe system in place is great.
- 24/7 WordPress Support: As mentioned before, we love DreamHost’s customer support. They are extremely knowledgeable, friendly, and quick to respond, which is crucial if your site is down and you need them to fix it for you. This can save you a lot of time and money if they are able to help you solve your problem before you go out and hire a web developer to look at it for you.
- Jetpack: A powerful WordPress plugin, that once activated, supercharges your site with upgrades and enhancements, like downtime monitoring, brute force protection, and more. It does a lot of the heavy lifting behind the scenes and makes your website extra secure.
- WP Website Builder: A drag-and-drop website editor designed to help non-web developers get started. It is quite limiting at the moment and can still be confusing for absolute beginners, so unless you want to give it the old college try, we’d leave the design and development to the professionals. But it is a cool feature that you can play around with on your staging site once your website is launched, you may be able to make little edits on your own and save yourself some money.
- WordPress Install: DreamPress comes pre-installed with WordPress (the CMS we use and recommend), which removes the hassle of you having to install and set it up yourself!
Purchasing your Package
At check-out, you usually have the option of choosing to pay month-by-month, or pay for a full year upfront. Upfront payments offer you a discount, and as you can see here, you save $50 with this particular package.
Setting up Hosting for your Domain Name.
During your checkout with DreamHost, you will tell DreamHost (or the hosting company of your choice) which domain they should ‘host’ on the internet. Here is where you have a choice, if you’ve been following along so far and have a domain name registered somewhere else (for example: NameCheap), then keep reading. If not, then you can jump to hosting a Domain Name Registered at the same company.
- Hosting a Domain Name that is Registered at a different company.
If you’ve been following along so far, then you should already have a domain name registered at NameCheap from step 1, so you can click “I already have a domain” and assign your hosting package to your recently purchased domain name.
Depending on your hosting provider, you may be prompted to create a WordPress account, or they will create one for you automatically. This will be your admin account to login with to design and develop your site. So make sure you remember the login credentials and keep them in a safe place.
Pointing your DNS to DreamHost
DNS stands for Domain Name System, which is a naming system for computers, services, or other resources connected to the Internet. Basically, us humans use domain names to access the internet, such as www.polarbearsarecool.com, while web browsers interact through Internet Protocol (IP) addresses such as 126.96.36.199. DNS translates domain names to IP addresses so browsers can load the proper Internet resources.
When you originally purchased your domain registration at another company (for example: NameCheap), the DNS settings are set to that specific company. In order for your site to be hosted on the DreamHost servers, you must change the DNS settings for your domain name to DreamHost’s.
So once your hosting is paid for, you’ll have to jump back over to your NameCheap dashboard and click on ‘manage’ for the domain name you want hosted.
Under the domain settings, you want to look for ‘nameservers’ and change it from ‘Namecheap BasicDNS’ to ‘Custom DNS’.
Then you want to put in the nameservers unique to your hosting company. In DreamHost’s case, they are:
If you are not using DreamHost, you can usually find your hosting company’s DNS nameserves by a quick google search or by looking through your hosting providers support files.
Don’t forget to click save. Depending on the hosting provider, changing the DNS nameservers can sometimes take 2-3 days to process.
What if I purchased my hosting before I registered my domain name?
No worries, you’ll still have to complete the steps above of registering a domain name and pointing the DNS records to DreamHost. After that, you need to head back to DreamHost’s admin panel and add your domain.
Under ‘domains’, click on ‘managed domains’.
Here you will see a list of domains you own and are hosted through DreamHost – which will most likely be 0 if you just made your account. Click on ‘Add Hosting to a Domain / Sub-Domain’.
Here you can set up full hosting and/or just DNS hosting for domains you own. Scroll down to ‘DNS only’ and type in your domain name (ex. polarbearsarecool.com).
Click ‘Host DNS only’ and that’s it! Your domain name should now be added to DreamHost’s DNS servers and you’ll be able to manage it further when you head back to ‘managed domains’. Here you can click ‘add hosting’ and set up DreamPress just as we did at the beginning of Step 2, which will automatically install WordPress and an SSL certificate.
2. Hosting a Domain Name Registered at the same company
If you did not previously register a domain name somewhere else (for example: NameCheap) then follow these steps to register a new domain name along with your DreamPress package. If you have already set up your domain name and hosting separately, then you can jump to Signing into WordPress.
During your checkout with DreamHost (or the hosting company of choice), you will tell them which domain they should ‘host’ on the internet. Click on ‘Register a New Domain’.
Here you will be prompted to search for a domain name of your choice. This is what your website will be be named (for example: our domain name is NANUQdesign.ca).
In this case, the domain name we want – polarbearsarecool.com – is already taken because I registered it at NameCheap at the beginning of step 1, so I would have to choose another name before moving forward.
Depending on your hosting provider, you may be asked to create a WordPress account after check-out, or they will make an account for you automatically. This will be your admin account that you use to access the back-end of your website to design, develop, and make changes. So make sure you remember the login details and keep them in a safe place.
Signing into WordPress
Now that you have a domain name that is being hosted with WordPress installed, you can log into your WordPress admin account panel with the login credentials you created earlier. Simply add /wp-admin to end of your site URL to reach the login page (works for all hosting providers):
Or you can access WordPress by signing in to your DreamHost Web Panel (specific for DreamHost) and clicking on WordPress > Managed WordPress > Manage > Manage WordPress.
Once you’re logged in, you will see the backend of your website, which should look something like this:
3. Design and Develop your Website
As mentioned before, will not be teaching you how to design and develop a website, but rather informing you that this is the stage where the design and development begins. At this point, you should already have a domain name registered, hosted, and have an SSL certificate and WordPress installed. If you are designing the site yourself, then you should be familiar with WordPress and you can start designing!
If you’re not designing and developing the website yourself, then you don’t have to do anything here, you’re done! The rest will be done by your web designer / developer. Contact them for further instructions on what to do next.
If we sent you this page to help you get your domain name and hosting set up, then you can contact us to let us know you’re finished and we can get started!
4. Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an optional, yet highly recommended, step of setting up your website. SEO is the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website to users of search engine – like Google. If done correctly, along with other online marketing techniques, your business can land on the first page of Google, or even the very first link! Properly done, long term, SEO strategies can save your business thousands by ranking high on Google without paying for ads. Without SEO, you’re basically building a website that can’t be found on Google, which is kind of like inviting someone over to your house without giving them directions. Someone really wants to come your house, but you’re making it difficult for them. Don’t be that person.
If you’re new to SEO, we recommend you do some research before trying to do it yourself. It’s a crucial step if you want to increase organic traffic to your site. Goof SEO should be done, before, during, and after web development. You need your site to be optimized from the get-go to ensure you maximize your traffic and pave the way for future SEO efforts. We personally use and recommend the YoastSEO plugin for WordPress, they have a lot of documentation on their website to help you get started with the basics of SEO.
5. Launch your Website!
The most exciting yet stressful (for web developers) part of this whole process, the moment when you finally launch your website!
Everything should be done and ready to go at this point, but you always want to double/triple check that everything is in order and works properly. The last think you want is to launch a broken website.
We recommend testing your website on a staging site prior to launching and check the following things:
- Links are working properly
- Forms and auto-responders work
- All images are compressed to help with page speed
- Page speed is optimal
- SSL certificate is active
- Content is Optimized for SEO
- Your XML sitemap is configured and submitted
- Google Analytics, Google Console, and any other analytic software you use is up and running
- All pages are mobile and tablet responsive
- Spelling, Grammar, Typos
- Overall design and formatting consistency
And that’s it! Your website is good to go and you can finally share it with the public!
Step 5.5 – Maintenance
Although not technically part of “making a website”, being able to maintain your website is just as important as building it. Why go to great lengths of making and/or paying for a beautiful website if you’re not going to take care of it?
Like most things technology related nowadays, it will need updates and edits once in a while. Although these steps are quite straightforward, they are crucial to keeping your website up and running smoothly, and you can quite easily break a website if you don’t know what you’re doing on the back-end. We recommend getting your web developer to maintain and update your website for you – most offer maintenance packages – or at least become extremely familiar with how to do it yourself.
With all that being said, you should be excited about the launch of your website and the growth it will bring your business. In today’s faced paced environment, websites are a crucial part of most businesses’ success, so make sure you get yourself an amazing website from the get-go and deliver that ‘wow’ factor that your customers are looking for!
Upon completing this tutorial, you should have the following:
- a domain name registered – ideally at a different company than your hosting company
- a hosting package setup
- an SSL certificate installed
- a CMS (WordPress) installed
- a WordPress admin account that gives you access to the back-end of your website
- a beautifully designed website – Ideally done by a web designer
- a completed pre-launch checklist
- a maintenance plan in place to keep your website up and running smoothly post-launch