It’s Monday afternoon, only 4 days till Christmas, and I am sitting at my desk with a glass of beer and setting up a website for one of my friend’s countless web initiatives. Suddenly I come to a realization that I have done this dozen of times. Although I am very green as an entrepreneur, I have been around in the web sphere for many years, and, as a result, have created multiple websites myself, and even more for various friends and clients.
Anytime I have an idea, I am able to have a website representing it in a matter of minutes. Not every idea is a successful one, and having a great website obviously requires a lot of work, but the fact that you can go from zero to one (or from an idea in your head to an online representation of said idea) in no time is very liberating.
If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, one of the first things that you need to get sorted is your online presence. And the work of creating a website should not be an unnecessary burden between your idea and the world.
As I mentioned previously, I am a web engineer, and as such have the ability to create websites in any way I please. But, after many years and web projects, I have nailed down a process that is so simple and straightforward that it doesn’t require any of my web engineering skills. Which means that it can be done by a totally non-technical person.
Today I am going to share the steps that I usually take every time I am creating a website.
Step 1: Invent Your Domain Name
I LOVE coming up with domain names, and I will admit that sometimes I am doing it just for the fun of it. It is not easy to find a good domain name that isn’t taken, and as a first-time explorer, you will be looking for domains that contain single words of type “apple.com” and be very disappointed to find out that they are all taken. And I mean it when I say it: they are ALL taken. You will need to get creative here.
But first things first, how do you find out if a domain name is taken? Not by going to the URL of the domain. Just because qwertyuiop.com shows you a blank page, doesn’t mean that it’s not taken.
Step 2: Check If Your Domain Name is Available with EasyWhois
Another thing that I avoid is checking for domain name availability with websites that sell domain names. Some of them are playing dirty games, and will snap the domain that you are researching just before you get a chance to buy it, and will try to charge you a much higher price.
Normally I research the domain name availability with easywhois.com who has a good reputation and are not using those bad practices. Only when I have decided on the domain will I go to a regular domain name provider and register the domain. This doesn’t give them a chance to register it in advance.
To find your domain name, go to easywhois.com and type your domain ideas in the search box. If the domain is available, you will see a message: “Good news! abc.com is available!”
If the domain is not available, you will see the details of the domain, including the owner, registration, and expiration dates, etc. When that happens (and it will happen a lot), just move on to the next one.
Sometimes I feel stuck and need some help with generating ideas. Luckily, there are a lot of websites that help you generate domain names. I don’t have any favorites, usually, I would Google search for “domain name generator” and try a couple of the options that come up.
Step 3: Register Your Domain Name
Now that we have our shiny and new domain name, and we know that it is available, it’s time to buy it. Normally you would need to pay a yearly fee for your domain, and an average price is around $10 per year for a .com domain.
No matter how excited I am for my new domain, I have a rule to never pay for more than one year, to begin with. Sometimes the plan needs to be changed, and I don’t want to end up with several year’s ownership of a domain that I no longer need.
However, if after a year or two you know that your website will be around, I would recommend paying for several years up front, as Google and other search engines prefer domains that have a longer expiration date.
Currently, I use NameCheap for my domain portfolio: I found that it has the best combination of a great price and modern looking interface that is a pleasure to use. Previously I’ve used a couple other providers, and I may switch in the future if something better comes up, but in the mean time, I am very happy with NameCheap.
To register a domain name, enter it in the search box, and then add it to cart:
The website will guide you through the whole process, which is very easy and straightforward.
Optional: Protect Privacy of the Domain Owner
When you register a domain name, you will be required to provide your full name and other details such as your e-mail and physical address. This is important as it establishes you as the rightful owner of the domain.
However, the downside of it is that your personal information becomes publicly available on the web. Anyone can lookup your domain name and find out that you own it. Furthermore, a reverse lookup is possible, too: anyone can search for your name and find out what domains you own. If you are OK with that, you don’t need to worry.
Privacy is an important factor for me, and I always opt to pay an extra couple bucks per year for what is called “whois guard”. It will basically hide your personal information from the web. For example, here is what you will see when you lookup the owner of this domain – willtowell.com:
When you buy your domain with NameCheap, you will get one year of the privacy protection service for free. After the first year, you can select to continue paying for the service. Again, it’s very cheap and totally worth it in my opinion.
Step 4: Sign Up for a Web Hosting Account with BlueHost
Now that you have a domain name, it’s time to create a space where your website will live. As with the domain registrars, there are lots of options available. It always comes to the balance of the right price and the quality of the service you get in return.
Over the years, I have tried many web hosting providers, until I switched to BlueHost a couple years ago. It satisfies most of my requirements, which are:
- Affordable price
- Relatively good performance
- Unlimited domains and subdomains
- One-button website builder
Although there are many other things that can be taken into consideration, I have found these five to be of the most importance to me.
1. Affordable Price
Currently, I am paying around $11 per month for their “Plus” plan, which I find to be a good price considering that I can run an unlimited number of websites. You can easily upgrade and downgrade when your needs change, which is very convenient.
2. Good Performance
Your website will be sharing space and resources with other websites that are hosted on the same server, so you cannot expect blazingly fast speeds and 100% availability for your website, but I found that for an ordinary website or blog it is good enough.
3. Unlimited Domains
This is a very important requirement for me. As I mentioned before, it may take several tries before you find your niche, and as a result, you may need to create and retire websites multiple times. BlueHost allows you to do so easily and with no extra cost.
4. One-button website builder
The ease of firing up a website is what makes trying out new ideas so much fun. It seriously takes a few seconds to set up a brand new website. I absolutely love this feature.
To create your personal hosting space, head over to bluehost.com and select “Products” – “Shared Hosting” in the top menu. Then select a plan that fits your needs (I use the “Plus” plan) and follow the steps of the signup process:
Step 5: Point Your Domain to BlueHost
Although BlueHost allows you to register your domain with them, I have decided to keep my domain management with another provider, for strategic reasons. I don’t want to keep all my eggs in the same basket, and since domain ownership can be a very valuable asset, I don’t want to give one company full control over both my domains and websites.
This is a personal preference, and you may choose to use the same provider for both things.
Pointing a domain name to your hosting provider is like assigning an address to your house: without an address, nobody can find your house.
To do this, go to your NameCheap account’s dashboard, select “Domain List” in the left menu, and then click the “Manage” button next to your domain name.
In the following screen, under “Name Servers” section, enter the name servers “NS1.BLUEHOST.COM” and “NS2.BLUEHOST.COM” as shown in this screenshot:
Click the green checkbox to save.
Step 6: Create Your Website
Now to the fun part: let us create our website! When you log in to bluehost.com, you will be redirected to your administration panel that will look something like this:
Click the “Install WordPress” button. In the next screen, under the “Do It Yourself” section, click the “Install” button.
Next, select your domain in the drop-down:
Click “Check Domain”.
On the next screen, check the “Show advanced options” checkbox to expand the section:
Enter the name of your website, your username, and password that you will use to login to your website. You can keep the pre-filled defaults, just make sure to make a note of the username and password.
Now, click the “Install Now” button. Sit back and relax, while the installer is doing all the hard work for you. It may take a few seconds, and once it’s done, you will see a notification at the top of the page.
That’s it, your website is all set! If you go to your domain in the web browser, you will see a welcome page that says something like “Website coming soon”, that you can turn off once you’ve added some content to the website.
Step 7: Customize Your Website and Add Content
You can login to the admin panel of your website by going to http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin. Enter the login credentials from the previous step.
Next, you will get a question if you would like to help to launch your website. Select “yes” and follow the steps of the setup. They are very easy to follow so I won’t describe them here.
Once you have gone through your initial setup process, you can start adding pages and blog posts. I also recommend updating the appearance of your site by installing one of the thousands of free themes available (Go to “Appearance” – “Themes” and select “Add Theme”).
When you are happy with the way your site looks and ready to make it public, click on the message at the top of your dashboard saying “Your site is currently displaying a “Coming Soon” page. Once you are ready to launch your site click here”.
After you click the link, you will see a confirmation that your website is now live: “Congratulations. Your site is now live, click here to view it.”
I hope this guide was helpful in guiding you to creating your first website.