How to build a website (the basics)

Hi, this is Amber and if you keep reading I’m going to explain how to build your own ‘stand-alone’ self-hosted website using WordPress.

I’ve heard lots of people say that they get totally confused about this process and they’ve been told that it is really complicated and tricky. Honestly, it’s not difficult – you just need to understand the big picture behind what you’re doing and the steps become easy.

The first thing we need to cover is the basics of how a website works.

how to build a self-hosted wordpress site

There are three main elements to a website:

  1. The domain name
  2. The hosting
  3. The website itself

The Domain Name

how to build a wordpress websiteThis is what people type in to go to your website. It’s like a street address – it’s unique to you, and the good thing is – you can choose your own! You can choose pretty much whatever you want, as long as it’s not already taken.

You buy (although technically, it’s a lease) your domain name from a ‘domain name registrar’. These are companies who are authorised to deal in domain names. Domain names typically cost about $10 per year, depending on what extension you want and demand.

The ‘extension’ is the .com, .net, .org, .tv, .co bit at the end of the domain.

The Hosting

how to build a websiteAll of the data that makes up your website needs to ‘live’ somewhere. This ‘somewhere’ needs to be available 24 hours a day and it needs to have enough ‘bandwidth’ to load your website quickly (so your viewers don’t get bored and leave). It is possible to run your own server from home, but there are lots of web-hosting companies out there who offer this service for a minimal cost.

The Website

how to build a websiteWebsites are made up of a bunch of programming code that controls how the website looks, and content – which is what the website says.

On the programming side they have a basic framework or platform (WordPress) with customisable themes (this site rocks the Thesis theme with the Effectus skin) and you can add plugins and widgets which are like apps that do specific things to increase functionality.

The programming platform needs to be set up before you can add any content.

Linking it all up

To work properly, the three main elements need to be linked together.

how to build a websiteThe domain registrar needs to know where your website lives, so when someone types in your domain name into their browser they get sent to the right website. Your hosting company welcome email will give you the details for two ‘nameservers’ – they tell the domain registrar where to find your actual website servers.

Your hosting company needs to know what your website is called, so they can group your files together properly, and display the right stuff when your visitors arrive. You will tell your hosting company what your domain name is when you set up your account.

Your website files need to be added to your web-host, so they are there and ready to display when your visitors arrive. This is the last step of the process, it happens after you have your domain and your hosting connected together.

Is ‘done for you' a better option?

There are heaps of companies out there who will offer ‘done for you’, ‘easy’, ‘instant’ ‘gorgeous’ websites for free. They host them for you, give you your “own” domain name (which is usually a lengthy subdomain of THEIR domain name ie. yoursitename.theirdomain.com) and let you use their framework.

The problem is, you don’t get the full functionality that you get when you set up a stand-alone site, and you are subject to their rules on whether or not you can advertise and what you can do on THEIR site.

The website is not YOURS.

As someone who is serious about building an online brand and running a business I don’t use them, and I don’t recommend them to any of my friends – even if they’re just getting started and they’re not making any money yet.

The key benefits of having a stand-alone self-hosted WordPress site are:

  1.  You can brand it with your own domain name (eg. ninjatricks.net)
  2. You own, choose and are in total control of your website. Later, if you’re not happy with one particular element, you can easily switch to something you ARE happy with.
  3. YOU make the rules. With WordPress as a platform, you have almost endless options to design and customise your site, and no-one can tell you that you aren’t allowed to have advertising on it, or you aren’t allowed to talk about certain products, or that their product isn’t compatible with the platform you have chosen.
  4. The search engines and anyone else who visits your site knows you are serious about what you are doing. I’m convinced it helps with both search engine optimisation (SEO) and brand perception.
  5. Your site becomes an ASSET. You own it and it has value – like any other asset you can sell it to someone else if you want to.

As a professional, I want to use my site however I choose. I don’t want to be told that I can’t sell my own advertising, I don’t want to be told that I can’t collect emails from people who visit my site and I want my site to be as compatible as possible with tools that will help me build my business.

I also don’t like having all of my eggs in the one basket, so I use a different company for each of the three elements.

This means that if there’s a big change down the track and

  • I want to change hosting company – I can.
  • If I want to switch domain registrars, I can.
  • If I want to try a new framework, I can.

I own my own content and I don’t give up any rights to other companies.

For those who are interested, I use:

So, you’ve decided to go with a self-hosted WordPress website.

Setting it all up

Here are the basic steps to setting up your first self-hosted WordPress website:

  1. Choose and register a domain name

how to build a websiteThis is your new online address. Make it a good one!
I prefer to use Dynadot to register my domains.

Don't forget to write down your username and password.

Watch: How to create a domain name in 3 minutes

2. Set up a hosting account

how to build a website-8This is the place where your website will ‘live’.
I use Hostgator for web hosting. I use their ‘business’ plan.

Don't forget to write down your username and password.

3. Log in to your domain registrar account, nominate your web hosting NameServers

how to build a websiteThis links your domain name with the place your website lives

4. Choose which website platform you will use

how to build a website-10I use wordpress.org for all my sites and I highly recommend you do too.

5. Log in to your hosting account and install your website platform

how to build a website-11There are quick installers to help you do this, for free, inside your web hosting.

Once the install has finished, make sure you write down the login url (it will look like yourdomain.com/wp-admin) your username and your password for your new website – this is how you will log in to your admin panel and add content to your site.

Congratulations!

You now have your very own WordPress site and it’s time to customize it!

This is when the fun starts – and you get to add your own personality and flair to your site!

What to do now:

I am currently preparing a step-by-step beginners guide that will show you how I set up and customize my WordPress sites. It will also explain the ‘why’ behind each step, so you don’t just have a list of stuff to do – you actually understand the reason why you're doing it.

It will also have heaps of screenshots that show you which themes, settings, plugins and widgets I use on my sites.

If you’d like me to email you a copy as soon as it’s done, please add your email below and click ‘I'd like it’.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Good day! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering if
    you knew where I could find a captcha plugin for my
    comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours
    and I’m having problems finding one? Thanks a lot!

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