The essential step by step guide on how to set up a website
by Christopher Heng, thesitewizard.com
This tutorial shows you how to make or create a website. It is intended for the beginner and layperson, taking you step by step through the
whole process from the very beginning. It makes very few assumptions about what you know (other than the fact that you know how to
surf the Internet, since you’re already reading this article on the Internet). As some steps are more involved, this guide also links to
selected relevant articles on thesitewizard.com that you will need to click through to read for more information.
The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Making Your Own Website
Get Your Domain Name
The first thing you need to do before anything else is to get yourself a domain name. This is the name you want to give to your website.
For example, the domain name of the website you’re reading is “thesitewizard.com”. To get a domain, you have to pay an annual fee to a
registrar for the right to use that name. Obtaining a domain does not get you a website or anything like that. It’s just a name.
It’s like registering a business name in the brick-and-mortar world; getting a company name does not magically grant you
the shop premises to go with it.
Those who have more questions about domains may want to take a look at my list of
frequently asked questions on domain names.
Choose a Web Host and Sign Up for an Account
A web host is basically a company that has many computers connected to the Internet. When you place your web pages on their computers, everyone in
the world will be able to connect to it and view them. You will need to sign up for an account with a web host so that your website has a home.
If getting a domain name is analogous to getting a business name in the brick-and-mortar world, getting a web hosting account is comparable
to renting office or shop premises for your business.
There are many issues involved in selecting a good web host. Read up on the things you need to look for in
the article How to Choose a Web Host.
One factor that may influence your choice is the decision on whether to
use SSL for your website.
A site that uses SSL will have a web address starting with “https://” instead of “http://”. In ancient times,
webmasters typically only bothered to use it if they were selling goods and services and needed
to collect credit card numbers, or if they had some sort of facility that required their visitors to log in with
Nowadays, however, the whole of the Internet is slowly moving to a state where everything has SSL. As such, it
is a good idea for new websites to use it from the very outset. This will allow you to avoid the hassle and risk involved
in moving an existing website
from HTTP to HTTPS, which you may find yourself doing in the future if you don’t get it done at the beginning.
For more information, please read the first few sections of
that article, namely
those explaining what SSL is (in greater detail), and the advantages and disadvantages of it.
In general, as far as I know, all commercial
web hosts let you install SSL certificates for your site. The price varies, though, from company to company. Some give
you a certificate for free. Others will install a free certificate for a one time charge. Some require you to buy a commercial
certificate (which has a recurring charge). You may want to factor this when comparing the prices of the different web hosts.
When you have an idea of what to look for, go to the
Budget Web Hosting page
to look for a web host.
After you sign up for a web hosting account, you will need to point your domain name to that location. Information on how
to do this can be found in the guide
How to Point a Domain Name to Your Website (Or What to Do After Buying Your Domain Name).
Designing your Web Pages
Once you have settled your domain name and web host, the next step is to design the web site itself. In this article, I will assume that you will
be doing this yourself. If you are hiring a web designer to do it for you, you can probably skip this step, since that person will
handle it on your behalf.
Although there are many considerations in web design, as a beginner, your first step is to actually get something out
onto the web. The fine-tuning can come after you’ve figured out how to publish a basic web page. One way is to use a
WYSIWYG (“What You See Is What You Get”) web editor to do it. Such editors allow you to design your site visually,
without having to deal with the technical details. They work just like a normal wordprocessor.
There are a number of free and commercial web editors available. If you use Windows, one of the best
around is Microsoft Expression Web. This is a formerly-commercial program that Microsoft now distributes for free,
presumably because they no longer want to be in the web editor business. It is fully-featured and very polished (as
befits software that was once sold in shops) with facilities that both new and experienced webmasters find
useful. You can find a guide on how to use this program from my
Web Tutorial. The latter takes you through the process of designing a fully functional multi-page website that
is mobile-friendly (that is, your site will work well on both desktop/laptop computers and the smaller screens of
mobile devices like smartphones and tablets). Instructions on how to get the editor can also be found in that tutorial.
Other free editors around include BlueGriffon, an open source editor for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. A guide for how
to use it to design a complete mobile-friendly website can be found in the
For those who prefer to use a commercial program, thesitewizard.com has numerous online tutorials for a web editor called
Dreamweaver, a program with features on par with that of Expression Web. The
Tutorial takes you through all the steps needed to design a complete website, in addition to providing
you with the theoretical and practical foundations that will help you create and maintain that site.
If you prefer not to use any of the above, you can find
tutorials for other WYSIWYG web editors
here, including one for KompoZer,
another free (though fairly outdated) web editor. And if none of them suits your taste, there are also
numerous other programs listed on thefreecountry.com’s Free
HTML Editors and WYSIWYG Web Editors page.
Those thinking of blogging (ie, creating a type of website where you post articles from an online interface) should read
How to Create a Blog
for information on which software to use.
As you design your website, you may want to read the article
Appearance, Usability and Search Engine Visibility
in Web Design. It takes a brief look at some of the real world issues that every web designer must deal with.
An integral part of web design is search engine readiness. Search engine promotion does not start after the web site is made.
It starts at the web design stage. The article
6 Tips on How to Create a Search Engine
Friendly Website is a must-read. Moreover, How to
Improve Your Search Engine Ranking on Google is also important for the simple reason that Google is the most popular search
engine around, at least at the time this page was written.
There are many other issues regarding the design of web pages. The above will get you started. However, if you have the time after you get
something out onto the web, you may want to read my other articles on
Web Design and
Website Promotion and Search Engine Ranking.
Testing Your Website
Although I list this step separately, it should be done throughout your web design cycle. I put it here to give it
a little more prominence, since too few new webmasters actually perform it adequately.
You will need to test your web pages as you design them in the major web browsers. These days, this means checking
your site in Chrome or any of its derivatives, Firefox, as well as your mobile phone. The newest version of
Microsoft Edge, released on 15 January 2020, also qualifies as a Chrome derivative, so if you have that,
you can use it instead of installing Chrome. The desktop browsers (Firefox, Chrome and Edge) are all
available free of charge.
Note that different brands of mobile phones do not actually have the same browser. Alas,
unlike the desktop browsers, phones aren’t normally free. As such, just test your site with whatever
phone you happen to have. That said, if you have access to both an iPhone as well as an Android,
check your site with both.
For those who have the time, you may also want to test using Internet Explorer 11, which is
still in use by some people (such as those using Windows 8.1 and earlier). For those
who don’t have the required Windows version (for example, because you use a Mac or a later version of Windows),
you can get a piece of software called a
virtual machine, which mimics
a completely separate computer running within your real computer. Microsoft provides packages containing
both the required Windows version and different versions of Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge, free of
charge, which you can run in your virtual machine to test your site.
If you are interested in doing this, read
in the article How to Check
Your Website with Multiple Browsers on a Single Machine for more
If you want to improve the chances that your website will work in future versions of all web browsers, consider
validating the code for your
web pages. In layman’s language, this means that you should check that the underlying code of your web page, called
and “CSS”, has no syntax errors. You don’t actually need technical knowledge of HTML and CSS to validate the page,
since you can use one of the numerous
free web page validators around to do the hard work. On the other hand, if the validator tells you that your page has
errors, it may sometimes be hard to figure out what’s wrong (and whether the error is actually a serious one) if you don’t
have the requisite knowledge. Having said that, some validators actually make suggestions on how to fix the error.
Collecting Credit Card Information, Making Money
If you are selling products or services, you will need some way to collect credit card information. If so, take a look at
How to Accept Credit Cards on Your Website. I also have
a step by step guide on How to Add an Order Form or
a “Buy Now” button using PayPal to a Website for those using PayPal.
If you need advertisers for your website, you might want to read
How to Make Money From Your Website and the follow-up
article How to Increase Your Website Revenue from Affiliate Programs.
A list of advertisers and affiliate programs can be found on
Affiliate Programs: Free Sponsors and Advertisers.
Those companies are on the constant lookout for new web publishers to display their advertisements.
Getting Your Site Noticed
When your site is ready, you can submit it to the search engines. To do this, you will need to create a
webmaster account at both the search engines, verify that you own the website, and submit it there. It’s free.
In general, if your site is already linked to from other websites, you may not even need to do the above.
The search engines will probably find it themselves by following the links on those places.
Apart from submitting your site to the search engines, you may also want to consider promoting it in other ways, such as
announcing it on your social media accounts, as well as in
the usual way people did things before the creation of the Internet: advertisements in the newspapers, word-of-mouth, etc.
As mentioned in my article on More
Tips on Google Search Engine Results Placement, you can also advertise in the various search engines. Although I
only mentioned Google in that article, since that was the topic of that discussion, you can also
in other search engines like Bing.
This has the potential of putting your advertisement near the top of the search engine results page, and possibly even
on other websites.
There are also
less obvious ways of promoting your website, which you might
want to look into.
Naturally the above guide is not exhaustive. It is a distillation of some of the essential steps in getting started with your site. If you want more
information, you should read the other articles on thesitewizard.com. However, the
above tutorial should be enough to help you put your website on the Internet.
Copyright © 2006-2020 Christopher Heng. All rights reserved.
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How to Make / Create a Website: The Beginner’s A-Z Guide
Copyright © 2006-2020 Christopher Heng. All rights reserved.
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This page was last updated on 2 March 2020.