Here we are well into the 21stcentury, and conjuring a website from thin air is still a daunting task, though it’s not as technical as it used to be.
Here’s the good news: You do not need to know a single iota of HTML, PHP, CSS, or any other web language. Everything is built to be plug and play. So at least at first, for just the set-up, you’re fine not knowing any code at all.
We assume you have a web hosting provider and package already set up, a domain picked out and registered, and are likely looking at your cPanel interface wondering “now what?” You can follow the more in-depth instructions at https://www.greengeeks.com/how-to-create-a-website, but we’ll provide a quick overview here.
Completely lost? Hire a freelancer!
You can easily obtain the services of a temporary web designer, developer, or general script jockey at freelance market websites such as UpWork. For a reasonable fee, you can hire a third party to do almost anything, from providing a two-hour walk-through chat to setting up the site for you, to designing your logo and doing other customization. You might also consider if you’re going to host a blog, in which case you might want to hire a blogger to help keep that content coming fresh on a regular basis. It’s worth keeping a freelancer or two on call in case you don’t want to do all the work yourself.
Pick a platform
A platform is a pre-fab website mold that will shape the content of your website into the form that suits your business. For blogs, there’s WordPress. For more advanced users who need more customized content, there’s Joomla and Drupal. For e-Commerce sites where you will sell something directly from your site, there’s Prestashop and CubeCart. For 99% of users, they are best off to go right for WordPress and move on. It’s the most-used software on the web and has the broadest support base. Additionally. it has an automatic install and set-up wizard.
This is the simple step of picking a theme for WordPress. Any default theme will do for now. After that comes adding graphical elements such as logos and banners. Over time, you can shop around for WordPress themes and also install plug-ins. Plug-ins add additional features to WordPress base functionality. You’d be well-served to consider two caveats:
(a) Web design is all about “less is more.” Avoid the temptation to overload your website with colors and shapes. Modern web design is 99% white space with plain black text, maybe a few lines here and there. A main column for content and a sidebar for navigation. Keep it simple!
(b) Be conservative in what you install. There’s a temptation to install lots of WordPress plug-ins because there are all these fun toys to play with, but the more plug-ins you install, the more you risk having two of them being incompatible. Removing WordPress plug-ins can be a headache. Likewise, you don’t need to run through cPanel clicking install on everything. Do your research and be sure you have a need for any service and that it’s the “best in class” for the function you want.
Set up content
Now’s the time to shine! Put up a “welcome” post on WordPress, write a few paragraphs about you or your business under “about us” or “our team,” and start adding blog posts. At this point, you’ll run into the term “SEO,” for “Search Engine Optimization.” Be assured, 99% of website owners overthink SEO. According to Google’s own webmaster guidelines, if you talk naturally about a subject, you’ll rank just fine for that subject. A few businesses, such as a local-directed service (exterminator, landscaper, attorney), will want to ensure they rank critically for that location and service. If you have more concern about SEO than that, your best bet is to hire an expert, because it gets very technical quickly.
The top priority for new websites is to get noticed, and to do that will require a deep dive into social media. At the least, you should get or have accounts on Twitter and Facebook. Variably, you might also want accounts at LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram. You will want to promote your site from the social media accounts, and also make your content shareable on your website to social media. On your social media accounts, don’t just automatically promote your own business, but link to it from your profile and then engage the community – make friends, be followed and follow back, be a positive voice.
This is a very brief guide for the minimum steps to go from zero to website. There is no shortage of whole website resources devoted to this topic, however, and web design and maintenance is practically a business in itself. Good luck, and we’ll see you on the web!