How to Build a Website or Blog

How to Build a Website or Blog

(Easy 4-Step Guide for Beginners)


Are you looking to build your first website or blog?

I learnt how to build websites a few years ago even though I cannot code (and still can't), and became inspired to put together this guide so others can benefit from it. 

Building a website doesn't have to be difficult. In fact, you'll be able to get a working website in only 5 minutes (I'll show you how).

Additional Bonus: Join this website/blog setup course where I'll walk you through step-by-step on how you can start your website in just 4 mins. It's FREE!

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Hello, I'm Ray.

How can I help?

Before we start...

There are several ways in which you can build a website.

I'm going to share how to build a website by WordPress, because it is by far the most popular platform, best suited to beginners, yet powerful enough to be used by some of the largest organizations in the world.

Qn: Isn't WordPress a blogging platform?

The answer is - yes and no. WordPress started as a blogging platform, but over the years has also become the dominant website platform favored by developers and amateurs alike. In fact, if you were to engage someone to build your website, he'll most likely be using WordPress to do so.

CMS market share

Examples of websites running WordPress:

For a much longer list of WordPress sites, you can check them out here. Of course, this very own site that you're on now is also running on WordPress.

The Sartoralist: a popular photo blog

The Sartorialist

The New Yorker: a prominent magazine

The New Yorker

Qn: Will I be able to do it by myself?

What you need to build a WordPress site/blog is a computer with a web browser and an internet connection. If I am able to build a website by myself with these same tools, I'm sure that you can do so given my steps below as well.

Step 1: Installing the Website

Before getting into it, you'll need to know that it will cost you a bit of money.

The website itself, powered by WordPress, is free but extremely powerful.

A domain name (mywebsite.com) and webhosting (someone's computers to keep the website running) are the costs to building a website. It usually costs about $12/year for a domain name (or free in my case) and $4/month for webhosting to maintain a website.

Here's the exact steps that I took to set up this website. It only took 5 MINUTES.

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#1 - Decide on a Domain Name

I first had to decide what domain name to use (i.e. web address). After brainstorming, I decided on BootstrapWebsite.com.

This, in my opinion, is an important step, because once you settle on your domain name, you are going to set up email accounts like yourname@yoursite.com, and people will associate you with your domain name, so choose carefully and take some time.

 l like domain names ending with .com. Other great options are .net or .org

Use this tool to check if the domain you want is available.

#2 - Choose a Webhost

In order for your website to be shown to visitors around the world, it needs to be installed on a special computer (called a server), rented from a webhost.

A webhost is like a landlord from whom you choose to rent a place to place your website. Even though there many landlords out there, I’ve heard of many horror stories of people with their webhosts. Just imagine what you’ll do if you rent your place from a difficult landlord – the same is true with webhosts.

Some of the better known webhosts are Bluehost, Hostgator & WP Engine.​

I use Bluehost because of their reliability and affordability. I also like it that they throw in a free domain name for 1 year. Here's what I did:

(p/s: you're free to use any webhost you like, but this guide will cover my personal experiences using Bluehost)​

Signing up with Bluehost...

Bluehost Domain Name

I selected the 36 month plan, since whatever amount unused is refundable if I decided to change my mind. Since then, Bluehost has come up with a $3.95/month starter plan. You can choose whatever plan you feel comfortable with.

choosing my hosting plan

(p/s: since I've been getting numerous questions on Bluehost, please click here for the FAQ and answers)

Once I've successfully signed up, I was provided with login details to log into the Bluehost dashboard.

choosing my hosting plan

Again, you're free to use whichever webhost you like. Personally, I find Bluehost to be very reliable and customer friendly, and I've never looked back at my decision.

#3 - Install WordPress

Once you're logged into the Bluehost dashboard, you'll see the screen below. If you've used other webhosts, the interface will look different, and available options may be similar or different.

Bluehost Control Panel

Select Install WordPress

You'll be brought to another page and click Install

Install WordPress

Install the website on the free domain you obtained

Install WordPress

Login details will be provided to you on the screen and in email.

Login to WordPress

To login, go to yourwebsite.com/wp-admin

Logging in, you'll be brought to the Admin area of the website for the website owner. 

Admin area (to owner)

Wordpress Dashboard

Website (to visitors) 

Wordpress Home Page

As you can see, it is really a few clicks, and takes a total of 5 MINS to having and running a fully functional website. It is certainly doable by yourself, as long as you have a computer and an internet connection.

Click here to get started with Bluehost.​

It only takes 5 minutes and a few clicks to set up a working website!

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Step 2: Changing the Design (Theme)

The great thing about WordPress is that you can basically change the look of your website, simply by changing your theme.

Thousands of free and premium themes being churned out by developers on an every day basis since WordPress is the gold standard for websites.

Once you've successfully installed WordPress, you'll be provided with a default theme. I'll show you how you can change your theme to something that you'll like.

One thing to note - you can change your theme at any time, without affecting any of your published content! Your theme is really a 'skin' to how your website looks.

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Installing a Theme

Free themes can be easily found and installed in the WordPress repository, and you'll only need to search for them in your Admin area. Alternatively, you can browse free WordPress themes here.

Go to Appearance > Themes

Click Add New

Add Theme

Find the theme you want, and click Install. By default, installed themes are not activated, so be sure to click Activate to use it.

Add Theme

Choosing a Theme

What to look for in a theme?

Mobile responsiveness: This means that your website will look good on any desktop, tablet or mobile phone, regardless of your device. The website contents should fit into the various screen sizes (instead of the entire website being crammed on a tiny screen). This is really important, as theme makers have to make themes responsive right from the start - you cannot easily make a non-responsive website responsive. Also, Google will rank responsive sites above non-responsive sites. See video below.

Design: You'll probably want to choose a theme that fits into the look and feel that your website is trying to convey.

Theme layout: this refers to the structure of the theme – where the menus, sidebars are located. While this is part of design, it'll be good if you know where you want your sidebar and menus to be located. The video below illustrates what this structure means.

Additional Features: this applies to premium themes, where additional features may be bundled to make your life easier.


Premium Themes

Free vs Premium Themes

​There are plenty of free themes in the WordPress depository, which you can easily select and install.

You can also find free and premium themes outside of the WordPress repository.

The key benefits of a premium theme:

  • They are typically mobile-responsive (though not all)
  • Some themes are highly customizable (you can change the sidebar, colors, fonts etc)
  • Great additional features may be pre-installed (ideally a great page-builder comes with it)
  • The design will be well thought out
  • Many (not all) premium themes will provide some form of email support

You will also not get into those situations where you'll need to pay to upgrade for more features (this has happened to me for free themes). I found it is better to start with premium themes than pay for upgrades.


Elegant Themes

Elegant Themes Logo

My favorite place to get a premium theme is Elegant Themes. The theme I am using now on this site, The Divi Theme, is also from Elegant Themes.

Elegant Themes produces beautiful WordPress themes that look not only great, but are also highly easily customizable by the user.

Building pages are also really easy with the inbuilt Divi Builder that comes along with the themes. Simplicity is key.

These are 2 of their best themes ever - The Divi Theme and Extra Theme.

The Divi Theme

Click here to learn more about The Divi Theme.

The Divi Theme, along with all the other themes in Elegant Themes, are highly customizable and easy to use.

Here's an example of how easy it is to customize the font, color, styling of the theme.​

The inbuilt Divi Builder makes building stunning webpages a breeze.

In fact, this very website you're on now is utilizing The Divi Theme.​

Elegant Themes are beautiful, and really easy to use yet highly customizable. I highly recommend it if you're a beginner looking out for a premium theme, because it's so easy to use it to get started.

(p/s: since I've received numerous questions on Elegant Themes, please click here to refer to the FAQ and answers).

Once you've purchased a theme, click here to learn how to install purchased themes.


Themeforest

ThemeForest-icon

Another great place to look for professional, premium themes is Themeforest.

Themeforest is a marketplace for theme makers to sell their themes. It is full of high quality themes for purchase, and you can view the ratings and comments of themes. 

Don’t know how to choose?

Since I received questions on this, I've put together a guide on choosing a theme from Themeforest.

Click here to learn how to install purchased themes.


Ray's take

First, start with a free theme. You can always change it later.

Make sure you choose a mobile responsive theme. This plays a huge part in your visitor's browsing experience.

If you want to start great with a premium theme, your best bet is to pick a theme from Elegant Themes, especially The Divi Theme. That's what I'm using on this site, and it's really customizable and a joy to use.

If you're willing to explore more, check out Themeforest.


Step 3: Adding Content

Adding content in WordPress is easy. No, you don't need to know how to code, and I'll share with you how it works.

What you need to know is there are 2 types of content, namely Pages and Posts. Here's an example below:

Pages

Home Page

Posts

Blog Post

Pages are usually single page information. Most people commonly use it to build pages like Home, About, Contact, etc.

Posts are really blog posts, and the difference mostly is blog posts can be a chronologically series of posts that you write and readers can follow.

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Basic Content Editing

Pages and Posts both make use of the Visual Editor below.

Adding Text

You can use Headings for different headers of your content. You'll use Paragraph for normal text.

Wordpress Visual Editor

Adding Images

To add images, click on Add Media.

You can easily add images from your computer.

Adding Links

To add links, highlight text or image, and click Insert/edit link

Adding Videos & Maps

Adding special content like videos and maps is really easy as well. Check out the below quick tutorials:

Last but not least, here are some video walkthrough on adding content in WordPress.

Advanced Content Editing

If you're building more complex looking pages, inevitably you'll end up needing Columns, Buttons and Boxes.

Columns

Splitting a page into Columns often can make for a more beautiful flow of content.

Column 1

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. 

Column 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. 

Column 3

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. 

Adding Buttons

Adding Buttons can focus attention with call to actions, e.g. Click Here, Subscribe, Buy

Adding Boxes

Boxes can bring attention around text, making it stand out to your website visitors.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. 

Tools You Can Use to Build Pages

WordPress doesn't come in built with these capabilities. In order to do some of the above, here's some of the best free and premium plugins (what's that?) that I've personally used, which you may like as well.

To learn how to install plugins, jump to the section below.​

1) Page Builder by SiteOrigin

Page Builder by SiteOrigin (free) is a simple and reliable editor, that can split content into columns, and create more sophisticated looking pages.

2) Divi Builder

Divi Builder is an unbelievably great page builder from the guys at Elegant Themes. In fact, if you've not yet decided on your theme, and you'll be thrilled if you start with the Divi Theme, which comes inbuilt with Divi Builder.

3) Thrive Content Builder

Thrive Content Builder (premium) is my favorite page builder, and what I used to put together all my guides that you're seeing here. It's simple, drag and drop functions, make creating content fun.

Ray's take

If you're building a simple, basic site, the free Beaver Builder Lite will already be great to use.

If you're still looking for a premium theme, I highly suggest you check out the Divi Theme, which is a simple, beautiful, highly customizable theme, which comes with theme with a super easy to use, drag and drop page builder - Divi Builder.

​If you want to build a large amount of content, want to make it look attractive and stand out, I cannot speak more highly of Thrive Content Builder. That's what I use for this page and absolutely love it.

At any given time, you can easily arrange the Menu options.

You decide which of your pages to add to Menu, and simply drag and drop to rearrange or nest them. Depending on your theme, you may even be able to create multiple menus (e.g. 1 top menu, 1 footer menu).

Configure Menu

Place Widgets on your Sidebar

Widgets are little things that you add to your sidebar. To access it, go to Appearance > Widgets

To use a widget, simply drag and drop what you want to your sidebar.

Configure Widgets

Check out the video below on Menus and Widgets.

Step 4: Adding Features (Plugins)

Plugins is just a fancy term for Apps that add new powerful features to your website. Some of them include: blogging plugins, speed, SEO, forums, social sharing, image gallery etc.

Thousands of developers build free and premium plugins which make WordPress incredibly powerful because you can add all sorts of functionality to your website.

A lot of times, you can get a lot done with just free plugins alone. In fact, I've always used free plugins up to prior to this website. 

Browse popular free plugins.

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Installing Plugins

There are so many useful free plugins in the WordPress depository, and you can easily install them with the following steps:

Go to Plugins > Add New

Search for the plugin by its name (only works for free plugins)

Install the plugin

Install Plugin

By default, installed plugins are not activated, so you'll need to click Activate

If you've purchased premium plugins outside of WordPress, you can also install them using other methods here.

Recommended Plugins

Regardless of what kind of website you’re building, having security and back up in place is just crucial to your site’s long term health. What’s more, there are great options available for free.

  • Security: To protect your website against attackers (even if you're just starting up), you'll need to have security. I'm using Wordfence (free) to secure my website against attackers. Learn more about it.
  • Backup: It is important to do regular backups of your site, in case anything goes wrong. I'm using UpdraftPlus (free) to do daily backups. See how I set it up.
  • Speed: Everybody likes a fast website (including search engines). 2 great caching plugins to choose from - WP Super Cache (free) and W3 Total Cache (free), but you should really read my entire post on speeding up a website.

And here's some other plugins that I've personally tried that can help you get started:

Media Plugins

Blogging Plugins

Social Plugins

Premium Plugins

Last but not least, click here to jump to the section on my favorite plugins.

Useful Tips

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Selling on Your Website / Blog

You may be running a website/blog but may also have products to sell to your readers. For example, you’re a fitness instructor and you may want to sell meal plans, courses, ebooks, fitness equipment and training programs. The below options are my favorite ways to sell on your blog/website.

Selling Physical Products

As much as WordPress is a great website platform, it was never built for Ecommerce.

Sure, you can try to put together a portal to sell some products, but if you're serious about selling physical products, there's another great tool that I highly recommend you use instead. This robust platform is built and specifically catered to selling products, and you'll save a huge amount of time and headache with it.​

Selling Digital Goods

To sell digital goods on your website/blog, one of the best ways is to use this awesome service called Gumroad.

Gumroad provides a simple checkout process, delivery of your digital products (e.g. eBooks, songs, videos, spreadsheets), and collects your customers' information, and you can easily add buttons like this below to initial checkout.

Find out more about Gumroad.

Email Marketing

If you’re serious about blogging and getting a following, having an email list is critical to your success. All successful bloggers I know thrive because of their constant engagement with their email subscribers. Some things you can do with an email list:

  1. One-off emails - Send one-off emails to subscribers about new programs you’re introducing or what’s currently on your mind.
  2. RSS-to-Email: Set up a system where your blog posts are emailed to your subscribers automatically.
  3. Autoresponders: Send time-based emails to your subscribers - e.g. send an email every week for 2 months to your new subscriber, as part of a 10 week induction program

An email list can engage your subscribers through dripping of useful content, and over time, build a relationship with your subscriber. Personally, I’ve subscribed to many email lists from people I can learn things from.

Step 1: Sign Up for an Email Service

Step 2: Put Opt-in Forms on Your Website

Step 3: Send Emails to Subscribers

My Favorite Plugins

There are a lot of great tools in WordPress, but I wanted to make a special mention to 4 special ones.

Jetpack (free)

Jetpack contains a bunch of useful features, and comes preinstalled with WordPress.

Even though Jetpack is already installed, you'll need to sign up for a free account to use it.

1. Sign up for free WordPress.com account

Jetpack Connect

2. Activate the modules that you want

Activate Jetpack

Here's some useful features I liked:

Stats

You can monitor visitor statistics in your WordPress dashboard.

You can also download the free WordPress iOS app or Android app to check your site stats from time to time.

Jetpack Site Stats

Contact Form

You can easily add a contact form for visitors to email you. Here's how to set it up.

Monitor

The Monitor feature can email you whenever your website is down, be it for scheduled maintenance or otherwise. They will also let you know when your site is back up.

Extra Sidebar Widgets

Jetpack also provides you with a bunch of extra sidebar widgets, particularly useful if you do not want to always install different plugins for it. I found the Facebook Like Box useful.

Sumome (free)

I wanted to make a special mention to Sumome, since it's a really useful tool that can help grow your website's presence.

Lead Generation

Sumome comes with a suite of easy to use lead generation features to encourage visitors to sign up for your mailing list. (You'll need to have your own email service provider (e.g. Mailchimp) which will easily integrate with their lead generation features). Learn more about email marketing.

List Builder

Sumome List Builder

As much as Sumome is an awesome list-building tool for beginners to start with, they do try to monetize it by charging premium options for a monthly fee.

If you want to have more full-fledged features though, I personally feel that Thrive Leads (see below) is a much better, more powerful, easy to use premium plugin for lead generation for a one-time fee instead.

Social Sharing

Sumome also allows you enable easy sharing options to share your blog posts, pages or images for free.

Share

Sumome Share

Image Sharer

Sumome Image Sharer

Thrive Leads (premium)

Thrive Leads (premium) is a WordPress list-building plugin, which is both easy to use, customize, yet extremely powerful. Learn more about email marketing.

It provides many more features over the excellent Sumome (above), including:

  • Collects subscriber names in addition to Email addresses
  • Opt-in sidebar widget
  • Fully customizable subscription form below your blog posts
  • Embeddable opt-in forms that you can use within any page / post
  • Fully customizable designs

The great part is that the design of your forms are fully customizable - drag and drop! Thrive Leads video below.

Thrive Content Builder (premium)

Thrive Content Builder (premium) is the page builder that I use to put together all my guides, and is remarkable in that it simplifies all the difficult elements of putting a page together. All elements in TCB is drag and drop.

Check out the below demo of building a complete page using Thrive Content Builder.

Image Editing Resources

You may find yourself in need of some image and image editing tools while you’re blogging. I’ve some useful resources to recommend:

Image Editing Tools

Free Image Resources

In building your website/blog, you’ll most likely need some images. It is not legal to just use images you find by searching online. Thankfully, some great guys out there share their great resources for free.

Frequently Asked Questions

As I’ve been getting similar questions from my readers (and answering them), I’ve decided to put together an FAQ for quicker access.

Bluehost Questions

How much did it cost to start BootstrapWebsite.com?

Am I offered refund if I cancel my plan?

Bluehost - Did you choose the "Basic" or "Plus" plan?

Bluehost - Should I pay for the recommended extras when signing up?

Does Bluehost accept PayPal?


Elegant Themes Questions

I only want 1 theme, why do I need to sign up for a yearly plan?

Should I sign up for the "Personal" or "Lifetime Access" plan?

Ask Me Anything

How can I help you?

1) If you don't know where to start, the easiest way is to break it down and start with Step 1.

2) You can also get step-by-step instructions ​by entering your email here:

3) If you still have questions, you're welcome to chat with me here: ray@bootstrapwebsite.com 🙂