MY NAME'S BEN, AND I DO THIS A LOT
I've built a few websites in my past 5 years of having the know-how of how to do it. From benparsell.com, to grstartups.com, and now most recently with inveiglecorp.com, I've been building sites for some time now. In this tutorial, we'll be stepping through how to get everything organized in order to get online — from registering a domain name, to setting up web hosting, and actually building out your site.
What do I need to Get Online?
Here's a few basic things you'll need:
- A Registered Domain Name (e.g. benparsell.com)
- A Website Host (e.g. GoDaddy, Google, Wix, Squarespace, etc)
- An Actual Website (e.g. Code, WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, etc)
In order to pick from those, you'll need to answer a few questions and narrow down your focus point for your goal.
- Does your website need to be highly specialized? Or are you just trying to tell your story?
- Do you have any experience with writing HTML or CSS code? Do you want to learn?
- Do you have experience working with something like WordPress before, or a server?
If you're looking for something specialized, you're likely going to want to use WordPress.org, or code something.
If you need to build an online store, something like Shopify works wonders, or using WooCommerce with WordPress.org can be done within just a few hours, and allows more customization to your store and fullfillment process.
If you're looking to use your website as something informational, like telling your story, you can definitely use something like Wix or Squarespace, or WordPress.org which tends to be cheaper long-term.
Building a Website with WordPress
There are actually two different forms of WordPress. WordPress.com is a website that allows you to create a free blogging site, and with their premium account you can do more to customize it. WordPress.org, however, is a do-what-you want content-management-system that you can install to a server (a website host), and build a variety of different types of websites (informational, ecommerce, etc).
ONE CLICK INSTALLERS
Many hosting providers (HostGator, GoDaddy, etc) have one-click installers for WordPress, where it guides you through a short wizard to setup a database and some brief site and login information. From there, you'll be able to access your site wherever you installed it, and access your backend dashboard through the "wp-admin" domain ending (e.g. www.yoursite.com/wp-admin).
INSTALLING IT YOURSELF
If you're provider doesn't include an option to install it directly through your cPanel (hosting) dashboard, fret not. You can download the most recent version from wordpress.org, and install it yourself. To install it yourself, you would need to use your provider's File Manager, and upload the WordPress zip file. After that, extract it to the location you want to install it to, and then we'll need to create a database. In your hosting environment, you can create a new MySQL database, and ensure that you have a user assigned to that. From there, you'll need that information when you navigate to your WordPress install through a web browser for setup. Here's a great YouTube video showing how to set everything up on your own:
CHOOSING A TEMPLATE
WordPress offers an abundance of free templates, so I always tell folks to attempt to find a free version that would work for whatever venture they're moving towards. Nonetheless, you can still absolutely purchase premium templates that may very well have every functionality you'll be looking for, and the ease of use is typically higher on those.
Building a Website with Squarespace
Do you think this website looks nice? It's built with Squarespace ☺. Squarespace allows you to easily setup a website within mere hours. They have a pretty intuitive (could be improved) interface that allows you to drag and drop in components onto the page like images, these cool lines splitting content, and text. You can also arrange your content into a variety of different column sizes to perfectly convey your message.
At $12 a month, you can create and host your website, and even purchase your custom domain name through them. It is one of the easiest ways to get something online quickly, but lacks the customization required for many other projects.
Building a Website with Wix
Wix is another great option for quickly spinning up a template-based website, and they even offer a free version. Getting something going is as simple as creating an account, and choosing one of two methods for creating your site: they offer an artificial intelligence tool that will create a design based on some input you feed it (logo, colors, company information, etc), or the classic designer that gives you full access to changing things around.
Wix allows for you to change text, add images, add videos, and more. They have modules in their premium versions that allow you to create an online store, booking system, and more as well. Wix seems to be a scaling friendly system, where you can start off with their free version and scale as you continue to grow your business. They also ensure that anything you create is SEO friendly, and have a variety of APIs to be able to key off from to have greater customization for your company.
After creating an account, Wix instantly brings you into a wizard, where you'll choose between the ADI creator, or the classic designer where you'll pick from a large library of designer-made templates for your website. As soon as you actually jump into the editor, Wix again brings you through a tutorial on how to actually use the editor, something that Squarespace is quite lacking in. They even supply an application market to be able to install plugins to extend functionality for your website. You can also connect your own domain directly through Wix as well.
Building a Website from Scratch
Feeling ambitious, eh? Building a website from scratch allows for the maximum amount of customization, where you can literally build just about anything you're imagining. Building from scratch requires someone who has a stronger background in web development so that they may have the full know-how to build a truly custom website or application. The main advantage to hiring a developer or being a developer yourself is to truly be able to build something in your mind with the full ability to make that happen with no compromises.
WHAT YOU CAN BUILD
From web applications, to beautiful websites, and all the way to full-scale ecommerce setups, building something from scratch can lead you towards having a competitive advantage with larger companies as far as your tech baseline. Building from scratch still allows you or you to tap into open-source libraries or existing platforms. It's not always necessary to fully reinvent the wheel, so using existing ecommerce platforms or interactive (jQuery or CSS) libraries helps speed your process up drastically.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Like many of the options above, you still will need a domain, host, and some way to build out your application or website. Having either a strong background yourself or hiring a developer or bribing a friend with a month supply of pizza can get you moving in the right direction to building a truly customized website that can fir your brand image perfectly. The building process can take longer than options above depending on the size of your project, so that is another thing to note when deciding what to go with. This process in the long term may be better suiting, but it all depends on what you're needs are.