Okay, I’ve said in the past not to build your own website, and for 99% of businesses I still absolutely completely recommend this, the danger of making a severe mess of it and destroying your credibility is massive. However, for businesses operating on an absolute shoestring, or people who like to tinker with technology I can say that building websites is a load of fun.
So what I’m going to do is run through the basics of purchasing and setting up a website of your very own.
You’re going to need three things, a Domain Name (the address you type in to get to your website), a host (a server on the Internet to hold your website) and a Content Management System (the user friendly way of building a website), which in this article will be WordPress it’s common and easy to use(other CMS’s exist, your mileage may vary).
Choosing a Domain Name
The obvious first step, choosing the address people will use to find you on the web. While this will usually be your company name, unfortunately no matter how imaginative that you think you are (for example we’re lucky we’re Scot’s, as ScruffyDog was already long gone, but using the colloquial “Dug” allowed us to get our name), someone in all likelihood has already thought of your domain name and you’ll have to make a compromise.
The areas of compromise comes in three areas,
- Adding to your name. So for example, if our name ScruffyDug had been taken, then perhaps we could have used ScruffyDugDS, or ScruffyDugDesignSolutions. The obvious problem with these is that the name can get long and difficult to remember as well as looking unwieldy on business cards and flyers.
- Adding padding to the name. So for example, Scruffy_Dug or Scruffy-Dug might still be available, and in some ways look far more readable than cramming all the words of your domain name together (just ask expertsexchange, are they Experts Exchange, or Expert Sexchange?, and don’t get me started on therapist ). The problem with these, is that if ScruffyDug was gone, then people mistyping the address and missing the underscores or dashes, would end up at the alternative site.
- Changing the TLD. The TLD is the .com, the .org, .net .co.uk, the .xyz or whatever on the end of the domain name. While many TLD’s are available, .com’s are still the most popular. Now, many of these are very good, for a UK based business then .co.uk may actually be better, especially if you’re seeking a name already taken in the .com. However if you start to move into the more obscure, you move into the territory mentioned above, that someone mistyping, forgetting the TLD and assuming it’s a .com, will end up on the wrong site.
Whichever name you choose, you’ll need to check it’s availability, while whoever you choose as a host will perform availability checks for you, it’s probably best not to type your chosen domain name into a registrar until you’re absolutely ready to register the domain.
The reason for this is I’m afraid some registrars play dirty, knowing people will use their domain availability checker, before moving onto a cheaper rival, they’ll take advantage of the data you’ve just typed in, and their position as a registrar (who can return a domain name within a month for a full refund) to register your domain, forcing you to go to them and pay a premium since they now own your domain.
Now, this isn’t all registrars, it isn’t even a majority, but I’m aware of at least one of the biggest website sellers using this tactic, and instead of paying £10 or so to register your domain, they treat it at a premium (since they know you want it) and can charge £100 and up.
So if you want to see if someone really has your domain name, then you should check it out with an independent tool , such as this one.
Choosing a Host
Right, you’ve chosen your domain name, now to choose somewhere to put that website. What you’re looking for in a hosting company, as well as the obvious things such as a good price, good customer support and good reviews, is less obvious things such as plenty of storage space (5gb and up will be plenty) and plenty of data transfer (1tb should be plenty). But most importantly for this article is support for cPanel.
cPanel is a control panel (funnily enough) for the server, it allows you to set up and control everything from your email accounts, right through to what system you install onto the server for your website.
Once you register with a Host, they’ll email you through your log-in details, allowing you to log into cPanel.
Using the details you’ve been sent through by your host, log into cPanel (they’ll send you through the URL for this too). You’ll be confronted by what appears to be a startling number of details and options, but what you’re looking for is softaculous or installatron (same thing really). Clicking within this section will take you to another large list of options, and what you’re looking for is WordPress (depending on the version of cPanel and it’s configuration, this may actually be available from the main menu within the softaculous/installatron section).
A brief explanation of WordPress will follow, with an install button, which is what you’re looking for. Clicking it will take you to the configuration options, most of which are perfectly okay already, the ones you’re looking to change at this point are your blog name and description, and your admin username and password (do not use the same password as you’ve been given for cPanel, as if someone hacks your website, they’ll get full control, where if they only hack WordPress, you’ve still got cPanel to get control back).
Once you’ve set these (and maybe in later versions of Installatron you’ve selected a theme for your blog), click the install button at the bottom and softaculous/installatron will now install the databases and scripts for wordpress automatically. They’ll even let you click straight into the admin side of the site bypassing your password once it’s done.
Setting up WordPress
Once cPanel has finished it’s magic and WordPress is installed, log into the Admin side of the site, either using the automatic link that cPanel shows you, or by going to your domain with /wp-admin on the end, which will let you enter your username/password to log in.
There are several parts you now want to get to, and since this isn’t a total guide to WordPress (I may do that in the future), I’ll only briefly cover them.
- Appearance. This section decides what your website is going to look like, select a general design to the site from the many thousands of themes available through the Theme’s submenu, and then using the Customise menu option you can select to use your logo, and many themes allow you to select colours, etc.
- Pages. This is where you actually set up the pages within your website properly, adding images through the Media Section, and writing the text that will appear on the pages, use the Add New menu option for adding new pages (pretty obvious), or selecting already created ones for editing within the All Pages menu option. Remember if you want people to see the pages, you’re probably going to have to add them to the Menu’s within the Theme’s Menus option.
- Plugins. This is where you add extra functionality to WordPress, some of these such as WooCommerce allow you to add a whole eCommerce store within WordPress, others add smaller but no less useful functionality. So if you want to add your Twitter Feed to your website, then you’ll find a plugin to do that here among the tens of thousands of Plugins available, mainly for free. Once you’ve added the plugin, make sure you activate it, and you’ll be able to add it within your website in the Theme’s Widgets menu option, or in some cases it’s functionality will have it’s own menu option or it will add to an already existing section.
Your website is ready to go!
With your website looking how you want it, and will the content you want on it, the sites ready to go. Register it with Google to help them find it (https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/submit-url), and let your social feeds know about it.
Setting up a website is easy these days with cPanel and WordPress, but the devil is in the details as they say, and you’ll find many hours getting swallowed up as you tweak and fiddle with the settings to get it how you want it.
Hope this has been of a little use to someone out there, have fun, and if you want to talk about anything from Web Design to Social Media, please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.