From beginner to online superstar by learning to build your own website

With the busy lifestyles we live today, it’s no surprise that consumers are becoming more technologically savvy than ever before. Not only do they turn to the web to make everyday purchases, but they rely on it to search and find the products and services that they need. In fact, an estimated 8 out of 10 consumers use the internet to find what they are looking for. With statistics like that, it’s safe to say that if your business does not have a presence on the web, your business does not exist where most of the people are trying to find it.

While social media websites like Facebook and Instagram can certainly help you establish a web presence and build a brand for your business, they can’t be the only thing you rely on. There are so many organisations that use these social sites for their marketing efforts that you can easily get lost in the crowd. And, though there are now literally billions of Facebook and Instagram accounts, those accounts aren’t always used on a regular basis. Another thing with these social media sites is that they tend to change their algorithms on a regular basis, which means you spend more time trying to work out how to keep improving your profile rather than building your own strong foundation. Furthermore, with the ageing Central Coast community, there are still a lot of people who simply don’t use social media sites (hard to grasp, I know).

In short, if you’re relying solely on social platforms to establish your web presence, there’s a very good chance that you’ll be overlooked by your target audience or that you won’t be seen at all.

What’s the best long-term solution to make your business visible on the web?? Your own website!

A website is an excellent way to promote the products and services that your business offers. It’s also a tool that can be used to provide your existing as well as potential customers with the important information that they may be looking for about your business, information that they can access with just a few clicks of their mouse or taps of their fingers.

The bottom line: If you want to make your business more visible and boost your success, you MUST have a website: there’s no way around it.

In this tutorial, I am going to show you:
How to plan the content for your new website
Selecting the right platform based on your requirements
How to buy a domain name
How to choose a reliable web hosting and set up your WordPress install
How to install your WordPress theme
How to customise WordPress with plugins
How to add your content to your WordPress website
Provide you resources to learn and grow your new website


The first step: Plan, plan, plan!

Before we get stuck into building the website, I want to do a planning session with you. Content is one of the most important elements of a website. It tells the story of yourself or your company, it describes the products and services you offer; basically, content makes your site and your business come to life.

It’s not enough to have so-so content. You need excellent content. If you want to rank well with Google, get more visitors, sell more products and really connect with your audience, you’re going to need amazing content that really provides value to your visitors.

Since the words on your website are so crucial, it’s important to think about what type of content you are going to include on your website before you start to build it. Why?? It’s simple: the number 1 reason websites fail is because of poor content and failing to get their message across.

I have created a Website Content Planner PDF document to get you started in the content creation process. Download it and use it for the Website Content Exercise below. This will allow you to determine the structure of the navigation for your site. In other words, once you know what type of content you want to feature on your site, you can then start designing a site that will make that content shine.

I encourage you to complete this handy content writing exercise before you start designing your new site.

Website content exercise

Using the Website Content Planner, think about the pages you want to feature on your website. There are several must-have pages to create for your new website and depending on the type of website you’re creating, these will vary. For those creating an e-commerce website that will be selling products, specific information pages like shipping, terms and conditions and privacy policy information will be required on the website. For other brochure based information websites, some essential pages will include a Home page, About Us page, a Services page, and a Contact page. You can add other pages that would be pertinent to your business; for example, an awards and accolades page and even a testimonials page. You can always add these later down the track once the website is live.

Handy tip: Use a central location like Google Docs or Dropbox to create documents that you can share with your team members and that they can easily access. Add a new page to your Google Doc for each page of your website so that you and others can easily read, review, and edit.
Decide what information you want to present

Think about the purpose of your website and what type of messaging you want to present. What will really make your company stand out against the competition, establish brand awareness, and help you become an authority in your industry?

Handy tip: Don’t forget to include a call to action (CTA) in your writing. A CTA is vital, as it guides and tells visitors to your site what you want them to do. For example, your CTA might encourage them to submit an enquiry to get a quote, to download a free ebook, or to join your mailing list, etc.
Have your content reviewed

While you might think your content is amazing, others may not. Make sure you share your content with people you trust and ask them to review it. Encourage them to give you their honest feedback and ask for suggestions or if they think anything should be changed. Edit your content as needed and make sure it is polished just enough so it’s ready to be added to your new website. (Remember you can always change it once the website is live).

Handy tip: If you aren’t a wordsmith and you find that you’re having a tough time writing your content, consider having a professional write it for you. There are tons of content writers out there who would be glad to write the content for your site. I have used platforms in the past such as textbroker.com, Upwork.com and other similar services where you can easily find a wide selection of content writers who have the skills and the qualifications you are looking for, however I prefer to work locally and build local relationships so over the last few years I have been working with both Central Coast content writers as well as Sydney based writers.

Now that you’ve put some serious thought into your site’s content, it’s time for the fun stuff! Let’s move on to step 2: Building your website.


Learn to build your own website

In my experience, a lot of business owners put off creating a website for their business for one of two reasons:
– They think that they will have to spend tons of money hiring a professional to do it for them.
– They don’t know the first thing about building a website.

These reasons for not creating a business website are understandable, but they aren’t valid. Not only do you NOT have to hire a professional to create a website for you, but you don’t have to have a tremendous amount of knowledge to do it on your own! In fact, with the resources available today, building a website is quite simple. With a few simple tips, you can have it up and running within just a few hours!

Today I’m going to show you the exact process I use to create stunning websites. Below are the simple steps that you can use to build and create a website for your business or personal blog. Believe me: following these steps and creating your own site will definitely pay off in the long run!


Select a platform

First things first: You’ll need to select a platform for your website. There are literally dozens of platforms out there, so how do you know what to choose? Building websites for over 13 years, I have had quite a lot of experience with most of them and here’s what I recommend for two of the most popular types of businesses:

Brochure-based content websites
For businesses that are going to be brochure-based content sites, this includes businesses that offer specific services to their clients, such as my friends over at HD Accounting & Business Consultants, I suggest using the self-hosted WordPress.org platform for your website.

To use the self-hosted WordPress option, you do have to pay a monthly or yearly fee for website hosting, a domain name and possibly a theme, it is far better than free services like Wix. Why?? Because by using WordPress, it’s not a proprietary content management system, meaning it’s not centrally owned by one company. This means you own the content, you can scale when needed and the website can be easily transferred to a new server.

I generally I don’t like the idea of using a proprietary content management system whether it’s a platform like Wix, Weebly, or one developed by an agency. More than likely you will outgrow them and it will become a nightmare if you decide to start with one of these platforms only to find out you need to start again because they cannot handle your requirements. Platforms like this also have a tendency to have terrible page load speeds and poor Search Engine Optimisation features.

Businesses that want to sell products online
If you operate a business that sells products, clothing, home goods, workout equipment, or anything else the platform that I suggest you use is Shopify. It’s an all-in-one solution for online stores that sell products that literally provides you with everything you need to get your e-commerce site up and running instead of having to piece everything together. e-commerce is a different game when it comes to websites, and can become very costly, very quickly.

Shopify has some great features to get up and running quickly, has a heap of integrations and has good SEO features. When it comes to running an online store, Shopify really is the best solution for an e-commerce website. I will create a new tutorial soon for creating a shopify store.


Purchasing your domain name

The next step in creating your own website is purchasing your own domain name. Your domain name serves as your own, unique identity on the Web and is the address where people can gain access to your website. It gives your business a more professional look and certifies your authority and reliability.

For domain name purchases and management, I use GoDaddy. It’s the largest and most reputable domain registrar in the world. They have improved quite a lot over the years, purchasing and managing domains is relatively easy and the prices are affordable.

If you’re a local Central Coast business who mainly deals with customers or clients nationwide, I suggest using a .com.au domain name extension rather than a general .com. Why?? because the latter is a global extension, whereas the former is local. This is a strong indicator to your target audience that you are an Australian business, which will also make your business more accessible to people located in Australia as they are likely looking for Australian based businesses when doing a Google search.


Choose suitable hosting

Step 3 for those of you going with a WordPress solution is to choose suitable web hosting.

Website hosting provides all of the services and technologies that allow a website to have a place to live on the world-wide-web. In other words, without hosting, your site won’t be able to be seen on the web.

This is the technical side of the project and where a lot of people get caught up and potentially give up. Bare with me though and I will explain the setup process.

There are a lot of hosting options out there, and again, over the years I have had experience with quite a few of them and currently, WP Engine has worked out the best for me. It’s easy to work with, offers great support, is super reliable, and has tons of options to choose from to suit your needs.

WP Engine also manages the infrastructure of your website so that you don’t have to worry about managing it yourself and can focus on more important aspects of your business. I much prefer to spend my hard-earned money on a solid infrastructure I know I can rely upon over the website design and set up that I have control over myself and can update until my heart is content.

You can either spend a bit more on a solid foundation and have a great performing website that people can use or you can spend it all on the look and feel of the website but it has poor performance because you decided to save money by going with a shitty web host.

Another reason why I love WP Engine is that it gives me peace of mind knowing they do backups on a daily basis. Should anything go wrong (and believe me, things can go dreadfully wrong), you will be able to restore your site using the backup from the day before.

Getting started with WP Engine hosting

(You get 2 months for free if you go with a yearly plan.)

  1. Starting out you’re most likely going to go with the Startup Plan – Visit WP Engine
  2. There are several upsell options including Content Performance (not required – you’re better of learning and understanding the data provided in Google Analytics), Geo-targeting (May be of use if you’re trying to target both Australian and international customers), WordPress Multisite (In most cases won’t be required for your small business website).
  3. They give you the option if you want to use an Australian data-centre – WP Engine is a US based company headquartered in Austin, Texas, and has offices in San Francisco, California; San Antonio, Texas; London, England; Limerick, Ireland and Brisbane, Australia. My plan uses the United States data centre and I haven’t had any speed issues with traffic. The Content Delivery Network (CDN) that is included helps with website speed. Keep in mind there is an additional cost if you decide you want to utilise the Australian data centre.
  4. Enter your billing info, agree to the terms and conditions and you’re good to go.
Creating your new install

Once you’ve finished the signing up for your account, you can create your new install. An ‘install’ is what WP Engine refers to as your directory that houses all the website files. A Startup plan allows for one WordPress site to be installed, or a Growth Plan allows up to 5 sites to be installed.

  1. Click on the green ‘Add Site’ button in the top right of the screen
  2. Each WP Engine WordPress site starts off as a sub-domain on WP Engine. So when I initially created Central Coast Web Designer on WP Engine, it started out as ccwd.wpengine.com. Later when I had customised the theme and added content, I updated the domain name records to point to the WP Engine WordPress installation and the site became accessible via the domain name www.centralcoastwebdesigner.com.au.
  3. Site names are unique across the entire WP Engine network. When creating your new site you may need to try a few names if you enter something generic. In the end, assuming it is set up correctly, the site name will not matter as only you will see it in the admin panel. If you decide to go with a Growth plan, it does help to have a naming convention in place to determine between the installs.
  4. Now click the ‘Add Site’ button
  5. It may take a little time, but once it has been created you will receive a system email with a link to the new install
    Click on the link which will open a new browser window and add a new password for your new install (make sure its a strong password)
  6. You will receive another email informing you have successfully updated your login password, click on the login link which will open a new browser window to login to your new website.
  7. Input your username and password, and you now have access to the backend user interface of your new WordPress site.

Awesome work, you’re now ready to set up your new website using a WordPress theme! Allow me to show you how.


Choose a WordPress theme

Now you’re ready to choose a WordPress theme. The theme creates all of the front-end stylings of your site it’s what your site looks like to your visitors. It incorporates the font style, the colours, the layouts of your pages, the styles for all of your blog posts and archives. In other words, the theme dictates the overall design of your site, so you want to make sure you choose a good one.

There are tons of WordPress themes available from websites like ThemeForest, Creative Market and Themeisle. WPEngine recently purchased StudioPress which you will have access to from your admin panel. Each theme gives an overview of its features and you can also view the demo site that shows you a live version of the website. Select a theme that you think will work for your business and helps deliver the message you are trying to send.

An important note on themes: there are free options, as well as premium themes that you can pay for. Which is better? That really depends on what type of theme you are looking for and what your budget will allow.

Handy tip: While there are hundreds, if not thousands of free options to choose from, the majority of these are poorly coded and you’ll most likely have issues with them. In saying this, if I was to choose a free theme I would get it from the official wordpress.org Theme Directory or a reputable company like Colorlib. You’ll likely find that you will have better luck finding exactly what you are looking for by paying for a premium theme as most premium themes have the ability to scale easily with the features included in them.

Although you don’t want a bloated theme with 1000’s of features that you will most likely not use straight away, they can come in handy as your site grows and additional features are required. A good premium WordPress theme will cost you under $100 and can save a lot of time and headache once you get in to building and growing your website.

Once you’ve purchased or selected a theme to use, you will need to install and configure it. Configuring = customising. It involves making changes to the title, tagline, the time zone, the permalink structure, the reading settings, and so on. It’s best to make these changes before adding your content, you can tweak any styles for the content as you go.

Install a new WordPress Theme

Firstly; If you purchased a premium theme, the developer should provide in-depth documentation WordPress theme installation so be sure to read these instructions.

  1. From your WordPress dashboard, navigate to Appearance > Themes
  2. Select ‘Add New’
  3. From there you’ll see an option for ‘Upload’ at the top of the screen. Click the ‘Browse’ button, navigate your computer files and select the .ZIP file for your new theme
  4. Once your theme has installed successfully, you will see the success message and a link beneath it to activate and preview the theme
  5. Click on the activate button, and you’ve successfully installed and activated your new WordPress theme.
  6. Some themes may also come with an additional Child Theme, if it does, its best to refer to the themes documentation and it will show you how to install this (it’s basically just repeating the steps above)
  7. Some themes may add additional settings/options that you may need to configure either through the theme customiser or through a separate options panel

Configure the general WordPress settings

The general settings page of your WordPress website lets you set up some basic conventions about how your website will be displayed, including title, timezone, the format for date and time, and more.

To access this page, go to ‘General’ under the Settings link in the WordPress dashboard sidebar.

Site Title – The title may be displayed in several places, including the web browser title bar, and the header (if your chosen theme has that option). It also appears on the Admin bar in the upper left, if you’re in the dashboard or viewing the site while logged in. Some themes have the option to include the Site Title as part of the title tag on each page, and it may also be used as an identifying name in your syndication feeds.

Tagline – For most installations, the default tagline will be ‘Just another WordPress site’, so be sure to change it to something related to your business.

Timezone – By default, this is set to UTC+9 – being in Australia this doesn’t help us so we need to update it to an Australian option such as Sydney.

Date/Time format – These should be good to leave as default.
At this stage, you can leave the other settings on this page as default. Be sure to click ‘Save Changes’.

Permalinks

Permalinks in WordPress = ‘permanent links’. Those are the permanent URLs of the pages and blog posts on your WordPress website. For example, the permalink of this very page that you’re reading right now is:
https://centralcoastwebdesigner.com.au/build-website

To access these settings, go to ‘Permalinks’ under the Settings link in the WordPress dashboard sidebar.
Select the option ‘Post name’ and click ‘Save Changes’.

Add your logo

This step will vary depending on your theme settings, I recommend referring to the documentation that came with the theme.

Generally, there will be Theme Settings that will have a section to add the logo or the other option would be in the Customize area which is found in the Appearance link in the WordPress dashboard sidebar.

If no logo is added most themes will show the text that has been added in the Site Title field.


Adding your content and useful plugins

You’re now ready to add content to your site, as well as the plugins.
Content is one of the most important aspects of your site, which is why I got you to plan it right from the start.

WordPress gives you the option to create Pages and Posts, posts should be used for blog posts about your business, where as Pages are static content that will not change much over time.

To add your websites pages;

  1. Go to ‘Pages’ link in the WordPress dashboard sidebar
  2. Click the ‘Add New’ button at the top of the page
  3. Give your new page a name – such as Home
  4. Use the editor to add a page heading. Refer to your content doc and copy the Heading 1 for the home page. Paste it into the editor, highlight and from the dropdown, select Heading One.
  5. Refer to your Content Doc, copy the content for the homepage and paste it into the editor. Use the editor tools to format/style the content on the page
  6. The Page Attributes section applies a parent page and template to your new page. For the Parent section, you can arrange your pages into hierarchies. For example, you could create this new page with additional pages under it. There are no limits to how many levels you can nest pages. If this is a top-level page, ensure (no parent) option is selected

Depending on your theme settings, you may need to select a page template or you would use the Default Template
You are able to set the order of your website pages by numbering them. By default, pages are ordered alphabetically. A tip here if you want to arrange them yourself is to number them in blocks of 10, starting at 0, 10, 20, 30 – this way you can easily slip new pages in between.
Preview the page to ensure you are happy with how it looks, then click Publish. If you are not ready to publish it click Save Draft to simply save the page and you can come back and finish it later.

Congrats! You’ve just added a new page to your WordPress site.

Repeat the above steps for all pages you set out in the Content Doc you completed at the start of this exercise.

Set up your website navigation menu

Now that you have created the main pages for you new website, we need to set up the navigation menu on the website so your visitors can access your pages.

To set up your website navigate;

  1. Go to Appearance > Menus link in the WordPress dashboard sidebar
  2. If no menu has been set up, click on the Create a New Menu option
  3. Enter a Menu Name (eg. Header)
  4. Click the Create Menu button
  5. Select the pages you want to add to the menu and click the Add to Menu button
  6. Click Save Menu

You can ‘drag and drop’ the menu items to rearrange them. You’ll need to ‘drag’ each subcategory to the right until you see the dashed line move in. Then just ‘drop’ it there. You can also reorder the menu items up and down to best suit your needs.
Drag-and-drop refers to manipulating objects on a computer by using the mouse.

Drag-and-drop objects by following these steps:

  1. Move the mouse pointer until it is directly over the object you want to manipulate
  2. Hold down the left mouse button
  3. With the left mouse button held down, move the mouse to where you want to drop the object. Notice how the object moves with your mouse pointer
  4. Drop the object by letting up on the left mouse button

Next, we need to set the Menu Location, select the Manage Locations tab at the top of the page. This step is required to actually make the menu visible on your blog.
You will see how many custom menus your theme supports. Most themes will have 1-2 menu locations to choose from.
In the drop down box, select the custom menu that you wish to display in this location. (For our example select ‘Header’ in the left sidebar location.)
Click ‘Save Changes’

Awesome work! You now have a fully functioning website!

WordPress plugins

As for plugins, they’re pieces of software that feature a collection of functions. They can do a number of things, such as enhance the functionality of your site, add new features, and let you keep tabs on how your site is performing.

For example, the first plugin you’re going to add is a plugin called Yoast SEO – Refer to this article on how to set up Yoast SEO on your WordPress website. (coming soon)

Another excellent plugin to add is Monster Insights which I go into detail with in this article.

WordPress offers a plugin directory that you can use to search through thousands of available plugins. Think about what you want your website to do and what types of features would be the most useful to you and search for plugins that will meet your needs.

Visit the You built your website, what now? Recommended plugins article for an in-depth tutorial on the best plugins to improve your website speed, security and more.

Handy tip: Don’t go crazy with adding plugins, some plugins can slow down your website which is the #1 thing that will annoy your website visitors.

Go Live!

Once your site is set up and you are happy with the way it looks, it’s time to go live! To do this you will need to update the domain records to point to the server your new website is hosted on.

Update domain settings in WordPress Admin
  1. In your WordPress Admin, click on Settings from the menu, and then General.
  2. The two fields we’ll change are the WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL).
  3. Enter your domain name. For this example, I changed the two fields to https://centralcoastwebdesigner.com.au
  4. Scroll down the page and click on the Save Changes button.
Handy tip: Keep note that by changing the URL here will also change how you login to the WordPress Admin of your website. Once all of the records have been updated, you can visit WordPress Admin by adding /wp-admin to the end of your domain name.
Updating domain records in GoDaddy
Handy tip: It’s best to ensure that your WordPress domain is changed to your custom domain in your WordPress Admin Dashboard under the Settings section before updating the domain records in GoDaddy. Otherwise, the redirect could cause conflicts on your login page.
  1. Visit your GoDaddy dashboard and select Domains
  2. Select your domain name
  3. Scroll down and select ‘Manage DNS’, at the bottom of the Records section, click Add and select CNAME from the menu.
  4. Complete the other fields:
    Host – Enter the subdomain name for the alias assignment. For example, type www.
    Points to – Enter the host name you want the alias to point to. For example, type @ to map the alias directly to your domain name.
    TTL – Select 1 hour.
  5. Click Save.
  6. Now you will have to add the domain to your WP Engine site, read this article as it does a fantastic job of explaining the process.

Updates may take up to 48 hours to take effect.

Once everything has updated you will be able to access your website via your new domain name.

Resources to help grow and manage your business

But remember, it’s important to keep tabs on your website as this is not just a set and forget project. It will require routine maintenance and on-going content updates are crucial for your success.

Now that your website is live, it’s time to head over to the Resources page to view the variety of business resources that can help in the day to day operations of your Central Coast business.

If this is all too much for you to take in right now, you can always get a quote for your next website project and I will be happy to help out.

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CentralCoastWebDesigner.com.au was started in 2018 as a toolbox for local Central Coast businesses who want to build and grow their online presence.

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