I Iike to think that building and owning a website is a lot like owning and maintaining a garden. Even the simplest website that merely functions as a calling card for your organisation requires some time to be put into it on an ongoing basis or it will become outdated and perhaps infected and overrun with malware if ignored for too long. And like a garden, the more time and effort, and in some cases money you put into it, the more it will yield.
Of course it’s possible to build a website for little or no money. If you want to take on the task and do it yourself my guide will help you. But only if you’ve got time to devote to it, a passion for it and the inclination. It’s not rocket science. Plenty of fine websites have been built this way. There are minimal cash costs required to build a web site, but the main ingredient that any successful web project requires is time. Even when I’m building a web site for one of my customers, I tell them at the outset that the project is going to require not only my time, but theirs as well.
The basic steps to get a website built are straightforward enough.
- Grab an inexpensive domain name and free or cheap hosting.
- Get a free copy of WordPress or Joomla.
- Get ready to read the documentation, figure out about hosting and ftp and databases and how to install it. Of course, today many hosting companies these days offer free installation, so there’s no pain in that
- Spend lots of time asking Google questions, and in due course you can put together a good website.
- It helps if you knack for photography and know how to use some graphics editors.
- Even better if you don’t mind digging a little deeper and get a basic grasp of html, php and css code. A lot of the time you can just ask Google what you want to do, and you’ll come up with code samples you can copy and paste. Or WordPress plugins or Joomla components that will do the job.
With time and effort and willingness to learn, you will get there, you will launch your beautiful new website.
But even then, you’re not done. There is also work involved in keeping your website going.
- Keeping it fresh with new content. Not so much a problem for bloggers and other content creators, but something to think about for most other types of web sites. A web site that never changes will eventually rarely be visited
- Keeping it secure. The Internet is a nasty place, and every website in the world is a target for hackers, viruses, malware, spamming and ransomware. SSL certificates and encryption have always been a necessity for e-commerce site, but in the past year, most web browsers have started giving security warnings on even the simplest contact form. Google has begun giving priority in their rankings to sites with ssl certs.
- Don’t forget marketing. How are you getting people to look at your site? To click on your calls to action or buy your products? Search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, email newsletters, content marketing. There are many strategies for different types of websites.
So if you are ready to start, read on!
If you don’t have the time, but want to hire a professional to build a site for you, I’d still recommend reading through this guide. You’ll learn enough to ask a designer / developer the right questions and it will help you make sure that you are getting the website you need for the right price.
For this beginner’s guide, I’m going to assume you want to start a blog about an interest that you have. We’ll use WordPress.org. If this doesn’t describe your need exactly, there will be links other posts about other types of web sites and projects, but start here anyway. It will lay the foundation for you.
First things first: Getting a domain name and hosting
You can start a free blog if you want. WordPress.com and Blogger.com are two options. But with a free blog you won’t own the domain and therefore you can never earn any real income from it. If you follow this guide, your new blog will cost you around the price of a pint of Guinness in Dublin (€5) per month (€48/ year for hosting and €12/year for your domain name).