How to make a website for your blog or business: The ultimate guide for total newbies

How to make a website for your blog or business: The ultimate guide for total newbies

Whether you’re an aspiring business owner, blogger, or other influencer, you already know that having your own website is an absolute must – but where do you start?

In this guide, I’ll explain exactly what you need to get a website up and running so that you’re one step closer to launching your big idea.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

The 3 basic building blocks of any website:

All you need to have a functioning website are a domain, a web host, and a design template.

1. Domain

What it is:

Your domain is the URL people will type in to reach your website (for example: anthropologie.com is a domain). Think of it as the street address to your website: It tells people where to go.

How to get one:

You can buy a domain for cheap through companies like GoDaddy, Bluehost, and HostGator, or you can sometimes get one for free through the same company that hosts your website (we’ll talk about your web host next). To buy a domain, just go to the website of one of these companies, search to make sure your desired domain is available, and purchase. Voila! Step 1 complete!

Note: Make sure you choose the option they give you to auto-renew your domain every year. If you accidentally let it expire, it won’t be available to buy again for 60 days, and there is a whole industry of companies that exist solely to buy expired domains and sell them back to the owners for ridiculously high prices. Don’t let this happen to you!

What I use:

I use Google Domains for my domain (currently $12 per year) and G Suite for my business email addresses for an extra $5 per month.

2. Web host

What it is:

If your domain is like your website’s street address, then your web host is like the plot of land your website sits on. It’s where all your site’s content “lives.”

How to get one:

You have two options here.

1) You can find a hosting company online (here’s a list of them) and purchase a hosting plan, which you’ll usually renew once a year at a rate of anywhere from $3-$10 per month, depending on their current promotions. Or…

2) you can get hosting through the same company that handles your website design. Companies like Wix, Squarespace, and Showit are online website builders that also take care of your hosting. In this case, you’ll sign up a free trial to see if you like their website builder, and then if you like them, you’ll subscribe to their service for anywhere from $11-$35 per month, depending on which plan you choose. This option is more expensive than stand-alone web hosting because you’re also getting ongoing access to the fancy website builder and the support team.

What I use:

I use Showit for web hosting and currently pay $30 per month. How do you choose a web host? For me, it was about design. Since I already knew I wanted to design my site using Showit, hosting with them was a done deal.

If I’d wanted to use a stand-alone hosting service (instead of one that was bundled up with a website builder), I would’ve just taken a recommendation from someone in my industry – basically just used what they used without overthinking it, since most of the pros and cons will focus on technical stuff I know nothing about anyway! If I didn’t know what anyone else used, I would’ve just Googled “best web hosting companies” and made a quick decision based on popularity and price.

3. A design template

What it is:

If your domain is the street address and your host is the plot of land, your design is the house itself: It’s what people actually see when they go to your website.

How to get one:

Basically you can either design your site using WordPress, or you can design it using some other non-Wordpress website builder.

I put WordPress in its own category because it’s kind of the granddaddy of website builders – it’s been around for a long time, is highly trusted, and there are a zillion templates and designers that can work with it. To design your site with WordPress, just 1) install the WordPress app on your web host (Google how to do this with your web host and you’ll find a support article. It’s super easy), 2) purchase a WordPress template/“theme” that you like (you can find them on Etsy, ThemeForest, Creative Market, Pinterest and other places for every conceivable style and price point), and then 3) install and customize the theme using the instructions of the person / company you bought it from. If you’re a photographer, ProPhoto and Flothemes are both really cool customizable WordPress themes. With WordPress themes, you usually only need to purchase them once, and you can use them forever.

Nowadays there are lots of other amazing options out there besides WordPress, depending on your needs. Squarespace’s free templates look gorgeous straight out of the box, and they can do e-commerce. Shopify is the king of retail, and they offer a ton of tools and plugins for shop owners. Wix is the cheapest and most basic of the user-friendly site builders, but they did get supermodel Karlie Kloss to use them for her website. Showit is amazingly flexible, design-wise, and although it’s specifically designed for photographers, it’s used by many different types of service-based businesses. To use any of these website builders, you would go their home page, sign up for a free trial, and then subscribe to them (monthly or yearly) as your ongoing web host + design platform. In addition to the monthly hosting fee, you may also want to pay for a premium template (as opposed to the free ones they offer or trying to DIY your whole site from scratch).

What I use:

I use Showit because I started my career as a photographer (many years ago!) and at the time, they were the hottest thing out there. I still don’t know of anything on the market that compares to them in terms of design capability and having complete control of the way your site looks. So that’s what I use to design my own website as well as all the website templates I sell. If you’re a photographer, service-based business, or even a blogger, I highly recommend using Showit with a fancy premium template (like the ones I sell!) so that you can have a high-end, professional web presence right out of the gate.

But Showit is not for everyone!

If I wanted to set up a blog as cheaply and simply as possible, I would find a WordPress template on Etsy for $30 or less. If I wanted something more polished than that but still cheaper and simpler than Showit, I’d go with Squarespace and hire a designer to customize it for me later on down the road. If I were running an e-commerce shop, I’d choose Shopify. I wouldn’t recommend Wix. I have tried all of these services myself, so these recommendations are based on my actual experience and opinions, and I’m not affiliated or sponsored by any of these companies (although clearly I’m biased toward Showit, since that’s what I personally use and what I sell templates for!).

And that’s it! Once you nail down these three things, you’ve got yourself a website.

I hope this helped! I tried to keep it simple while also explaining all the options out there AND giving you my real-world recommendations. I know all this stuff is overwhelming at first, especially for creative types, but once you know what kind of site you need, it’s pretty easy to set everything up.

So no more excuses: Go get your site up and running so you can stop dreaming and actually launch your thing! 🙂

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