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A website is essential to running an online business or building a brand. Years ago, trying to build a site required extensive knowledge and hours laboring over code.
Now, building a website is now easier than ever. Some website builders are incredibly simple and free, which only requires a few clicks of a button to get up and running. However, if you’re looking to build a more professional image and site, this article will guide you through the steps to get it up and running.
Before you select hosting and the platform you want your site to live on, you need to have a domain. With most free options, you’ll end up with part of the platform’s URL in yours, which is not what you want if you’re trying to build a professional image.
For example, if you were using WordPress.com, your site would end up with the URL:
If you’re just blogging for fun, it might be a good option for you. However, businesses want their own domain. When you own the domain, it’s yours. You never have to worry about someone taking it (unless you forget to renew it).
This step will probably take you longer than most steps. You might find that the domain you wanted the most was already taken, which is often the case for domains these days. However, don’t give up and keep trying variations to find one that will work.
When it comes to buying domains, you’ll want to find a dedicated domain registrar. Some platforms will allow you to buy hosting and domains at the same time, but sometimes that can be more expensive and confusing than going with a dedicated domain registrar.
One additional reason to buy from a dedicated domain registrar is because if you decide to switch hosting platforms, it’s much easier when your domain is separate. For example, if you decide to switch from Squarespace to WordPress, it’s much easier when all of your assets aren’t just with one platform.
The most well-known domain registrar is Namecheap. Namecheap recently started offering hosting, which is something we’ll cover soon in this article, but when it comes to buying domains it is one of the best. Namecheap also offers a variety of upsells such as SSL certificates and privacy protection along with 24/7 live support.
NameSilo is another option, and is best when you’re buying bulk purchases.
Google also offers domains, which can be a good option if you’re ready to set up your business email as well.
Deciding what type of site you plan to create will save you a ton of headaches down the line from having to switch platforms. We’ll go over the top three: Shopify, WordPress (both .org and .com), Squarespace, and Wix along with briefly mentioning some others.
Depending on the site you plan to create, knowing the difference and picking the right one can save you a ton of time.
If you know you want to build an ecommerce store, there are few sites out there better than Shopify.
If you don’t know much about Shopify, here are some basics:
- Free 14-day trial
- Unmetered hosting
- Unlimited email forwarding
- Your own domain (if you don’t use a separate registrar)
- Content delivery network
- Instant updates
- 98% uptime
On top of all of that, there are multiple custom features for brands to use to engage with their audience. You can also create a ton of different customization options for selling your products.
Most websites on the internet are on WordPress. With WordPress, there are two options:
- WordPress org – this gives you the ability to use the power of WordPress, but on your own hosted platform. You have full control over the site.
- WordPress com – Using WordPress’ powerful features, this is a free option for people just dipping their toes into blogging or setting up a basic site. Although you can buy domains through them, you do not have full control over the site.
Since most of you are probably looking for a professional site, we’ll cover more basics about WordPress.org:
- Free and open source website builder
- Thousands of pre-made themes
- Access to 50,000 plugins
- Ability to manage it on the go
If you plan to post a ton of content or build a top-notch site, you can’t go wrong with WordPress.
While Squarespace isn’t as big as some of the other types of website platforms, it delivers a lot of benefits the others don’t.
Some features of Squarespace:
- Drag-and-drop website builder
- Professional templates without having to know code
- Two-week free trial
- Offers hosting
- Offers email campaigns
Squarespace doesn’t offer as much as WordPress when it comes to hosting content or as many features for ecommerce as Shopify, but it’s a place to make a professional website without the hassle.
Other website platforms
While those are the most popular three website platforms, there are also some others to choose from such as:
- GoDaddy – known for their hosting, they also offer website building
- Wix – You don’t have to get hosting with Wix since it’s provided. It uses a drag-and-drop design so you don’t need to learn code.
- Weebly – Also takes care of your hosting, but takes a percentage of fees on sales unless you upgrade.
Hosts for your site
Along with picking a domain, deciding on where you want your site hosted is another one of the big decisions you’ll have to make.
The first thing you’ll need to decide is how much traffic you anticipate you’ll be receiving over the next year or so for your site. Some hosts can handle only a small fraction of traffic and some are built for much larger sites.
If you plan to use this site mainly to showcase your portfolio, as a simple point of contact for your business, or something on the smaller end, there are some good companies you can use that can save you hundreds of dollars each year.
However, if you plan to have a huge site, offer ecommerce, or host thousands of blog posts, you’ll want to make sure you sign up for a host that can handle that traffic.
Here are some options and the essentials you need to know:
- DreamHost – Hosting starting at $2.59/month. They do not offer 24/7 support, but the hosting is a great price.
- Bluehost – One of the more popular options for hosting. They offer a free domain for your first year. Prices starting at $2.59/month.
- HostGator – Offers varying tiers depending on your level of traffic and lets you choose Linux or Windows hosting. WordPress hosting starts at $5.95/month.
- SiteGround – A solid option for any site, no matter it’s traffic. Shared hosting starts at $3.95/month.
Connect everything together
Depending on what you chose to buy for your site, it’s now time to connect it all together.
Some steps include:
Point your domain to your website platform.
Connect your website platform to your host.
For example, if you bought a domain but want to host it on Squarespace, you simply connect the two since Squarespace offers hosting.
Almost any site has a ton of tutorials on how to connect all of these together easily.
Set up your themes and add in what matters
Each site platform offers various themes.
WordPress has templates to buy and Shopify + Squarespace have set templates to choose from and customize.
Every business and website is different, but there are a few pages you should add to your template so you can cover what matters most.
- Home page – A place to welcome readers.
- About page – So people can learn about you, your team, and your company.
- Blog – If you blog for your business, you’ll need a dedicated page to keep your posts.
- Product and service pages – These are where you’ll sell your goods and services.
- Contact page – You’ll want to have a way for potential customers to reach out to you.
If you follow all these steps, you’ll have your website up and running easily. Then, you’ll be able to upgrade with things like email lists, testing sales pages, and writing more content.