Basic 101: Website Setup For Beginners
The Free, Easy-To-Follow Roadmap to Building a Kick-Ass Website — Even if you’re a complete noobie (new person) to anything Internet.
I created my first website in 1994, long before there were such things as instruction manuals. We did everything by trial and error. Mostly error.
Since then, the industry has come a long way. Today, even complete beginners can build a basic website that puts up a message, convinces viewers to respond, and delivers a desired effect (inform, get leads, make sales, etc.)
The problem is, if you don’t have the skills and have to hire professionals, you have to pay. A lot. But it shouldn’t be that way.
If you can read and follow instructions, you can put together a simple site that achieves your basic needs. (And yes, you can even make money with it!)
That’s why, after creating hundreds of websites over the past 3 decades, we decided to put together this basic How To Manual. Not everyone creates websites like we do, but the sites we create invariably work. Even for beginners.
Following this guide, you can put together a basic personal or small business website or blog without having to pay for expensive web designers, programmers or (gulp!) ad agencies.
(Full Disclosure: This guide is based upon my 26 years of creating websites. Yes, I’m an early adopter!
So grab a cuppa whatever, get comfortable. Here we go…
Website Setup for Beginners: The Complete WebNoobs Guide
Years ago building a website was expensive, arduous and extremely limited in everything from functionality to effectiveness.
Today, a relatively simple website is not just affordable, but it’s easy to accomplish. Even if you’re a noobie to the world of the Internet.
You don’t have to be a web designer, a copywriter or a programmer. You just have to work smart.
All you need are a basic knowledge of how things work, and a few tools.
We’ll walk you through the basics, and give you links to all the required tools—and they are few in number.
What you will NOT need:
- A big budget
- An expensive web development firm
- Freelance copywriters or designers
We’ll be teaching you how to set up a very elementary site. If you follow this tutorial, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to set up a site that can get listed with the search engines, receive visitors, and even earn you money.
Later, as your experience, skills and needs evolve, you can graduate to larger, more complex sites. That’s when you can hire that expensive outside talent.
And here’s an extra bonus: Nail down these basic principles and you’ll be better prepared to work with that outside team. You’ll even understand what they’re talking about when they start throwing fancy technical terms around.
Website Setup: What you’ll need:
- Hosting (an online company that can host your site)
- A domain name (your site’s web address—and name)
- WordPress (the free platform that powers your site)
If not, you’ll know how to ask questions and get answers.
Here’s what you’re about to learn:
- Business basics: What to name your site
- Finding a strong domain name
- Setting up hosting
- Installing WordPress (and why)
- Creating a basic website design and navigation
- Critical pages Google insists you have
- Launching your site to the online world
Affiliate Links: from time to time, we include affiliate links in this document. If you make a purchase, we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. That helps us keep this website going. Thx.
Here we go…
Business Basics: What to Name Your site.
As with any business, your website should have a focus. It is your link to the billions of online users who search the Internet every day looking for some kind of product, service, information or entertainment.
Today there are approximately 1.8 billion websites trying to get the attention of 4.79 billion people worldwide who use the internet virtually every day.
Welcome to the party.
So how do you get your share of that humungous audience? In a word, focus!
You need to focus on what your purpose is that has driven you to have a website. Write it down!
Do you want to make money? Provide information? Talk about your product or service? Entertain your audience? Some sites do a combination.
Be very clear about your website’s purpose.
Out of that may come ideas for what to call your site. The domain name.
Some people choose their company name. Example: www.PioneerAmericaChickens.Com. (I made this up, so if you like it, go for it!)
Others pick a domain name as close as possible to topics people are actively looking for online. Example: www.nomorediet.com. (Forget it: it’s already taken—by me!)
Step #2: Get Web Hosting and Register Domain
In addition to having a domain name, you’ll also need website hosting (web hosting).
Web hosting is a service that hosts and stores your website files (content) on a secure server that is always up and running. Without a web host, your site will not be accessible for others to read and browse.
Affordable and reliable web hosting for new websites costs usually between $3 to $10 a month. Less than a cup of coffee, but an important investment for your website success.
Whichever web hosting company you sign up with, make sure it has the following features:
FREE domain name with SSL (for security)
One-click-install for WordPress (free)
Custom email accounts
Unlimited or unmetered bandwidth (no traffic limitations)
Customer support, preferably 24/7 live chat
If you find a website hosting that offers all of the things above, you’ve likely found a good provider.
We recommend using Bluehost.com for web hosting and domains. They offer free domain registration for the first year and getting a domain name and hosting from the same company saves you some time and money.
Bluehost hosting plans start from $2.75/mo with our discount link and offer all the essential features for setting up a website.
1) To get a web hosting account, simply visit Bluehost and click on “Get Started Now”.
2) Next, choose your web hosting plan (choice plus is fully unlimited, while basic is best for new sites):
choose web hosting plan
3) Next, choose and register a domain name (free for the first year):
register a domain name
Keep in mind that Bluehost doesn’t offer country-specific domain endings, such as.de, .fr, or .ru. If you need them, you can buy these from Domain.com or GoDaddy.com separately.
If you already have a domain name that you bought somewhere else, Bluehost allows you to hook it up to your new hosting plan. Some additional steps will be needed here – like updating your name servers. Here’s a guide from Bluehost on how to do that.
4) Once you’ve completed your registration process it will take a few minutes to get instant access, so you can start building your website right away.
Bluehost welcome screen
Step #3: Set Up WordPress Website (Through Web Host)
Once you have your domain name and web hosting ready to go, you’ll need to choose and install a website building platform (also known as CMS).
We recommend choosing WordPress since it’s easy to use and comes with thousands of free designs and add-ons that make your website look professional and unique.
Setting up your WordPress website is easy, and your web host mostly does it for you, so you don’t really have to get your hands too dirty.
If you don’t use Bluehost as a web hosting, don’t worry. Many web hosting providers have “WordPress install” located somewhere in the hosting cPanel. If you are dealing with a web host that doesn’t provide “one-click installs“, try setting up WordPress manually.
1) Installing WordPress Website on Bluehost
Log in to your Bluehost account
Click on “My Sites” and then on “Create Site”Bluehost My Sites screen when learning how to create a website
Provide some basic information about your site, and the WordPress installation will start. It will all happen on autopilot.
When the setup is done, Bluehost will show you the installation and login details. Be sure to save this information somewhere safe.
Bluehost Installation Details
2) Test Your Website By Typing in Your Domain Address
With WordPress installed, what you should do next is test if everything works.
The easiest way to do that is to type in your domain name into the web browser.
With WordPress correctly installed, the thing you’ll see is a very basic website like this:
How to create a website: Fresh WordPress Install
If this doesn’t look too attractive, don’t worry, you’ll soon learn how to change the design to something more appealing.
3) Verify SSL/HTTPS Settings
In short, an SSL certificate makes sure that your website is delivered to your visitors securely.
Bluehost automatically adds an SSL when you create a new website or install WordPress. To check your site’s SSL status, do these steps:
Log in to your Bluehost portal
Click on “My Sites”
Find your site and click on “Manage Site”
Go to the “Security” tab
Under “Security Certificate,” you will find your “Free SSL Certificate” status
If everything went well, you should see a lock icon next to your domain name in the web browser.
It may take a few hours before the SSL is set up completely, but that shouldn’t stop you from continuing to build your website.
Step #4: Customize Your Website Design and Structure
With your bare website alive and kicking, it’s now time to make it feel more like your own by picking a nice design, customizing it, and adding branding elements.
1) Choose a Theme for Your Website
WordPress themes are out-the-box design packages that change the way your entire website looks like. WordPress themes are interchangeable – you can switch from theme to theme easily.
Most importantly, there are thousands of free and paid WordPress themes available on the web.
popular wordpress themes
If you want to get a free theme – which is where most people like to start – the best place to go is the official theme directory at WordPress.org. Particularly, the section for the most popular themes.
All themes you see there have proven to be of great quality and have large user bases behind them.
You are free to browse through that list and pick any theme you fancy but to speed things up for you in this guide, we recommend Neve. It’s a versatile theme that comes with a handful of starter sites (design packages for different niches and types of websites).
We’re going to use that theme in this guide going forward.
2) Install the Theme You Like
Go to your WordPress admin interface. You can find it at YOURSITE.com/wp-admin. Use the username and password you got during WordPress installation.
From the sidebar, go to “Themes → Add New.”How to create a website: add themes
In the search box, type in “Neve” and click on the “Install” button next to the theme’s name:How to create a website: install theme
After the installation is done, click on the “Activate” button that will appear in place of the “Install” button.
You’ll see a success message, which lets you know that the installation went as expected.
3) Import a Design (Only for Neve Theme Users)
Although the theme is active at this point, there are a couple more things you should do to make it look right.
You’ll see this welcome message:
One of the great things about Neve is that you get not just one design with it, but a whole range of different designs that you can pick from. Click on the big blue button to see them.
There are more than 20 designs available for free, and they cover most of the popular website niches, like business, restaurant, fitness, music, food, wedding, photography, eCommerce, portfolio, and more. Basically, no matter what the topic of your site might be, you’ll find a design package that fits.
For the purpose of this guide, we’ll pick the first one on the list – called “Original.”
You’ll notice that this installation process takes care of all the elements you’ll need on your site – you get the design itself, all the plugins required to make it work, and also demo content that you can later modify.
Click on the “Import” button to get everything going. After a minute or so, you’ll see the success message.
Next, go to “Appearance → Neve Options” to see what else you can do with the theme.neve getting started
We’re going to explore some of these options below:
4) Add a Logo
The first thing that most users want to do is upload their logo and have it displayed in the top left corner of the site. Let’s do that now.
You can DIY a logo. Here are some of the tools you can use to create a logo yourself.
Once you have a logo ready, you can add it to your site. Go to “Appearance → Neve Options” and click on the link labeled “Upload Logo.”
How to create a website: upload logo
Here’s what you’ll see:
This interface is called the WordPress Customizer, and it allows you to edit various aspects of your website’s appearance. For starters, you can upload your logo. To do that, click on the “Select Logo” button that’s near the top left corner.
WordPress will give you an option to crop the logo, but you can skip that.
You should see your logo in the corner of the page shortly.
Additionally, you can choose if you want to display the site name and tagline alongside the logo, and set the max-width of the logo. Experiment with these settings and pick what works best for you.
Click on the “Publish” button when done (the top left corner), and then click on the “X” button to exit the Customizer.
5) Change the Website Color Scheme and Fonts
Another thing you can experiment with is changing the color schemes and fonts used on the site. As you’re learning how to create a website, this is an easy fix to make your site more unique and more in tune with your brand identity.
To begin, go to “Appearance → Neve Options” again. We’re going to focus on the following two options:How to create a website: change colors and fonts
First, click on “Set Colors.”
Most WordPress themes are defined by the color scheme they use for various elements of the design.
Most commonly, those are colors of the links, texts on the site, and backgrounds.
You can change the color assignments for the Neve theme via the Customizer.
To switch any of the colors, just click on it and pick a new color.change colors
Click on “Publish” and “X” when you’re done.
Changing fonts works similarly:
Click on the “Customize Fonts” link in the “Appearance → Neve Options” panel.
Neve lets you pick from a whole catalog of system fonts and Google Fonts.
Just click on the “Font Family” box and select the font you like.change fonts
After that, you can fine-tune the individual fonts used for your headings.
Experiment with these settings to see the effect they have on your site.
To customize the font used for the body section of your site, click on the arrow button near the top left.go back customizer
Click on “General.” This will take you to a similar options panel, but this time you’re adjusting the main body font.
Click on “Publish” and “X” when done.
6) Add a Sidebar
Another thing you can do in the “Appearance → Neve Options” panel is set how you’d like your sidebar to look. Click on “Content / Sidebar” to begin.
You have three main options here: no sidebar, sidebar to the left, or sidebar to the right. The sidebar to the right is the classic layout for most websites. You can also set the content width. After doing your changes, click on “Publish” and “X.”
7) Add Widgets (Free WordPress Add-Ons)
Widgets are those small content blocks that usually appear in websites’ sidebars. Since we’ve just set the sidebar in the previous step, let’s now customize it with widgets.
To configure widgets, go to “Appearance → Widgets.” You’ll see this:
How to create a website: customizer
On the left, you can see all the widgets available; and on the right, there are all the widget areas supported by your current theme. To add a widget to the sidebar, all you need to do is grab the widget from the left and drag and drop it onto the sidebar area.
For example, if you want to list all your pages in the sidebar, grab the “Pages” widget and drag it onto the sidebar section. You can also configure some basic settings of the widget.
8) Experiment With the Theme You Built
What we’ve covered above will be enough for you to figure out how to create a website that stands out and looks original, but there are many more options available.
To see them all, go to “Appearance → Customize.” This will fire up the main interface of the Customizer with all its settings and presets.
How to create a website: customizer
We encourage you to browse through what’s available there and play around with some of the options. You’ll likely stumble upon some customizations we haven’t discussed here.
Step #5: Add Content/Pages to Your Website
Pages are the essence of your website. It’s hard to imagine a website without any pages on it, right?
From a technical point of view, a web page is just a document on the web. It’s not very different from your traditional Word document apart from it having your website’s branding elements such as the header and footer.
Web pages are easy to create in WordPress. But before we get into the how-to, let’s discuss what pages you should create in the first place.
Most websites will find the following pages essential:
Homepage – it’s the first page that your visitors see when they go to your website
About page – a page explaining what your website is about
Contact page – a page letting visitors contact you
Blog page – a listing of your most recent blog posts; if you’re not planning on blogging, you can use the blog page as a place for your company news and announcements
Services page – if the website you’re building is for a business, use this page to showcase your services
Shop page – for companies that want to launch an eCommerce store
Many of the pages above will be very similar in structure – the only difference being the content on the actual page. Basically, once you learn how to create one page, you’ll know how to create them all. With that, there is some nuance here, so let’s now cover how to create a couple of basic types of pages:
1) Creating a Homepage
If you’re using Neve, your homepage looks something like this:
You can edit the structure of this page as well as the elements on it (all texts and images).
To do that, just click on the “Edit with Elementor” button in the top bar.
edit with Elementor
What you’ll see is the interface of the Elementor page builder.
How to create a website: Elementor
Elementor is what we call a visual page builder. This means that you can click any element that you see on the page and edit it directly. For example, if you want to change the main headline, just click on it and start typing.
If you take a look at the left sidebar, there’s a whole customization panel there. You can adjust the structure and the styling of any content block. For example, here’s what you can see when working on the headline:
Another cool thing is that you can grab onto any element on the page, and drag-and-drop it somewhere else.
To add new elements, click on the small square icon in the top left corner.
You’ll see a list of all the content blocks available.
Grab any of the blocks and drag it onto the page’s canvas.
The best way to work on your homepage is to go block by block and edit the demo content that’s on the page.
Type in new text content, realign some of the blocks, delete the ones you don’t need, and add new ones accordingly.
This whole interface is quite intuitive to use, so just spend an hour or so using it and experimenting with different things.
2) Create Pages Such as “About”, “Services”, “Contact”
Creating classic web pages is even easier to do in WordPress than working on your homepage. Go into “Pages → Add New.” You’ll see this interface:
How to create a website: add page
Every page needs a title, so start by adding one where it says “Add a title.” For example, “About Us” or “Contact.”
Next, pick a page layout. If you’re creating a standard page, you can go with the first one on the list – “Single Row.” But to speed things up, you can choose from the template library. For that, click on the blue button.
You’ll see a window letting you pick from a range of pre-made page sections. If you’re working on your about page, for example, you can quickly find and use the following blocks:
about page blocks
Just click on the “Insert” button next to the block you like, and it will be added to the page. From there, you can further customize it, change the texts, or replace images.
about page edit
When you’re done, click on the “Publish” button in the top right corner of the screen.
You can follow the same process when working on your contact page or services page as well.
Just pick different page blocks from the template library. For example, these should work great on a services page:
If you want to add new page elements by hand – instead of using the templates – click on the “+” icon that’s in the top left corner of the editor interface.
Any block you select there will be added at the bottom of your page. Here’s what a new paragraph block looks like:
As you can see, you can edit it freely, change the properties of the text, plus there are color settings in the right sidebar.
As always, remember to click on “Publish” when you’re done.
3) Create a Blog Page
The blog page is where the listing of your most recent blog posts can be found.
The good news is that the blog page has already been created for you. This happened when you installed WordPress and the Neve theme. You can see that page by going to “Pages”:
blog page listing
Click on the “View” link to see your blog page in action.
Adding new blog posts:
To add new blog posts, simply go to Go to “Posts → Add New.”
Does this interface remind you of anything? Yes, this is the same editing environment that we used when creating standard pages. Easy!
Step #6: Set Up a Navigation Menu
With a range of good-looking pages created, the next step in our quest to how to create a website is to set up your navigation (a website menu). The menu is what your visitors will use to go from page to page on your site.
Go to “Appearance → Menus,” and from there, click on “create a new menu.”
How to create a website: create menu
Here’s how to create your first menu step by step:
WordPress Menu Creation Process
Start by adding a title. The menu title doesn’t really matter, but it helps to recognize your menu among other menus (yes, you can have more than one).
Select the pages to be added to your menu. You can also add other items to the menu – like posts or custom links.
Click on the “Add to Menu” button to add the selected pages to your menu.
Drag-and-drop menu items to arrange the links in order of importance.
Select a menu display location. This differs from theme to theme, in this case, set your menu to the “Primary” location will display the menu in the header.
Lastly, save your menu.
At this stage, you’ll see your menu on the homepage in all its glory.
Step #7: Add an Online Store/eCommerce
The last thing we’ll do in this guide is to build ourselves an online store.
If you wish to add an online store to your newly created website, follow this step-by-step tutorial here.
This is obviously not something that all websites need, so feel free to skip this step if eCommerce isn’t something you want to get yourself into.
How WordPress eCommerce Works
With WordPress being such a versatile website platform, it’s no surprise that it can let you build a fully functional eCommerce online store. By fully functional, we mean that you can list any number of products, make them available for sale, and then also collect orders from customers and even handle all tax- and shipping-related elements of the whole process.
This is all done with a plugin called WooCommerce.
WooCommerce is the most popular, most functional, and frankly the best eCommerce solution for WordPress.
We have a whole separate guide on how to get WooCommerce running on your WordPress website. We invite you to hop over there and read a detailed installation how-to. Follow Steps 3 and 4 and then come back here.
… Okay, so with WooCommerce installed on your site and products added in your catalog, you’ll notice that, in the process, new pages have been created by WooCommerce automatically. Those pages are:
“Cart” – your store’s shopping cart
“Checkout” – the checkout page where customers can complete their purchases
“My account” – each customer’s profile; holds past orders, current details, and other personal information; the customer can always edit their info
“Shop” / “Products” – the main shop page – the one where your products are listed
Each of these pages serves a specific purpose for your store and its functionality. The good news is that most themes these days are optimized to make those pages look right. The Neve theme is no different. If you visit any of these new pages, you’ll see that the presentation is clear and everything is easy to grasp. Here’s an example of the shopping cart page: