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Build a Website in 15 Minutes
Since friends know that my background is in software development, I’ve had some folks ask me to build a website or blog for them. They assume that it’s something only really techie experts can pull off.
What most people don’t know is that it is super simple to start a website. If you can put together a piece of furniture from Ikea, you can start a blog.
As a matter of fact, I’m going to show you how you can build a website in 15 minutes and start your online business right away (for as little as $20).
What You’ll Need
Just like building a piece of furniture, you’ll need a few tools to get your website online. I’ll break down each category and tell you what that type of tool does, and then give you my recommendation for which brand to use.
- Domain Name
- Website Hosting
- Blogging Tool
A domain name is like the address of your online business. Think www.yournewwebsite.com.
Each domain name has two main parts and some have one or more optional parts.
The first main part of the domain name is the name of website itself. In the example yournewwebsite.com, it would be yournewwebsite.
The second main part of the domain (called a top-level domain or TLD or domain extension) is the last section of the website name when you are reading the address. So in the example yournewwebsite.com, the TLD is .com. Some other common extensions are .net, .org, .gov, .co, .name and .info. Today there are hundreds of others available.
.com is the most common and recognizable domain extension, so when you are shopping for a domain name, try to find an available .com. It’s just easier for most people to remember.
Some websites have optional letters at the very beginning like www. Whether you should use www.yournewwebsite.com or just yournewwebsite.com is a more advanced topic, so we’ll skip that for now. When you are first starting out, it really doesn’t matter. As a matter of fact, you don’t need to make the decision when purchasing your domain name. Just think of a name you like, check to see if it’s available, and buy it!
The price of an available domain ranges from under a dollar to around a hundred dollars, depending on what domain extension you choose. If you pick .com, .org or .net, you shouldn’t pay anything over $20. Each company has it’s own prices and deals, so your mileage may vary.
My domain name provider recommendation
The reason that I chose BlueHost here is because if you go with BlueHost as your hosting provider (in the next section), you get a free domain name included. If you plan to only have a single site, BlueHost is the way to go.
If you’ve got the startup bug and think you may be building a few different sites, you may consider an alternate.
Alternate domain name provider recommendation
GoDaddy is one of the biggest and most well-known providers of domain names and website hosting. It’s super easy to search for a domain, see if it’s available and buy it. The cool thing I love about GoDaddy is their mobile app. I’m kind of a domain name collector (ok, so it’s more of a compulsive habit) and get ideas all the time for new sites. I check GoDaddy’s mobile app a dozen times a day to see if my name is available.
Domain name time commitment
Honestly, the longest part of buying a domain is finding a great one that’s still available. Once you start looking, you’ll see that a lot of good names are already taken. Get creative. Put two or three words together. Pick an alternate extension.
Once you’ve found your match, going through the purchase process is a lot like setting up an Amazon account for the first time.
After buying a killer domain name, the next thing you’ll need to do is to find website hosting. It’s like finding the real estate for your physical business. Your host will be the place where your website physically sits.
Just like real estate there are a ton of different website hosting options at a ton of different price points. Some are like multi-million dollar skyscrapers custom-designed to be a large corporation’s global headquarters. You don’t need one of these. For now, stay away from the dedicated hosting packages. It’s overkill. You can always upgrade later when your business outgrows your current host.
One step down from dedicated is VPS hosting or virtual private server. This is like renting a suite in an office complex. Depending on how quickly you plan to grow, this may be a valid option. It gives you more room to spread your wings and entertain more customers and visitors at the same time. For most folks though, this is still too big. You want something to prove out your business idea before you spend too much money on your website.
You’re looking for hosting options like a table at a farmer’s market or a stall in a craft show. Just enough room to get your business started and get your ideas out there for customers to see and at a low-cost monthly fee. These packages are called shared hosting. When you’re first starting out, this is usually the way to go.
Shared hosting packages go anywhere from a couple of bucks to $20 or so a month.
My website hosting recommendation (best)
These guys are known for their intuitive website and their customer service. BlueHost is a favored host by many mainstream bloggers and new website owners.
As I mentioned before, most BlueHost packages come with a free domain name. Look for their shared hosting products when starting out.
Alternate hosting recommendation
I’ve use GoDaddy’s hosting on a number of different sites for many years. As a matter of fact, at the time of writing, this site is hosted on one of GoDaddy’s sister sites (held by the same umbrella corp).
If you buy your domain name with GoDaddy, it’s easy as pie to get hosting as an add-on when you make your purchase. Anytime you get the domain name and hosting package from the same company, it saves you a few steps in pointing the domain to the host. When you go all-in with GoDaddy, it’s already done for you.
However, in my experience, the long-term value is diminished due to GoDaddy’s so-so customer support. I’ve worked with customer service agents that have been helpful right away and I’ve also (several times) had to wait up to 48 hours to get an email response while my site was down. I’m in the process of selecting and moving to a new provider (I’ll update this when complete).
Hosting time commitment
Once you’ve got your domain name and hosting secured, you’ll want to install a blogging tool. Regardless of whether you want to write a journal, display a photography portfolio or build a shopping cart, blogging software is powerful enough to make most almost any design come to life with no custom coding.
There are dozens of different blogging platforms. You can find a slew of information about each of them with a quick Google search, but one is the de facto standard.
My blogging software recommendation
Just use WordPress. Don’t agonize over the other choices. It powers millions and millions of different types of sites. Tiny single-page landing pages to multi-million dollar moguls.
At the most basic level, working with WordPress is a lot like writing an email. You have a subject and a body and some formatting options. When you are ready to advance to the next level, you can get pretty fancy.
There are thousands of themes available to make your website look just so.
WordPress is very customizable with hundreds of plug-ins developed. Whatever you want your site to do, there’s a good chance someone has built a plug-in. If not, WordPress has a huge community of software developers. If your site takes off and you want to bling it out, there are lots of tech folks around to make that happen for you.
WordPress installation time commitment
Where to Go From Here
Once you’ve got WordPress installed, you are off to the races!
At this point you have a fully functional, working website. Tell your momma and make her proud!
Now that your website is up and running, you just start adding the things you want it to have. Blog posts, pictures, custom theme, logo, videos. Whatever you want. You just need to spend some time working with WordPress and learning how to use it.
Have questions? Drop a note in the comments below and let me know. I’d love to help you achieve your online business goals.
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