Creating a great website to your Liking

With all of the resources available to the average person in today’s marketplace at an affordable price point, it seems that just about anyone can make a website in minutes. However, the hard part is making a website that you and other people actually like.

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Getting your domain purchased and hosted is the easy part. All it takes is a bit of money and dealing with some registrars and you’ll be the proud new owner of a website. Now the hard part begins. You’ll have to deal with website design, website function, and a plethora of other website issues. The hardest thing about this is that they will probably conflict at some point, breaking one or both of the things you’re trying to get to work in tandem. Swearing and frustration are common at this point, followed by frantic Googling.

But like everything in life, things go easier if you have a plan and stick to it. So, here’s a few things you should have in mind on your journey to creating an amazing website you’ll be proud to call yourself the webmaster of:

Decide How You Want To Build Your Website

Once you’ve bought and hosted a website, essentially all you have is a page people can visit advertising the host company you’re with. There’s no actual data on the website as to what it is and how it can work. It is that this point that you’re going to be making one of the most pivotal decisions that will shape the future of your website for the foreseeable future: are you going to use a website builder or WordPress to act as the foundation from which your website will be built on?

A website builder is almost like buying a box of Lego bricks for your website that you can then place together however you’d like them. They are completely all encompassing and usually offer a control panel from which you can determine what you’d like to do next. They are perfect for novice webmasters who don’t know anything about coding, as well as people who just want to focus on the website itself and what visitors will see as opposed to focusing too much on the back-end. On top of it all, the all-in-one convenience of a website builder is attractive to many since everything is self contained and the only limits to what you can do is what is offered by the builder itself. If you’re going to be selling things online, website builders are also much better suited for the task than WordPress.

If you value your own independence and the ability to have a staggering amount of advanced customizability for your website, WordPress is the better choice. The difference between WordPress and a website builder is much like the Lego analogy, WordPress is like a sandbox whereas website builders are like a foundation ready for bricks to be laid down upon. WordPress will seem daunting at first to new webmasters because you’ll be staring down an absolutely bare-bones website that doesn’t have much in the way of, well, anything. But, WordPress websites are the most customizable and essentially have no constraints. Thanks to the plug-in features in WordPress, you can essentially jury-rig your own rudimentary form of website builder to lay on top of it as well as other plugins that can work in tandem to do things that you can’t on your own.

No matter what you pick, just know that going back and changing everything is going to be a serious undertaking.

Choose Your Template/Theme

The next part of your website building process will be to apply a template/theme to the website. This is essentially choosing the bare basics as to how your website will look and function. Things like the layout of the headers and footers and the color scheme are typically determined by the template you choose.

The theme you select is important for what kind of website you will be building. Certain themes are built from the ground up for e-commerce sites while others are meant to service blogs. Consider your theme to be the canvas from which you will apply paint onto, the theme itself is highly customizable, but think of it as what kind of style your painting will be. You can only fight against your theme so much and still have your website look coherent and attractive.

Choosing your theme can be much like trying on a new set of clothes at the store. You don’t have to commit to the first one you pick, and in my opinion you absolutely shouldn’t While you still only have a theme installed jump around to as many different themes as possible and see which one suits your needs. Some themes are actually easier to customize and move around than others, and some themes have added functionalities that others don’t.

Website builders will have all of their themes bundled into a certain section you can choose at will, while in WordPress you’ll have to either purchase a premium theme or go to the Theme Directory and select a free one that you like. Trying on different themes is a bit more of a process in WordPress, but I suppose that’s the cost of the added freedom WordPress allows.

Customize Your Theme

The theme is the absolute bare bones, like I said, the blank canvas. You don’t want to be some website out there that looks like you just clicked the first theme in the catalog and didn’t even bother to switch things around a bit.

It’s at this point that you’ll be moving things around and creating things like the categories in your heading for people to navigate to and how posts will appear on your homepage and subpages. In a website builder, this is typically as simple as a drag and drop or other excessively simple procedure. In WordPress, it involves a lot more playing around with the individual settings of your site on the sidebar of your admin panel to get things right and then testing them out after you’ve made changes. In WordPress, many people choose to outsource this part to design developers like the people at since this part can be very frustrating and difficult to newbie WordPress users. The bottom line is that you need a website that will stand out from the crowd, but still be easy to use for both your users and yourself when you need to make changes.

WordPress Only: Install Plugins

A website builder will have these types of functions built-in as part of their service, but WordPress enables you to download things referred to as plugins that can add tons of extra functionalities to your website. For instance, there are even page builder plugins that make using WordPress a lot like using a website builder, just note that this plugin might not be compatible with everything else you’ll want to install.

Taking things to the next level and monitoring everything going on with your website can be made much simpler with the use of some good plugins. There are thousands of plugins available that will allow you to monitor your SEO strategies or spellcheck your work for you before you hit publish. The speed of your website can also be effectively managed with plugins that will compress images or otherwise lighten the burden on the end-users internet connection and result in a faster loading website.

Installing plugins is just about as simple as using them, in your admin dashboard, simply navigate to “Plugins” and then click “Add New”. It is at this point that you’ll be on the plugin section and I wholeheartedly suggest that you look around and see what’s on offer. Things like social media sharing buttons are a fantastic addition to a new site, while others like adding Google Analytics right to your admin dashboard can save you from having to open a new tab.

The point I’m making here is that plugins make your life significantly easier with WordPress. Use them. Don’t go overboard, though. Too many plugins can end up bogging down your site and since plug-ins are typically all made by different people, they might not all be compatible and each extra plugin you add increases the chance something might go wrong.

Add Pages/Content

It is that this point that the set-up process of your website is finally complete and you can actually get down to business when it comes to making that perfect website of yours.

While your website will grow and change over time, I can only imagine that you at the moment have a vague understanding of how you’d like to get started or what pages will be helpful for you in the future. For instance on a blog this is when you’ll make all of your pages that contain your subcategories of different topics or subjects that people can navigate to as well as a page for your whole blogreel.

If you’re making an e-commerce website, this is when you add in the different categories people will be able to navigate to and make sure that they all function appropriately and are easy to use and navigate to.

Once you’ve set up what is essentially the scaffolding for your website, it is now time to fill it with content. You should start with the homepage and work your way outwards. It is at this point that I can’t really tell you what to do next, since it’s your website and you’re the one in control now. Just keep in mind what makes other websites worthwhile and easy to use and keep this in mind when designing your own. If it works, it probably works for a reason.

Preview Your Website

Once you’ve completed the entire setup process and have yourself a fully ready-to-go website, it’s extremely important that you actually preview it and test it out yourself. While it might work inside your admin dashboard or website builder control panel, you won’t know what happens when a visitor comes along unless you actually try it out yourself as a visitor.

Log out of all of your admin controls and go to your website the same way a visitor would. Look for any mistakes and try out all of the functions of your website to make sure they operate properly. This can be as simple as just clicking around to make sure all of your pages work properly in attempting to put items in your cart and through checkout on an e-commerce website. The goal here is to see if a visitors can break your website just through normal usage. If they can, then you need to fix that immediately.

You’re Done! Or Are You?

The interesting part next is that you will never truly be finished. The internet always marches on and you’ll always have more content to post or more things to optimize. It’s entirely up to you to decide when to stop, this is a beast whose hunger knows no limits.

For all intents and purposes, you’ve completed creating a website, sure. But now everything has truly just begun. As you add more content and deal with more and more visitors to your website, more problems will arise or you’ll notice areas where you can improve over time. It is actually a very rewarding experience seeing your website grow over time as you optimize it to suit your visitors’ wants and needs.

The beautiful part about all of this is that it can be done almost entirely for free. Hosting costs can be as low as $12 a year and once you’ve bought a domain you won’t have to worry about that until it comes time to renew. Sure, for the added functionalities in a lot of website builders or premium themes in WordPress you’ll have to drop some extra money, but there’s nothing forcing you to do that. The real commitment in having a website is time. The answers to issues sometimes won’t always be apparent, trial and error will soon become your new best friend.

Whatever happens, don’t give up. Good luck to all you budding webmasters out there!

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With a passion for Knowledge, Smashinghub has been created to explore things like Free Resources For Designers, Photographers, Web Developers and Inspiration.

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