Let Your Voice Be Heard and Your Art Seen!
I am a huge proponent of free knowledge, knowledge-sharing and empowering people, so I’ve decided to write up this simple text-only, high-level (not in great detail) tutorial with 7 easy steps to show you how simple it can be to setup a website to the point where, when you are done reading this, you could have a website up and running the next day (once your website domain name is active, that is).
I’m going to keep this simple for anyone out there who isn’t tech or web savvy (i.e. a computer nerd like me) and is looking to run a simple website, whether they are a blogger, an artist, a writer, or anyone that wants to have a public presence on the web besides their Facebook, Instagram or Etsy page. Heck, maybe you’ll end up selling products on your own website one day and not having to pay Etsy any fees! Or use your website to improve your writing skills, or get a job as a writer. Who knows where this door might lead you!
Remember: take one step at a time, and breathe! New things can be very overwhelming, whether it’s making a big purchase, visiting a foreign country, or setting up a website. So it is important that you take your time, and take one step at a time at that. Feel free to take breaks, come back hours or days later. Give your mind a chance to digest everything before moving on. Of course, you are free to dive right into the deep end, but you may find yourself drowning in the wealth of information and I can’t promise I’ll be there to throw you a life preserver!
Fortunately in today’s world, you don’t really need to know much (programming or anything like that) to get a website up and running. Trust me. I setup my website here with a few clicks of the mouse. I have some basic knowledge of HTML and CSS myself from when I delved into designing my own websites from scratch back around 2007, but don’t even need it anymore.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll be using WordPress CMS (Content Management System) as the basis to running your website. Think of it as a program accessed via the internet that does everything for you to publish your content! All you just need to do is configure some settings, feed it your content (text, images, etc.) and it will do the rest!
I am not going to explain how to start a website from scratch where you design everything yourself using web “programming” languages like HTML, CSS, etc. That is a very involved process and something that can’t really be taught here. For the everyday person, blogger, artist, writer, etc., just stick with the basics here for now. Then you can always do some research of your own should you find yourself wanting to do more.
Step 1: Coming up with Your Website’s Domain Name
The first thing you want to do is think of the name for your website. Once you’ve got it, you’ll need to register it. This is necessary because the internet gods (ICANN) need to know who you are. It’s not so that they can track you or have access to your home computer or any kind of conspiracy theory stuff like that. The main reason is for everyone’s safety. They want to make sure that the companies involved with hosting your website have record of who the owner is, especially in cases where websites are often used for illegal purposes.
There are 2 ways you can register your domain: publicly and privately.
When you register your domain, your name and address are required, but nothing like your social security number or driver’s license. Just the basics. When you register a public domain, your full name and address are made available for anyone in the public to lookup (unless you have a third party like a lawyer that can register for you).
In this day and age, privacy is very important, therefore I recommend registering a private domain. The personal information above is still required. However, by registering a private domain, the information that will be made public is that of the company that you use to register your domain. Your personal information is kept confidential and on the back end, and only made available to certain authorized parties requesting it, like an authority or a company lodging a complaint against you because you are selling knock-off name-brand shoes.
Step 2: Registering the Domain Name
A domain registrar typically is a company that strictly registers your website name. In most cases, they do not have servers where you can setup your website. That’s the web hosting service.
The web hosting service not only has the servers and web applications for you to run your website, but they can also help you register your domain.
I don’t really know the advantages and disadvantages between registering your domain with a registrar or web hosting company, so you may need to look into that yourself if you feel so inclined. It may be wise to register a private domain with a separate registrar, so that if you are unhappy with your web hosting service, you can switch to another service without the headache of having to also switch your domain name.
The cost of registering a domain is usually around $10 or less per year. Keep in mind that there is an annual renewal, usually for the same price. If you do not renew, you’ll lose the domain name and someone else could end up taking it.
Step 3: Finding a Web Hosting Service
All you have to do is a simple search of “top web hosting companies” or something along those lines and go from there. There are a ton of web hosting companies out there. In today’s world you really can’t go wrong picking one of the top recommended ones, especially if you are looking to run a simple website. I’m not going to list any or provide a “best of” list here, especially since the information can end up being dated or a company goes out of business (not to mention the fact that I’m not here to promote any particular company).
Try not to over analyze and get lost in the weeds, i.e. scrutinize every single detail between multiple web hosting companies. Most of the recommended web hosting companies pretty much offer the same thing with some minor differences. Most are reliable, fast, and have the same web applications that are easy to setup and get you going. You really can’t go wrong!
When it comes to cost, web hosting companies pretty much are very competitive. For a basic website, you’ll probably pay around $15 a month, maybe $20. It depends on the different packages available provided by each different web hosting service. You don’t really need the biggest and most expensive plan available. Those are usually for big companies.
Since we are going to use WordPress to run your website in this example, at least for your first website, then I recommend finding a web host that offers the ability for you to install WordPress with “One Click”, meaning it’s very easy to install with minimum effort or website knowledge required from you.
Step 4: Accessing Your Web Hosting Service Control Panel
Once you have signed up with a web hosting service, they will provide you via email with the login credentials to access your website’s control panel. This is like accessing the brains behind your website. It’s where everything is handled. It is an overload of information and can be very overwhelming if you’ve never seen anything like it before. You’ll find everything from changing your billing information or web hosting package to analytics about who visited your website, the ability to upload files directly to your website space, and so much more.
I’m going to keep it very simple here because we can easily get lost in the wealth of information available in the Control Panel / back end of your website. Put please, feel free to poke around and become acclimated and familiar with everything available to you. And most especially you’ll need to locate the place where you can install WordPress.
Step 5: Installing WordPress On Your Website
WordPress is a Content Management System which basically means it manages all of your content for you! Think of it like an app or an Operating System program, but accesssed via the internet! All you have to do, when you access it, is configure it and feed it content, whether that content is text for a page title or text and images for an article. From there, with a few clicks of a button, your content is published for the world to see! It really is that simple!
The first thing you need to do is install WordPress. Somewhere in your Control Panel you should find links to do this. If not, hopefully your web host has Live Chat or an FAQ that will tell you how. Then all you really need to do is click a link or button in the Control Panel, and the web host will install WordPress on your website! This setup process may ask you for information, like a database name, password, and maybe where to install WordPress. If you are unsure about any of that, you can easily do a web search or find some installation help on the WordPress site. Basically, a website database is a record keeping program. It’s just rows and rows of data often containing text, or sometimes file locations that tell WordPress where certain images are stored on your website’s server. I don’t want to spend too much time on all this and get technical, but that’s pretty much it in a nutshell.
Step 6: Configuring WordPress
Once WordPress is installed, you should be given a link that takes you to the login page for WordPress on your website. You are basically accessing a program (WordPress) that is installed at the web hosting company that hosts your website. Nothing is installed on your own computer, besides any login information you choose to save in your browser when accessing WordPress, just like any other website that requires you to login.
WordPress was first meant primarily for bloggers if I’m not mistaken. However, you don’t have to use it that way! But because of its inherent nature, you need to be aware that WordPress will be setup to allow random people on the internet to comment on anything you post to your website or register as users. This doesn’t mean they can access your WordPress or Control Panel. You will need to access the WordPress Settings to configure how or if you want people to comment and register. If you don’t want randoms to comment or register, then you’ll want to disable these settings. That’s what I do. If you can’t find these settings, then you may need to install a Plugin. Plugins are like apps developed by third parties that expand the ability of WordPress.
Again, feel free to poke around and see everything that WordPress is capable of doing. You really can’t break anything, and if you do, you can always access your Control Panel to uninstall and then reinstall WordPress. If you are unfamiliar with WordPress and need guidance, there is plenty of online help available.
WordPress security plugins are highly recommended. Just browse the “recommended” plugins for anything security related. You should find a few popular or highly recommended security plugins. These aren’t too necessary if you are not planning to update your website often. It’s just an extra precautionary measure that could help prevent some headaches from potential hackers. I would recommend installing at least one of the recommended ones.
WordPress Themes are what you will want to explore before launching your website. These basically are templates that will give your website a certain look and appeal. There are a ton to choose from. Once you install one you like, you will find additional settings for the theme that you can configure under the Appearance menu in the WordPress navigation menu. You can change the Theme’s colors, sometimes the layout of its menus, etc.
Step 7: Enter Some Content & Launch Your Website!
Once WordPress is configured the way you like, it’s time to enter some content!
WordPress Pages are the separate sections of your website that visitors can click on via a menu and access, like the menu here on my website. You can have an “About Me” Page where you enter certain text about yourself, a Page for your photos, and almost any other reason you can think up for having a page. Pages are usually static, meaning, nothing is published to them and they do not update or change until you actually edit the content of the Page itself. Once you create a Page by clicking on the “Add New” page button, and enter some content, you click the “Publish” button and voila! The content will then be made public! Congratulations! You’ve created your first Page! Huzzah!!
WordPress Posts is where you create articles or “blog” entries that publish to the main portion of your WordPress website, but usually not to a static Page like mentioned above. Once you create a new Post by entering some text and adding any accompanying images or media, such as an announcement of your latest art piece with a picture of it, or where your band will be performing next with a picture of the flyer, or any other kind of free expression and free speech you’d like to make publicly seen by the world, you click the Publish button, and voila! It’s now made publicly available on the landing page of your website for the world to see! And to be found whenever someone does a relevant search.
WordPress Plugins are where you can find third party apps that expand the functionality of WordPress. Maybe you have a collection of photos that you want displayed on your website. There are some Plugins that will allow you to upload photos and then make WordPress display the photos on your site! Maybe you want some questionnaires, polls, or a forum that visitors can participate in. You’ll find a ton of Plugins for almost anything you can imagine. Dig around and you might find something you like!
What if you want to sell products on your website?
That is a whole other ballgame. It most likely will involve setting up your website with an SSL (security) certificate, which isn’t really that difficult to do. It will also most likely involve a store front web application of some kind that you setup and use to manage all the products you are selling. There are WordPress e-commerce plugins available, but I don’t know much about them nor how safe they are. This is something that you would need to research on your own or elsewhere since it goes beyond the simple nature of this article. Not to mention there are plenty of tutorials out there to help with this topic. Start with the basics first. Install WordPress, get some pages published, get your website up and running, then look into selling your art on your website as time goes on. If you run an Etsy shop, you might find that selling your works on your website saves you money!
That’s really all there is to it!
Of course, there’s a whole lot more I could go over, but I’m not here (nor do I have the time, unfortunately) to provide step-by-step tutorials with pictures or video for every single aspect of WordPress or how to navigate your web hosting service’s Control Panel (since they all differ from company to company anyway). Besides, there’s already plenty of those tutorials out there.
I just wanted to give you a very basic, bare-bones overview on how easy it really is to setup and run your own website. Especially if you are someone who wants their voice to be heard, or you are an indie artist looking to have a website to display your work, but maybe are intimidated on what is involved with running a website. Even if you find out you don’t like it, at least you gave it a shot!
I hope this helps. And if you ever happen to setup a website because of this, please feel free to Contact me. I’d love to see it!