So you want to build a website. That’s great! You decided to go with a self-hosted option, so you signed up for a web hosting package. And now you’re staring at your dashboard wondering where to go next. What steps do you take to actually get your website up and running?
Don’t worry. With this quick guide, we’ll help you go from having just a web hosting account to having a fully functioning website.
Step 1: Set Up Your Domain Name
If you don’t already have a domain name, you’ll want to purchase one. You can go through any domain name provider, but it can be easier to set one up if you purchase your domain name through your host (if they offer this option). If you go through your host, the process should be as easy as choosing and registering a domain name.
Depending on your host, you may have already chosen your domain name during the sign-up process. Some hosts also feature one free domain, so you may not have to spend anything to set up your first one.
If you buy your domain from a different provider, it can be a bit trickier to associate it with your account, although not impossible. To do this, you’ll have to update your domain’s nameservers. Your nameservers control where your domain reaches its files when people visit your website. Matt has already covered how to do this in step two of “So You Registered a Domain Name. Now What?”
Step 2: Install Your CMS
Next, you’ll need a content management system (CMS) so that you can start building your website and adding content. One of the most popular content management systems is WordPress. As an added bonus, it’s free, so you won’t have any added costs associated with this software.
The other good news? Most hosting companies feature an easy-to-install WordPress options. Simply navigate to your dashboard, and you should see a website management or applications panel. In there, you should find several web builder options, including WordPress. You don’t have to choose the WordPress software if you don’t want to, but it comes with its advantages, such as being free and ultra user-friendly. Simply click to install, and you’re ready to start building your website!
If you’ve already built your website, you’ll have to upload your site’s files using an FTP account. Your host should have instructions on how to do this.
If you’re switching from one host to another, you can read more in-depth on how to do this in “How to Switch to a New Host – With No Downtime.”
Step 3: Build Your Website
Now that you have a content management system, you can start building your website. Your host should have sent you an email detailing how to access your CMS dashboard. For WordPress, for example, you would go to http://www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin and then enter the login credentials your host emailed to you.
Start by choosing a theme. In WordPress, simply go to Appearance > Themes, and browse free and paid options. Alternatively, you can upload your own theme if you had a custom one made or purchased one outside of the system. After you install your theme, click on the Customize button, or go to Appearance > Theme Options to make custom changes. If you’re familiar with HTML coding, you can also go to Appearance > Editor to change the layout, colors, and more about your theme.
Next, go to your Pages tab and edit the content on your home page. Add more pages as necessary, and then go to Appearance > Menus to change how your pages appear on your navigation tab. Finally, go to Appearance > Widgets to arrange your sidebar and footer content. Don’t be afraid to explore other options, such as the general settings, before you announce your website’s launch.
Step 4: Check That Your Site Is Live
Depending on how you set up your account, your website is probably already live. Type your domain name into your address bar just to be sure. If this doesn’t take you to the website you built, you may have to update your domain nameservers. If you’re still having trouble, you’ll want to contact your host to pinpoint the issue.
Extra Things You Can Do:
Once you have web hosting, there are a few extra steps you can take to settle in. They’re not required by any means, but you may find the steps below useful.
Set Up an Email Account
Many web hosts offer email services where you can create a custom email associated with your domain, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. You can use this email for business or admin purposes. There should be an “email accounts” section on your dashboard where you can set up accounts and access your inbox. The good news is that a lot of web hosts support free email addresses as part of your hosting package.
Purchase or Activate Your Addons
Addons come in addition to your basic hosting package. Some examples include extra domain names, domain name privacy, SSL certificates, a dedicated IP, site backup services, and more. Even if some of these options came with your hosting package, you may still have to activate them from your dashboard, so don’t be afraid to explore your addon service options to see what’s available with your hosting package and what you can add for a small fee.
Add a Subdomain
A subdomain is an extension of your primary domain. mail.yahoo.com, for example, is a subdomain of Yahoo.com. A subdomain acts as a unique web address for a particular area of your site. For instance, if you wanted to set up a business website and a blog, you could choose something like blog.yourdomain.com to make that area of your site memorable while still being easy to access for customers.
Not all website owners will want or need subdomains, but if you do, the process is pretty easy. For most hosts, simply navigate to Domains > Subdomains from your dashboard. Then decide on the subdomain you want and choose the folder from which the subdomain will load its content.
Going from having a hosting account to having a full-fledged website doesn’t have to take a lot of work. The steps mentioned above can get you started in mere minutes. If you ever have a specific question on where to find files or perform certain functions, be sure to contact your hosting provider as the processes will vary from host to host.
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