How to Make Your Own Website (or Online Portfolio) in One Day for Under $150
It seems too good to be true, but you can absolutely create a stellar website in a full day (or weekend, if you’re taking your time) for under $150. I do it all the time. For students, professionals, and small businesses, creating a website in WordPress is easy and effective. The best part is you do not need to be web developer or know a bit of HTML to do it! With a full day, access to Google & YouTube, and some patience, you can create your own website without a problem.
Before you get started, sit down and brainstorm. What is the purpose of your website? What do you want your website to do? What pages do you want to include? The more clear answers you have to these questions, the quicker you will speed through the website creation process.
1. Get Hosting
I highly recommend BlueHost. They are really inexpensive and, unlike many of their competitors they don’t try to upsell you and confuse you into buying products you don’t need or want. For $71.40 ($5.95/month), you get easy reliable hosting for 1 year. You can’t beat that price, and you can set up WordPress in 1 click. Plus, they give you your domain for free (saving you $10-$20/year). I find their live chat customer service to be very helpful as well.
2. Set up WordPress
Once you set up your hosting, log into it and follow their WordPress set up wizard. They offer you step-by-step instructions of how to do so (both in video and written steps with pictures, whichever you prefer using).
3. Find & Install a Theme You Like
WordPress offers many themes that you can use for free. On the left panel of WordPress, under “Appearances,” click “Themes.” You can browse the themes they offer. They also offer you the option to upload your own theme (NOTE: this is only available if you pay for hosting/use wordpress.org, if you use wordpress.com you must use one of their themes).
I have never used a WordPress theme, I always use themes from ThemeForest.net. These are called “premium themes” because you pay for them. Often times they come with features and customization that you don’t get with free themes. It does take an extra step to set them up, but if you follow instructional videos it is not hard. Since there are so many themes available, what I do is open the ones I like in separate tabs, click “live preview,” then narrow it down from there. That side-by-side view helps to compare the themes. If you do not know how to tweak colors, make sure you like the colors schemes they ofter or check to see if they offer unlimited color options.
4. Move Into & Customize Your Theme
For me, this is the fun part. Upload your own logo, change the colors, and create the pages you want. If you buy a theme, your theme documentation will be your bible. Much like IKEA furniture directions, you should follow this very carefully step by step. If you’ve ever built a piece of IKEA furniture, you know that if you don’t follow their instructions you may find yourself hours into building it only to find you skipped a crucial step which will cost you hours upon hours to rectify. So, just follow the instructions, okay?
If you have limited-to-no design skills, I’ve compiled a list of resources below that you may want to utilize! These resources can come at a (usually very small) price, but help you achieve a really high-end, professional, custom look for your website.
5. Add Plug-Ins
To further customize your site, add plug-ins. There is a plug-in for everything you can think of.These allow you to add analytics to your website without have to touch any code. I suggest you add Disqus too so you aren’t flooded by spam comments.
The plug-ins I always use are:
- Google Analytics Dashboard: Just set up Google Analytics, enter your ID number, and you get great, free analytics.
- Official StatCounter: StatCounter gives you more analytics, some of which Google doesn’t offer. My favorite part is the Recent Vistor Activity. This gives you a snapshot, visitor by visitor, of where they came from, where they went, how long they were on your site, and even what network they connected through. This has tipped me off when someone from big agencies companies I am interested in are checking out my website.
- Disqus: Not only does this block out spam, but it makes sure people who leave comments do so with verified accounts. This helps to ensure that, if someone leaves a negative comment, you can respond to them to address it. In the case of businesses or controversial blog posts, this keeps away competitors or others who may want to hide behind anonymity in order to further their own goals. This happens more often than you would think.
- Platinum SEO: Boost your SEO by installing this plug-in and taking 1 minute to fill out its fields. This especially helps if you want to control the description, which is the part that shows up as the summary on search engines. Without it, the search engines will likely just take the first sentence or two and cut them off around the 160 character mark. Control your message by typing your own summary of your posts into Platinum SEO.
Anytime I think “I wish the website could do X,” nine times out of a ten there was a plug in to do it. For Jewelry Works, I found a plug in that allowed us to put a customer testimonial page on the site for people to leave reviews about the business. A friend of mine who has a restaurant found a plug-in to allow customers to place orders online.
When in doubt, search for a plug-in.
BlueHost: Hassle-free, inexpensive hosting with solid customer service
ThemeForest: Great premium WordPress themes. They offer the biggest selection of quality themes that I have found. Once you buy a theme, you can e-mail the theme developer directly with any questions you may have while setting up the theme.
iStockPhoto: High-quality photography helps make your site look professional and polished. Plus, it’s pretty inexpensive. If you click this link, you get 10 free credits to test it out. I use this on almost all of my websites. If you go to my homepage or the homepage of some of my clients (like Donati’s Pizza), all the photography you see is from iStockPhotography. For most websites, the XSmall or Small file sizes are plenty big. For example, my theme documentation told me that the “slider” or image area for Donati’s Pizza is 854 pixels wide by 248 pixels high, so I kept that in mind when purchasing an image. I knew that’s the biggest size I would need so I didn’t overpay for bigger images. Use Photoshop or Picnik plug-in to crop the pictures to the size your documentation indicates.
You can Google websites for free stock photography, but it is really hard to find the picture you are looking for for free, and in my experience it has cost me more time than it’s worth.
Flickr: Search for pictures you are looking for, but be sure to go to the advanced search and check the box for Creative Commons license. This will show pictures where the photographer has said that it’s okay to use their pictures for free as long as you give them credit. This can be a great resource for original photography, but I tend to use iStockPhoto because it’s easier and quicker to find exactly what you are looking for. To me, the cost is a small one, especially considering they reflect you and your work. It’s $20-$40 well spent!
Etsy: Many people love Etsy for their artisan jewelry and artwork, but did you know you can get digital design items here as well? For under $1.50-$5, you can get beautifully designed backgrounds that reflect your personality. Use the words “digital paper” to find these items.
ColourLovers: Sometimes I know what colors I want for a site, but not the exact color code (which you will need to customize your theme). ColourLovers’ library of palettes have been immensely helpful for me. Like themes, I open the palettes I like in seperate tabs and then narrow it down from there. The colors you use on your site can make or break your website, and if you choose your colors from a ColourLovers palette, you are almost guaranteed to have a very polished site since their palettes are mostly created by professionals.
StatCounter: I use this in conjunction with Google Analytics. They offer some numbers and info that Google doesn’t.
Craigslist: I highly suggest spending the money to have a pro create a logo for you if you don’t have a talented designer friend who will do it for you. I have found talented artists that create logos for me and my companies for just $100. When done right, you may use this logo for years and years to come! Plus, you can use it on your resume, business cards stationery, and more. Again, a logo is an investment in you. Like many quality products, the cost may be tough to swallow at first, but consider how much you will use it and how often; it’s something you will thank yourself for doing.