I recently created a personal website to launch my research and writing services on the web. As I shared the link to my new home on the internet with my social network, there was one comment that surfaced more than often.
I have been wanting to create my own website but no clue where to start. I need help!
This was me about a month ago. I created my first ever WordPress blog in 2012 but procrastinated about creating my own website for a really long time.
Many of us fear the technical terminologies surrounding the topic and create a mental block even before doing a simple search. We feel like we need an IT expert who will turn it into a time-consuming and expensive project for which we are not ready at the moment.
This is not true. I created my first website in two weeks. Though I believe this project can be completed even within a week (depending on your requirements of course!).
This article is dedicated to all my friends who may be facing a similar mental block and could use a fundamental understanding of the technical know-how to create their own website or portfolio. Start with these 3 simple steps:
Do your Research
The first part of the project is research. The research in this case is multilayered.
A. Know the difference domain name, a web server and a website platform
A clear distinction between these three terms is enough to get started with a website. Let me try and explain with a simple analogy.
Let us say your website is your home on the internet. The domain name represents the address of your house. In my case, my house address is www.vrindabhagat.com. If you have a business, you will choose a domain name that syncs well with the branding for your business.
Since we are focusing on personal branding, your own name is a safe bet because that is how your audience remembers you naturally. But if you’re selling a service, you can choose to be creative in selecting a domain name.
Some of the most common places where you can buy domain names are GoDaddy, DreamHost, Hover, and the list goes on. On an average, the cost of buying a domain name is between 3–15$ every year.
Now this home exists in a particular residential area. The web server is that residential area. This is where your home is found on the internet. Because you are renting the place in the residential area, you would pay a rent for it. In technical terms, this space rental arrangement on web server is called hosting.
You can host your website either on a shared server such as Carrd, Blue Host or go for an all inclusive package on Wix, WordPress or Squarespace, depending on your budget. Typically, the cost of shared hosting stays between 4–15$.
To construct your home, you need material to build it. The website platform represents the material in this analogy.
To build your website, you need a platform where it can be published. WordPress is the largest publisher of websites in the world. However, in the space of personal branding Wix and Squarespace is quite popular too. All of these provide in-built features which serve many purposes. The first is that you do not have to write a code for your website. You can create pages, blog posts and add other design elements on these platforms.
B. Choose the platform on which you would design your personal website
Once clear on the technical terms, the next big step in the process is to finalize the platform. The choice of platform will depend on few factors such as your design needs, your comfort with features and the budget.
Wix is a good option if you are building a static website. However, if you are building a Wix site you can only host it on Wix server. This could be a good thing if you think finding a shared hosting service will be a hassle for you.
WordPress is a great choice (personally my favorite!) if you have bought the domain name and found a server to host it. You can start using this open source software to publish your content.
Choose your Design
This is the most fun part of designing a website and yet very overwhelming. At this stage, you are already on the platform of your choice. Now you have to make the big selection: Theme.
There are zillions of theme designs available today to choose from. You can look for themes on Theme Forest or Envato Elements.
Themes are also found on your platform’s dashboard, classified into categories. You may want to explore various categories before finalizing one. For instance, you may like a theme from the Travel category rather than personal website category. If you feel that your content will be better published in a theme for another category, go for it because these themes can be easily customized.
The main purpose of these themes is to give you an idea or a demo of how the final looks of your website would be like. However, it can quickly get overwhelming because of the number of choices available. Once you have made the selection, then the next step is putting the content together.
If you’re taking up your website project independently, you would have to balance between your design and content elements. Both of these work hand in hand, and you may need to do a few iterations before you like what you see. Make sure you run a few trials, experiment and give enough time to create something that not only brings out the relevant information but is also aesthetically appealing.
Run a Review
Make sure you pass your website through a fresh pair of eyes. By the time, you would finish putting the design and content together, there will be some back and forth. You would need some feedback before you actually share your website with the rest of the world. This will not only help you in pointing to any flaw but also give you some idea on how is your content perceived. When I published my website for the first time, a dear friend proof read it for me. In no time, she was able to point a few elements which were not really pieced together. An honest feedback is very important, however make sure you do not overdo it, because otherwise you will not be able to ship it.
My website design sprint lasted two weeks. I spent 2 days in initial research, approximately 10 days in designing and content creation and 3 days in collecting feedback. I also referred to a LinkedIn Learning course on WordPress for some guidance on the way. It helped me understand the technical terms distinctly and in addition I learnt about some new editing features now available on WP. I am happy that now I have a home on the internet that represents my professional journey so far.
I hope you find this information helpful and get started. If you would like any help during the process, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.