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Step One: Choose Your Platform

A platform, also known as a Content Management System (CMS), is where you make changes to the website you’ve created. It’s how you add new pages, create blog posts, and change the layout and color scheme. The platform makes it easy to maintain and update your site on a regular basis.

Think of the platform as the bones of your website. Just like some houses are built from stone and some are built from wood, your website will be built upon your choice of platform.

You don’t need to get too caught up in the technical details of what this means. All you need to know is that your website needs to be built from something (your platform).

So which platform should you use?

For most sites, I’d suggest WordPress as your best choice of website platform.

As you can see below, the overwhelming answer for over half of the websites on the Internet with a CMS is the WordPress website platform.

Most Popular Site Building Platforms (CMS) Of 2017

Most used CMS’s of 2016
Source: OpenSourceCMS

There are many free website builder options available, but I’d still suggest using one of the mentioned platforms.

With a free website builder plan, you can set up a blog, but that’s usually about it. This blog will probably have ads on it which you can’t control, which isn’t ideal either. And as soon as you want to make any customizations to your site, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan anyway.

Now, I’m going to walk you through the simplest and most popular platform options. If you’re already chosen your platform, skip down to step two.

Platform #1: WordPress

  • I’d recommend you use the WordPress platform.
  • I primarily recommend WordPress for most websites due to it’s ease of use. If you’ve used Microsoft Word, you can use WordPress. (Note: This is WordPress.org, not WordPress.com, which offers free sites).
  • WordPress is totally free, making it an incredibly cost-effective platform.
  • It’s responsive, meaning it works really well on tablets and mobile devices, which is absolutely essential these days. If your site doesn’t work well on mobile, no one will want to visit it. I mean, seriously, have you visited one of those sites? They’re absolutely atrocious.
  • WordPress is the most robust, most popular platform, powering about 25% of all websites. If you’re primarily looking for a blogging platform, it’s hard to beat WordPress.
  • Because of it’s massive use, there is a huge support community, which means that if you’ve got questions, you won’t have any trouble finding answers.
  • Creating pages and blog posts in WordPress is really easy, and there is a massive library of around 40,000 open-source plugins which you can use to accomplish just about anything on your site.
  • Plus, WordPress also has thousands of free templates, allowing you to endlessly customize the look and feel of your website.
  • In terms of ease of use, resources available, and overall flexibility, it’s really difficult to beat WordPress. It’s almost a no-brainer, although some people would prefer other platforms.
  • One caveat: You do need to be careful with installing random plugins since many of them haven’t been sufficiently tested. Installing a buggy plugin can jack up your site.
  • If you’re choosing WordPress as your platform (and you probably should), skip ahead to step two now.

Platform #2: Joomla

  • Joomla is a bit more difficult to use than WordPress, but is still relatively simple. Like WordPress, you can create blog posts, edit pages, and customize website settings.
  • And like WordPress, Joomla also has a large database of free plugins, which you can use to customize your site. Keep in mind that these plugins are not always tested, so they too can pose some security risks for your site.

Platform #3: Drupal

  • Drupal is significantly more complex than WordPress or Joomla, and will have the steepest learning curve. However, it does offer the most customization options.
  • Rather than plugins, Drupal offers modules, and Drupal indicates which of these modules is being actively developed, which in turn helps you avoid the security risks.
  • Unless you really know your web development, I’d recommend sticking with WordPress for creating your website. It’s powerful enough to accomplish just about anything, without the difficulty of Drupal or Joomla. If you’re determined to develop a complex web tool or app, you might want to hire a veteran developer or development firm.

Step One Summary
THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT STEP:

Decide which website platform you’ll use. I’d highly recommend the WordPress platform, but Joomla and Drupal are other popular choices. Don’t worry about setting this up yet, just determine which platform you plan to build on.
Keep reading this guide: You can get your website up and running in no time!

Step Two: Pick A Hosting Provider

After choosing your platform, the first step making your website is to give your site a home (cue Happy Gilmore screaming, “Go to your home!”).

A website is nothing more than a collection of files, and these files need to be stored somewhere. Every blog post is a file. Every image is a file. Everything associated with your website is a file of sorts, and they all need to be organized properly and stored in a safe location so other people can access them.

You will be storing (or hosting) your files on a server, so that people can access them through the Internet. When someone types in “www.YourWebsiteAddress.com” into their browser, they will be taken to the server hosting your files.

Step Three: Pick Your Hosting Package

  • Shared Hosting
  • Cloud Hosting
  • WordPress Hosting
  • VPS Hosting

Step Four: Choose Your Site’s Name

Now that you’ve picked the perfect hosting package, it’s time to select the domain name for your new website. The domain name is what people will type into their web browser to get to your site (e.g. www.Buzzfeed.com, www.Google.com).

When selecting a name, there are a few things to consider:

  • Ideally, the name should be relatively short.
  • www.RoundhouseKicksOnAHotTinRoofInSummer.com probably isn’t the best choice.
  • The name shouldn’t be too similar to an existing, well established site.
  • Stay away from www.HoofingtonPost.com for your bareback horse riding website.
  • The name should be (relatively) memorable.
  • Think of your favorite sites. They have names that stick in your brain. You don’t want people struggling every time they have to type in your web address.
  • It should be (relatively) brandable.
  • Your website is going to be one of central places where all your branding takes place. Thus, you want your site to be something that you can build your brand on and around.
  • Don’t choose something where typos can happen.
  • Don’t make your name overly complex, like www.198BrillX466C.com. It’s too tough to type, impossible to remember, and will lead to typos, which will send people away from your site.
  • The good news is, most hosting websites will suggest names for you if your name of choice isn’t available.

If www.Widgets.com isn’t available, it will suggest things like www.BigWidgets.us, www.NewWidgets.com, etc. You may need to play around a bit to find the perfect name.

Remember, the name is important, but your website won’t succeed or fail simply based on a name alone. Pick the best available and then keep going.

These days, you can add funny extensions to your name, like “.pizza” and “.ninja”. In rare cases, these may be appropriate for your business, like if you sell pizza or train ninjas.

But most of the time, go with the standard “.com”, “.net”, or “.org”. It looks more professional.