I’ve learned a lot from setting up my own website for five years, and I want to share it with you in this article! If you also want to create your own website, this will help you understand the basics of website structure and cost, and give you some useful keywords to start with!
A website consists of 5 essential parts: a Domain Name, which is how people find your website online; a Hosting Provider, which is where your website files are stored; a Site Building System, which is the tool that helps you build your website; a Template, which is the look and feel of your website; and Plugins, which are the add-ons that enhance your website’s functionality.
You don’t need to spend a lot of time or learn any computer programs to set up your own website. There are some amazing options out there that make it easy for you. I suggest you check out WordPress.com , which is the easiest to be searched, SQUARESPACE , which has tons of beautiful templates, or WIX , which has the easiest to use interface. These are all-in-one solutions for website setup that include everything you need: domain name, hosting provider, site building system, template, and plugins. You don’t have to buy or set up anything separately, and they also offer basic network security protection. All you have to do is pay a yearly fee and follow their easy steps, concentrate on creating your content and customising your website. You can create a great website for as low as $60~$200USD per year if you’re a blogger, or $400~$800USD per year if you want to sell products online.
You can create a great website with a low budget if you follow my example: buy everything separately and then assemble it yourself. The first thing you have to do is pick your Domain Name, which is like your address, your name for your website. This is something you need to get right from the start, because it’s not that easy to sell or buy back later. If you decide to switch to another domain name provider later, it will take 1~6 days and some additional fees. If you’re happy with your name and you want to keep your website for a long time, you should buy it for ten years upfront, because the price will increase every year. For example, I only paid $10USD/year for mine in the first year, but it jumped to $13USD/year in the second year, so I decided to make a good deal by buying it for ten years ahead of time. I purchased my domain name from Namecheap separately, so I can easily change my hosting provider later if I want to.
Choosing a good Host Provider can make files faster and easier to use, and also keep your internet connection smooth. When I first made my website, I used Google Cloud Platform . They gave me $300 USD off, so I got a big host for free for a year. But it was hard to use, the interface was too complicated! I often got lost and annoyed, there were so many things I didn’t need, and the things I did need were hard to find. But I also learned a lot from this free chance to make my website. If you want to save money and don’t mind have some trouble, you can try it too. Then I moved to SiteGround for three years, which was much simpler and nicer, and they had a big discount for new customers. But when I wanted to renew contract, the price went back to the original price, and the host space was like sharing an apartment with others, called Web Hosting (Shared Hosting), which sometimes made it slower or less stable. Moving is no fun, and neither is changing hosts, so it’s better to pick a good host service from the start. Now I use Cloudways , which is great because for the same price, it’s a VPS (Virtual Private Server), which means I have my own host space, like living in a big house by myself, and nothing can bother me. My website is faster and better, and hardly ever goes offline. The minimum storage capacity for buying a VPS is 1GB, and the price for a year will be around $140~$200USD.
For a Site Building System, I use WordPress.org to create my website. It’s a free open-source system, but it’s more difficult to learn. However, once you know how to use it, it gives you the most freedom and benefits. For example, you can use online payment plugins to turn your simple website into a store, without paying extra fees. But making a store involves a lot of things, like the security of the payment system, the timeliness of updating products, the accuracy of shipping, and the quality of after-sales service. It’s quite complicated. Building up an online shop is not a simple request that you can ask for. You have to be prepared to spend a lot of time or hire someone to maintain the system and provide good service. So if you are a new brand owner and customers don’t know you yet, maybe you can start selling on Instgram, etsy, shopify. You can use their interface and traffic for free, and just pay 2~4% commission for each sale. Or you can spend a bit more money and use one of the websites I mentioned above that have everything ready for you, and set up a store function there. That way, you can make your work easier.
You can pick a website Template that suits your style, whether you want a shopping mall or a blog, you have to consider that different visitors want the best way to visit your website. I used Avada , which is great for image websites, and it lets me customise and change my portfolio a lot. You can find many other website templates at Envato market , the ones that cost more than $60USD have better features. Pixelgrade also has some nice templates, many photographers and bloggers like them, you don’t have to worry about font size, colour matching, adjusting composition, just put your content in and it will look good. And guess what, these website tools have discounts at the end of November, Black Friday, you can wait until then to get a good deal!
Plugins are like different apps, some are free, some require subscription fees.You can use them to make your website better, like adding security, forms, image editing, e-commerce and more. But don’t use too many, maybe 15 or less, only the ones you really need, because too many will make your website slower, and also make it easier for hackers to get in.
Those are the five main parts of making a website, you can estimate how much it will cost you every year, and how much time you want to spend on it, based on what you need.
🚩I recommend that you start by making a lot of “content”, like getting your portfolio ready, or writing ten awesome articles, or snapping nice photos of the products you want to sell, then making a website will be a breeze. Otherwise, you might end up like me back then, spending a lot of time and money to make a website, but the website was empty and dull for two or three years, which can really make you feel bad.
🚩If your website has a lot of pictures like mine, you should try to keep the file size around 100KB and the resolution at 72dpi, this will make your website load faster and easier. You can use Preview on your Macbook to edit the photo size, or you can go to Squoosh website to compress the image file for free, and still keep the quality.
🚩If you are looking for a website tutorial in English, I recommend Ferdy Korpershoek . He keeps up with the fast-changing online tools, and he updates his videos constantly. He has studied all kinds of themes and templates, and his tutorials are very detailed and complete. If you follow his web design steps, you can increase your chances of success!
🚩If you want to learn how to make a website in mandarin, you can follow Wpointer.com, she helped me a lot when I was stuck with my website, I met her at a WordPress meetup. She thinks very clearly, and she immediately pointed out the problems I should focus on, her website tutorials are very systematic, and she even has a free course on how to make a website. Basically, if you follow her steps, you can easily make your own website in about five days. She also wrote a book recently, explaining the whole concept, so you don’t have to search online and read bits and pieces of scattered tutorials. The book is called Make Money with WordPress: Follow the Wpointer and Easily Make a Website without Programming, Become a Self-Media Manager, you can check it out if you are interested.
Of course, it’s normal to get stuck with different technical problems in somewhere, so don’t worry, you are not alone! I don’t plan to turn this into a website tutorial place, because the online world changes so fast, so I only share the most important tips and ideas, and some awesome online tutorials and video links, I hope you all can create your own favourite workflow, and make your website the best place to show your work!