Yes, you can create and own a website or two - or more! Best of all, it's easy. Let's get started with your first website.
First, decide whether you want to make a:
- social network
- e-commerce store site
- question-and-answer site
And yes, any of these are possible, without needing to know any coding skills. Mark Zuckerberg is not the only person allowed to make a social network! You can do any of the above - we'll show you how. Right here.
Step 1. Get a domain
Pick a domain name you'll like and register it. We recommend NameSilo or Namecheap to register your domain. You can use GoDaddy, although I don't like them so much because they have a confusing checkout process where they're always trying to upsell you on something. For the beginner (or even for the more advanced person!) NameSilo is a highly reputable domain name registrar, and by far the easiest to use. No mess, no fuss. NameCheap is also good - shop around between NameSilo and NameCheap to get the best deals.
Be sure that you're not planning to use the domain in a way that could violate trademark law (or other laws). At the same time, so long as legal aspects are covered, don't over-think it.
It's better to get started on a good-but-not-amazing domain name than to waste weeks agonizing over domain name choices.
Remember, the sooner you have a site up, the sooner it can start earning money.
Step 2. Get web hosting
I bet you can't wait to have your first site go live, and to do that you'll need web hosting. Luckily, prices are favorable now compared to what they used to be. You should be able to host your domain for under $5 a month (or under $10 a month max) using any of the hosts we recommend in this page. That means a whole year of web hosting works out cheaper than the cost of a top and pants. Unlike a top and pants, your website has the potential to earn you money. Awesome. Plus, any of these basic hosting accounts can be upgraded for very little extra to host multiple websites if you decide later to do that. At first, select the most basic account option, because you can always upgrade it later to expand as needed.
We recommend the most basic Shared Hosting account any of the following:
- A2 Hosting - we use it ourselves for some of our sites and love it.
- People's Host - their most basic plan allows for multiple domains, unlike the others. They're a little pricier to begin with, but the advantage is you won't need to upgrade your plan when you start your second site.
- SiteGround - a good solid all-around choice.
These are listed in no particular order. All are reputable, high-performance and cheap. Most importantly, they all deliver the "must-have" features that you need, but which other hosts don't always include all together. These features are: email, cPanel (that's a standardized control panel to manage your sites), Softaculous (1-click installation of free website software that you'll need - plus 1-click backup and restore), and free or cheap SSL (https) options.
Those are absolute must-have features: if you're with a host that doesn't offer all of them together then you'll have a much more difficult and more time-consuming experience managing your sites. I personally steer clear of hosts that don't offer all of these. For example, I don't even touch Bluehost or GoDaddy as a host because they don't offer all of those features together. So, if you go with a host outside of my list, great, but make sure it still offers all of the necessary features I listed above.
The illustrations I use in the tutorials here at Purely Space will work equally on all of the hosts I listed above, because they all use the same standardized setup via cPanel and Softaculous, so what I'm showing you at my end will look the same at your end. This is another reason I'd recommend these, and why you should steer clear of hosts with a custom control panel.
3. Point your domain name to your host
Once you sign up at a web host, the welcome email you've received from your host will give you instructions for how to point your domain name to your web host. Don't worry if you've never done this before - it's especially simple for shared hosting like what you'll have at this point.
To carry out the instructions in the welcome email, log into your domain name registrar (NameSilo, NameCheap, etc), and look where to change or update the nameservers for your domain. You should have no problems with this. The name of your new nameservers will be in the welcome email from your web host. Simple.
4. Deploy the type of site you need using Softaculous
This final part is easy! Just remember what type of site you wanted from the first step. Softaculous lets you deploy your site software easily in just one click. Here's every step of what you'll need to do:
Log into cPanel (your username and password will be given to you in the welcome email by your hosting provider). Typically the login page is located at yourdomainame.com/cpanel. So navigate there, put your username and password into the 2 boxes, and you'll see a screen that looks something like this:
Your cPanel home
Then scroll down until you see "Softaculous" and click on any of the icons inside the "Softaculous" box below. Note that the exact location of the different boxes on your cPanel may vary from one host to another, but rest assured the hosts we showed you here will have it somewhere on that main cPanel page.
The Softaculous software installer section on your cPanel home page
After clicking, you'll see a rather different screen, like this:
Your Softaculous main main page
At this point, the button for you to click will depend on what type of site you desire - it's listed below. And you need not feel restricted to only these ones I'm recommending - if you don't like any of these, you can try any of the other types of sites on Softaculous. Rest assured all the options I'm recommending in this tutorial are suitable for a beginner, no coding experience required.
Use the left side categories to find the button you're looking for.
If you want a blog... Click on Blogs, then Wordpress
To generate a social network... click on Social Networking, then Dolphin
For an e-commerce store... click on E-Commerce, then X-Cart
To set up a forum... click on Forums, then FluxBB
To make a question-and-answer site... click on Others, then Question2Answer
No matter which one you chose, you'll wind up with a screen that looks something like this below. The name of the software will be different, but the overall look will be the same:
Then click on the "install" tab that I've circled above. You're almost done.
That tab will have boxes to fill out like those above. Don't worry! This is simpler than it seems. Remember in worst case scenario, if something doesn't work out, you can always start over at the click of a button. It's not like a home improvement project where you can quickly get into problems that are hard to undo. Starting over in setting up a website is so easy.
So go for it! Fill out the options for what you want, but let me guide you in 3 places where it might be confusing for a beginner:
- For "protocol" it will depend if you already have a free SSL cert pre-installed (A2 Hosting does that by default). If you know you have an SSL cert installed or if you're with A2 Hosting, select "https://". If you don't know, or if you're not with A2 Hosting select "http://" (there are other easy ways to switch your site to https later after you get your free SSL cert set up). All the hosts we recommended will have the option to add SSL for free; they just don't all come with the cert already active.
- For the question "install in directory" - the answer is leave this field blank unless you have a reason not to! Yes, it's very tempting to put something there, but in virtually all cases you specifically want to leave this blank. That field tells the installer where on your domain you want your site to appear. Most site owners want it to be at mydomainname.com so that when people navigate to your domain name, they'll see your site right away on the home page. So to get that to happen, leave the field blank, don't type in anything in "install in directory". If you typed something there, like myexperiment , your blog or forum etc will then appear at http://mydomainname.com/myexperiment (but not at http://mydomainname.com). So, leave the field blank unless you have a particular reason such as keeping a pre-existing site at mydomainname.com. For the beginner starting from scratch, leave it blank.
- At the bottom, expand out the "Advanced" options. For security reasons, change the desired database name and database prefix away from the defaults. Any random series of numbers or letters is fine; stick with the same number of characters as the defaults.
Everything else should be self-explanatory. When you've filled out the fields, press the "Install" button at the bottom and wait! It could be up to 5 minutes for the install to complete, so don't worry if it takes a little while. Well done! And, no coding was required by you.
5. Log into your site, set up, and you're done!
Once install is completed, you'll want to set up your site with a title, adjust your settings, and so on. For this you'll want to open two fresh browser windows.
In the first window, navigate to http://mydomainname.com (replacing that with your actual domain name, obviously). This will give you an idea what the default site will look like. No matter what type of site you installed, your default site will be just a "stub" without much happening. The default often isn't even all that pretty, so don't despair! Rest assured after spending a few minutes adjusting your settings, playing around with the themes, background, and so on, you'll have something that looks polished. So let's go ahead and do that!
Remember the username and password fields it asked you on the install page? (If it did not ask you for a username, then use the email address you entered in the install page as the username).
On your other browser window (the blank one you pulled up), navigate to your admin page and log in. The address for your admin page will depend on what type of a site you installed. This is shown below:
- For a Wordpress blog, go to mydomainname.com/wp-admin
- In the case of the Dolphin social network, go to mydomainname.com/administration Note that Dolphin will suggest you buy a license, but we can assure you that's not necessary, so don't fall into that trap! You can continue using it for free without providing any information by clicking on "continue trial". We've used it ourselves. You can host even a large network as long as you like on the free version.
- For an X-Cart e-commerce store, go to mydomainname.com/admin.php
- In the case of FluxBB forum, go to mydomainname.com/login.php Just log in like a regular user, but with your administrator username and password, and an extra menu option called "Administration" will appear; click on that to get to your admin panel.
- For Question2Answer, go to mydomainname.com/index.php , and again this is one where you simply log in on the main site with your administrator username and password, and then an extra menu called "Admin" will appear; use that to access your admin options.
Play around with the options, and enjoy setting up your site the way you want! You're off to a great start.
Later you will need to add some content (for a blog), products (for e-commerce), or find a way to attract users (social networking, forum and question-and-answer). This is awesome - you've set up your brand new site really fast.