How to Start a Website

A collection of articles and resources to help you figure out your first, or next, step in starting your website

With over 15 years of experience creating websites for clients, I started to realize there were questions nearly everyone thinking of starting a website had on their minds. In this page, I'm sharing with you the plain-english answers to many of those questions.



First things first: Planning a website

Instead of diving into your website project too fast, take some time to think through your strategy and goals.

Designing a website (or paying someone to design it for you) is not the first step, believe it or not!

The crucial first step to your website project is creating content that will engage your target audience(How to figure out who your audience is and what they need) and will help drive traffic to your website with keywords (What are keywords why are they important) and search engine optimization (How do I improve my search engine ranking on a budget). Read more about why content comes first.

Oh, you thought your website was a vehicle for marketing and advertising? I’m afraid not. (Websites aren’t marketing tools) Although a website can help you grow your business, a website isn’t like placing an ad, creating a commercial, or advertising in the telephone books of old. A website itself needs to be marketed, as I wrote about here. (8 tips on getting started marketing your website)




The Tools of Website Ownership

To start your own website, you’ll need certain tools in place. However I can’t stress enough — always start with well thought out, goal-driven and keyword-optimized content. This will give your website the best odds for success. Understanding what your target audience is likely searching for when looking for a business like yours will help you figure out the best keywords to use on your site, and it will help you in the following steps too.

Your domain name is one of the first things you’ll purchase for your website. A domain name is usually purchased alongside your web hosting. Think of web hosting like renting office space, and the domain name is the address. Your domain name is your “mywebsite.com”, although there are many other domain suffixes available now (including .art, .work, .us, .faith, or .me to name a few).

In terms of optimizing your site so that the search engines will show your site to people searching, choosing a domain name is very important. You’ll want a domain name that is easy to spell and easy to remember, and preferably with a good keyword relating to your website in it.

When it comes to web hosting and domain names, I love Namecheap! Here’s why I recommend them to all my clients and use them myself.


The Value of a User-Friendly Website

In my younger years, I always made things far more complicated than they needed to be. There’s something to be said for making things easy — easy to use, easy to maintain, easy to navigate, easy to understand.

Easy is good, especially when it comes to your website.

Ideally, your website should be both user-friendly to your target audience — the people you are trying to reach and sell to — and user-friendly to whoever is tasked with keeping it updated. Google and other search engines use different factors to judge the “usability” of a website (that is, how user-friendly it is) when deciding whether or not to share a website as a top result

One way to help your customers have an easier time using your website is to make sure it is mobile-friendly. You want your website to be easy to use and read while on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet.

You can also make a website more user-friendly by organizing your content in a simple, logical way.

A CMS like WordPress will make your website more user-friendly for whoever is updating and maintaining it. WordPress is not just for blogs but can power any kind of website with relative ease.


Learn and Grow with your Website

The best part about websites is how fluid the whole thing is, as opposed to being “one and done”. You are not stuck forever with your choices or mistakes. Do-overs on the internet aren’t too difficult.

When it comes to your website, it’s important to be always analyzing how your visitors are finding your website and using your website. This is done through programs like Google Analytics, which is free.

As a website owner, you can use Google Analytics to set goals and sales funnels for your website to see if your visitors are taking the actions you want them to take, or if there is a drop-off point somewhere along the way. Why does this matter? If you are losing people regularly at a certain point in the conversion or check-out process, you’ll know to look carefully at that spot for problems to fix or content to make clearer.

By looking at how different pages and articles are received by your audience, and whether or not people click on to make a purchase, you can plan out future content — creating more of what works, and fixing what doesn’t.


Recent posts about starting your website:

Writing an Ad Disclosure for your Blog or Website

For several years now, the FTC here in the United States has required that bloggers and website owners (basically all content creators) disclose to their audiences when they are being paid for an endorsement on their site or via social media. Thus, we need to have an ad disclosure on our websites if we allow […]

How to figure out your target audience
How to Figure Out Who Your Audience is, and What They Need

I’m convinced that the secret to home business (or any business) success is to first and foremost, figure out who your audience is, and what they need. Why is this? Once you know who your target audience is, you can better tailor your content to that audience develop products and services that meet the needs […]

Work Smarter, not Harder. How to easily keep traffic coming to your website
How to Easily Keep Website Traffic Coming Your Way

There are only so many hours in a day. No work from home mom wants to spend the bulk of those hours chasing website traffic. For most of us, the problem isn’t laziness or not working harder. Work Smarter Not Harder Hard work wasn’t as much of an issue in my life until two of […]

5 Essential Tips to Using Type Effectively for Bloggers & WAHMs

As a designer, I have a passion for, and a love of Typography and Fonts. I have quite a font addiction, in fact. Using type is a passion of mine. Over the years, learning more and more about the effective use of fonts in design, I’ve learned to temper this enthusiasm to selecting and using […]

must read books for new bloggers and website owners
Must Read Books (and courses!) for New Bloggers & Website Owners

Susanne recently asked me, Do you know of any good books to read about blogging or writing up my website for our business? We are getting ready to take our furniture business online. I feel ask though I have so much to say but I don’t know how to say it. Thanks. There are two […]

Tips for Writing an Effective About Page
How to Write an About Page for your Website

As most bloggers and website owners know, the About page is the most frequently visited page on any website, besides your home page. Learning how to write an about page is crucial. Website owners must give extra special attention to your about pages, to help your visitors get to know you better and see how […]

Categories vs tags: What are they and how should you use them on your website?
Categories vs Tags: What are They and How Should You Use Them?

When planning out your website, you’ll need to think about organizing your content. You may even wonder about categories vs tags. WordPress and other platforms use categories and tags to help organize content. Categories and Tags can be confusing and be intimidating for many new website owners. I can help you understand what categories and tags actually are. And […]

Why your website needs a start here page
How a Start Here Page Helps Your Readers

Adding a start here page to my website was one of the big changes I made to my website as I rebranded it last year. The start here helped my readers (especially first-time visitors) orient themselves with what I had available on my website and blog, and see how it would help them. Why You […]

If Wordpress is free, why am I paying you?
If WordPress is a Free Program, Why am I Paying You?

Confused about the expenses associated with having a WordPress website? You’re not alone. One question I received twice now is something along these lines: If WordPress (or Zen Cart, OS Commerce, Joomla, Squarespace, Drupal…) is a free program, why am I paying you? Let’s talk about it. What’s Included in the FREE Part? The part […]

In any Design Project, Content Comes first. If you don't create content first, how will you know how to design for it?
Why Content Comes First

One of the big changes I’ve made in how I do websites and other design projects for clients is to request all of the content for the project up front. Let’s talk about why. Designers Design Content The most obvious one is the very definition of web design. When designing for the web, or designing […]

6 Tips for Selecting a Domain Name
6 Tips for Selecting a Domain Name

One of the first things you’ll need to purchase before setting up your own website is a domain name. What is a domain name? A domain name is the address of your website. For example, the domain name for this address is ThoughtsandDesigns.com. The most common domains, or TLDs (Top Level Domains) end with .com, […]

My Process for Building Your Website

So, you want a website?   I’ve already written in other parts of my blog about how to find the purpose of your website improve your existing website and market your website. (you can read those posts by clicking on the links above). But what steps do I take to build your website after you […]