11 Steps to Start a Website for Personal or Business Use

11 Steps to Start a Website for Personal or Business Use

When you start something new, all the required steps can be overwhelming, to say the least. And this is especially the case when you want to start a new website. I want to break down this complicated process for you in 11 steps.

I won’t promise that makes it easier, but it surely will give you a bigger sense of control, which does wonders for your peace of mind. A relaxed mind can be more creative and productive than a stressed one.

In this article, I describe 11 steps to start a website. I will add some information to each step. Either by describing it here or by providing the link to an extensive article I wrote about that specific issue.

Some of the links might be affiliate links. As an affiliate associate, I earn a small commission when you purchase any of the products offered through the shared links at no extra cost to you. This helps me to maintain this website.

What are the required steps to start a website?

The most important issue to determine when you start a new website is the WHY and WHO. What is your goal with your website and who do you want to serve with it?

Determine your target audience

Who is your target audience

Surely you will have an idea of what your website is going to be about. You have a hobby or a skill you want to monetize. Or you have an idea about a product that could really help people and will make you some money as a nice side issue.

Make sure your target group is not too large. It might seem great to have a product that can help everyone, but if you address everyone you will reach no one as a result.

Who are your competitors?

Have a look at what the competition is doing. Not to copy it, but modelling is fine at times. Remember that today’s competitor might be tomorrow’s joint venture partner. Don’t see your competition as the enemy but as a source to learn from and possibly become friends with.

Related: Where to Sell your Products of your Creative Hobby or Business

Mission

Your website is best seen as a business, and your why for a business is called a mission. Try to state your objective in one sentence.

“I help (… who) to achieve or create (… what) by (… how) because I (… can)”

What’s it all about

You can post your mission on your website, but it’s not a necessity. It must however be clear for yourself what your aim is. Write it down somewhere and pin it on a place you regularly see.

Product or service

You will solve a problem for your target audience. This can either be because you have a product or because you offer a service. Whether you do that for free or paid is a choice you have to make.

Goal

Make helping other people your biggest goal. You can still want to earn money as well, but if that is your main objective chances are high you won’t reach it. But if you truly help people they will be grateful enough to pay you for it.

Related: How to Make Money from your Hobby or Passion?

“I help fellow hobbyists expand their creativity through showcasing my own work and tutorials, having worked for many years as a teacher, graphic designer, and ceramist.”

Domain name

You need a domain name. Not right from the beginning, because you can start on a free platform, but probably at some point, you will want your own domain.

The most simple domain is of course your own name-something, like I have hanniemommers.com. It depends on what you plan to do afterwards. And with afterwards, I mean, if you want to stop your activities and/or your website.

I can never sell hanniemommers.com, because who wants to continue a website that bears someone else’s name? On the other hand, I could sell clevercreating.com.

Availability

A website name that describes an activity or a business has a lot of potentials if you do intend to sell the website later. A big advantage of a website name that refers to a specific activity is that it is easier picked up by search engines.

As you can imagine a lot of website names are already in use. Make a list of names you like and be flexible enough to change your desired website name a bit if necessary.

Tip

Don’t use a punctuation mark in a name. People remember words but have more difficulty remembering if there was any – or _ in it. It’s better to put it all together.

Tip

Don’t use a number signifying a word in your domain name, done4you. It has a similar disadvantage as a punctuation mark and it’s outdated.

Suffix

Planning and determining

What suffix to choose? Usually, if people hear a name and want to look for an accompanying website they will put .com behind the name. So if that is available, take it. If it is not available, search for something similar that still covers what you do.

A .com suffix is by far the most preferable one.

It is always possible you want to use your own name or have a business that already exists for quite some time and .com is not available. For local businesses, a national suffix will suffice, for instance, .nl or .es. Also, you can choose .eu or .info.

I wouldn’t recommend other suffixes unless there is a real good reason for it, like youtu.be has chosen to have the shortest name possible.

Hosting

Having a website means needing a host. Start for free so you can test the waters. In the meantime, you can look around what host you would like most.

Style

In business, they call style the corporate identity: it means the total identity of logotype, image elements such as lines or dots, font(s), colour (s) and the general visual image of a business or person. It’s what I have been developing and designing for 35 years for all kinds of businesses and solo entrepreneurs.

Related: What are the Rules of Corporate Identity that Can Stand the Test of Time?

Keep it simple and clear

If people get confused they will move on. A Dutch colleague calls it “Where is the banana?” Meaning, that we want to know right away what the website is about or else we’re off to the next website.

Your own website

Readability

Readability has 2 elements: language and design.

Even a website about difficult or scientific subjects should have short sentences and uncomplicated words. People that read a text on a web page have different standards and a different sense of patience than the same people reading a book.

The same applies to the design of a text. Reading off a screen appeals to our eyes differently than reading a paper page.

Related: How to Use Typography in Web Design? 7 Proven Do’s and Don’ts

Speed

Page speed is an important element. Pages with a long load time typically have a high bounce rate and a low average time spent on the page.

Stay fresh and up to date

You want your website to be found and indexed by search engines, like Google and Bing. Page speed is an important issue for this, but posting fresh content regularly is as well.

You decide on the interval. Giving yourself a deadline that way is very beneficial, I know from my own experience. Especially in the beginning, it’s no big deal what the interval is, it can be a month, 2 weeks, or a week. Even daily if you are someone who easily writes valuable content.

Testing

Ask a few people to check out your website as soon as you can show something. Not to respond to every whim someone may have, but to get an idea of how people perceive your website.

The ideal testing situation is when you sit next to the person viewing your website who is telling out loud why they are going somewhere and what their thoughts are.

Marketing

It’s nice when Google and Bing can find your website, it is better when people come, view and respond to your well-crafted articles.

I often hear people say “This product is so good, it will sell itself”. Forget it. No product sells itself. Not even when your company is called Apple or Microsoft. So you will need to market your website or the products on it.

Do it yourself or outsource

Join me on Wealthy Affiliate

In my opinion, you need to know the basics of what is needed for a good website. The best clients I had when I was a graphic designer were the ones that were interested in design. Not the ones that said, “Oh, just make something, it doesn’t matter much”.

This doesn’t mean you have to be a crack in all the different elements. We are not all all-rounders, far from it.

Ask help from friends or outsource where you are not good at. Fiverr is a good place to start if you want to outsource.

Required steps to start a website

  1. Determine your target audience
  2. Mission
  3. Domain name
  4. Style
  5. Keep it simple and clear
  6. Readability
  7. Speed
  8. Stay fresh and up to date
  9. Testing
  10. Marketing
  11. Do it yourself or outsource

In short, these are the required steps to start a website. Or do you think I forgot a step? Let me know in the comment box.

14 thoughts on “11 Steps to Start a Website for Personal or Business Use”

  1. Here are a great 11 steps on how to get started with your own website. Given that I only started on my own a few months ago, I still have quite a few of these steps to take. I like to gather information and upgrade my knowledge, and I really like it because you have shaped these steps into a nice transparent list with a description.
    A very useful article for beginners who are thinking about their own website or have just started building it. Thanks!
    Friendly greeting,
    Nina

    Reply
    • Great that it is of help, Nina. Feel free to ask additional questions if they come up while working on your website. Having a structure in your website, but also in your way of building is, is important and helps you to stay focused and not get overwhelmed. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Hi Hannie,

    This is a great guide to get people started with a website.

    A couple of points you’ve made really resonated with me.

    Firstly, having a mission or even a mission statement is a great idea. I think it gives the website creator a definite direction they would like to take their website in, plus the people who visit the site will have a clear idea of what’s on offer.

    This is extremely important, as one of the most important factors (in my mind) is to have people returning to your website over-and-over again, typically because they share the same values as you or the “mission” of your website is something that is close to their heart.

    I guess this way you can really strike a chord with your website visitors and they know exactly what to expect whenever they come to your site.

    I also like the fact that you have mentioned about “doing it yourself or outsourcing”. At the end of the day, most people who create a website are creating a business (although many people do this just for fun as well).

    And as with any business there will come a time when you can’t do everything yourself and therefore you will need to hire “employees”.

    With that said, I totally agree that you should master the basics yourself first before looking to outsource.

    I mean without a basic knowledge how will you ever know whether the work you have outsourced is any good or not?

    My suggestion would always be to spend at least the first 6 months doing everything yourself so that you have a good all-round knowledge of what it’s like to run a website, and what is needed for it to be successful.

    Once you’re at this stage it will be far easier to know what tasks you should outsource and what ones you should continue doing yourself.

    Let’s face facts, there are always certain tasks that we enjoy doing, whereas there are others that we hate.

    So, it makes sense that once you’re up-and-running it would be a good idea to outsource the tasks that bring you the least enjoyment.

    Thanks
    Partha

    Reply
    • You’re so right, Partha, even when the mission is not explicit on the website, it guides us to stay authentic and is a help in coming up with subjects to write about. I am glad you describe the benefits for the visitors if the website and the person(s) behind it have a solid mission.

      The biggest benefit for the website owner is that a clear mission will keep us motivated. We all will encounter moments, even days, we’re not so motivated and get frustrated. But knowing why we are doing things, will make sure we’ll get over these obstacles.

      In the past when I was a graphic designer I had 3 favorite clients. All 3 were highly interested in my profession. They were not designers, that’s why they hired me, but they were extremely good at giving a briefing, because they knew what they were talking about.

      It was such a delight to work with them. Because they not only had knowledge, but also had character and a sense of reality to be able to see implications of their problems. And to see the value in the solutions I came up with. Strangely enough – or not so strange – they were also the ones that never had unrealistic expectations or demands.

      These are also the examples that come to mind when I outsource something. Make a good briefing, show a healthy interest in the expertise of others and have realistic expectations.

      Thanks for your everlasting support, Partha, I am so glad we value each other’s websites so much. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Hi Hannie, I think you nailed it. I like that you point out how people read webpages differently than when they read a book. When I think about it that is clear. I can wade through hundreds of pages in a book without wondering where the pictures have gotten to, but if it is a webpage my eyes get pretty tired and I am likely to get bored if it is just text.

    Also I think an important aspect of this experience is that with a book you hold in your hands you can see and feel where you are in relation to the whole task and that sense of orientation is important. With a webpage that isn’t always the case and that sense of not knowing how far away the end is can be psychologically unsettling.

    I think this is also a reason why some of the early eReaders weren’t that great. I have the same issue on my Kindle. I purchased the whole collection of Charles Dickens as a single item – it was very cheap. The problem is that even one of the long novels like Bleak House will start at 57% and end at maybe 63% because it is a small part of the overall work. It just means you are never quite sure of where you are in the grand scheme of things. So we need to ensure that our websites don’t leave our audience unsure of where they are. Best regards, Andy

    Reply
    • Precisely, Andy, usability is one of the most important aspects of a website. I like your analogy with a book. Even though I hardly read paper books anymore, but only ebooks, using these different forms end up in a very different experience.

      Analogies often clarify a lot. I liked the remark of a colleague because of that. “Where is the banana?” If you have this in the back of your head, trying to imagine how a visitor responds to your website, you are very likely to design a better website than you would have otherwise. 🙂

      Reply
  4. This is a very good article for anyone starting a website. I found it provided me with everything that I would need to think about when designing one. There is a lot of thought that has to go into making a website and you have covered most of it pretty well. You are right about if the site is not clear they will quickly move on. I am like that, if I go to a site and it’s not clear or even close to what I am expecting I am gone. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Rick. ‘Most of it’ sounds to me like there are missing parts. Do you have any idea what it is you are missing? Or do you just mean that some elements are described more extensively than others? Which of course has to do with my own interests and expertise! 🙂

      Reply
  5. An awesome and very detailed explanation of the process of starting a new website. Indeed, the website is one of the best assets you can own today! I like how you started with explaining how to decide the theme and mission of your website. This is very important.

    I have started a few sites so far, but I always like to learn more to improve my sites as well as the experience of my users too. I’ve learned a lot from your post here and I’ll put some things to use immediately. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • That is the way to reach the most, isn’t it, Ivan? Always stay curious, always stay interested, even when we are thinking we already know a lot. Every time I fall into that trap of ‘oh, I know that already’ I am missing out on opportunities. So like you, I always want to learn more. The funny (and sometimes frustrating) thing is, that the more we learn, the more we discover the huge area of things we don’t know yet. 🙂
      It’s a perpetuum mobile!

      Reply
  6. Hi Hannie,

    Thank you for sharing these great tips! The mission of a website is definitely important, as are all your other tips. But it’s true, you must know who your website is aimed at and what your purpose is with it. Who is your target audience … I think I figured it out for my website, but still, I hope that my target audience really finds my website.

    Having your own domain name is also extremely important. Of course, you can start with a free website but if you’re here for the long run it is recommended to get your own domain. They’re cheap as well.

    I do my best to write at least two articles per week, but in the last two weeks I have been lagging a bit. I guess it happens sometimes, but in general, two articles per week is the norm. Is that a good amount?

    Reply
    • Like you I am still learning, Christine. In reality any amount of articles is a good amount, I guess, because in the end the most important reason to write and to stay writing is having fun doing it. I heard that for SEO reasons it is better to have at least 50 articles on your website. With 2 articles a week you’ll reach that point in 6 months.

      But like me, you distribute your articles across multiple websites, which dilutes the result. It all depends on what we have as a goal (and mind you, now I am speaking as much to you as to myself). Do we want to help as many people as we can and make money from our blog than focusing would be a better idea.

      And lagging at times is good. A runner also bends backwards before sprinting away. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Hannie,

    This is a fantastic guide to starting a website! Even better, I think you could easily adapt these same steps to starting the business itself or launching any product.

    As Partha said the Mission Statement is a must for any business or major project like a product launch in my opinion. Knowing how to answer the basic “Why did you start this?” also helps develop your Elevator Pitch or 30-second explanation about what the project is and why you created it.

    It’s interesting, your own system is very similar to my own but in a slightly different order. I’ve built a number of major websites, including psychforums.com and mental-health-matters.com that I went on to sell and I’ve always used the following simplified version of your process:

    1. Research (steps 1 – 3)
    2. Design & Build (step 4, 5, & 7)
    3. Test (step 9)
    4. Create Content (step 6 and 11)
    5. Market (step 10)
    6. Update Content (step 8)

    I put phases 4 through 6 on a loop once the site is up and running. I also look at web trends and will redesign the site as needed every few years. This might be as simple as a new theme for WordPress or as complicated as completely reworking my categories and content. The latter is a major headache and you need to make sure that you include forwards for everything that moves or changes.

    I’m still convinced that the Research Portion (the first three stages you list) are the single most important things you can put your time into. If you don’t have the research done right, then nothing else will work, no matter how much time you put into it. I’m curious to hear your thoughts about that.

    I registered on hanniemommers.com and I look forward to learning more from you there as well.

    Thanks for this, it was a great reminder,
    Sean

    Reply
    • WOW, Sean, thank you so much for this valuable addition. I hope you can still learn from me, but I am sure I can learn from you – so much is clear!

      Yes, the beginning phases are very important. It reminds me of this information I heard once:
      In the West there are a lot of meetings when a new project is about to start and usually people start making ideas and sketching right away. The Japanese however invest a lot of time in first thinking all the steps through, defining where possible bumps could develop, thinking of plans B, etc.

      Halfway the processes it looks as if the people in the West are way ahead of the Japanese, because they are already working on some end results, where the Japanese are still brooding on their ideas. But in the end the Japanese have a much better product.

      I loved that story! 🙂

      Reply

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