Even if you are already familiar with the basics of domains, hosting, and website building, you cannot have a decent website up and running in but a few hours. It's simply not possible to create a nice-looking, secure, and functional website that fast. What's more, trying to do it can come at a high cost.
While promises that you can launch a website in a couple of hours if you only pay for some course or buy some plan are certainly alluring, they are also dangerously deceptive. If you don't understand the basics and have no clue how the system works and what to pay attention to, you are bound to make costly mistakes with far-reaching consequences.
Your domain and website are valuable properties and should be treated as such. No one in their right mind would rush into buying a plot and building a house in a matter of hours so don't rush into making long-term decisions regarding your domain and website either. These are not simple choices that could be taken lightly since they can lead to serious privacy and security issues.
The mistakes you can all too easily make range from overpaying for services you don't need (and will likely also find complicated and expensive to get rid of) to spending way too much time on maintenance and dealing with security breaches that can harm you as well as the visitors of your website. In short, rushing into this will usually cost a lot more than the hours you "saved" by taking the "easy" course.
How do I know that? Because I've been there. I listened to all the wrong people and this cost me hundreds of dollars I couldn't afford to lose but have lost thanks do this. It also cost me months of my time and it brought me a ton of frustration and additional stress, which is the last thing an already overburdened self-published author needs.
It took me two years of testing various options and figuring out the basics before I finally grasped how things work and learned from the costly mistakes. In the end, I wrote a book about this - a how-to guide to domains, hosting, and websites to help writers and other clueless souls avoid all the troubles I went through.
Domains, hosting, website builders
To avoid unnecessary problems and overspending, you need to understand how the system works and follow the right order of things. Start by looking at the big picture. This includes knowing where to buy a domain, what to look for in a hosting service, how to apply privacy and security measures, choose the best website platform, take care of SEO, and, above all, adjust it all to your needs, available time, and budget.
The starting point should always be your needs, time and budget you can afford to spend. What others recommend doesn't matter one bit if, to begin with, the cost exceeds what you can invest. WordPress, for instance, is commonly recommended even though it's one of the most expensive and complicated platforms.
I don't use WordPress because I cannot afford it and don't find it cost-efficient given my needs. I have more than one website, so I opted for Strikingly since it offers all the features I need and multiple websites on a single, reasonably priced plan.
What's more, there are WordPress.com and WordPress.org, which is something those who recommend WordPress often fail to mention. There are major differences between the two options and they are both expensive even though WordPress.org is supposedly free. If you opt for this "free" platform, you'll soon realize that it comes at a high cost of specialized website hosting, themes, and plugins you'll have to acquire separately, not to mention the increased risk for security threats.
Also, don't buy a domain at WordPress.com or any other website builder (including Strikingly) to avoid overpaying for it. If you, for instance, buy a domain at WordPress.com, they'll charge $18 per year for its renewal. Strikingly and other website builders charge even more. You can easily get the same domain for half the price or even for free at hosting companies specialized in domain and email hosting.
Buying a domain and email hosting separately from a website builder plan isn't only cost-efficient, it will also give you far greater flexibility, full control over your domain and emails as well as the freedom to easily test and switch to another website or blogging platform anytime you like. Bottom line - don't commit to anything without taking the time to understand how the system works first.
With these few examples, we've barely scratched the surface. As you can see, there are many potential pitfalls and you need to be well-informed to avoid making poor decisions with far-reaching consequences. It's impossible to learn everything you need to know and build a website in only a few hours so don't trust those who say otherwise.
Creating a website
After you understand how the system works, have bought a domain and hosting plan, chosen a website platform, and took care of privacy and security issues, you can start building and designing your website. This too will take time - at least it will if you want to have an efficient and successful site that leads to new sales and subscribers.
When building your website, you'll have to consider the three main areas: content, design (including UX, meaning user experience), and SEO (search engine optimization). All of these areas should be well-planned and though over.
Content represents the foundation of your website. It includes presenting yourself, your work, and the kind of stories or posts you are going to publish on your website's blog. If you are considering not having a blog, know that this will have a negative impact on your site's ranking on search engines such as Google.
You'll have to prepare different types of texts ranging from a short bio, descriptions of your products (e.g. books) and services to updates and stories you'll have to keep publishing to make your website relevant for search engines due to SEO.
Content, however, is not just text. Images are a part of the content as well. If you are, for instance, a writer, you'll at the very least need 3D mockups of your books. These images have to be properly prepared and optimized for online use so that they don't have a negative impact on your website's speed.
Design is another all-important aspect of your website. Successful businesses invest a lot in their image and design of their products - and not without a reason. Nice design draws customers since people often make their buying choices based on design.
But that's not all there is to design. Your website's design should also inform the visitors about what you offer. If you are, for instance, a romance writer, the colors, fonts, and images should make this clear at first glance. The colors and fonts will be softer and the images will likely include romantic scenes of happy couples.
Good design also makes it easy for visitors to navigate the site and find information fast. Also, you can have a one-page or multiple-page website. There are benefits and downsides to both of these two options. One-page option tends to be better for browsing on mobile devices and since that's what most people nowadays use, that's a major benefit.
On the other hand, the lack of content on one-page websites isn't great for SEO. If a website builder offers a blog option on one-page websites, though, this will solve the problem. That's also one of the main reasons why I love and use Strikingly - their blog option turns a one-page website into a hybrid that lets you have a lot of content in the blog section of what is still a one-page website.
You've probably noticed that SEO is something you have to think about at every stage of creating your website. SEO stands for search engine optimization and has everything to do with how well your website ranks in search results. The higher the ranking, the more visitors you can get from search engines at no cost and without any promotion.
But that's not the only reason why SEO is so important. If you don't take proper care of your website's security, search engines might even prevent visitors from accessing it or display a warning that it's not safe to visit it. This will make your site look unprofessional and discourage the visitors from staying.
When search engines evaluate a website, they take into consideration numerous factors, such as security, speed, ease of use, relevance, and user satisfaction. SEO starts with the title and description of your website that should already tell a visitor what your site is about. You also need to add a description to every blog post and fill out tags for images.
There is more, a lot more
These were just some of the basics you need to consider when building your website. To create a cost-efficient, functional, and secure website as well as learn how to take care of your domain and hosting, read a step-by-step guide How to Create Your Website: For Writers and Other Clueless Souls. It will save you a lot of time, money, and trouble.