How To Plan, Build, And Launch Your Own Website In 4 Days

The foundation of any entrepreneurial journey, especially one on the go, is a strong website. Your website serves as the digital home for your online business. It’s the key to converting anonymous internet users into engaged fans and customers.

Building a website used to require a lot of technical know how. Many still believe it does, and fail to launch their own online businesses because they fear they don’t have the skills or resources to create a site.Nothing could be further from the truth.

With a little guidance and knowledge of the steps and tools to use, anyone (and I mean anyone) can plan, build, and launch their own website in four days.

Here’s how.

Day One: Your Plan

Before we get into anything technical, we need to ensure you have a solid plan for moving forward. All too often, I see smart, motivated people get so excited about an idea for a website that they dive in without making a plan first.

Those are often the people who find themselves stuck a few months later, not getting the results they want and unsure of what to do next.

Let’s focus on a really simple way to create your basic website plan: think about desired outcomes.

Ask yourself the following questions:

What is the desired outcome for my life?
 Having a website, even a wildly successful one, is not a desired outcome. Instead, you probably want more money, freedom, prestige, etc. Get in touch with what you want in your life from a successful website.

What is the desired outcome for my website?
Once you know what you want in your life, think about how your website can provide that to you. Whether that’s money, free time, or something else, think about how your website can deliver the outcome you want.

What is the desired outcome for my website visitors?
Your website isn’t just about you. To reach your desired website outcome and your desired personal outcome, you need to help your website visitors reach their own desired outcomes. What are they looking for and how can you provide it?

If you can gain clarity on these questions and stay focused on achieving what you answered for each one of them, your website decisions will be much easier to make and your direction much clearer to follow.

Day Two: Your Brand

The next thing you’re going to want to do is register a domain name for your website. Your domain name is the website address where people will find you. For example, the domain name of this site is suitcaseentrepreneur.com. My domain name is sethleonard.com.

A few things to keep in mind about domain names:

  • Your domain name does not have to be the same as your website name. You can use your own name as your domain name and call your site something else, like “The Yellow Submarine.”
  • Choose a name that is easy to share with people. Avoid weird spellings, dashes, or numbers.
  • Try to use a .com if you can (versus .net, .co, or something else).

My favorite domain registrar is namecheap.com. It costs about $10/year to register a domain.

Day Three: Your Foundation

Now that you have a domain name, you’ll need web hosting. Purchasing web hosting means that you are renting space on a fast computer with a fast internet connection so that you can easily serve your website to the world.

Web hosting for a small site runs anywhere from about $5 to $20 per month. My favorite host, and the one I use, is NameCheap and I am on their Virtual Private Network plan, but their basic hosting starts from $4.95 per month.

Both use a tool called Fantastico, which makes installing WordPress (a free website management tool we’re going to use) very easy. So if you decide to use a different host, make sure they have Fantastico.

Once you order your web hosting, you will be provided with an IP address. The IP address is the “raw” address of your website, the one that computers like, but humans don’t. So you’ll want to connect your human-friendly domain name with your computer-friendly IP address.

Quick Disclaimer: the next few steps sound more technical than they really are. You don’t need to memorize them, just take them one at a time. If you have trouble, check out the link to The Web Launch at the bottom of this post, which offers even more detailed step-by-step instructions.

To connect your domain name to your web hosting IP address, login to your domain registrar and edit your DNS settings for the domain you registered. Add an (or edit the existing) A NAME record to point to your IP address.

Using name.com, I click on my domain, then DNS Record Management:

How to build a website in 4 days

Then I create one A NAME record, leaving the first box empty:

How to build a website in 4 days

and another, entering ‘www’ in the first box:

How to build a website in 4 days

Once you make those changes, it takes a while for them to take effect. So, while we’re waiting, we’re going to install WordPress. WordPress is a free tool, and will allow you to easily manage the design and functionality of your website, as well as your content.

Login to your hosting account control panel and launch Fantastico. Click on ‘WordPress’ in the left sidebar, and then ‘new installation’.

Choose your domain and leave the directory blank:

How to build a website in 4 days

Create an administrative user and enter the basic information for your website, like your title and tag line (these can be changed later).

Click ‘Install WordPress’ and then ‘Finish Installation’ and you’re all done. Print out the confirmation page you get and that’s the end of your work for the day.

Day Four: Your Launch

Finally, the day you launch your website.

The first thing we need to do is customize your WordPress setup. You can login to the administrative section of your WordPress website at yourdomain.com/wp-admin (your URL should also appear on the confirmation page you printed out at the end of day three).

Here’s how you can customize your website:

Choose a Theme: Themes are the design and layout for your site. You can find hundreds of themes to choose from under Appearance > Themes.

Add Widgets: Widgets will fill your website sidebar with content you want displayed on every page. You can choose from available widgets under Appearance > Widgets.

Once you have your website looking the way you want, add your initial content. There are two types of content you can create:

Pages: Think of these as more static pages that will remain constant on your site. Highly recommended: add an “About” page as well as a “Contact” page.

Posts: Posts are your more dynamic content. They’re posted more regularly and cover a specific topic. What I’m writing here is an example of a post. It is current and featured, but will soon be replaced by new posts from Natalie in the coming days.

That’s it. Now to truly launch your website, you need to tell people about it! Send an email to your friends and show them what you’ve put together.

  • http://www.kylelafontaine.com Kyle LaFontaine

    This is really helpful. I went through this process fairly recently and I must say, for anyone who is looking to start up a site – this is an excellent guide.

  • http://www.dbFotografy.com Dharmesh @ dbFotografy

    Great timing!! I am in the process of redesigning my website. I use self-hosted WordPress site and design my own themes. While I am not an expert level designer, I try to implement what I learn.

    Your comments and thoughts will be welcome.

  • http://www.platinumlynx.net Chas

    Thank you for posting this. I was unaware of name.com and have just registered sites through my site host. My primary site was built for me on a template(it didn’t cost me very much), but, it was my first foray into the internet and I know so much more now, than I did when it was launched (still have so much to learn), but, there is little I can do with it without dumping all the files and starting from scratch because of the architecture of the site.
    I am using Hostgator for that site, but have registered a domain with InMotion for another site, that I haven’t done anything with, yet and have that ‘stuck’ feeling. I know I want it to be on a WordPress platform and will use Fantastico to build it, but, I have a dilemma about themes, as there are so many to choose from. I know this site uses Thesis, but, I am leaning more towards Headway, or Genesis. I have a general idea of what the site will be about, but, this may evolve.
    One question I have, is a newby question, but, how are a zillion blog posts stored on a site without messing it up and making it dysfunctional? I am still not very techie. I would appreciate any feedback you could give me on the topics I have brought up. Thanks, again.

  • http://sethleonard.com Seth Leonard

    Thanks, Kyle!

    Dharmesh: we’ll add you to the list of sites to consider for review in our next post!

  • http://sethleonard.com Seth Leonard

    Chas: some great questions in there. Let me do my best to answer them:

    1) It’s definitely difficult to move a custom site to something like WordPress because there’s no easy way to export your content. That being said, depending on your volume of content, it might be worth doing so. Otherwise you’re basically saying that you’ll never make that migration. Perhaps it’s better to “bite the bullet” now than before you have even more content. You just have to do it manually, one page at a time.

    2) My recommendation on themes is to not let them get you stuck. I see a lot of people stop their site building because they can’t get the perfect theme. Find something that you like relatively well (using the built-in themes) and get started. Focus on your content. As you have time, play around with other themes, including the customizable ones (Genesis, Thesis, Headway, etc.). The beauty of WordPress is that you can change the theme and keep your content. So when you upgrade your theme down the road, all the content is there ready to go.

    3) The reason that WordPress is able to manage so many blog posts is that it is run off of a simple database. So rather than having tons of files that get rather confusing (more for us than the computers), it simply takes the theme information from one database and combines it with the content information from another. This way you can edit the theme without corrupting the content, and you can edit the content without corrupting the theme. That’s perhaps an over-simplification, but WordPress does a good job of simplifying the content management process so you can focus on the content. Which is great.

    Hope that helps!

  • http://www.slideberry.com ling

    Love your plan! I built slideberry,com on wordpress in 3 days…
    I particularly like the guidance on planning out the goals for the website before jumping in – it’s nothing more frustrating than spending days on building a site only to realize that it’s not serving you because you are not clear about what you want when you start!
    Would love to get your opinions on my site – I have not done much improvements on widgets etc. just very basic for now. But it is doing what I want it to do… plan to build it out so probably want to add some good stuff…
    thanks!

  • http://www.sabinefep.com/ Sabine Panneau

    Thanks Seth. Although it took me a little bit more than 4 days to set up my site, I like the way you split it into 4 main areas.
    I just would add one point to your list and it would be to do some keyword research at the moment of deciding on the domain name or the name of the site. As this will help in the overall SEO of the site if it corresponds to significant keywords to your audience.

    Would love to get your eyes on my website.

  • http://www.seniorhealthcare.co.nz David

    This is the best free advice on website design and setup I have seen on the Internet.
    As a complete newbie I bought a cheap website package and have designed and maintained my own site.
    Using this advice would have given me a much better result

  • Natalie

    Great point Sabine. I think Seth is trying to get people to take this one simple step at at time but keywords are a great part of any online strategy. I wrote this article about them just recently, if you haven’t read it you absolutely must! :) Keyword Research: How You’re Doing It Wrong http://bit.ly/wrxLNK

  • Natalie

    Thanks David for your comment – I totally agree. Seth knows his stuff but more importantly he knows how to break it down into the kind of conversation anyone can have and partake in.

  • http://www.theuncagedlife.com Rebecca

    sweet! i recently made a video teaching people to get a site up in an hour. would love a review of my site (though I already know what you’ll say – but need to hear it anyway!)

    xx

  • http://sethleonard.com Seth Leonard

    Thanks Ling, Sabine, David, and Rebecca!

    And Sabine: Natalie’s answer is as spot on in terms of keywords.

  • http://www.platinumlynx.net Chas

    Seth,
    Thanks for answering so many questions. Here is another one specific to WordPress and the built-in themes that you brought up. Are those from WordPress.org, or WordPress.com? And do you recommend choosing themes from one site over the other? Please explain. Thanks.

  • http://www.outstandingpracticeperformance.com Natalie

    Oh how I wish I had seen this article 3 months ago when I was building my WordPress website. Still I managed :) I really enjoyed this article and the satisfaction of mentally checking off your list against my website if I had done all of the things you outline.
    Theme customization is something I struggle with at this point and would like some tips or resources for FREE advice on changing colors, font and font size within posts.
    Great job on the article!

  • http://sethleonard.com Seth Leonard

    Chas: If you’re using WordPress.com, you’ll be limited to the ones they include. If you’re using WordPress.org, I’m speaking of the ones you can search for directly from Appearance > Themes. Ultimately, it’s about finding a theme you like that you can manage. That is, until your comfortable enough to get a bit more advanced.

    Natalie: Glad you were able to navigate the waters on your own. You’re right, customization is hard, especially for people just starting out. I don’t have any specific advice because it varies from theme to theme and the elements you talk about usually need to get changed in CSS (complicated). However, there are some themes that offer the ability to change those through easier methods.

  • http://www.annieandre.com Annie Andre

    This is the perfect post for anyone who has been scared to start their own blog because they don’t have any technical skills. I have friends that don’t even know what wordpress are and think they need to hire an expensive designer to get up and running.

    The one part that really resonated with me was your point about the domain name.
    “Your domain name does not have to be the same as your website name. You can use your own name as your domain name and call your site something else, like “The Yellow Submarine.”

    I’m using my own name but call it something else and it works out just fine. In fact, it gives me flexibility because i can change directions if ever need to in the future and re-brand without having to change my domain name. Which i like. I’ll always be Annie Andre but i may not always be interested in my current topic.

  • http://www.espressoenglish.net Shayna

    I got the .net domain for my site since the .com wasn’t available – do you think that’ll be a downside? I’m encouraged by the success of problogger.net (although it looks he’s got the .com address too).

    Please add my site espressoenglish.net to the review list :-) Thanks!

  • http://sethleonard.com Seth Leonard

    Right on, Annie! That’s one of my favorite reasons to use your own name as your domain name (I do as well). It provides a lot of flexibility!

  • http://Commeunefrancaise.com Geraldine

    Hi guys!

    I’d love to hear your feedback (yes, yours too, comment reader) about Comme une Française’s website : commeunefrancaise.com

    Thank you so much! :)

    Merci !

    Geraldine

  • Natalie

    Thanks to EVERYONE who commented here and on my Facebook page.

    Congrats to the 3 winners who are:

    Rebecca Tracy at The Uncaged Life
    Sabine Fep at Anywhere In The World
    Emily West-Sadler at Virtual Assistant Goddess

    We’re going to do a kick-ass video review of your sites, and leave some small tips for everyone who submitted a site. I’ll post this up in a blog post next week so stay tuned!

  • http://www.dbFotografy.com Dharmesh @ db Fotografy

    I am excited for the video review of the websites. Holding off on my redesign till then :)

  • http://www.loveyoursmallbusiness.com/blog-3 Janine Ogg

    Great post, we have a site redesign coming up soon and we’d love some feedback so we’re putting our hands up!
    Cheers for the opportunity,
    Janine

  • http://www.text-centric.com/ Charles

    I hate to be a stick in the mud here…

    …but can you truly say you’ve launched your website if it has no content?

  • http://www.dutchessabroad.com Judith van Praag

    Hi Seth and Natalie,
    My website will have been up 7 years in April. I won’t say anything about it, since I’d love to hear what your observations are.
    I have purchased an other domain name that’s momentarily hosted by WordPress, but which I haven’t used at all.
    Thanks so much for this opportunity!
    Best,
    Judith

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