At a glance
Key Learning Points;
You don’t need any expertise to make a great looking website
When I’ve told friends about Inkbike, a lot of them tell me they would have no idea how to even start making a website and it puts them off. With platforms like WordPress, Shopify and Squarespace you absolutely don’t need to be – you can make a fully functional website without ever seeing a line of code. Templates baby. Templates for days.
It doesn’t cost much
You could buy a domain and have a running website with WordPress by paying a one-off fee of £36 (£3 a month).
Don’t sweat the name too much
It feels like a big decision to pick a domain (i.e. your website link, like Inkbike’s is http://www.inkbike.com), but you can change your domain at any time without losing the work you put into the website.
There are plenty of options
Like I said in the first point, you’ve got plenty of web-building platforms to choose from to suit your needs. Want to make a website where you can sell stuff? No problem, there’s Shopify or Squarespace. Just looking to build a blog or website for your business? Easy, WordPress, Squarespace or any others.
Fun fact: my web-design process went something like this;
Step 2. Realise you have no idea what the hell you even want your website to be yet and despair.
The depressing thing is that getting between steps 1 and 2 wasn’t even a quick process – I spent an alarmingly amount of time trying to figure out what the domain name was going to be before I even finished the first step which is totally unnecessary.
Anyway, that’s me getting ahead of myself…
(*puts on deep, reassuring grown-up voice*)
In this article I intend to give you a full breakdown of exactly how I went about creating the website Inkbike lives on. My goal is to provide (a) a step-by-step that you could follow if you wanted to create your own website, (b) a track of my thought process for decisions I made while making my website so you have something to inform any similar creative decisions you might need to make, and (c) details on any mistakes I made along the way to help you avoid doing the same.
Also just a heads up and make sure I’m not being misleading, in the article I’m talking about building a website using WordPress rather than manually building it line-by-line so please feel free to ignore this post if that’s not what you’re after.
Ok so this is pretty much the first thing you’re going to have to consider when you build a website and it definitely feels like one of the most important decisions you’ll make early on since the name of something can often be its most powerful piece of branding.
This is ultimately down to preference though, so instead of trying to come up with a smart process to write, I’ll just provide a few tips.
- Use a domain searching tool to show you whether or not your desired website name is available or already in use. I personally used Lean Domain Search.
- Read around the topic of domain name trends – just to be clear I’m absolutely not saying pick a name because it’s trendy, it should always be something you love too. It’s more that if you’re trying to create a name which portrays something, like modernity, looking at trends can potentially help give you ideas for a name which matches your concept.
- Have fun! You’re bloody naming something, like a thing that you’re How amazing is that?!
Step 1 Complete.
Name Chosen: Inkbike.
Oh and in case you’re interested, the name Inkbike originally came about as a title for me to post digital art under; Ink by Kaeyo became ‘Inkbike’. After I decided to work mostly on the website instead, the name had just kind of stuck with me so I kept it!
An important thing to remember though (he says reassuring himself), is that you can always change your domain name later. You aren’t stuck with the first name you create!
So the next thing you need to do is choose a platform to host your website. There’s a growing market of webhosting platforms you can choose from but the two I found to be best known are WordPress and Shopify.
WordPress is best known as a platform for bloggers and creating more passive websites (i.e. websites where you come to view information or media without interacting with it). Shopify on the other hand is built for e-commerce, where users will create online stores to sell their wares.
Another option I’ve been hearing more about recently is Squarespace which is marketed as a web-development site with an emphasis on modern templates but with simple drag & drop customisation interfaces. It’s geared towards versatility, offering options for e-commerce as well as more passive designs.
They offer a couple of other options too, like a basic logo developer and access to webinars which is a nice touch. It’s also worth noting that they often have discount code promotions running along with influencers that can get you a discounted subscription price for the first few months so definitely have a search for those before you commit.
Looking at the options though, I felt like WordPress was most suited to my needs, especially with its staggered pricing model – free to build a basic website or £3 a month for a ‘Personal’ account if I wanted to include a custom domain (i.e. www.inkbike.com). This meant that I didn’t have to pay much to get the domain and start playing around with how posts could look etc.
In fact, WordPress seemed generally cheaper than the competition, it’s certainly the only platform out of the three mentioned that provided 2 options for less than £10 a month.
It also helped that while the basic accounts (Free and Personal) don’t come with a lot of template options, upgrading to a ‘Premium’ account (£7 a month) comes at a discounted price when upgrading from a ‘Personal’ account. This meant that I could wait until I was more competent editing with WordPress tools before investing more money and moving Inkbike onto a template with more customisation options.
Finally, since I didn’t have any intention of selling anything on inkbike.com, I knew that Shopify wasn’t the platform for me and between WordPress and Squarespace, WordPress had been operating longer which was a benefit to me because it meant that each of the templates on it would hopefully be more stable.
Anyway that was my thought-process for choosing WordPress.
Step 2 Complete.
Chosen platform: WordPress.
Again this is preference, but I did find that WordPress has a good selection of varied templates. This is also the time when you might start to consider other subscriptions with WordPress – at this point, I had purchased the ‘Personal’ membership which gives you access to their basic template library.
If you want to use one of their premium templates then you either need a Premium account, which is billed annually at £7 a month and gives you access to all premium templates, or you’ll need to buy access to specific templates.
The thing is a lot of the premium templates are more expensive to buy then an annual pass for a premium account – so I just paid for the account instead.
Whether or not you want to do this is entirely up to you, the only reason why I did is because I knew I wanted a website which used mostly images to display content with very few written words outside of articles. My thinking was that this would make it much easier to create a modern, attractive website without having to spend lots of time editing texts and layouts to try and achieve the same effect.
WordPress didn’t have any templates which fit that description in the basic section, so I decided to upgrade my subscription so I could use the one that did.
So to that end, the template I chose is Hermes.
Step 3 Complete.
Chosen template: Hermes.
If you’re like me, when you get to step 4, your brain is saying this: ‘Ok so you have your domain and you’re on your platform, you’ve smashed it, your website is going to be the next motherf*cking Google’.
Then you look at your blank, barren website and you start to realise that you have no idea what to do next. You have no menus, no posts, no images (unless your template has some stock photos) and no idea how you could or should start creating any of them. I mean, what should your website even look like?!
Or maybe you’re way more together than me and you know what to do next, I dunno. Regardless, in this section I’m going to walk you through some basic steps for website design on WordPress.
Two of my most frequently used areas are found under the ‘Manage’ header; Site Pages and Blog Posts.
Site Pages contains every screen which is possible for a website visitor to access, apart from Blog/Article posts. This is also the area where you build the pages which can be displayed on your website navigation menu (so on Inkbike the Site Pages displayed here are ‘Support’, ‘Interviews’, ‘About’, ‘Blog’ and ‘Contact’ as well as the Home screen).
Blog Posts, as you might expect is the tab which contains all of your website articles. The page provides some general metrics for each post including date/time published and number of views. Clicking the ellipsis next to the Featured image for each article then gives you a couple of extra options like editing the article (which you can also achieve by clicking on the title), a more detailed stats overview of views to that post, a comment overview and the options to either duplicate or delete the article.
Both areas give you the option to keep your page/post as a draft for you to work on without them actually needing to be live on the website – to switch between published and live you just need to navigate between the tabs at the top of the page.
Next up, under the header ‘Personalize’, next to themes is a button called ‘Customize’. Clicking on that opens up a view of your live website on the right, with a Control screen on the left. The options displayed on the Control menu can vary depending on the theme you’re using but generally you’ll see the following;
This is where you add your site title, tagline (optional), logo and website icon (i.e. the little image which appears in the browser when the user lands on the web-page.
Colours & Backgrounds
Change the colours of certain areas on the website, I think the amount of control you have in the section depends on what template you’re using though. As far as I can tell, the only change I can make on Inkbike is in the colour lines which underlines article tags so…..not messed with that too much.
This allows you to mess with the font that article text is displayed in by default. There are quite a few options too! I ended up going for the one that looks the most like it could be in the guardian so I could trick myself into a sense of false-inflation by thinking I write ‘articles’ and not ‘blog posts’.
This one takes getting used to, but this is how you build your website navigation menu. You start by adding the top ‘Parent’ pages you want your menu to display by clicking ‘Add Items’; these are the pages you will have created in your Site Pages tab.
Next up, if you want you can add sub-menu options to your ‘Parent’ pages – your sub-options can include loads; Categories (that’s what I use), Tabs, Specific Posts, Custom Links and more. To make them sub-menu options, just add everything all at once and then click ‘Reorder’ at the bottom of the page which will allow you to indent options to appear under whichever Parent Page you want.
Honestly not too sure about this, I’m pretty sure that this is for advanced customisation but unless you’re comfortable with CSS or are following specific instructions, I’d leave it alone.
Widgets are the sections of your website which contain menus, so for example the search bar, social media and navigation tool at the bottom of this page is a widget. Some templates allow for multiple widgets on a single page – the contents of the widget are managed through this tool bar.
This section lets you control whether or not the home page for your website displays a static screen where the same information is displayed regardless of any other changes made to the website, or a page which displays your most recent posts. I chose the latter!
This one varies depending on the theme you use, but for me it just allows me to decide whether the web-navigation menu appears on the left or right. I left it as it was because who cares.
That pretty much takes you to the end, the only thing left to do is start filling your website with content!
I hope this has been helpful for you, or at the very least has reassured you that making a website isn’t hard, requires extensive skills or even much money. Certainly, if you’re looking to scale up your business or include website bespoke features then you might need the help of a web-developer but otherwise I would absolutely recommend building your own. At the very least, you’ll have gained some awesome skills which can serve you extremely well going forward. On the otherhand, you could get the experience but also walk-away with a gorgeous website that you can be proud of. Plus, building something helps you get intimately familiar with it which means that if anything goes wrong, you’re in an excellent position to fix it on your own.
If you decide to give it a shot then let me know – I’d love to see your sites! If you ever want to ask for any help or chat about it then drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If emailing feels too official;