If you're toying with creating a small business website or blog, allow me to detain you for a moment.
Maybe you're considering hiring a website designer to create, maintain and update your site. It's a perfectly reasonable option, especially if you have no knowledge of -- or zero interest in learning -- website programming.
But there is a DIY option well worth considering: creating a site with WordPress.
WordPress is essentially a highly flexible content management system that can serve as the foundation for a blog or a fully-fledged small business website for online marketing or ecommerce. With a WordPress-built site, you can easily add new pages and blog posts yourself; no knowledge of HTML, CSS or any other mind-numbing acronyms is required.
You can customize the look of your site so that it's unique. You can add new capabilities via hundreds of plug-ins. Plus, your site will be search-engine friendly from the get-go. And using plug-ins such as the All in One SEO Pack, you can optimize each page and post to boost its search engine rankings.
To build a site like this, you need to download WordPress from WordPress.org. The software is free because it's open source. Even better, many WordPress themes (design templates) and plug-ins are free. The only thing you may need to pay for is Web hosting, which can be as low as $6 a month. (Alternatively, you can host your WordPress site on your own server.)
The following is a how-to guide for building a small business website or blog using free WordPress.org software. The steps I've outlined are based on my experience creating a new site for myself, at www.jamesamartin.com. For what it's worth, I have no website design experience whatsoever (which may or may not be obvious if you view my site).
FYI, this article doesn't cover using WordPress.com to build a new site or blog. WordPress.com is a free blogging platform that doesn't require you to have your own hosting service. The downside is that it doesn't provide all the customization (or access to plug-ins) that a WordPress.org-built site offers. For a comparison of WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org, read "Power Your Small Business Website with WordPress" or this support article from the WordPress.com site.
Step 1: Choose a Web Hosting Service
You'll need a service to host your new site or blog. Technically speaking, you'll need a Web hosting service that supports PHP version 5.2.4 or greater and MySQL version 5.0 or greater. WordPress.org recommends Apache or Nginx "as the most robust and 'featureful' server for running WordPress" and says the Web hosts listed in its directory meet all these requirements "with no problems."
After reviewing the options listed in WordPress.org's directory, I chose Bluehost. The service is featured prominently in the WordPress.org directory; offers unlimited disk storage, email addresses and monthly data transfers; and is a good value at it's regular $6 per month price. Currently, the company's running a special $5 per month rate for the next few weeks.
More importantly, Bluehost made installing the WordPress software to my Bluehost hosting account extremely easy. I just clicked to install it using Bluehost's Web-based control panel, rather than having to go through steps 2 through 6, as described below. If you don't have much website design/setup experience, this is definitely the way to go.
The two times I needed help, I called Bluehost's 24-7 toll-free tech support. They answered right away and gave above-average support, though the second rep I spoke to wasn't quite as helpful as the first.
Have you already purchased a domain name for your new site elsewhere? If so, you'll need to log into your domain name registrar account and configure the nameserver settings so that they point to your hosting service's nameservers.
Example: If you bought your domain name from GoDaddy but you've chosen Bluehost as your hosting provider, you'd log into your GoDaddy account, select the domain you want to use for your WordPress site, select 'Set Nameservers,' and enter Bluehost's nameserver addresses (ns1.bluehost.com and ns2.bluehost.com). You don't have to transfer your domain from GoDaddy to Bluehost.