Build a business website for next to nothing
It’s true what they say: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. If you want a professional website worthy of your company, you’re going to have to pay for hosting at the very least. That needn’t be expensive, though – and when it comes to building the actual pages you can use fully featured free software to create a high quality site.
WordPress, an open source content management system, is the best choice for creating most business websites. It’s free, easy to use and widely supported with many internet hosts offering wizard-style scripts that make installation a one-click process. Although originally conceived as a platform for creating blogs, WordPress is now widely used on professional websites, and there are thousands of high quality designs that can be applied to suit your particular business, many of them entirely free.
Build a business website for next to nothing: Setting up your web hosting
If you’re setting up a site for a new business, you can do yourself a big favour by choosing the right hosting package at the outset. The ideal package will allow you to use your own domain, offer WordPress installation and feature reliable ongoing hosting, ideally for a low price. As an example, we’ve chosen 1&1’s WP Basic package, but there are plenty of other providers to choose from – and although the specifics of setting up the hosting will vary, once WordPress is installed the rest of the process is much the same.
Another important part of the process is registering your domain, as this will be a crucial part of your identity and branding. This needn’t be expensive either, with the most common domains – .co.uk, .com and the new .uk – ranging from £1 to around £10 per year. It normally makes sense to register your domain with the same firm as your hosting; even if you could save a few quid by choosing two separate companies, keeping a single point of contact makes configuring your internet space much simpler, and ensures any support issues won’t fall through the cracks.
It’s worth double-checking the terms, though: 1&1’s WP Basic package comes with free domain registration, but it’s tied to the package – so if you cancel your hosting, you lose the domain too. It’s much better to register your URL as a separate process; you can still do this through 1&1 or, if you have an existing domain, you can transfer it to your 1&1 account. That way, if the WP Basic package doesn’t work out, you can simply switch to a different package, or indeed move to another host.
Registering a new domain through 1&1 is as simple as going to its domain registration site, typing in your preferred address and clicking Check; if your choice is available, you can click the trolley icon to add it to your shopping cart. During the buying process, 1&1 will entice you with offers of hosting and other add-ons, but for now you can ignore these and simply step through to pay for your domain.
With this done, you’ll receive an email with the subject “Contract Confirmation” which contains your customer ID at the bottom; you should use this to log in and check that your “Instant Domain Registration” package is in place. Bear in mind that the domain will take 24 hours or so to fully propagate across the web so it’s best to leave setting up the hosting till the following day.
When you’re ready, head to 1&1’s WordPress blog setup page and follow the order process for the Basic package. When prompted, indicate you’re an existing customer and that you don’t want to buy a domain as part of the setup process. Again, you’ll receive a contract confirmation email, and when you log into your 1&1 control panel you should see the WP Basic package listed alongside the domain.
The last thing to do is assign your domain to the WP Basic package. To do this, click on your Instant Domain Registration package, and then on Domain Centre. From the Transfer/Move Domain dropdown list, choose “Move Additional Domain between Packages”. Select your domain in step 1, then the WP Basic package from step 2 and confirm in step 3 before clicking Move domain. You’ll now need to leave an hour or so for the package transfer to take place before setting up WP Basic.
Build a business website for next to nothing: Installing WordPress
If you already have hosting, WordPress may already be installed – or, it may be available for one-click installation from your hosting provider. If not, it’s a good idea to make contact and see if there’s an easy way of getting hold of the software: it’s perfectly possible to perform a manual installation yourself – but you’ll need shell access to run the necessary commands.
If you’re using a 1&1 WP Basic account then you can simply visit the online Control Panel and click the Set up WordPress button at the top (if this doesn’t appear, scroll down and you’ll find WordPress under 1&1 App Centre), then click Install. You’re now prompted to give your website a title – this will usually be the name of your business. Click Create Website.
Choose a memorable but unpredictable username (not “admin” or anything similarly obvious) along with a secure password and, under “Type of installation”, select Free Mode. Although Safe Mode might seem the better choice, the latest version of WordPress updates itself, so the benefits are marginal, and Free Mode gives you access to a larger choice of themes and plugins.
Click Continue and 1&1 will ask you to choose which domain you want to assign to the WordPress install. This is where you select your independently registered URL and click Assign Domain. WordPress will now be installed, and you can test that it’s worked by typing your URL into a browser. Don’t worry – the plain looking web page you’re looking at is the default WordPress design which we’ll be modifying before we launch.