This post contains affiliate links. For more information, visit my disclosure page.
Quick! You’re in need of a site. You don’t have time to hire a web designer and you’re not confident enough in your web skills to make it happen yourself. But that doesn’t leave you with many options. Or so you thought. Creating a professional looking site is simpler than ever. Yes, it will require a little bit of work on your end, but for the most part it’s easier than you’d think. Here’s how to quickly launch a professional looking site when you’re short on time.
Step 1 – Choose a Platform
Before we can setup and design a site, we need to start with the foundation. In this case, the foundation is the platform which your site will run on. I’m going to discuss two of the most popular options, but keep in mind that there are other platforms available.
Option 1 – WordPress
The first option is WordPress. WordPress is an incredibly popular option for websites, and for good reason. It’s extremely customizable and can do pretty much anything. Because of how customizable it is, it definitely has a bit of a learning curve. However, don’t let this scare you away. Because of it’s popularity, there are a ton of resources out there. If you’re looking to expand you site in the future, it might be worth using WordPress from the get-go.
Option 2 – Squarespace
If WordPress seems a bit too scary, Squarespace is the perfect solution. It’s literally as easy as signing up. They offer a variety of gorgeous templates that you can install with the click of a button. You will be limited in what you can do, but for the majority of people, what Squarespace offers is plenty. If you’re in a pinch, Squarespace is probably the quickest solution.
Step 2 – Buy Domain + Hosting
Now that you’ve selected your platform, you have to actually buy the place where your website resides (hosting) and the address (domain).
Related: Domains 101
Buying hosting can be a bit of a nightmare if you don’t have any idea what you’re looking for. To keep it simple, you’ll want to look for the following things:
- shared hosting
- one-click WordPress installation
- ability to register a domain name
I personally recommend A Small Orange. They offer a few different levels of shared hosting, depending on the size of your site. I’d suggest going with the small plan, which runs $5/month and has plenty of space to get you started. You’ll also get a free domain when you purchase an annual plan.
Another option is Bluehost. I’d suggest purchasing the plus package, which is currently $5.95/month and comes with a free domain name as well.
Related: Hosting 101
Once you purchase hosting, you’ll be given access to a control panel (sometimes called a cPanel). You’ll want to login according to the instructions they provide (they’ll usually email you a link) or in most cases, you can login to your account and you’ll find a link to your control panel there.
If you purchased hosting from A Small Orange, you can access your control panel by going to yourdomain.com/cpanel. Scroll down to the bottom and find the Softaculous Apps installer section. Click on WordPress, then click install. Fill out the relevant info (make sure to change the admin username! – here’s why), then click install. You do not need to choose a theme at this point, so you can ignore this section.
For Bluehost, you can access your control panel by logging in at bluehost.com. Scroll down to a section labeled Website and find the install WordPress icon. If that’s not there, scroll back to the top and click on cpanel. Then look for the website builders section and you’ll find the install WordPress icon. Fill out any info (make sure to change the admin username!) and click install.
Okay, so you don’t actually have to buy hosting if you go the Squarespace route, but I’m adding it here, so you can easily follow along. You will, however, need a domain. Squarespace offers a free domain with annual billing. If you’d rather go the month-to-month route, you can still purchase a domain through them. I’d suggest you do this to keep things as simple as possible.
To get a domain through Squarespace, go to settings > domains > get a domain. If you already purchased a domain elsewhere, select connect a third party domain and follow the instructions. They make it incredibly easy to get your domain working with your Squarespace site.
Step 3 – Choose a Template
Now that your site is setup, it’s time to actually make it look presentable. Because we’re looking to get a professional looking site up and running as quickly as possible, we’re going to install a premade theme/template. Premade themes are an excellent way to create a polished site with little to no effort. And what’s even better is that nowadays many are highly customizable, so you can easily create a unique site.
There are a ton of places out there to buy a WordPress theme, so much so that it can be confusing where to start your hunt for the perfect theme. I’m going to make it simple for you and suggest two places: StudioPress and Elegant Themes.
Let’s take a look at StudioPress first. StudioPress is by far my favorite for WordPress themes. They’re well built and gorgeous! Each StudioPress theme is built using the Genesis Framework, which is the bread and butter of the theme. It’s customizable, search engine optimized, and just all around awesome. I use the Genesis Framework to build all my sites and I seriously cannot recommend it enough.
Another great option is Elegant Themes’ Divi theme. If you want flexibility without having to deal with code, Divi might be a good choice. Every element is customizable so you can create a unique site in minutes. Plus, with their page builder, you can build unique page templates to display your content in fun and interesting ways.
One more thing: I would personally stay away from themes found on ThemeForest. I’m sure there are great ones there, but I’m honestly not a fan. I’ve had bad experiences every time I’ve worked with a theme from ThemeForest. So your miles may vary. Take that with a grain of salt.
Okay, so once you’ve decided on and purchased a template, the next step is to install it. You should have received a zip file – leave it intact! From your WordPress dashboard, go to appearance > themes, then click add new. Select the zip file and upload it, then click activate. Your new theme is now live! Refer to your themes documentation for more information on how to customize it.
When you get started on Squarespace, you’re immediately taken to a templates page where you can preview and choose a template. Each and every one of them is gorgeous and fully customizable. When you’ve found a template you like, click install template. Demo content will be installed along with the template, which you can remove or replace with your own content.
Step 4 – Add Content
Now that your site is pretty much setup, it’s time to focus on content. After all, without content, what good is a site?
Depending on the nature of your site and your goals, the pages you add will vary. However, there are two pages that are must-have: an about and a contact page. These two are crucial. After you create them, think about what else is necessary. Because you’re in a rush, focus on what’s important. What pages need to be live when the site launches? Remember that a website is not static and content can always be added or changed later.
Photography + Graphics
You chose a professional and beautiful theme for your site, let’s not ruin it with subpar photography and shoddy graphics. If you’re not a photographer, there are variety of resources available for stock photography. Use them! Some great free places include Unsplash, Death to the Stock Photo, and Picjumbo.
As far as graphics are concerned, you don’t need a copy of Photoshop to create visually appealing graphics. Canva is a great site where you can easily create blog graphics that stand out. From typography, to icons, and even stock photos, they have everything you need to create site graphics.
Remember to keep your photography and graphics consistent with your brand. We’re aiming for a professional looking site, so that means keeping everything in line with your brand’s values and aesthetic.