Building Your Own Website: Four Steps to Getting Started

Posted by The Editors on July 26, 2011
Building Your Own Website: Four Steps to Getting Started

You know what’s embarrassing? The fact that I don’t have a personal website. You’d think a person who manages a career advice website and wrote a guide to personal branding would have her own website. I know it—I just couldn’t bring myself to do something about it.

Every time I consider doing something with my domain, I come up with an endless list of alternatives: updating my LinkedIn profile, researching new social media outlets, tweeting for WetFeet, catching up on the news, doing a little work, cleaning a dish, riding my bike, scanning Facebook, and it goes on.

It’s just always been something I want to happen without any effort. I want a simple, effective, personal website to just… appear. For free.

Then while interviewing candidates in the spring, I noticed that everyone seems to leave college with a well-designed personal website. It’s just a part of job search preparation—the status quo. (We didn’t even have any online journalism classes when I was in college! We walked 15 miles uphill in the snow!) Again, I manage development and design of websites for a living. I’ve designed my blogs in the past. I’m not new to this. There’s just something about creating a professional website that seems daunting.

Last night, I decided to start making it happen—and share with you these simple steps to making a personal website. (Hey, why not learn from my mistakes!?)

Step 1: Choose website creation software that you enjoy using.

After getting started with iWeb and wasting 15 minutes searching for a theme (“Am I ‘Fine Line,’ ‘Travel’ or ‘Leafs?’”), I switched to Google Sites to give myself a little more freedom when it comes to the template. But that doesn’t mean you other Mac users wouldn’t love iWeb for exactly the reason I don’t like it.

If you’ve taken the time to set up a blog, you probably did a little research before picking a platform. The same goes here. Check a few out, ask a few friends and pick one that suits your needs.

Step 2: Think about the brand (or the feeling) you want your website to reflect (or evoke) before getting into it.

About an hour after starting to create a site, I felt like I was really on a roll. The background looked cool and the font was right up my ally. Then a quick bathroom break gave me the clarity I needed to realize that I’d picked a weathered wood panel background and made my own a header using a font called “Cabin Sketch.” Sure, I was on a roll—to creating an awesome blog about woodworking or an online store specializing in five-string banjos.

The lesson here is just because you like it doesn’t mean it should go on the site. I don’t mean the site should be stale—it should still reflect the personality, interests, and skills that make you unique—but it might mean that just because you find a cool graphic or photo doesn’t mean you have to use it here.

Step 3:  Make a list of components and prioritize them.

When it came time to add content to my website, the whole thing got a bit scattered until I decided to treat this digital project the same way I would treat one at work.

Here’s what I did: Wrote down a clear vision for the site—who will be viewing it, its purpose, how it differs from others (the competition). Then, I created a list of components for each page and prioritized them. Try doing the same, referring back  to the materials when you need a new idea or start losing focus.

Step 4: Just get started—and set your site to private in the meantime.

I just went back to my site (still in the works, sorry, no preview today!) and noticed a little line of text that says, “Shared with everyone in the world.” Oops. Don’t make the mistake I did; instead, give yourself some time to fool around with the site’s structure, photos, and colors until you’re ready for everyone to see it.

So, wow, writing this blog post has been a great distraction from actually creating my personal site! As I continue the process, I’ll share more tips and tricks, including what content to include and how to optimize your site for search engines. Stay tuned.


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