CMSes are open sourced and free to use. To create your new website on these platforms, you’ll need a domain name and a web hosting provider.
This setup is called self-hosted. The pros of using a self-hosted content management system are that you have full control over design and functionality. If you search around, this is what most people use and recommend.
Once you’ve selected the right platform for your site, you need to start thinking of a domain name. This domain will be yourname.com, yourbusiness.com or something similar.
For most websites, the first goal when choosing a domain name is to get the .com top-level domain whenever possible. Here is a useful guide to help you learn the details and secrets to selecting a valid domain name:
Web hosting provider
After choosing a domain name, selecting reliable hosting services will be one of the most important decisions you make. To a large degree, the functionality and performance of your website will depend on your hosting provider. The host makes sure your site is available to potential readers 24/7, and it’s where your files are stored online.
The wrong web host can cause many problems with your website. Just imagine choosing a mobile company that has no reception. Your web host is a major piece of the puzzle to maintaining a successful internet site. Therefore, it’s crucial that you choose a reliable provider.
We highly recommend Bluehost, which powers over 2 million websites worldwide. And for our visitors only, they offer an exclusive deal that includes a FREE domain name.
Once the software is installed, you can log in to your admin area/panel of the CMS. Within the dashboard of a website, an administrator can handle a multitude of tasks. These include the following (depending on the content management system you choose):
- Add new website pages and blog posts, edit them, and delete them.
- Add users to specific user roles and permissions to your site.
- Add new themes for design, edit them, and delete them.
- Add new add-ons (plugins) for functionality, edit them, and delete them.
- Moderate comments on blog posts.
Note: You can create eCommerce website using CMS and additional plugins. For example, you can create it with WordPress + Woocommerce plugin. In addition to that, you have CMSes, such as PrestaShop, specially designed for eCommerce websites.
Costs to run a self-hosted CMS website
*These items are not necessary to get started.
The most popular CMS’s
The most popular content management system used on the Internet today, according to BuiltWith, is WordPress. Over 14 million websites use WordPress. The next most popular content management system is Joomla, it’s used on over 2 million websites. After those, you have Drupal, which is used on over 750,000 websites. Over 220,000 online store sites use PrestaShop.
Below, we will explain to you how to make a website with these most popular CMSes. Each platform is robust and can be used to make any kind of website.
Creating a WordPress website
Depending on which hosting company you sign up with, you may find it very easy to setup a WordPress site. Primary hosts offer pre-installed or one-click installation of WordPress. While each host has slightly different control panels, the installation process will be similar. Once you sign up for the hosting services, you’ll find an icon somewhere on the host’s control panel that says something like, “One-click installation,” “Install popular software,” or “WordPress installation.” It’s as simple as clicking that icon and follow the step-by-step instructions to install the latest version of WordPress.
This section provides detailed information to help you signup for web hosting account. We also included screenshots of the pages that you need to go through.
Use this link to get the special deal from Bluehost. Then click the “Get Started Now” button.
You should start by selecting your plan. If this is your very first one, you should go with the basic one – at least until you explore your options. The one called basic should be able to cover all your needs once you get your website going, and you should consider the prime version once your popularity skyrockets.
Your domain name has an important say when it comes to the future success of your website, so you should take your time to come up with something new. Just type in a desired domain in this “new domain” box and BlueHost will show you whether it’s available or not. If not, it will provide you with a list of similar names for you to choose from.
After you pick out your domain name, BlueHost will take you to the registration page where it will be required from you to fill in your personal info including the billing data. A couple of minutes is all you need.
Pay additional attention to your hosting options. Obviously, the 12-month package has the lowest price, but the other two are great when you want to make a long-term investment. You can feel free to uncheck the rest of the boxes – you can always get them later when you find them necessary.
After you enter your payment information, you’re ready to set your password which will be used for account verification purposes.
After successfully creating your new password you will be able to login to your account.
If your host doesn’t have a one-click installation (maybe this is not the best choice), WordPress has the full instructions on how to install it manually at wordpress.org.
Using the WordPress and managing your website
The WordPress consists of two areas: front end and back end.
The front end is what your visitors will see when they come to your website. Many of the tasks performed on the back end will be visible on the front end as theme customizations, plugin functionality enhancements, and content publication. There are also actions that can be performed by you and your visitors directly from the front-end of the website, including commenting and social sharing.
The back end, also known as the WordPress dashboard, allows you to fully manage your site’s content, community, functionality, and design. It is accessible only by users who have an account on your site. To access your WordPress dashboard, you need to type yourwebsite.com/wp-admin in the address bar of your browser and log in using your WordPress username and password.
The Dashboard is the center of website administration. It consists of three main parts left side menu, top toolbar, and middle section. The left-hand column of your WordPress dashboard is where you will find all of your admin options, and where most of your creative effort will be focused.
The left side menu items include the following:
- Home takes you to your dashboard.
- Updates will show you any themes or plugins that need to be updated because a new version has come out. If WordPress itself is updated, you’ll see a number in a red circle next to this menu item.
- Posts are usually blog posts. They’re usually time-sensitive news items.
- Media shows you every photo, video, and file that you’ve uploaded as part of a post or page. You can also upload files directly to the media section.
- Pages are usually evergreen, static web pages. Examples include the “About Us” section on a company website or the “Services” page.
- Comments are what other people say onto one of your posts or pages. If you have any, there will be a number inside a red circle next to this.
- Appearance holds your themes, design and performance features.
- Plugins are extra mini programs that help increase the functionality of your site. You can use plugins to turn your website into a membership site, add social media sharing, eliminate comment spam, or just to do something cool or fancy with your graphics.
- Settings are used for just about anything. That’s the first place you want to go when setting up a new site.
Changing the design of your WordPress website
Once you’ve installed WordPress on your domain name, by default, you’ll get a basic automatically selected theme on your site (currently it’s Twenty Seventeen theme). This theme and your website design can be easily changed by choosing from more than 1500 free themes available in WordPress. It can be done under Appearance menu item by selecting Themes subcategory.
In this category, you can choose a new theme from the WordPress repository. Here’s a quick checklist for choosing your theme by searching within the dashboard:
- Read the description — Each theme usually comes with the short description of thev features and functionalities. By reading it, you should have a rough idea if it matches your needs and how customizable it is.
- Check the ratings — Popular themes will have star ratings that are visible in the preview and under theme details. They should give you a clear idea how good the theme is.
- Preview the theme — Preview the theme to get a sense of the overall look and layout.
- Check for responsiveness — Aim for a responsive design that will work on desktop browsers and mobile devices. Google recommends this.
If you find a theme that takes your breath away, cool down. Once you install the theme you like, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t look quite right. Your theme is just a skeleton of your website — to make it appealing you will have to fill in content (text, photos, videos, etc.).
Creating online store with WordPress plus Woocommerce
WooCommerce is the most popular WordPress plugin which is designed to serve you as your online store. The plugin is completely free, but it features many extensions and dedicated themes which may be free or can come in the form of premium plugins. This eCommerce system allows you to create a shop, modify items, manage paying and shipping methods, and much more. Because of all the extensions which make the plugin easy to use, WooCommerce is in charge of over 30% of all online stores.
With WordPress and WooCommerce, creating a simple online store has never been easier. You can prepare everything in just a few days, and the good thing is that you don’t have to know much about the platform. Still, creating a good online store that your customers will happily visit requires more effort from you. You will have to design your store, add all the necessary features and entice visitors to become customers.
Recommended reading: Why WooCommerce is the best platform for your eCommerce business
Note 1: The reason that WordPress is so widely used is because it’s so versatile. WordPress is user-friendly, so small businesses can use it without investing too much time into learning how it works. But WordPress is robust enough to be used even for large corporate or commercial websites.
Note 2: Because it is so prevalent, there are a lot of developers, programmers, and coders who work with WordPress, and there are a lot of tech-savvy people who continually design themes, plugins, and new features to add to your WordPress site.
Creating a Joomla website
Joomla was released to the public in August 2005. With each passing year, it has continued to grow its presence as one of the most powerful content management systems.
As a free and open-source CMS, Joomla is not only simple to install (one-click install option is available with the most hosting providers) but also provides the ability to make customizations based on the user’s specific needs. Written in PHP, Joomla includes a variety of features that have helped grow its popularity. These include blogs, news flashes, polls, RSS feeds, and page caching.
While Joomla is not as popular as WordPress, it is the second-most popular choice.
Some benefits of Joomla CMS include:
- Powerful, simple to use menu creation tool. That is just one of the many reasons why Joomla has made the top.
- Plenty of community support This holds true with other platforms, but Joomla is right up there regarding this benefit.
- Extensions. There are approximately 8,000 extensions available, that can help you to customize your site.
For those who want to give Joomla a try, it never takes long to get it up and running. Same as with the WordPress, you have two installation options:
- One click installation, the recommended option and can be completed within minutes.
- Manual installation, which takes anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes to complete.
Once the installation is complete, you now have a new website. It may not be much to look at right now, but remember that you can customize every element of your site. From the layout to the color to the menus, you have the power to make as many changes as you want.
Using Joomla and managing your website
With Joomla, you will find that most of your activity as the admin of the site will be focused inside the “Control panel”. To login to your control panel, add the word /administrator/ to the URL of your site. For example, YourWebsite.com/administrator/. Control panel is easy to understand, simple to navigate, and full of all the information you require to make changes, add content, and get an overall idea of where your site stands.
Generally speaking, there are three key areas of the control panel:
- Left menu bar. Here you will find Content, Structure, Users, Configuration, Extensions, and Maintenance.
- Header menu. It provides access to many of the same areas as the left sidebar, as well as a drop-down for System, Menus, Components, and Help.
- Main content area. Finally, the main content area shows Logged-In Users, Popular Articles, and Recently Added Articles.
Changing the design of your Joomla website
After you setup a basic website, it is time to consider your options for customizing each page. To get started, head to the “Extensions” tab in the header menu and drop down to “Template Manager”. It is here that you can dive deeper into the template that is installed, while also considering other layouts that may suit your website. If you click on “My Default Style” and then the “Options tab”, you can change the text and background colors, upload a new logo and add fonts.
The “Module Manager” is also important from a customization standpoint. It allows you to add, delete, and edit modules.
A visually appealing website is a great start, but it won’t take you far unless you add high-quality content to the design. With Joomla, this is a simple process. On the left sidebar, under the “Content” header, you will find the following:
- Add New Article
- Article Manager
- Category Manager
- Media Manager
If you click on “Add New Article”, for example, you will be taken to the page where you can add your content, choose your publishing options, and click “Save”. There are more features on this page, such as publishing an image and links, so be sure to experiment with each one.
Note: For businesses which are set for hosting a lot of articles, and don’t want many features, Joomla can certainly be the CMS of choice. It gives you the power to create a website quickly, and with a bit of training, offers the shortest development cycle in the CMS arena.
Creating a Drupal website
If you’re looking for a content management system that’s more robust than WordPress but still gives you a lot of free options for theme and modules, consider working with Drupal. Like WordPress, it’s a free content management system that lets you build a website quickly. But Drupal is more robust and allows greater flexibility than WordPress.
Drupal is more challenging to use than WordPress or Joomla, but with many free plugins and themes, it’s an excellent choice for a larger or more robust website that’s going to require greater functionality than a simple one-page site.
As the story goes, Drupal founder Dries Buytaert misspelled the Dutch word for village, “dorp,” while checking for the domain name. The resulting error was the word “drop” which, when translated in to Dutch became “druppel” or Drupal as the name would evolve
Similar to other CMSes you’ll have two options:
- Many of the traditional hosting providers offer a one-click installation of Drupal. And installation can be completed in as little as ten minutes using the single-click installer provided by your web host.
- If you’re planning to use some custom setup options or your host doesn’t offer the one-click option, you’ll need to install Drupal manually. Instructions are available from Drupal here.
Using Drupal and managing your website
When you open your site’s homepage, it should take you to a login page (or just choose the Login tab). Log in with your username and password from the installation process. Once you’ve logged in, you’ll see your site homepage and the admin menu bar on the top where you’ll do most of the customizations. The menu bar consists of:
- The dashboard gives administrators a customizable overview of relevant site information. You can add and remove items from the panel, or you can disable the dashboard completely.
- Content tab lets you find, manage, and create new pages. Also, lets you manage comments.
- Structure tab lets you edit blocks, define new content types, configure menus, administer tags, and configure some contributed modules.
- Appearance tab lets you switch between themes, install themes, and update existing themes.
- People tab lets you manage existing users, or create new user accounts.
- Modules tab lets you update, enable, disable, and install new modules.
- Configuration tab allows you to configure the settings for various functionality, including some modules: user settings, general site information, and other general admin settings.
- Reports tab lets you display information about site security, necessary updates, and information on site activity.
- Help tab displays links with the information and online documentation about the functionality of all of the modules installed on the site.
- The right side includes user-specific items such as user account and logs out.
- Shortcuts sub menu bar is where you can add the most commonly used menu items.
Changing the design of your Drupal website
The Appearance menu item allows you to select a new theme or to customize your existing theme. Like WordPress, Drupal allows you to set a different theme for your front and back ends. To install a new theme, click on the text at the top left-hand corner of the light box that says, “Install new theme”.
Installing a new theme on Drupal is slightly more challenging than on WordPress. Once you’ve found your new theme, you can download it in a compressed (.zip or tar.gz) format. When you’ve clicked on the Install new theme, you’ll then select your compressed file using the “Upload a module or theme” section of the light box.
Basic settings can be altered by using the Settings tab of the Appearance light box. It allows you to determine whether a logo, site name, secondary menu, and other items will be displayed on your site.
Note: Like many forms of software, the more options you have, the harder it can be to figure out how to use it. Drupal has many options to allow you to have maximum customization, but it does take some time to learn how to use it effectively. You can give Drupal a shot, and take some time to play with its various features and functions, and you’ll have a unique and beautiful website in no time.
Creating a Prestashop (eCommerce) website
If you want to create an eCommerce store, you will need to choose a content management system that will help you with selling products as opposed to solely serving posts and pages. It can be challenging to know where to begin navigating with so many options available.
For many people wanting to sell online, Prestashop offers a viable solution. It’s an open-source shopping cart software designed to give businesses the flexibility to build a functioning online store.
Just like with regular CMSes, Prestashop can be installed manually or with easy one-click install process. Most hosting providers offer one-click install option that we recommend, and you should easily find it within your host’s control panel.
Using Prestashop and managing your website
After you install Prestashop, you’ll get your login instructions and access to the back end/admin control panel. To help you get your online store setup faster, Prestashop will offer to take you through the installation tutorial and perform the following steps (you can skip that part and get right to you admin control panel):
- Customize your shop’s look and feel.
- Add product to your catalog.
- Setup your payment methods.
- Setup your shipping methods.
of all the websites who use PrestaShop
We recommend you to install the default free theme, but you can always change it once you get familiar with the platform. Once theme installation is complete, and you are done with the setup tutorial, you can get back to your main admin area. This panel is the center of store administration. It consists of two main parts, left side menu and middle section. The left side menu is where you will find all of your admin options, and where most of your creative effort will be focused. The middle section displays all of your store’s important information such as the number of orders completed, etc.
Let’s look at the each option in the left side menu:
- Dashboard tab lets you get back to the main page of your admin panel.
- The catalog is the heart of your shop, where you will add products, create categories, set up carriers and suppliers, etc.
- Orders will let you see orders with the invoices and handle merchandise returns, credit slips, and pre-order customer service, among other things.
- Customers tab lets you access all the information about your clients, edit their addresses, apply special discounts, and handle customer service.
- Price rules tab enables you to create vouchers and price reductions through a set of rules.
- Modules tab extends the power and usefulness of your shop. More than a hundred modules are available by default, and much more are available to buy on the Add-ons marketplace.
- Shipping tab lets you handle everything related to carriers and shipping costs, as well as marketing.
- Localization tab helps you customize your shop with local values, such as language and translation, currency, units, taxes and tax rules, and geographical entities.
- Preferences tab lets you edit just about any of its behaviors using the full-featured preferences.
- Advanced parameters tab contains links to specific tools and informational pages, such as the Web service settings, the database backup tool, the performance page, and more.
- Administration tab lets you set the admin panel itself: the content of the Quick Access menu, the employee’s list and permissions, the menu order, and more.
- Stats tab gives you access to all the statistics and graphics that are gathered and generated.
Changing the design of your eCommerce store
Prestashop has done a great job at creating documentation that covers the basics. There are separate guides for designers, developers, and merchants.
When it comes to changing the look of your online store, Prestashop has more than 3,000 themes and modules. The company offers tips for installing a theme as well as a demo store to enable users to preview a theme. While users have to pay for add-ons such as social media and PayPal integration, there are out of the box features that command user attention. Tools such as sales tracking, wish lists, unlimited currency support, one-page checkout, international shipping, MailChimp, and Olark make it easy to customize your website and do a retail business.
Note: While Prestashop has its shortcomings such as expensive modules and limited marketing opportunities, it proves itself as a powerful adversary to other shopping cart solutions. For the backend, the dashboard gives you everything you need to manage your business. It supports all the main shipping carriers, and comes with more than ten payment methods, giving you the flexibility to meet demands of different customers.