You need to create a personal website. You want to express yourself online. Although you want to be unique, you don’t have to be a web designer.
Website design has made great strides in recent years.
Anyone can create their own website online with free templates, ready-made designs and website builders. Instead of slaving to Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn’s digital “land”, you can now own your web space.
This shift is massive in the digital age. Even if your online life is not your goal, your digital life will be more real than your offline one. It is a smart idea to own and control your digital life.
However, a template for your personal website can make it easier to create a website.
A pre-made template or design can be used to start a house search.
Yes, a paint job that is ready to go is great. It doesn’t matter if the location, building, lease terms and living options don’t make sense.
The secret to professional web designers is that all web pages are HTML and CSS, with some scripts added. This means…
Any website template can be created on any web platform.
Also, you don’t have to limit yourself to “Squarespace templates”, “Wix templates”, or “BrandYourself templates.”
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the 6 steps to choose the best personal website template for the right platform. This will allow you to create the design and functionality you require for your professional and personal lives.
1. Define your needs, budget and assets
With a little editing any template can be transformed into a personal website template. This makes them easy to market and easy to mislead. It is important to assess what you really need, your budget, and the “assets” you have (e.g. content, photos, PDFs, etc).
You have to be there
What functionality is your website required? Does it just need to be a resume website? Or does it have to be interactive? Are you looking to add to the website and blog? Are you open to experimentation? Are you interested in presenting a portfolio?
Are you interested in integrating with other platforms (e.g, your Instagram feed)? Are you looking to make money? Sell ads, partner with brands.
Although there are no definitive answers, it is important to think about these things before you read the sales page for [brand name website builder].
Although price is powerful, it is important not to only pay for the best but also to pay for what really matters. Consider your personal budget. How can you trim your spending?
Your site is as valuable as your NetFlix monthly subscription. Is it going to help you find your next job? Are you making it a key part of your future goals?
There are no right answers, but it’s important to at least think about them before shopping for a design/designer/template. Although you might be enthusiastic about the project right now, price is usually a determining factor in whether your site will remain online for one month or ten years.
Although pre-made templates are helpful, the site must be entirely yours. That’s the point of it all, right?
What kind of photography do you own? Are you able to write your own content? Are you able to upload PDFs, documents or videos? Are you a fan of the typography and colors you use? Are you already a part of social media?
There are no right or wrong answers. However, it is important to think about these issues before being influenced by gorgeous mock-up templates.
2. Understanding Terminology and Options
It can be confusing to understand website terminology. Many companies mix, match, and misuse jargon to market their products. These are the five essential elements you must have a website online today.
Your “address” online is a domain. It is available for lease from ICANN through accredited “domain registrars”. One can be purchased now and “pointed” to your website later. To make it easier, many website hosting companies also offer domain names for sale. This is your [yourname.com]
Your website is composed of computer files. These files must “live” somewhere. Hosting companies lease space on servers that store and serve website files every time someone visits your site.
Software for Websites
Modern websites often contain many files. Websites may not always require software (ie. a content management system) to manage all files and make it easy to edit and maintain.
There are many options for website software.
We’ll use WordPress for our purposes.
WordPress powers over 25% of the Internet. There are both its critics as well as its advocates. It’s still the best solution for personal websites (yes that includes non-stop Squarespace advertising).
Let me tell you, this is the truth. WordPress can be described as a 4 door sedan or light SUV in website software.
It is very popular. It’s also popular because it suits most people’s needs. It is versatile, easy to use and can do so many things. People will say WordPress can be hacked or WordPress is slow. This is similar to someone saying that sedans are more likely to be stolen than semi-trucks or that my Ferrari can beat your Honda Accord off the line.
These criticisms can be true, but not always.
Plus, as we’ll see, there are ways to minimize or eliminate WordPress’ shortcomings while still keeping its benefits for building personal websites (ie, ownership and expandability).
Templates for Websites
As we have seen in the introduction, templates are pre-made HTML and CSS. These computer languages allow browsers to create a webpage. Although not essential, good design is almost impossible to create from scratch with mobile devices and other browsers. Every web designer needs a template or framework to get started.
There are many pre-made templates for personal websites that can be used as templates or paid for. They can also be bundled with custom design services.
Templates should be remembered one thing. Website templates should be focused on design, layout, and content presentation. Not functionality or pre-made photos.
Plugins, extensions, or apps are software pieces that can be used to enhance the functionality and features of your website.
WordPress’ greatest advantage is its “extensibility”. WordPress offers a wide range of premium and free plugins. These plugins allow anyone to create websites with advanced functionality. Many small websites can become viral and make money thanks to the many options available via plugins.
3. Select & set up your personal website platform
There are many great website platforms. There are many ways to combine, match and mix the five pieces that you need to create a modern website.
This guide wouldn’t be useful if it didn’t help you to find a template and build a website that works.
We have already narrowed down the website software to WordPress**. Now, we must pick where your WordPress software will reside & how it will integrate with your templates and plugins.
Two main options are available: WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress.
**If you’re curious, I have written a detailed comparison between Squarespace & WordPress based upon my experiences.
Disclosure: I receive referral fees from the companies listed on this site. All data and opinions are based upon my professional experience as either a paying customer, or consultant to paying customers.
Option 1 Self-hosted WordPress
WordPress is free, open source, and community-supported software. It is free to download, install anywhere and use however you wish.
Self-hosting WordPress allows you to have total freedom and control, but you also take full responsibility. It’s almost like having your own home. You have the freedom to do what you like, but you also have the right to call the plumber.
However, it is worth investing in WordPress hosting services. Hosting companies can offer the security, support and services you need to minimize the risks associated with hosting your WordPress site.
Bluehost is my personal website provider. Here are a few reasons why I recommend it.
- Bluehost is very affordable to get started.
- Bluehost offers a simple, quick “onboarding” process that is ideal for personal websites.
- Bluehost is the best brand for a starter WordPress website.
- Bluehost is looking to expand and they have servers on cPanel so it’s easy to transfer if/when ever you want to leave.
Check out the current Bluehost promotional discount.
The upside: You can download and use any theme or plugin you like if you host your WordPress software yourself. This setup is familiar to developers and consultants. It’s future-proof and saves money over other options.
The downside: Technical aspects are your responsibility. Bluehost can offer support, and experts can be available to help you, but ultimately you are responsible for everything. Self-hosting WordPress isn’t for everyone who isn’t interested in dealing with technical issues.
Option 2 WordPress.com
WordPress.com is a hosted service that is managed by the original developer of WordPress software. It is an all-in-one package that bundles WordPress software, hosting, software and support into one monthly plan.
WordPress.com can be compared to owning a house. While you can make all the customizations you wish “inside”, the maintenance and boring bits of your building are not your responsibility.
WordPress.com is a great choice for businesses. Here are a few reasons why I recommend it.
- WordPress.com is a WordPress-based website that takes care of all speed, security and technical issues while still allowing users to enjoy the benefits of WordPress software.
- WordPress.com Personal Plans are available and predictable.
- WordPress.com offers a complete directory of premium templates that can be installed quickly.
- WordPress.com offers a lot of functionality…and is future-proof if ever you need to leave – which can be huge for a personal website.
Check out the Plans at WordPress.com.
The upside: WordPress.com users get the most out of WordPress software, without having to deal with any technical issues.
The downside is that you will only be able to use a small version of WordPress. You will also lose some design options and functionality.
The Next Steps
There is no wrong choice. It all depends upon your goals and needs.
Bluehost’s Plan with WordPress Auto-Install – See my step-by–step setup guide.
Register for WordPress.com’s business plan.
4. Select & set up your personal website template
Once you are clear about what you have, you can start to search for the perfect template for you website.
Keep these things in mind when you shop.
- Don’t pay attention to the logo designs and mock-up photography. A template may only look one way because of the mock-up photography.
- Concentrate on the layout of a template.
- Take a look at more than the homepage. Take a look at the layout of subpages or unique pages.
- Any template can be used as a WordPress Theme. It is better to convert a Squarespace, Weebly or Wix template to WordPress than to just keep the design. This would be similar to choosing a house based upon a pre-built kitchen layout. It is better to choose your home or area and then spend money renovating it.
Templates for WordPress that you can self-host
A self-hosted WordPress installation gives you a virtually unlimited number of templates. These are some places you can look for high-quality options.
- My roundup of WordPress Theme Frameworks: These are amazing templates that can create great websites with beautiful photos and colors.
- ThemeForest is a large marketplace that sells premium templates and themes. You can purchase, download, and install.
- MOJO Themes is another marketplace that offers premium templates and themes. You can purchase, download, and then install.
- TemplateMonster is another marketplace that offers premium templates and themes. You can purchase, download, and then install.
- WordPress.org Repository – The official marketplace for WordPress templates and themes. All templates can be downloaded and installed directly to your WordPress website.
A WordPress.com Personal plan allows you to upload templates from any of the above sites. You also have unlimited access WordPress.com’s premium templates. All templates have advanced customization options that allow you to edit them.
These can be viewed here.
5. Select & Configure Your Personal Website Functionality
Many theme and template makers combine functionality with design. This can be great, but it can also come with its own set of problems.
You can’t edit a theme that has too many functions. You can edit both design and functionality if you separate them.
WordPress plugins allow you to add functionality.
WordPress is ready to use right out of the box. It only requires very few plugins. The rule of thumb is to have fewer plugins than you need.
Installing the JetPack plugin on a self-hosted website is a good idea. It provides security and backups, as well as other fun features like contact forms and sharing buttons.
I have also written a list of the top WordPress plugins, which includes Google Analytics and Redirects.
You also have options for portfolios and galleries like Envira Gallery or JetPack.
You’ve been waiting all this time for unique functionality.
It is crucial to clearly define your needs. It is easy to add WordPress features that you don’t need or your visitors want.
There are many great sources.
- WordPress.org Repository – The official repository for plugins. You can search for specific functionality. Note the rating and number of installations.
- ThemeForest is a great source for premium plugins across all industries.
WordPress.com Personal Plans offer a lot of useful functionality. See this example.
6. You can refine your design and content
Once you’ve got your design and functionality in place, the fun starts.
It doesn’t matter if your website is personal or professional – it is important to remember that editing, revising and maintaining your site is never finished.
Although it doesn’t have to take too much time, a website that is well maintained and updated regularly will be a great one.
Edit Your Design
WordPress.com’s Customizer tool makes it easy to customize your WordPress.com template.
This guide will explain how WordPress themes work, and also show you the WordPress Dashboard.
Keep your visitors’ needs in mind when designing and editing your website. Visitors might find it frustrating if they don’t like the look you choose.
Marketing Your Personal Site
Ahhhh, now for the fun part. There are no right or wrong answers.
Here’s the problem. Without a website, you can’t build a lasting brand. Social media networks change. A good website is one that you own.
You can position your website for any eventuality if you keep in touch with your most loyal readers and determine how they found you.
This topic is covered in my guide on how to generate content ideas as well as my guide to Yoast’s SEO plugin for WordPress.
Take the time to assess your needs and budget.
Bluehost hosting plans are available if self-hosted WordPress is what you need. See my step-by–step setup guide.
You can purchase a WordPress.com plan here if you are looking for bundled WordPress services.