This guide was originally published in March 2012. Since then, hundreds of students (and even non-students!) have created their own personal websites using it. As it is one of the most-viewed articles on College Info Geek, I keep this guide very up-to-date.
What’s the #1 networking tool you can have in your arsenal as a student? I’ll tell you this right now: it isn’t your resume.
Resumes are boring. Career experts tell you to make your resume a one-page, size 11 Time New Roman document printed with black ink with no pictures. Seriously? How are you supposed to represent – and differentiate – yourself with that?
Plus, your resume becomes static and outdated the moment you hand it to someone. You can’t update resumes you’ve already given out – you have to make new copies.
That’s why you need a personal website.
A website is the complete opposite of a resume. Everything bad about resumes can be fixed simply by having a website. I’d go as far as to say that not having a website is like shooting yourself in the foot – it’s that useful.
1) A website isn’t static; it’s dynamic. It’s ever-changing. The moment you accomplish something, you can add it to your website. You don’t need to print new copies of it and send it out to your contacts over and over; you just update it. People can continually come back and see what you’re up to.
2) Having a website makes you more findable. If all you have is a resume, you have to go out and hand it to people to get your name out. If someone wanted to look you up on the internet and you didn’t have a website, all they might get is a Facebook or Twitter profile.
However, if you have a website, you can be found by a much wider audience andcontrol what it is they see first. This is key for establishing your personal brandand for highlighting your accomplishments.
I’ve been offered jobs, met clients for my web design work, and gotten interviews simply because I have a website. If I didn’t take the time to create one, I’m confident that I wouldn’t have been found.
Make sure you can be found!
3) Not many people have one. Succeeding today requires that you make yourselfstand out, and having a website can help you do that. It shows that you’ve taken the time to learn how to do something fairly technical, and it shows that you have some skills other people don’t have.
4) You gain some new skills that can be very useful in the future. Learning how to build a website involves a number of different skills, especially if you get into customizing and optimizing things. Even if you’re not looking for a job in a tech field, having these skills can give you a leg up.
Say you’re applying for a job in advertising. If you can tell the interviewer that you’re not only a great marketer, but that you also have knowledge of the web, you become a much more attractive candidate.
I sure hope so, because this guide is going to teach you exactly how to build that awesome website! I spent over 15 hours writing this guide (as well as taking screenshots and editing them) with the intent of making it the ultimate resource for getting yourself online. When you’re done, you’ll have established a great online presence. This is what mine looks like:
Here’s another great example – this is my girlfriend’s personal site, which she uses to showcase her graphic design work:
I’ve worked hard to make this guide as comprehensive, yet accessible as possible. It’s a bit of a long read, but that’s because it takes you from literally nothing to having a finished website.
In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to:
What you need to know beforehand:
What you don’t need to know/have beforehand:
Seriously, building a website isn’t hard and you don’t need to know any code. Knowing code can be useful for tweaking and customizing things later, but you can get the basics down without knowing so much as a lick of HTML!
Estimated time to complete this tutorial: 1-2 hours (you’ll spend the most time on non-techy stuff like writing your content)
Alright, enough with the preliminary stuff. Let’s get started!
Note #1: If you get stuck at any point in this tutorial and need help, I’d be more than happy to assist you. You can get in touch with meor . I’m serious – please ask me questions if you get stuck. I’d hate to see anyone go through a bunch of work and not end up with a great-looking site.
Note #2: I recommend some specific products and services in this tutorial. Be aware that these aren’t your only choice; they’re simply what I use personally and recommend.
Full Disclaimer: If you choose to use the domain and hosting option I recommend in this tutorial and click my links to get to it, I’ll earn a commission (though there is no extra cost to you – it will actually be cheaper since I’m able to offer a coupon code). I want to be very clear that there are definitely other good choices for your domain and hosting out there. This is simply the one I’ve been using since the beginning, and I’m very satisfied. If you do choose to use my link, thank you!
The first step to building your personal site is to choose how you’re going to have it hosted. There are a number of ways to put up a website. For instance, you couldjust create a free blog at Weebly or WordPress.com, or even Tumblr.
However, I believe it’s a lot more impressive to have a self-hosted site with an actual domain name (not a subdomain). This will look a lot more legitimate and will show that you’ve taken the time to learn how to actually build a website, which can differentiate you from the crowd.
I’m not the only one who thinks so. One of my favorite entrepreneurs, Srinivas Rao, gave this tip for aspiring bloggers:
So while it’s up to you in the end, I would recommend self-hosting your site. Still, having a free site on WordPress.com or another place if you’re on a tight budget is much better than not having a site at all!
Now, before we get into all the nitty gritty step-by-step stuff, there’s one thing I want you to think about first: your domain name. And the first rule of choosing a domain name is…
I can’t stress this enough: you need a good domain name. (side note: I thought real hard about registering that domain as a joke, but eventually decided against it) Follow these criteria for the best results!
So once you’ve thought of a good domain name, let’s kick off this whole website-building process by getting your domain and hosting.
It used to be that you had to buy your domain name separately from your web hosting. Now, however, you can get them from the same place, right at the same time. Buying them separately is still an option, but it’s so much easier to get them together (the convenience costs about $3 extra).
I’m going to use the combined method in this tutorial to keep things simple; however, you can alwaysif you want help setting them up separately (or for anything else).
Note to your wallet: this is the only part of the process that will cost you any money. Hosting isn’t free. However, it doesn’t have to be that costly, either – and I believe the small cost is worth the boost having a website gives to your personal brand and credibility.
There are literally a zillion options for web hosting out there. You can go with a shared account, a VPS, or go crazy and pay for your own dedicated server.
You could even get geeky and host your site from your own computer – though Idon’t recommend this as you probably don’t want to deal with the security risks of running a web server, and any time your computer gets turned off (e.g. during power failures and when you have to move out of your dorm), your site will go down. Still, it’s an option.
Since you’re probably a college student and, like me, not swimming in a vault full of money, I’m going to assume you just want something cheap that works.
With that in mind, I recommend just getting the basic. There are plenty of good hosts out there, so HostGator certainly isn’t the only one you can use; however, I’ve been hosting all my sites through them for over three years and I’ve always been more than satisfied.
Their plans are pretty cheap, there’s hardly ever any downtime, and I love the quick-install options I get for installing things like WordPress. Also, their customer support is just plain badass.
One time, I needed an obscure PHP server setting changed for a project, and it was something their level-1 techs couldn’t do for me. So within 20 minutes of me asking, one of their higher-up system admins not only changed the setting, but also sent me a screenshot of the directories and commands he used to do it just in case I needed to do it on another server in the future.
You can also get a pretty good discount.
Since I’ve been with them for several years and am directing this tutorial at budget-conscious students, I asked if I could partner with them to offer a discount. They said yes, which is why you’ll see my bearded mug on the page when you click through.
So, use the coupon code collegeinfogeek to get 54% off of your initial hosting purchase – whether it’s for 1 month, 12 months, or 3 years – the time doesn’t matter. This is actually 24% more savings than you’d get with the default coupon code they give you, so definitely make use of it if you choose to use HostGator. (It should be filled in when you sign up if you clicked the link above.)
So yeah. This tutorial assumes you are using HostGator; however, if you choose another host, these instructions should be pretty similar to what you need to do.
and click the big button that says “Start Your Site Now.”
Start your journey through the order wizard by picking out a domain name. Assuming you don’t already own one, stick with default tab Register a new domain, and type the one you’d like to see if it’s available. If it is, you’ll see a screen like the one below! If not, tweak it a bit until you find one that hasn’t been taken.
Scroll down and complete the next few sections:
Next, you’ll see a section for Hosting Add-ons. Honestly, I don’t think you need any of these, and I don’t use any myself. The possible exception is Domain Privacy Protection, which protects your name, address, and phone number from being seen in WHOIS searches. I don’t use it, but you can if you’d like.
In the section on Plugins, I’ll show you some ways you can keep your site secure, backed up regularly, and optimized for SEO – all for free.
Next you’ll be asked if you have a coupon code. Check to make sure the codeCOLLEGEINFOGEEK is there to get 54% percent off – 24% more than their default code gives you
Finally, review your order to make sure everything’s copacetic, and then hit the big yellow button to create your account.
Once you’ve paid, you’ll receive an email with all the information you’ll need to continue.
Time to start actually building your site.
As I mentioned in the beginning, you’ll be using(self-hosted, not WordPress.com) to set up your site. You may have heard that WordPress is mainly a blogging platform, which is completely true. However, in recent years WordPress has become so popular and well-supported that it makes a perfect platform for building non-blog sites as well.
WordPress is famous for only taking 5 minutes to install; I say that’s way too long. Let’s do it in 2, shall we?
One of the best things aboutis their quick-install options for almost every popular CMS (Content Management System). Of course, they have one for WordPress. Let’s get it set up.
Type this URL into your browser: yourdomain.com/cpanel – replace yourdomain with your domain name. If for some reason you can’t yet reach your domain yet (sometimes it can take a little while to set up), use the link you were given in your HostGator email listed Your Control Panel.
Log in with the username and password you were given in the email.
You’ll now be looking at your cPanel. To install WordPress, scroll down near the bottom of the page and find the link for QuickInstall.
On the QuickInstall page, look in the sidebar and find WordPress under the Blog Software section. Follow these steps to install WordPress in less than 2 minutes:
You should now have a fully functioning WordPress installation! If you visit your site right now, you’ll see the title with the default WordPress theme.
Note: It can sometimes take an hour or two for the web host to set up your account. While you’ll be able to access your cPanel right away, your domain might not be accessible for 1-2 hours. You can read more about this.
Before we get to creating pages and all that, let’s take a few minutes to get a feel for the WordPress Dashboard.
WordPress is a system that’s pretty easy to use and navigate – especially since the creators implemented tutorial features in version 3.3. However, I’d still like to give you a quick overview of what’s available to you. Here’s a shot of what you should see when you log in:
The big welcome message in the middle is there to help you while you’re first getting started, so it’s good to check it out. Beneath this message are a bunch of widgets, but you won’t need to do much with them right now.
What I’d like to go over are the links in the sidebar – these are all the core functions of WordPress. Note that hovering over each of these links will cause additional options to show up. Also, the one that’s active will show its additional options by default right underneath it.
Now that you know what does what, you should have an easier time navigating WordPress and creating your site.
Before you start making your pages, however, let’s take care of a couple important things!
When you create a page, WordPress makes the URL reflect the page title. For example, a page titled “Contact” would get a URL like yourdomain.com/contact.This is what you want.
However, by default WordPress doesn’t do this for blog posts. Instead, it creates these ugly numeric URLs like yourdomain.com/?p=123. These URLs don’t mean anything – it’s much better to make your blog post title be the URL.
To do this, you need to change your permalink structure. This is pretty straightforward:
Now your blog post URLs will be much more memorable.
This isn’t a ridiculously crucial thing to do, but I think it’s good to have your publishing time be accurate.
Now that you’re done taking care of those little details, it’s time to create your pages and get your content up on the web!
If you recall from the section detailing each part of WordPress, Pages are used for timeless content such as your biography and contact information. These pages will appear in your site’s top-level navigation, or 2nd-level navigation if you decide to create child pages.
Take a look at my site’s navigation once more to get a feel for what you’re going for here:
Don’t worry if you don’t feel like you have content for every one of these pages; you’ll just be creating the pages that you need. For instance, I don’t expect that many of you will have a pin map that you can embed to make a “Where I’ve Been” page (though if you do, that’s awesome).
However, there are a few pages you should create no matter who you are. These include:
Other pages you might think about adding, if they’re applicable to your life:
If you’d like a more detailed explanation of the pages you should include, check out my post on– which also includes some great examples of other personal websites.
It’s really up to you to decide what pages you want to have on your site. I’m going to show you how to create your About Me page, and you can use the same steps to create the rest.
Before you do that, though, you should delete the sample page and post that WordPress automatically puts up on your site.
First, get rid of the sample post by going to Posts on the WordPress Dashboard. Find the post titled “Hello World!” and click Trash.
Then go to Pages and do the same thing for the page titled Sample Page.
Your About Me page will be the landing page of your site – the place visitors will see first. Here you’ll want to have a short summary of who you are, what you’re studying, and the what work you do. It’s also good to have a picture of yourself, and maybe even some quotes about your work from other people.
Let’s create it!
You should already be at the Pages section of the WordPress Dashboard. Find the button near the top that says Add New. You’ll see this screen when you do:
As you can see, creating pages in WordPress is pretty easy. To get your About Mepage started, first enter a title in the Title Bar. It would probably make sense to title this page “About Me” or “About <your name>”.
Next, you’ll use the body area to enter all your content. Take a look at the different tools available for formatting the content; as you’ll find out, using WordPress isn’t all that different from using Microsoft Word.
So once you’ve familiarized yourself with the tools, you can start typing your content. You can also use the Add Media button to upload a photo and add it into your post.
To do this, place your cursor at the point in your content where you want the photo to appear. Click the Add Media button upload a photo. Once it uploads, you’ll see this:
Bam boom zippity bop – you’ve got a photo on your page.
So once you’ve got your photo and some text, go ahead and hit Publish. This will make your page go live.
Since this is a personal site rather than a blog, you’ll want this page to be the first page visitors see when they get to your site. Let’s set it as the home page:
Now, go back the the Pages section of WordPress and create the rest of your pages. This process should be relatively straightforward; the only one that may be more complicated is your Contact page.
This page can be really easy to create if all you want to do is link to your social media profiles. However, you may also want to link your email address or add in a contact form.
Making your email address clickable is really easy – it just requires a tiny snippet of code. In the WordPress content editor, look up near the top-right and change the tab from Visual to HTML. Then find the section where you want to list your email and paste in this code:
Make sure to replace both of the “youremailhere” blocks in that snippet with your own email.
If you want to add in a contact form, you have two options. You can either find atheme that has a built-in contact page template, or you can use whatever theme you want and add a contact form using a plugin. Either way, it’s really easy. I’ll cover the first option in Step 3 and the second in Step 4.
If you’d like to add a blog page to your site, it’s ridiculously easy.
Simply make another new page on site called “Blog” (or whatever you want, it doesn’t matter). Then on your Dashboard go back to Settings -> Reading and set your Posts page as that page you just created.
From there, all you have to do is go to Posts and start writing. All your published blog posts should show up on that Blog page.
If you’d like to learn more about creating a successful blog, then be sure to check out my.
At this point, you should have all your pages up and all your content put in each of them. Right now, someone could come to your site and learn all about you.
Now it’s time to make sure visitors are impressed when they hit your site. Let’s look as customizing your site’s look and feel.
One of the best things about WordPress is the stupidly large amount of themes available for your to use. Using a theme, you can change the look of your site without needing to know any CSS or have any graphic design skills.
A theme is basically a skin for your site. It changes the look while retaining all the content you created.
The first step in customizing your site’s look is to simply find a theme you like. This can be easier said than done, due to the huge amount of themes out there. I’m going to try and help you pick one out.
Note that not all themes are created equal. Some themes are simple, offering just the basics, while others are monstrous creations with dozens of post types, animations, and extra bells and whistles. Some themes are made for specific types of sites, like magazines or restaurants.
Likewise, some themes are free and some are not – AKA “premium“.
On both my personal site and here on College Info Geek, I’m using premium themes that I got for about $35 each. However, there are plenty of great free themes out there you can use, so don’t think you absolutely need a premium theme.
I’ve gone out and found three themes that I think work well for personal sites. Keep in mind that there are literally thousands of themes out there, so this is just a starting point.
Want more? Here are some great places to get themes:
Like I said, the theme options you have are literally endless. Explore and find something you like! Also, see if the theme you’ve chosen has a template for acontact page. If it does, you’ll be able to put up a contact form without using a plugin.
Once you’ve found something that you like well enough, let’s get it installed.
Wherever you found your theme, download it to your computer. The theme will probably come in a .zip file. Look inside this zip file.
If you see files like index.php, header.php, and footer.php in that very first folder, you’re good. If you find that those files are buried in sub folders, you’ll need extract everything and create a zip folder of whatever folder contains those files.
Most themes will come with documentation that tells you how or even if you need to do this, so consult that for help if you need it.
Once you have the final .zip file, it’s time to install it.
From this point forward, I can’t really cover theme setup in this tutorial. Themes are so diverse that it’d just be impossible for me to cover everything. Luckily, most good themes come with documentation that will walk you through setting them up.
One thing I’ll go over before we head into the next section: WordPress’Custom Menu functionality.
Since I published this tutorial, a lot of people have asked me how to create custom menus on their sites. Specifically, they wanted to do things like:
Ask, and ye shall receive. I’ve created a short video that will guide you through the whole process of creating a custom menu for your site.
Oh, and one more thing before we move on…
I bet you’re wondering how to get a cool logo for your personal website like I have on mine. Well, you could design yourself on usingor another program if you have the graphic design chops.
I certainly didn’t have those chops, though. I actually used a service calledto have mine done. Fiverr is a website that lets people pay $5 to other people in exchange for… well, almost anything. I just went there, searched for “logo”, and picked the option with the most gigs and highest satisfaction rate. $5 for a logo ain’t bad!
Now that you’ve got your theme, it’s time to tweak things a little bit further by adding plugins and widgets.
Alone, WordPress is a great system with a lot of functionality. However, the true beauty of WordPress lies in its ability to work with plugins – small (or large) pieces of packaged code that add functionality to your site.
There are several plugins that I believe are absolutely essential to any WordPress site, and more still that you may want to install as well.
Installing plugins is pretty straightforward. Unlike themes, almost every plugin you’ll ever need is kept in the official WordPress plugin repository. Therefore, you don’t need to upload .zip files – you can actually just search for plugins right from your Dashboard and install them! To do this:
Important Note: Plugins work directly with the guts of your WordPress installation. It’s important that you be discerning on what plugins you choose to install on your blog; make sure you trust what you’re installing.
I recommend looking up plugins at thebefore installing them. If a plugin has a low star rating, it might be broken – or even worse, it could have security vulnerabilities that can open up your blog to attacks. Be careful out there, trooper.
There are several plugins that I wouldn’t be caught dead without on these high seas of the Internet. I recommend you use them as well. I’ll link to each one’s repository page, but remember that you can install them directly from your Dashboard.
These plugins are just the tip of the iceberg. If there’s something you want to do with your site, there’s probably a plugin that can help you do it.
Alright, now that you’ve got your plugins installed, let’s move on to the final bit – widgets.
Widgets are elements that you can place on any part of your theme that has been “widgetized” – that is, set up for widgets to display. There are already a few widgets displaying on your site by default, like Category, Recent Posts, and Meta.
To edit the widgets that are displayed on your site, follow these steps:
Widgets are automatically saved when you drag them in or out of a box. By the way, you can use theplugin if you want to specify certain pages that a widget will or won’t be displayed on. This keeps things from getting redundant.
Since this is a personal site, there are some specific widgets you might want to show:
You should now have a fully functional website! You’ve got all your pages created, your menus set, a kick-ass theme, some great plugins, and a few widgets in your sidebar.
Congratulations! You’ve just upped your internet cred +1000 and simultaneously made yourself a much more attractive candidate for any job you might want to go for.
Here’s a quick to-do list to make sure you get the most out of your site:
At this point, you can consider your site “done”. In the next step, I’ll outline some ways you can take your site to the next level. Whether you decide to do that or not, I’d like to ask you to do one thing…
Leave a comment with your new site’s URL! I’d love to check it out and see what you were able to come up with.
If you decided to skim through this tutorial first and still aren’t sure if you’re up for this process, here’s one last thing that will show you how easy it is. In this video, I go through the entire process of building a site in less than 10 minutes (plus a couple minutes explaining things).
Alright, so for those of you who want to go above and beyond, let’s take the final step.
The purpose of this tutorial was to get you from zero to having a working website as easily as possible. However, you can do so much more to optimize your site’s design, speed, SEO, security, navigation, typography… your options are endless.
That’s why I want to show you some of the things you can do to take your site to the next level. I’ll also point you to some resources you can use to get started!
I started building websites when I was 12. At first, I was just using the super-old school Geocities site building tool to drag and drop elements. It was fun, but it wasn’t enough. Eventually I found that I needed to learn some code, and I began teaching myself HTML.
Luckily, the web has come really far in recent years. With content management systems like WordPress, anyone can make a beautiful website (as you just did) without knowing any code whatsoever.
Still, clicking around WordPress can only get you so far. There comes a point where you want to take your site to the next level, and you’ll need some web development knowledge to do it. With that in mind, here are some resources you can use to kickstart your web development education.
To keep things free, stick with these online resources:
One additional resource I recommend, but that isn’t free, is. This is an amazing site to hit up if you’re looking for video courses on literally any web development topic. In fact, many universities offer their students free subscriptions to this site. Ask your school’s IT department to find out if yours is one of them.
Another great video-based learning library is. Their library isn’t as extensive as Lynda’s, but they still have a lot to offer – especially in the area of web development. I actually prefer Treehouse over Lynda, as they include code challenges and quizzes with their video-based projects. In fact, I learned to build an iPhone app in just two days by using Treehouse. Unfortunately, I have yet to see any schools offering free subscriptions to their students – but that doesn’t stop your from asking!
If you’re a book learner, I have a few recommendations for your library:
Web development education is a huge field, and I’m not going to pretend I can cover it all in one post. These resources will get you started, but know that there are lots of other great ones out there. One of the best ways to learn is simply talking to other developers!
Now that I’ve gone through ways you can learn web development, I’ll round out this post with some links that will teach you specific things you can do to make your site even better.
Here are some of my favorite WordPress-related blogs, which I read regularly to learn how to make my sites awesome:
And to get you started, one thing you may want to do isto track visitor statistics (thanks to for reminding me to add this)
You might not feel the weight of that word, especially if you just browsed through this article first before getting started. For me, though, it’s amazing to look at after spending over 15 hours writing this tutorial.
Hopefully, you now have a completely functional website and a budding knowledge and interest in web development. If you’ve gained either of those things, I’ve done my job!
Remember, if you need any help, you can. I’ll either help you directly or point you to people or resources that can be of assistance. You can also just connect with me without a need for help – I’d love to meet you! Follow me on Twitter: