There are a lot of resources out on the web that make the business of building websites easy for just about anyone. At first, it may seem completely out of your skill set to make a website that looks good and is –most importantly—functional, but with these helpful tips even the most basic online user can create a good-looking website for professional networking or a personal portfolio.

Before you start building a new website, there are some key questions you need to answer first:

  1. What kind of website do you want? A portfolio, a personal profile, or a business oriented website? There are certain elements of a website that are specific to the kind of use you want to get out of it. Portfolios tend to be photo gallery extensive whereas a business website probably has an online store and more text.
  2. What do you want it to look like? It’s hard to think of a style you’d want off the top of your head—especially if you’ve never built your own website before. I’d recommend browsing through a few (or maybe a lot!) themes on the internet to get an idea of the kind of style you’re going for. Be prepared to spend some money on high-quality themes that can offer customer support, editing capabilities, and structure that makes it easy to use while also giving your website that professional feel.
  3. And finally…what CMS (content management system) are you going to use? There are a number of free services such as Wix.com and Weebly.com that allow people to create websites, though I find it has too many limitations on customization. For the purposes of this blog, I am going to focus on WordPress since I believe they offer great tools for inexperienced users as well.

After deciding on the type of website you want and the theme you find most interesting, it’s important to remember that although WordPress makes it easy to build a fully functional, beautiful website…it’s going to take some work.

When installing your theme, it probably won’t look anything like the demo you previewed—but don’t panic yet. Read carefully through the instructions of your theme and download all of the necessary plugins to make the structure look exactly like how you want it. It’s important to start off with all of the right tools rather than trying to fix a website that is missing a critical plugin, widget, or other installation.

There are 3 plugins that I recommend ANY user should download. It’ll make life easier and requires absolutely no programming knowledge to make a website look like any professional website you’ve ever come across.

  1. W3 Total Cache. This plugin is designed to improve user experience and the speed of your website. Once you’ve got everything all set up, you’ll be glad to already have W3 installed to help you deal with server performance and ultimately makes your website a reliable, user-friendly experience.
  2. Google Doc Embedder. A simple but incredibly useful plugin. Who knew that it’d be so hard to embed or format a PDF or Word Document on a website without it looking all funky? With this plugin, it’s easy to embed your resume or writing sample that will look high-quality on any device it’s viewed in. Bonus feature: there is a download button for potential employers to review your stuff for later!
  3. WPBakery Visual Composer. This is the motherload of all plugins…the ONE thing you should absolutely download for a successfully organized website. Instead of having to mess with code (especially if you don’t come from a developer background) to customize your website, the Visual Composer makes the editing process in WordPress a “drag and drop” page builder. You can build any type of layout imaginable for each page or post and it gives you FULL control over your WordPress website.

The internet offers many resources out there for people who are just starting to build their own websites. However, I felt it was important to share some of my website hacks (more specifically for WordPress) as I use these tools for my own personal website in addition FLIRT’s blog site. Even if you have no prior knowledge to websites or content management systems, WordPress offers you tools that both professional businesses such as FLIRT and myself as an intern, use on the daily to make our websites look good and function perfectly. You don’t have to be a professional to make your website LOOK professional.