Applying for a new job? Keen to document your travels, or your passion for a specific subject? Want to share your experience – and expertise – with a wider audience?
Whatever your goals are, creating a personal website can help you achieve them. Of course, most (particularly creative) roles ask for an online portfolio – so you need to document your most exciting and influential projects somewhere. But on top of that, personal websites are an excellent, engaging, and effective way to show the world who you are, what you can do – and why you do it.
With so many personal websites online today – Forbes puts the total amount at 1.13 billion; Hosting Tribunal places that figure at a whopping 2 billion – you might be wondering not only how to stand out from the crowd. But how to get started.
Fear not! Getting online in 2023 is easier than ever with the help of website builders, social media, and even AI. Below, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to how to make a personal website. From starting with some clear goals to getting your personal website seen by the internet, we’ve outlined eight steps to get you started.
Before starting to think about content and what to write, it’s worth outlining some goals for your personal website. Why are you creating one, and what do you want to achieve? Your personal website’s goals might, for example, be to:
- Generate traffic, in order to raise awareness of your personal brand
- Encourage people to sign up to your email newsletter
- Invite people to get in touch to learn more about a service you offer
- Showcase your work in a natural way that brings out its best features
Many people often focus on trying to build a social media presence, but it’s just as important to decide on the purpose of your personal website first – this will then inform the content you share on other channels.
Here are some factors to think about first:
- Who is your target audience going to be? How will you appeal to them?
- Consider your tone of voice – how do you want to be perceived by others and what is your brand identity?
- What skills do you have that will set you apart? Do some research and think about what you can offer that’s distinctive.
What’s next? Well, once you’ve decided on the purpose of your personal website, it’s time to select your domain name, which is an address for your website to help your visitors find you.
If you get this spot on, people will be more likely to remember your website – which is key when it comes to job applications! It’s a good idea to include your own name if it’s a personal website, but – if you don’t feel comfortable doing so – at least make sure it’s something relevant to your content.
Before you dive in and choose your domain name, though, check out our top tips:
- Keep it short and simple: a concise domain name is easier for your site’s visitors to remember – and type in!
- Make it easy to spell and pronounce: choose words that are commonly understood. Avoid complex or uncommon terms.
- Use relevant keywords: incorporating keywords related to your business or website content will boost your personal website’s visibility in Google.
- Avoid hyphens and numbers: these can create confusion, and make the domain name less memorable.
- Consider the extension: select a domain extension (.com, .org, .net, etc.) that fits your website’s purpose and target audience nicely.
- Research trademark and copyright issues: make sure your chosen domain name doesn’t infringe on any existing trademarks or copyrights. No point landing yourself in hot water before you’ve even got your personal website off the ground!
Now it’s time to sign up for a website builder, where you’ll manage your content and choose from a range of templates with which to customize your website. There are many user-friendly, creative options available nowadays, so you’re sure to find something that works for you.
Here are the three website builders that we’d recommend for starting a personal website:
Squarespace starts with prices at $16 per month and is a website builder designed to help people build their own websites and showcase their work, no matter their technical ability. It comes with impressive templates that are great for visual content, as well as effective SEO tools to help bring your website to the attention of relevant readers or recruiters. It’s often a favorite amongst artists, photographers, and those who love design.
Wix is extremely beginner-friendly. Like Squarespace, it kicks off with a starting price of $16 per month. Also like Squarespace, Wix offers excellent value for money: largely thanks to the number of features it includes. Wix also has over 800 templates to choose from, and they’ve all been professionally designed.
Taking just five minutes to set up, GoDaddy is the fastest way to build a personal website – period. Its also a super affordable option, with paid plans starting at just $9.99 per month (although the free plan might appeal more if you’re on a shoestring budget).
While its blogging tools are limited, GoDaddy lets you switch templates at any time – so it’s ideal for those that need that extra bit of flexibility…or who simply reserve the right to be indecisive!
Now you’ve selected your website builder, you’ll be asked to choose your monthly pricing plan, and enter your personal details and domain name. Let’s go!
Use a Custom Favicon!Adding a custom favicon (that small icon that appears next to your website’s name in the tab of your user’s browser) adds a professional touch to your site. It’ll reflect the personality behind your personal website, too – and help it stand out in a crowded browser!
Next, you’ll need to find a template that you love – this is your chance to add some personal flair. If you’re creating a website for professional or portfolio reasons, select something unique, but that’s also going to be user-friendly and easy to navigate.
Some key things to remember when selecting a template include its:
- Compatibility with different devices: your site will need to be easy to use not only on desktop, but on smartphones and tablets, too.
- Load speed: while some templates look excellent – and come with a bunch of cool, kinetic design features – they can clog your website up with code; bogging it down, and slowing it to a pace your users won’t tolerate.
- Ease of navigation: personal website templates aren’t simply there to look pretty – they need to be simple to scroll through, too. So be sure to pick one with the right balance of style and substance.
Not sure how you want your website to look? Browse others with similar content for inspiration, but – ideally – pick a template that speaks to you, and suits your unique content needs. Think about whether you’ll be creating a one-page website or a multi-page one, too, and then go from there.
Once you’ve chosen a template, you can start to bulk out your website with images, content, and more. This may vary depending on which builder you’re working with, but three of favorites all offer drag-and-drop customization, allowing you to move content around with ease.
Discover how customization works on our favorite website builders below:
- Squarespace comes with modern themes that are easy to edit and adapt to mobile devices. It is a drag-and-drop website builder, but unlike other builders, you can’t just drag anything anywhere. It’s more section-based, which takes a little longer to get to familiar with.
- Wix comes with easy to use drag-and-drop building tools and a number of themes you can customize to look exactly how you want. This gives you more freedom, which is ideal when it comes to creating a personal website, so you can really make it your own.
- GoDaddy If you want your work to speak for itself within a fuss-free template, this will be the website builder for you. GoDaddy lets you switch templates at any time, which we love. However, it’s hard to avoid the elephant in the room – GoDaddy’s restrictive style. It means that, while you can create a simple site in moments, you won’t get much in the way of flair and flexibility.
Examples of templates
Show Your Personality!Still struggling to pick a personal website template? Don’t umm and ahh toomuch – in our opinion, it’s always best to go with your gut, and select the one that feelsright. You want a template that shows off your unique style, after all – that captures and reflects the flavor of your unique individual brand.
It’s a personal website, after all – so give it some personality!
Now you can start creating your pages, writing content and making your website your own.
Here are some tips for when you start adding content:
- Add static content first: We’d recommend adding a homepage, an ‘about us’ page, and a ‘contact me’ page with details about yourself early on – get these pages up and running before anything else.
- Showcase the best of your work: Websites can serve as an online portfolio or display samples of work and link elsewhere. Add a selection of the projects that you’re most proud of!
- Include testimonials: Boost your credibility by including quotes from people you’ve worked with. This works in a similar way to how we endorse one another on Linkedin, and it’s a great way to serve up social proof that your services are to be trusted.
- Focus on visuals: Even if you don’t work in a creative industry, including visuals will make your website more engaging from the get-go.
- Structure your content: to organise content in a way that people – and search engines! – can understand, arrange your text into different sections with headings and subheadings. As for the text itself, use bullet points and images to break up text. And keep paragraphs short to avoid long, interminable ‘text walls’ – no one wants to read them!
Incorporate a Clear Call to Action.What do you want people to do after visiting your site? Contact you for work? View your portfolio? Follow you on social media?
Whatever it is, make sure you make it clear to your users what the next step is with a good call to action.
Moving on, it’s time to explore how you can add more functionality to your personal website. We’d recommend starting to add apps now, which will make your personal website even more appealing.
Apps are tools which extend your personal website’s capabilities. They serve a wide range of functions: including analytics, SEO, social media, ecommerce, security, performance, and design.
Here are some of the apps accessible via each builder that you might find useful:
- Squarespace offers creative design apps and as a number of sharing apps – all of which will make the site more visually appealing and user-friendly. For visual personal websites you might want to experiment with apps like Outfy, which allows you to create stunning social media graphics and automate social media posts.
- The Wix App Market also has hundreds of apps to choose from, such as the Pinterest Pin It button app, which is great for personal websites and social sharing.
- GoDaddy also offers a variety of effective apps from its in-house selection, including easy contact forms, easy pop-ups, and quick Facebook chat. However, it frustratingly lacks the ability to integrate with third-party apps.
Apps can add a lot to your personal website – especially if you handpick them for the specific features and functionality you require.
That said, you should only install the apps you absolutely need. That’s because apps weigh your personal website down – so the more you integrate with, the slower your site’s speed will become.
Now, how do you get your website seen by the right people? Marketing is vital for success, so putting effort into the key strategies will help you stand out from the crowd.
We’ve summarised our top digital marketing tips to help you get your website seen:
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization): there are a number of SEO tips that can help improve your ranking on search engines. For example, you should find the right keywords for your website and use them throughout your written content, and pick a domain name that shows Google what your personal website is all about. Check out our top 7 blog SEO tips for more detailed info.
- Social media marketing: it’s important to start building your presence across multiple social channels, so add your website in your social profiles, tweet and post about it, and share it with your job search materials. Keep it updated with new information (or, if you’re blogging, post regular content).
- Add relevant links: seeking out links back to your personal website from trustworthy and noteworthy publications isn’t just good for publicity – it’s great for helping your website rank for relevant terms in search engine results, too!
- Email marketing: use an email opt-in tool to obtain email addresses and start to make contact. This could help connect you with potential future employers, and build those all-important connections.
- Search engine marketing (SEM): this strategy involves paying to place your personal website at the top of the results pages of search engines, such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. It works on a model called pay-per-click (PPC), whereby you ‘bid’ on the amount you’re happy to pay for each click through to your website. It’s competitive, and expensive – but it can also be highly effective!
- Guest blogging: this form of advertising won’t cost you anything but your time. It involves writing content, pitching it to popular online publications in your niche, and including within what you’ve written a link back to your website. It’s ideal for building up your profile, and has excellent benefits for your site’s SEO health, too!
- Influencer marketing: paying ‘influential’ people – i.e. those with a lot of followers – to promote your brand can be a highly lucrative marketing strategy. If, that is, you pick the right people. When it comes to influencer marketing, think less about the amount of followers, and more about the influencer’s niche – and how relevant it is to your personal brand and interests.
Provide Clear Contact Information.Before you start using these advertising strategies to push your website out there to the big wide world of the internet, you’ll want to make sure that – when people do stumble upon your site – it’s easy to get in touch with you.
So remember to set up a dedicated ‘Contact’ page with your email address, phone number, and links to your social media profiles.
Finally, you’ll need to remember that your personal website isn’t a ‘set and forget’ type of task. For your website to become – and remain – successful, you’ll need to be constantly working on it. Optimizing, iterating, and repeating to ensure it’s easy to use, up to date, and firing on all cylinders. Here’s how:
- Add fresh and relevant content: regularly updating your website with new content keeps visitors engaged – and encourages them to keep coming back! It allows you to share new information, showcase your latest work or achievements, and demonstrate your expertise: helping your personal brand establish credibility and maintain a professional presence online.
- Maintain a solid user experience: by regularly checking for and fixing broken links, you prevent your personal website’s visitors from encountering frustrating dead ends. This, in turn, boosts their trust in your website, and invites them to explore further.
- Optimize your site’s performance and load times: driving down website load times – and driving up performance – is essential. Slow-loading websites lead to higher bounce rates, impacting on user engagement. (Not to mention your personal website’s Google rankings!) Through proper, perpetual maintenance, you’ll be able to identify and resolve issues that may affect your site’s performance – guaranteeing a smooth, efficient browsing experience.
So, whether you’re applying for jobs, hoping to progress professionally, or simply sharing something important to you, creating a personal website will only benefit you in the long run. And remember – your online presence can have a huge impact on your prospects and exposure to the people you want to be connected with, so getting it right is important.
With a little help from us and some hard work, you’ll be well on your way to creating a unique personal website!
Here’s a reminder of those eight steps on how to start a personal website:
- Set a Clear Goal For Your Personal Website
- Buy a Domain Name
- Choose a Website Builder
- Find a Template You Love
- Add Your Website’s Content
- Install Apps
- Get Your Website Seen
- Update and Maintain Your Website
In our comprehensive, proprietary in-house research, Wix came out on top as our best overall website builder. It also offers a free plan – something Squarespace, which only offers a free trial, doesn’t do.
However, Squarespace also claimed the gong, in our research, of the ‘best value for money’ website builder. So if you’re on a tight budget, it’s certainly worth looking into!