Ask Will: How do I set up my own website?

By Will Angley
12 Nov 2016

A friend asked: how do I set up a personal website to host my résumé, bio, and essays that I’ll occasionally write on it?

Buy a domain

  1. Browse to Google Domains.

  2. Type in keywords for your full name. I used Will Angley here.

  3. Click the magnifying glass (search) icon.

  4. Look for a $12/year domain in the list. willangley.org was here when I did this, but should not be any more :wink: .

  5. Go through the steps to buy it. There are two meaningful choices here that you should think about before you start:

  • You will need to enter contact information, but you can (and should, for a personal site!) choose Make my info private so an escrow service’s contact information will be published to the Internet instead of your own.

  • When offered a chance to choose how long you want it for, choose one year, and enable automatic renewal. This means your site won’t go off the Internet if you’re away on vacation when the reminder email to renew your registration arrives.

For more information, refer to the Google help: “Buy a domain.”

Set up the website

Once you’ve purchased your domain, Google Domains will offer several options to set up a website easily. For mostly-writing websites, start with Blogger. It’s free, simple to use, and support is baked into Google Domains.

  1. Follow the Google Help Center instructions, “Create a new blog for your domain,” to get set up.

  2. When you are creating your blog, you will be prompted for an Address where it will live. Choose “www.” the domain you purchased earlier; for instance, if you bought example.org, choose to put your blog at www.example.org.

If you’re stuck picking a Name, I recommend using your own given name to start with. This is easy to change, unlike your domain.

You have to use your own judgment to pick a Template. This is a design choice that you need to make for yourself, since it is your own voice that you need to express here rather than mine.

If you’re planning to focus on the writing, minimize the amount of time you spend changing the appearance of your site to start. Better design ideas will follow once you have words on the page.

  1. Click “Create blog!” when you’re done.

  2. Wait a minute or two, then try visiting the blog at the domain you’ve chosen, and confirm everything works correctly for you.

Are these the only answers?

Nope! These are just answers that I’ve tried and think are sustainable if you’re trying to run a website and are not an engineer yourself.

You can both buy domains from other registrars, and use other approaches to set them up. I only started running my own domain in 2014, so I’ve only ever bought domains from Google Domains.

Squarespace gives you much more control over the way your site looks, and power tools like online shopping carts, but (often) costs money. The friends, usually freelance artists, I’ve helped to get set up on Squarespace have been consistently happy when I’ve asked them how it’s working out for them.

Full disclosure: I work for Google, but this is my personal perspective only.