How To Build A Website in 2021

– Making a website is one of those things that feels really hard if you haven’t done it before, you’re like, “Oh my God, I need to code, I need to do this and that, HTML, CSS, Javascriptic.” It’s so easy these days. Hey friends, welcome back to the channel. In this video, we’re talking about one of my favorite topics of all time which is how to create a website. Now I’ve been making website since about the age of 12, but five years ago, when I started my own personal website that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. And starting that personal website in 2016 ultimately led to this YouTube channel where you are now watching this video. And so in this video, I’m gonna break down everything you need to know to create your own website. We’ll start by talking about why you should have a personal website, why it’s something I recommend for everyone. Secondly, we’ll talk about how to actually create our own personal website, how to get a domain and which platforms to use both free and paid options. And then we’ll talk about once you’ve got a personal website what the hell do you actually do with it, how can you make it work for you in a nice way? So let’s dive into it. Let’s start by talking about why you should have a personal website? You know, everyone has Twitter and Instagram and like, “Why do I need a personal website?” Well, overall there are six benefits of having a personal website and instead of myself as an example because I’m quite far ahead of the journey, I’m gonna use my housemate Sheen, who started here on my personal website just under a year ago and has had all of these benefits in one form or another. Benefit one of having a personal website is that it really helps you develop your own ideas. So with Sheen, for example, she cares a lot about women empowerment and enjoys documenting life, as a Ph.D. student. And through writing her weekly blog post she’s just automatically become a better writer and a better communicator and she’s better at developing her ideas overall.

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Now, this can seem quite a sort of a soft kinda benefit like the personal development side, of you’re not like naturally into that thing. So benefit number two of writing online is that it actually really helps you in terms of your professional life as well. In Sheens’ example, she started her website in June of 2020 and has been blogging more or less every week. And last year, when she was applying to lots of jobs, there were quite a few interviews that she had where the people on the interview panel had come across her website. They’d Googled her name and they’d found her blog and in a way, the website acted as a sort of online CV. And in some of her interviews, they would ask about things that she’d written on her blog and saying, “Oh, you wrote an article about this thing. I’m interested in that thing myself, let’s talk about it.” And these days, whatever professional field you’re in you can pretty much guarantee that your prospective employer is gonna be Googling you and if you have your own website you have this you know, you can put your best foot forward. And you can start creating all these possibilities for someone to be like, “Oh, my God, you’re interested in this thing as well, I’m interested in it too, let’s have a chat about it.” Benefit three of having a website that you write on regularly or a blog is that it gives you lots of connections. So again, you know, for me as an example, I’ve made friends from all around the world from my website, through my YouTube channel, but I’m quite far ahead of the process. With Sheen again, started less than a year ago, she’s had people from all around the world reach out to her, because they read something interesting on her website and said, “Oh, you’re interested in period poverty and things like that, I’m working on period poverty, let’s get in touch, let’s have a bit of chat about it. Oh, you’re interested in improving access to women’s education, this is actually a charity that I’m working for that does the same thing, let’s talk about it.” And through that, she’s made a lot of interesting connections from all around the world. Some of these connections have to lead to benefit number four which is that when you have a personal website you expose yourself to lots of, in a none weird way, you expose yourself to lots of interesting opportunities. And because random people around the world have found Sheen’s blog posts through her website, she’s been invited to write articles for publications, she’s been featured in lots of publications, she’s been invited on podcasts and interviews and she’s been invited as a speaker on all sorts of these kinda global health event-type things. Which is exactly the sort of causes that she cares about. Which leads us onto benefit number five, that when you have a personal website and you write on it regularly you can have a lot more impact than you would if you’re not on the internet. Having a presence on the internet is the modern-day equivalent of just being very good at networking. And the analogy that I like is that it’s like back in the day, you imagine if you just lived in a single village and you never interacted with anyone outside your village. The amount of impact you can have, (laughs) the amount of opportunities you could have, is pretty small, ’cause it’s confined to your little village.


But if you’re the sort of person, back in the day, who would every weekend you’d visit a different village, neighboring village and you’d be traveling around and you’d be making friends and saying hello to people and having conversations. That sort of person just automatically exposes themselves to a lot more interesting opportunities and can also have a far bigger impact on the world. And if you’re one of those people who insists on not having an online presence in some capacity not having like your best foot forward, not having a professional reputation that’s on the internet that’s sort of the modern-day equivalent of just being confined to your little village, where the only people that you’re really gonna interact with are people that you meet at work, or at you know, school, university and maybe if you go to a conference or a networking event, maybe you’ll run into someone. But having that website that you write on regularly massively expands the potential impact of your work. You know, Sheen’s had articles that she’s written about women empowerment that have been shared like hundreds of times. It would be almost impossible to have that level of impact, even like at that early stage, without using the internet in some capacity. Equally, if you wanna take things further and your blog becomes particularly popular or you graduate to maybe having a YouTube channel, again, you know, this video can potentially be seen by tens if not hundreds of thousands of people all around the world, that’s far more impact than I’ll ever have sitting in my little village and interacting with people one on one. And finally benefit number six of having a personal website is you can monetize it if you want. Probably should be the main reason for having a personal website because generally, you know, it takes a solid few years of doing this sort of stuff regularly before you actually make money from it, but it’s definitely a possibility. And I’ve got lots of blogger and YouTuber friends, again in different places around the world, who are making six to seven figures a year, you know, like 100,000 to a million dollars plus per year from their websites which is just utterly insane. But it’s the sort of thing that happens if you stick with this for a very long time. And overall really the value of a personal website that you write on regularly is that “It acts as a serendipity vehicle”, as my friend David Perell likes to call it. It’s like you know, even while you’re sleeping, your work is out there on the internet and your thoughts, and your blog posts, or whatever it is that you’re writing about, is out there and being shared by people if they think it’s good. And it’s like having this little army of robotic workers who’s like working for you and like spreading your message far and wide. And that has all these benefits that we’ve just talked about. So let’s say you’re sold on why you should start a website, I think every single person watching this should start a personal website straight after you’ve watched this video. Question number two is, well, how do you actually create a website? Now this is actually a lot more straight forward then people make it out to be. There’s basically just two things that you need to create a website. Number one, you need a platform, and number two you need a domain. Let’s start by talking about the platform. And the platform is the thing that hosts your website. So for example, you might have heard of Squarespace or WordPress or might have seen an ad for, or you might have heard of the thing I use called Ghost. There’s basically hundreds of website platforms out there. Some of them are free, most of them are paid, and they all let you create a website in some capacity. And because I value your time, I’m gonna give you a list of three options to choose from that I would personally recommend. Number one is a totally free option and that is Substack. Now, Substack is a great place to write a kinda email newsletter type thing. It’s not quite the same thing as a website. Like if I were to start a website site on Substack, I would create an account, and then I would have my website being, but it’s quite nice because it’s totally free, it’s very easy to get started, it automatically has the email newsletter component built-in and so even if you’re starting from scratch and you just have your friends and family signing up to your newsletter, you can probably get like 10 subscribers to begin with and then every week when you write something it automatically sends it out those 10 people and you’ve got the little URL, like which you can then share on Twitter or Instagram or LinkedIn or Facebook or whatever and then you can drive more traffic to your thing. Over time more and more people subscribe to your newsletter, if they like the kind of stuff that you’re writing, and it’s just a very free, very easily accessible way of starting a website. The problem with Substack though is that it’s not really a website, it’s more a newsletter. You don’t really have your own domain and if you wanna take this website thing seriously I would highly highly recommend paying for a service. Now broadly when I speak to people about websites and there’s an issue about paying for something there are two categories of people. One category is like I was when I was 13, i.e., Pakistani boy, my mom controls my spending, I don’t have a credit card, I can’t spend any money online without my mom’s permission, or I physically don’t have the money, like for me it was all of the above when I was younger. You know, that’s the category of I literally cannot pay for anything, therefore, I need a free option. And I used to spend years searching for free options to start a website back when I was like 13 14 years old. If you’re in that position don’t worry about it we’ve all been there, I know how you feel. I know how Asian parents are like. And therefore you should just make an account on Substack and don’t tell your parents about it. These days though, the second category of people are the people that I talk to most, i.e. people who can quite easily afford to pay for web hosting but choose not to do it because of some absolutely ridiculous notion that everything on the internet should be free. These are the people who are like, you know, spend frikken $30, 20 quid on a night out buying alcohol or like, you know, getting takeaways at least once a week. People where they reasonable amount of disposable income who still feel that “Oh my God, paying 21 pennies per month for an app on my iPhone that I use every day, that’s like a bad investment.” If you’re in that category of person, please (laughs) take my word for it, feel free to start on Substack if you wanna kind of do this for free. But ideally don’t be a cheapskate, if you can afford it, if you have to disposable income to start a website, this is genuinely the sort of investment that can change your life. And the good news is the kind of options that you have for this are not that expensive. So, there are two options that I would recommend on the paid route. Number one, if you’re a total computer noob and you don’t really know much about computers and you’re not very comfortable with navigating computers and stuff, like my housemate Sheen, you should just use Squarespace. No, they’re not sponsoring this video, they sponsored a video of mine like two years ago. You should just use Squarespace, Squarespace is easy, it’s $13 a month and for that price you get all of the things that you need and if you pay for a year upfront, which is kinda good because it forces you to take the website thing seriously, you also get a free .com domain name, which you can just use. But if you know a little bit about computers, the option that I would personally recommend is called Ghost. Ghost is a $9 a month, really really good web hosting solution. It’s what I’ve been using for my own websites since 2016, for the last five years. I absolutely love it, my website today is still hosted on Ghost and I’m like mates with the founder of Ghost, he’s a cool guy, he’s done an interview on this YouTube channel. They’re a really great company, they’re entirely remote, it’s opensource software and if you pay for Ghost Pro, which is the hosting service, that’s just $9 a month and it’s very very easy to get. I have a cheeky affiliate link in the video description, I get a bit of a kickback if you sign up for that. But feel free not to use my affiliate link, I couldn’t really care less, I don’t need the extra pennies from that affiliate link, if we’re being honest. I just think you should use Ghost because it’s absolutely amazing and I just love it. Overall which platform you use and I’ve given you three options, Substack, Squarespace and Ghost, they’re all pretty good, whatever option you choose, don’t overthink it. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when it comes to creating a website is thinking that the platform matters. Like, “Oh my God, WordPress or Webflow, or WiX or Squarespace or Ghost or like a hundred different solutions,” spending ages like researching this, it really does not matter. Like no one cares what platform your website is hosted on. The important thing is A that you have a website in the first place and B that you write decent content for it every week. That gives you 99.9% of the value on the website. The final 0.1% comes from choosing the right platform and SEO optimization, all these other fancy features, that really no one actually cares about. So overall, don’t overthink the platform. I’d recommend Ghost personally but feel free to use Squarespace, which is slightly more expensive but slightly, very slightly easier to use, or feel free to use Substack if you need a free option. Secondly what you might want is a domain. Now the domain is like or like or like and that links to your website platform. So initially when you make an account on Ghost you might start with that would be your URL. But that’s not very pretty, it’s not very nice saying to someone,


“Hey check out my website” It’s just a bit amateur. That’s partly why Substack looks a bit amateur it’s not very pro to be like, “Hey, check out my website” What you can do is you can buy a domain like and that costs around about $10 per year. This is very cheap, this is less than a dollar a month. It is less than the price of coffee. It’s like buying a coffee every four months from like Starbucks. That’s how much it costs to get a domain name, like $10 a yearish. And then you link up that domain to Squarespace or Ghost, not really Substack, you have to pay an extra $50 for that, but ignore that. But you link up that domain to Squarespace or Ghost and now you can say, “Check out my website” And that just sounds kinda cool. If you down for paying for .com or a .io or a or dot whatever domain name, the service I use these days is Google Domains it’s easy to use, very nice. If you want a domain for free then you’re out of luck because you can’t get a domain for free, unless you’re a student. And if you’re a student you can use Namecheap to a free .me domain. And .me domains, they’re not as pro looking as .com’s but for a personal blog, it’s actually very reasonable to have a .me domain. So if you’re a student head over to Namecheap, I’ve been using them for the last 10 years for my domain hosting and I’ve only recently switched to Google Domains. Again, it doesn’t really matter what domain registrar you use. The two that I recommend are Namecheap and Google Domains. And then when you’re done you’ve got your platform, i.e. Ghost or Squarespace in which case you’ll have or and then you have your domain which you connect to your thing and now you have a website and it’s taken maybe five or 10 minutes to set up. This is all very nice and straightforward. And again to use the example of my housemate, you know, this time last year when she decided she was gonna start a website, she asked me, “Ali what platform should I use, how do I do it?” I said, “Go to and you’ll figure it out.” And she said that she really hated me for doing that because it felt like I was throwing her in the deep end. But it’s like you know, the whole point of these website solutions is that it’s very easy to get started. You can literally go on, click the buttons, and it’s just really really obvious how to make a website. Making a website is one of those things that feels really hard if you haven’t done it before. You’re like, “Oh my God, I need to code, I need to this and that, HTML, CSS, Javascriptic.” It’s so easy these days. Back in the day, in like 2005 when I was making my first websites, yes it was hard. It’s now 2021, it’s like piss easy to make a website. You literally like go on Squarespace or Ghost, click the signup button, enter your email and password and you’re literally done, it’s so so easy. If you haven’t tried it yet, I would 100% recommend you giving it a go. Quick caveat before we move on. Yes, I get that there are other free ways to do a website, you could use Netlify, you could use Heroku, you could Opensource, Ghost, WordPress, ch… Like, all of that sort of stuff. If you know what I’m talking about there then you know that this video, which is for beginners is not for you. If you’re also the sort of person that gets hung up on whether you wanna use Netlify or Heroku or Ghost or this and that, chances are you’re not the sort of person who actually writes anything once a week on a website. So, I would suggest at least for most people I’ve spoken to who are in that camp of being computer nerds who are focused on, “How can I maximize my ability to create a website for free?” Those are the people who focusing on the wrong things. Focus on creating content every week and publishing it and making it good rather than quibbling about whether to use Netlify or Heroku for whatever website you’re hosting.

  Planning & site map for Designing a website

Finally, let’s talk about now that you have a website because you’ve seen how easy it is to make a website, what the hell do you do with your website? How do you actually make your website good? Again, this is a lot more straight forward then people make it out to be. Firstly, your website only needs three pages. It needs an about page, it needs a contact page and it needs a blog page. Literally, that is all you need. Your home page can literally just be your about page or it can be your latest blog post, it doesn’t matter. And then once you’ve got those setup, which again only takes about 20 minutes. You don’t need to overthink your about page or your contact page. The real objective at this point now is to write a blog post and try and do it every week. Once a week is, I think, a good cadence, it gets you into the habit of writing. It gets you into the habit of publishing. It gets you into the habit of showing your work on the internet. At this point, people usually ask, “Well, what do I write about?” And the answer to that is that you can basically write about whatever you want. The only bar I have for like what I’m gonna write about is could this potentially be useful to at least one other person in the world? If I’m writing about my bowel habits, that’s probably not particularly useful to anyone in the world, therefore I tend not to write blog posts about my bowel habits. But let’s say I’ve read a book and I’m like, “Huh, this is a pretty good book, I learned a few things from it.” I would write a blog post about the insights I learned from this book. Let’s say I listened to a podcast and I was like, “Oh, you know, I listened to this episode of the Tim Ferris Show, that was actually really good, with Seth Godin. You know, there were these three things that stuck in my mind.” Write it up as a blog post. That’s the sort of thing that’ll be useful to at least one other person. Let’s say I’m going through university and I’m I don’t know, a first-year medical student, it would be very reasonable for me to write what the experience of a first-year medical student is like. Would that be useful to anyone else? Yeah, probably it would be useful to people who are thinking of going into med school? Let’s say you’re like Sheen and you’re doing a Ph.D., would it be useful to you to write about your experiences of doing a Ph.D.? Yes it would, because potentially other people who might want to do that would be interested in what it is the day-to-day experience of doing a Ph.D. actually like. And there’s a nice quote from Gary Vaynerchuk that I actually come back to which is, “Document, don’t create.” Like, creating content and the concept of that is actually really hard, it feels like a big deal. But if you just think about documenting the stuff that you’re doing anyway, it becomes very easy to find ideas of things to write about. Like if I was starting a blog from scratch and I had zero audience, nothing at all, I would just document the way that I’m living my life. I’d be like, you know, “This is my morning routine and this is why this is my morning routine. Here is an article that I read about X and this is what it made me think about. Here is a book that I read about Y and here is a quick summary of the book and the link to the book with an Amazon link.” That’s the sort of stuff I’d be writing about and I’d be exploring any other kinda topics that I personally enjoyed. So, Sheen, for example, is super into women empowerment and eradicating period poverty and improving access to girls education, that’s cool, she writes articles about that. I’m more into like tech and like content creation and like personal development, and like you know, how can improve our charisma and social skills and so I’d writing about those sorts of topics that I care about. But the main thing is that once you set a goal of publishing something once a week, especially if you have like an email newsletter associated with it, you just end up finding things to write about. Like there are zillions of ideas out there. You just need to pick one of them, write about it, publish it and just do this every week for the next two years and I can pretty much guarantee that your life will change in an interesting way. And after the question of what do I write about, the next question people always ask is, well, how will my stuff be seen? Let’s say I write, you know, let’s say I had no audience, let’s say I wrote a blog post about I don’t know,

  Everything about Web Design

why I have a fake plant on my desk. I can talk about how I read a book by Richard Wiseman called “59 Seconds,” and he talked about how having greenery on your desk, sort of encourages creativity. I could write a blog post about that and I’d publish it on my blog, but literally, no one would ever find that thing. But the solution these days is very simple. When you write a blog post, share it on Twitter or Instagram or LinkedIn or Facebook or wherever you have social media. Everyone has social media in some capacity and if you don’t, you’re doing it wrong, you should have an account on Twitter because Twitter is amazing for professional networking and all that kinda stuff. You should also probably do LinkedIn if you’re into the whole professional side of things, ’cause LinkedIn is great, but once you write a blog post you can literally just post a link to it on Facebook. Post a link to it on Twitter, post a link on Instagram, post a link on LinkedIn, post a screenshot on Instagram. That’s how Sheen, without an audience at the start, got to the point where her blog was starting to get readers. She just posted about it on Instagram, she had a few hundred followers on Instagram at the time, just friends and family and through that people found the blog. And then every time she’d write a new blog post she would post about it on Instagram and on LinkedIn and then on LinkedIn, you’ve got the sort of professional audience that cares about this sort of stuff. Instagram is more like a people caring about her life because they’re her family and friends. And then through those, those like you know, 10 or 20 people here and there reading an article, one of those people will then share it with someone else and say, “Hey, this is interesting, why don’t you read this person’s article.” So really the way that people find your blog, they find your website is not really through search engine optimization these days. Maybe it used to be in like 2005, but it’s now 2021. Usually for most personal websites the way people find your stuff is because you’ve shared it on social media, to your own friends and family and then someone there who’s resonated with your thing has shared it a little bit wider. And yeah, at the start, no ones gonna read your stuff because it’s probably not very good. If you haven’t had any experience at writing, you’re probably writing some pretty crap stuff, but that okay, like this is the sort of thing that improves over time. And certainly at the start when I started my YouTube channel and my blog, no one was reading and no one was watching. I would get like 23 views on a YouTube video. And at the time it’s because my YouTube videos weren’t very good. But over time as I made more of them I got better at making YouTube videos, I got better at writing blog posts and I, therefore, built this audience over time. So if you’re worried about, “No ones gonna read my stuff,” don’t worry about it, ’cause it takes time. But also make sure you’re sharing it on social media ’cause that’s just a very easy way for people to find whatever you’re writing on your website. And there’s a few other frequently asked questions that I often get when it comes to the website thing. Number one, people always ask, “How do I make my website look pretty?”

And I would say, “Don’t worry about it, the design does not matter.” If you use Ghost if you use Squarespace it’s gonna be pretty beautiful. And these days when it comes to a personal website the aesthetics of the website is absolutely not the thing people care about. People care about the content, they care about the ideas, they care about the writing. It’s really all about the writing. And as long as your design does not get in the way of the writing you don’t need to worry about the design. You can just pick a default theme. Squarespace they’re free, Ghost has a load of free templates. For the first four years of my website I was just using a free Ghost theme, the default one and it looked pretty good. I’d get messages from people being like, “Oh my God, your website is so pretty, how did you design it?” I’d just be like, “Look, it’s just the default-free theme that just comes with Ghost when you use Ghost as your website platform.” These I use a custom-designed theme but I’ve been doing the website thing and the content thing for five years at this point. So do not worry about design at all focus on the content. Secondly, people often ask about SEO which stands for search engine optimization, again completely ignore it. Do not worry about search engine optimization. It is very unlikely that your personal website will be getting any reasonable traffic from search engine optimization. Instead, focus on writing good stuff and sharing it on Twitter or whatever social media you have and if it resonates with people the kind of organic sharingness of your articles is what’ll lead to more website traffic compared to you worrying about SEO. Don’t worry about SEO, is the sort of thing you can worry about three years further down the line. People sometimes ask, “How do I monetize my website?” Again, don’t worry about it for the first two years. My theory on this is that unless you’ve been writing weekly for at least one to two years, you don’t need to worry about monetization in the slightest. And finally, people often ask but like, “What if I’m scared to put myself out there? Like I don’t wanna use my real name online.” Or like, “It feels really scary to put myself out there and have a personal website.” Trust me, I’ve been there. In 2016 I had all of these fears myself. I’d been wanting to set up a website for like years at that point and I never did it ’cause I was just too scared. But I found the solution and that is all in this video over here, which talks about how writing online made me a millionaire. And in that video, I share how I got over the fear of putting myself out there on the internet and how ultimately my personal website ended up completely changing my life. So check that video out over. Thank you so much for watching. I hope you found this video useful and I’ll see you in the next one, bye-bye.

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