How to Build a Commercial Website in 37 Minutes or Less

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Can a website be built in less than an hour? Sure.

What about a commercial website? Hmmmmm…

What about a commercial website that meets visitors needs, is easy for a business owner to edit, costs less than $20, and is completely customizable and future-proof? Errr…

I decided to find out by doing it! In the video below, I’ll show you just how quickly a simple but effective commercial website can be built. This is a 100% complete website and this real-time video shows all the necessary steps needed to build the site.

Sequences Shortened Apple iPhone ad

Unlike Apple’s advertising, there are no “sequences shortened” to speed up this site build video.

There’s nothing left out, no short-cuts taken, and no funny editing to make things seem quicker. This website build process include all the steps including:

  1. Registering a domain
  2. Buying hosting
  3. Downloading and manually installing a Content Management System (WordPress) including setting up the tricky database stuff that takes a while.
  4. Downloading and installing a free design theme
  5. Setting up the site content: text, images, navigation, as well as SEO plugins and even a contact form!

I shot this video to demonstrate just how quickly you can set up a WordPress website even without using  shortcuts like 1-Click Install scripts or even simple things like registering domains during hosting setup.

The finished website is a complete, commercially viable business website for a hypothetical local business, in this case a coffee shop, featuring everything that coffee shop needs on a simple but effective website. It is built at a total cost of $15, $10 for the domain registration, $5 for the first hosting payment. All content (images, etc) is properly licenced, to the best of my knowledge.

The value is in the planning

The video doesn’t show the planning stages, which can be quite significant. In fact, I’d argue that this is where 80% of the website professionals value comes in, the actual build is only 20% of the value.

I did not create this video to denigrate the value of web designers, I did it to demonstrate simply the speed and ease of set-up of a properly planned website using a modern Content Management System like WordPress, even when doing things “the slow way” like I’ve done here. It can be done even quicker – I reckon at least 12 minutes quicker, more if a simpler resulting site is chosen.

This is a demonstration only, not a training video. I do have training videos which walk the viewer through every single step of design, planning, and setting up an awesome website using WordPress. The proper training videos are far, far easier to follow than this one because they are are broken up into distinct steps and are properly edited. I deliberately didn’t edit the primary content of this video in order to demonstrate the speed of setup.

The actual build starts after a short intro. Here’s a very approximate breakdown of time of each task from the start of build:

0-2mins Register domain
2-7mins Set up hosting
7-13mins Upload WordPress, Create Database and Database User
13-15mins Install WordPress
15-18mins Set up WordPress Theme
18-24mins Set up WordPress Plugins
24-30mins Set up Pages (content)
30-31mins Set up WordPress Menus
31-32mins Set up WordPress Widgets
32-33mins Change Header Image
33-36mins Content Tweaks: Test and Fixing
37mins Done.

Important note: all passwords have been changed, the ftp user deleted,  and database username and passwords have also been changed since recording this screencast.

I’m not claiming everyone can build a site this quickly, but just that it’s possible. Using a 1-Click Install script like Installatron, I think this could be built in less than 20 minutes.

I prepared content – i.e. planned the site, wrote some page text, created a logo, and wrote menus up in Excel. The video also doesn’t include the 4-5 hours of research into finding an appropriate hosting company (and thanks to TJ and Matt at ReconHosting for their help with all my questions).

If you’d like to see more videos like this, including the next one where I do a super-quick build using a 1-click installer, then subscribe to the WebsiteDoctorVideos YouTube channel and keep an eye on Twitter and Facebook. (Supporting me by retweeting, subcribing and hitting ‘Like’ helps me to create more videos like this one.)

TheCozyNookCafe.com homepage

Finished site: www.thecozynookcafe.com

Let’s be honest: it’s not going to win any awards, and could do with the TLC of a good graphics and logo designer.

But it does the job of providing the most commonly sought information to the visitor, without being an embarrassment to the business, and without costing the earth. I’m confident that puts it ahead of 50% of local business websites out there.

Agree, disagree, love it or hate it? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this video and site build – please comment below, tweet me, or leave a comment on Facebook!

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About the Author:

Alastair McDermott is an online business and technology consultant specialising in web design & development, internet marketing and search engine optimisation. He has been building websites and software since 1996 and is a nine year veteran of using WordPress. He has co-founded several software, web and information based startup companies and has provided solutions for many large Irish and international organisations. Alastair blogs, and makes media of all kinds at WebsiteDoctor.com. Follow him on Twitter at @WebsiteDoctor.

6 Comments
  1. There’s no doubt web design can be pretty easy these days but of course, you’ll get a better looking and better performing result if you hire a web designer!

    I mainly wanted to comment here to say that all of the above can be done much easier and quicker by just signing up at WordPress.com..maybe you should mention that or at least the difference between WordPress.com and self hosted wordpress?

  2. Hi Leon,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly that businesses will end up with a better looking, better performing site if they hire a designer.

    What I wanted to do with this post was show just how quickly the build part of the process could be done, even “the slow way”. The planning, content creation and design phases are absolutely crucial, and they’re where the real magic happens.

    I know this could be done quicker, I reckon I could easily knock 10+ minutes off that time going with a one-click install on my hosting reseller account, rather than registering one from scratch. I’ll see can I back up that claim sometime in the future :)

    Regarding WordPress.com, I would only recommend using them in specific circumstances, in the majority of cases a self-hosted WordPress.org is more useful to the typical organisation. This is fodder for another, more detailed blog post, I’ll follow up on this again in the future!

    Thanks for the comment!
    Alastair.

  3. Steven

    Nice job!

    Regarding the first poster’s comment about hiring a web designer, I might add to hire a designer that doesn’t use templates… as you could buy them yourself without the added markup from said “designer”.

  4. Steven. The first poster’s name is Leon and if you’d like to go buy an off the shelf template yourself and see how far you get trying to make it look like it does on the demo site, add content, prepare images, design logos & banners, etc.. then get back to me before making any more assumptions?

    I use existing content management systems and designs to provide decent, affordable websites and build them quickly. I don’t hide how I do things. I can do custom design from scratch too if anyone can afford it.

  5. Hi Steven,

    Thanks for the compliment!

    Actually, I’d have to completely disagree with you about not hiring a designer who uses templates :)

    Reuse of libraries has always been a vital part of software development. Templates, themes and frameworks are just as important in web development – no web project should ever be started completely from scratch when there are tools like CSS Reset scripts, jQuery and MooTools available. And front end components like Twitter’s Bootstrap, and even graphic elements like icon sets can be really useful. That extends to themes and frameworks too – these can massively speed up site development – as seen in this video!

    That does not mean that pre-built themes are the only answer, nor that they are always ready to use out-of-the-box – in fact they’re almost never ready to use out of the box :)

    Take the Twenty* themes that come bundled with WordPress – as base themes to build a nice design on top of, they are pretty awesome – but to simply use them without customising the design, they’re pretty plain looking – and I think the original creators would admit that.

    I’ve recently written about creating custom WordPress themes from a custom design, and I’ve done it many times, so I’m not coming from a “premium themes are the only answer” standpoint.

    I think you need to choose the right tool for the job. A good web designer will know when they need to create a theme from scratch, or when they should build on top of something pre-existing. That decision will be impacted by the design requirements, by the budget, by the site specification, the target demographic, and the timeframe for delivery (and if the deadline is in 37 minutes, I know which option I’ll be choosing!).

    The mark-up you mentioned that the designer adds – well if it’s simply on top of the template price, then it’s not justified. But if the designer downloads, installs and configures what can be quite complex theme options, then I think they’re absolutely justified to charge for their time.

    Using templates can work really well for many projects, and building completely from scratch works well for many more.

    I think it’s super that we have all these choices available to us now – building a beautiful, accessible, responsive, standards-based website that displays consistently across multiple platforms is now a lot easier than it was a few years back.

    Thanks for the comment, I think this is an interesting topic.

    Cheers,
    Alastair.

  6. Steven

    (Not trying to troll here) but ok Leon, ” I can do custom design from scratch too if anyone can afford it.” assuming you are out of reach for most work because you are expensive? i had a look at your site and it is funny the way you say the above as your site is predated and looks late 90s? Interesting stuff altogether. Also, yes I have installed alot of themes and they include an xml file so it’s not hard at all to amke it like te demo site…

    Anywho, getting back on track.

    Actually, I’d have to completely disagree with you about not hiring a designer who uses templates :)

    Reuse of libraries has always been a vital part of software development. Templates, themes and frameworks are just as important in web development – no web project should ever be started completely from scratch when there are tools like CSS Reset scripts, jQuery and MooTools available. And front end components like Twitter’s Bootstrap, and even graphic elements like icon sets can be really useful. That extends to themes and frameworks too – these can massively speed up site development – as seen in this video!

    Good points but what about bespoke work like Ireland.com, why didn’t they get a template (would have been cheaper for a start!?)

    Peace!

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