Building websites in WordPress is simple. However, before beginning, it’s important to understand the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. WordPress.org is the main site of WordPress. WordPress.org includes the full free set of software required to build a standalone WordPress website. WordPress.com is a hosting service that enables you to put up a website or blog quickly, however the free version has limited capabilities.
You can use WordPress.com to host your site and can construct a complete site using some of the paid options. However, we will focus on the software available fromWordPress.org, which can be hosted anywhere.
Getting Started With WordPress
Getting started with WordPress is not difficult. However, there are many factors to keep in mind when beginning. You need to understand how to get a domain name and choose a web host for where your site will exist on the internet. In this section, we will cover some of the basics, including how to install WordPress onto a local server and help you familiarize yourself with the interface for building a site. We will also cover some techniques on how to customize WordPress to have the exact look you desire, including everything from choosing prebuilt themes or designing your own. Then, we will walk you through the process of adding and maintaining the content that is going to be on your site. Finally, we will show you how to make use of some of the best features available from WordPress installing a wide range of plugins that will perform many functions for your site without any coding knowledge required on your part.
Get a Domain Name
Your domain name is the official name of your website and how people will be able to gain access to your site, “website.com.” While it is not entirely necessary to have a domain name to be hosted on the web, your site will only be accessible through its internet protocol (IP) address. All domains take a structure of <name>.<tld> where “TLD” stands for “top level domain.’ This is the common .com, .org, .net, or any of a wide range of other TLDs that are now available.
To get a domain name, register it from a domain name registrar, such as Domain.com, Namecheap, Bluehost, and others, and have it pointed to your web host. You often can get a domain name directly through your web host as well.
Choose a Web Host
For your website to be accessible by internet visitors, you need to “host” it on a server that will “broadcast” your site to the public. Unless you have your own physical servers from which you can do this hosting, you need to choose a web hosting company. Fortunately, there are many good choices to pick from and almost all of them provide easy-to-use tools for putting your website online.
Note: if you have already chosen to host your site on WordPress.com, then you already have a host. Those who have not will need to make a decision between different hosting companies. Many web hosts provide easy-to-use WordPress hosting, making it easy to deploy your site onto a web server. Read here to learn more about how to host a website.
Before you start to install WordPress, you will need to have a local server set up with PHP ― the programming language that WordPress runs in ― and MySQL or MariaDB. If you don’t have this already, we recommend using XAMPP for local development. It’s simple to download and install and runs in Windows, Linux, and Macintosh.
Download WordPress from WordPress.org. Extract the file, and then copy the contents of the extracted file into a folder on your local server. For example, in XAMPP, it will typically be called htdocs. You can create a folder with whatever name you like, such as “htdocs\my_site”. Next, you need to build a MySQL database. Do this either via the command line or by using phpMyAdmin, which comes with XAMPP. You can get to this by going to http://localhost/phpmyadmin/ ― assuming you have it installed. (NOTE: localhost is not a website; it is what is used by your browser to recognize your local server. It will only work if you have your server correctly installed). Create the database and make note of the information, including your database name, Then, navigate to whatever you called your folder.
You will be prompted to follow installation instructions as shown below:
Follow the instructions on the next page to create a site name, username, and enter your email address.
If you need to install WordPress on your web server, you can follow the same steps on the server. Note, many hosts have their own installers, making the process easy. If you prefer to work locally after you have built your initial site, you can use file transfer protocol (FTP) to move the files into the desired directory, create a database, enter the credentials, and install.
It’s that simple ― your site should be installed now.
Note: you may find it easier to work directly online on your web host, so you do not need to worry about updating the database manually. WordPress comes with a set of safety mechanisms to only publicly publish information you choose. Your choice will vary based on your expertise.
The WordPress User Interface
Once you have finished the installation, you should see a screen that looks something like this:
From here, you can manage every aspect of your website. Before you begin, it’s important to understand that WordPress was designed originally to be blogging software ― sometimes known as a content management system (CMS) ― and the main aspect of a site being “Posts” for those who want to maintain a blog. However, the functionality exists to create a complete website. This is done by using “Pages,” which represent static content.
The interface allows access to a wide range of functionality. These include:
- Posts: These are typical blog posts
- Media: This is where you can upload various multimedia files like videos, music, or images
- Pages: These are static pages, such as a “home page,” “about,” or any other pages you wish to create for your site
- Comments: This is where you can find and manage comments related to your blog posts
There are several other items further down the page that allow you to manage your site even more:
- Appearance: This is where you can choose and manage various themes for how the site looks
- Plugins: This is where the real power of WordPress resides; here, you can manage and install plugins to add a wide range of functionality to your site, including everything from basic security to word clouds to bulletin boards and more
- Users: This is where you can manage who has access to maintain access to your site; you can have multiple people perform functions on the site
- Tools: Here, you can maintain categories and tags for various pages on the site
- Settings: This is where you can manage most of the basic information for the site, including its name, website address, permalinks ― the custom URL structures for links that you can create to content on the site ― and time zone. Here is also where you maintain rules regarding comments, search engine visibility, and more.
Select a WordPress Theme
Through the use of “themes,” you can install and update the look of your site quickly. WordPress comes with several free themes, and you can purchase additional themes from the WordPress store where artists, web designers, and developers have created templates that will work for almost any option you choose. You can access themes from the “Appearance” link on the left-hand side of your menu in the administration console.
Choosing a theme can be a time-consuming and overwhelming process, especially since there are so many options available. Before you choose a theme, keep the following in mind:
- Know what features you need to have, so create a list beforehand
- Avoid bloated and overly busy themes as using a clean and simple approach can go a long way when constructing a good quality site
- Make sure it is “responsive”; in other words, you want your site to be able to appear clean and readable to mobile users; additionally, responsive sites will adapt to the screen size of the user
- Test repeatedly ― Make sure the theme will work well with all of your features; whenever you build something new, ensure that it renders properly in the theme
Customize Your WordPress Theme
When setting up your site, you will likely begin with your home page. Start by creating a simple page, and choose a theme that looks good to you and that best suits the goal of your site.
You will want to upload some images for the site, and most people respond to visual cues. Use high-resolution JPEG files, but make sure they are not too large as large images can result in the site loading too slowly. However, they should look good at a wide number of screen sizes. Make sure to test these on a mobile device if possible.
Pick colors that work well together. One thing that works well is if one chooses a palette, or set of colors, that are already proven to complement each other. Even if you don’t possess graphic design skills, you can learn a lot from existing palettes of colors.
Choosing a good font is also important. Be wary of hard-to-read fonts. Most people prefer to read sans serif fonts (ones without little feet at the bottom like Times New Roman), such as Verdana, and Arial . Remember, people want to read your site. It may look cool but, if it’s too hard to read, they’ll leave.
Of course, the most important part of your site is the actual content you provide. No matter how pretty or cool your site looks, if there’s nothing there to engage a user, they won’t stay long. Adding content in WordPress is handled by entering data into several prebuilt forms. This is one of the advantages of using this platform. Much of the back end of managing and creating a website is handled for you automatically. The process for maintaining your content is simple.
WordPress sites enable you to create different pages. There are a standard set of pages that most users of sites expect to find so it’s wise to create these. These include:
- Home page: This is the face of your website, so it needs to look good but also needs to be easy to understand
- About: will want to be able to look for a concise summary of your site and/or who you are, whether it’s for a business or any other purpose
- Contact: You need to provide a page where people will be able to contact you, either via a provided form or through email addresses or phone numbers.
- Products and/or Services pages: If you are selling a product, you will want to provide these upfront, usually from your home page; if you are offering services, provide a listing of these services with pricing (if possible) on your main page
- Blog: One of the best ways of keeping your website up to date is to publish a regular blog post; WordPress was originally designed as blogging software, so this is easy to implement
- Other pages: Depending on the nature of your site, you may have a portfolio of items that you wish to show while if you offer services, a testimonials page may be helpful for those who wish to learn about others’ positive experiences with you
One of the best features of WordPress is the ability to add plugins. Plugins are discrete pieces of code that can be integrated within your site seamlessly to provide a wide range of functionality. This can cover everything from basic tools for managing the site to increasing SEO to increasing the security of your WordPress site. Some examples:
- Contact form: A contact page is an important part of your site. You may wish to install software that will enable users to contact you via form, and WPForms is a good example of a form plugin
- SEO plugins: There are several good plugins that are designed to help you manage your content in a way that will improve your search engine placement with Yoast being a very popular plugin of this type.
- E-commerce: If you plan to do any sort of transactions through your site, you may want to make use of several ecommerce plugins available on the market, and WooCommerce is one of the most popular of these.
- Security plugins – Security is of utmost importance, particularly when using well-known software as here are many bad actors who will happily take advantage of unpatched sites; fortunately, there are many excellent WordPress plugins that can help you ensure your site remains relatively secure.
There are, of course, many other types of plugins. You can also develop them yourself. However, it’s important when choosing plugins to make sure they are popular enough that they are updated regularly when new versions of WordPress are released, which occurs often for security reasons.
Improve Your WordPress Website
There are several things you need to do to be able to make sure your site is visible to the internet-searching public. This means improving your SEO. Then, you need to make sure that visitors want to return to your site after they visit it the first time. To do this, make sure you offer them something that will make them want to return by having features that draw them in. The number one thing that people look for on the web is content to answer their questions or entertain or educate them in some way. Having good content is important, and so is keeping it up to date, which we cover in the next section, where we discuss keeping your website “fresh.”
Update Your WordPress Site Frequently
One of the main factors that make people return to your site is if content is up to date. This also helps with your SEO rankings. One of the best ways of doing this is to run an ongoing blog. Keep it updated with new content as often as you can. How much new content you need to create depends on your specific niche and target audience. It can be as often as several times a day. For example, if you are a news-based website, this is extremely crucial. However, for many sites you can get away with updates once every couple of weeks or so.
If you are selling products, it might make sense to update the products that you feature on your homepage frequently. Consider highlighting different products. The main point is that you need your website to feel fresh to site visitors. If your site seems stale, this can hurt you even if you happen to have terrific content or products.
Optimize for Search Engines
There are close to 2 billion websites on the internet. No matter how unique your site, there’s a chance that someone else is doing something similar. As a result, you need your site to come up on the first page of search results when people are searching for you or your products. This means on the first page of all of the major search engines and ideally within the top 10 results for your targeted search words. The way to handle this is with SEO.
There are countless ways of handling this, and they include everything from using language (keywords or keyphrases) that is most likely to appear in search results, good use of headers, well-structured text, and quality content. Search engines like Google prefer sites that provide real information, and they hate “spam” sites that try to trick users.
Of course, managing your site to make sure that it is taken seriously by the major search engines can be time-consuming and difficult. There are professionals who work solely at improving SEO. However, WordPress has many useful plugins which can help you improve your site to get the best bang for your buck.
Study Your Site’s Analytics
It’s often difficult to determine how well your site is working without using some form of analytics to be able to track how users are interacting with your hard-created content. Analytics tools are helpful at understanding whether users are visiting your site once or multiple times, what paths they take through the site, and where they get frustrated and leave. With these analytics tools, you might also discover that your site is doing well for certain parts of the world, what browsers they prefer to use, what devices they use, and much more.
There are many excellent analytics tools for WordPress which can help you with this process.
Why You Should Use WordPress
WordPress is generally an excellent choice for hosting your website. It is one of the most popular methods for creating dynamic content for the web. Instead of having to learn a lot of code to create a website, you can launch a website without much technical ability. Even if you are good at writing code yourself, it’s still a very quick method of getting content onto the web and makes it much easier to update. You can often get a site up and running in as little as a few days or less.
Here’s a summary of reasons to use WordPress:
- It’s free: WordPress is a powerful, well-designed suite of software which costs absolutely nothing to get started with; sometimes, there are prices involved if you want to purchase a customized theme and some plugins may have a fee but, to get started, there’s no cost
- It’s easy to customize” You can always change the look and feel of your site with many different themes and plugins with little or no technical knowledge
- It’s already SEO-friendly: WordPress helps you structure your site automatically with good headers to make sure that you can be found, even without using plugins
- It’s secure” As long as you are using the latest updates and plugins, you will be relatively safe from most attackers; however, you must be vigilant and ensure that you keep your software and plugins up to date.
WordPress vs. Other CMSs
WordPress is great, but it is not the only CMS available. There are hundreds of different options. It is, however, one of the three most popular CMS systems available, along with Drupal and Joomla! Drupal is a powerful CMS and may be ideal for many developers who want to dig in deep and tamper with the inner workings. However, it is not particularly user-friendly. Joomla! is a little easier to use than Drupal and is fairly good at handling multimedia content. However, it is not as user-friendly as WordPress.
The table below offers some basic information:
|Downloads||140 million||15 million||50 million|
|Ease of Use||Easy||Hard||Medium|
|Good for||Blogs, business websites, and personal websites||E-commerce and social networking||Everything|
Frequently Asked Questions About WordPress
What is WordPress?
Are there any hidden costs to using WordPress?
Do I need to know how to code to use WordPress?
How do I change the look of my WordPress Website?
How do I add new features to my WordPress Website?
Can I edit my WordPress Sidebar?