If you’ve ever done any research into creating your own website, you’ve probably heard people mention WordPress.
WordPress is an open-source Content Management System (CMS) that is built on the PHP server-side scripting language. It uses an intuitive, user-friendly interface to make it easy for anyone with little or no programming experience to make a website.
WordPress was first released back in 2003 as a simple platform for creating a blog. Since then it has grown to become the most popular CMS in the world with over 50% of the market share.
If that doesn’t impress you, consider these facts:
- It’s been estimated that more than 28% of the entire internet is powered by WordPress.
- Over 60 million people use WordPress for creating websites.
- Top media companies such as CNN, The New York Post, TIME, Spotify, TechCrunch, USA Today and TED all use WordPress for their websites.
- 17 posts are published every second on WordPress sites around the world.
If you’re interested in learning how to make a website without spending lots of money or learning to code, WordPress is a fantastic choice.
In this guide, we’ll show you why you should choose WordPress for creating your own website, how to choose a hosting service and domain name, how to download and install the latest version of WordPress, and how to set up and customize your first WordPress website.
Why Should I Use WordPress?
When it comes to building a website you have three main options.
The first option is to use a website builder such as Squarespace, Wix or Weebly. These services use templates and drag-and-drop editing to make it easy for anyone to build a website. They usually take care of all the technical details such as getting a domain name and hosting your website, and have a customer support service to help you when you get into trouble.
However, these services come at a price – you’ll generally have to pay between $10 and $40 a month for a single site. You’ll also be limited to basic customization of the template designs they offer, which means that there’s a good chance your site will look just like everyone else’s site.
The third option is to use a Content Management System. A CMS such as WordPress offers a good balance between the two previous options, with its ease of use, functionality, affordability and a large range of customization options. A CMS lets you build and edit a website through your browser, add themes and plugins with the click of a button, and create pages and posts using a simple editor that is similar to most common text editors.
While there are a variety of different CMS options to choose from, the three most popular ones are WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. All three choices are very similar – they are free and open source, they have a large range of themes and plugins, they have a large number of online resources and communities, and they can be used to build almost any kind of website.
The biggest difference among the three choices is the size of the market share. According to data from W3Techs, WordPress has 59.7% of the CMS market share, while Joomla has 6.7% and Drupal has 4.7%.
Another important thing to consider is complexity. Drupal and Joomla are generally considered a little more difficult to use than WordPress, requiring greater technical expertise for creating complex websites. WordPress is the easiest of the three to use for beginners and that’s why we recommend it for anyone interested in running an easy-to-manage website.
Here are a few more reasons so many people choose WordPress for building their website:
- WordPress allows inexperienced users to create a great website using templates and simple copy and paste editing features, while also allowing experienced web developers to create amazing sites that are highly customizable.
- WordPress has an incredible selection of plugins, widgets and themes that make it easy to turn a simple blog into anything from an artist’s portfolio to a global e-commerce store.
- WordPress is an open-source project, which means hundreds of people are working on improving the software every day.
- WordPress has a thriving support community, thousands of online forums and mailing lists and regular community events all over the world.
- The open-source WordPress software is completely free to use for any private or commercial enterprise. All you need to provide is a hosting service to host the source files and a domain name for your site.
Things You Need Before Installing WordPress
To install the WordPress software you’ll need two things – a web hosting account for storing the WordPress files and a domain name for your site.
If you already have an account with a hosting service and have purchased a domain name for your site, feel free to skip to Step 3.
Find A Web Hosting Service
To install the WordPress software and start creating your website, you first need a place to store all the necessary files and data. You can’t keep all the software on your own computer, as nobody would be able to access your website when your computer is turned off. Instead, you need to store the data on a server provided by a Web Hosting Service, which will ensure your site is online 24/7.
There are many different web hosting companies to choose from, and most of them offer similar services such as dedicated servers, shared hosting, VPS hosting, free domain names for the first year, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited email addresses and one-click installation of popular software.
Most companies offer cheap hosting packages that start at just a few dollars a month, which includes all the necessary services for an average user.
When choosing a web hosting service, it’s a good idea to follow these tips:
- Look for a company that offers one-click installation of WordPress through their control panel or with an Auto Script Installer such as Softaculous, Installatron or Fantastico. One-click installation is standard for all good hosting services, so If they don’t offer one-click software installation, it’s a sign that you should avoid using that company.
- Choose a company that offers dedicated 24/7 customer support and has good customer reviews. WordPress is very stable, but if you have problems with your site, it’s important to get your site fixed and back online as quickly as possible.
- Look for a web host that guarantees at least 99.9% uptime. If you’re creating a blog for your friends and family, it’s not a big issue if your site goes down for a few hours. But if you’re running a web-based business, a few hours of downtime could lead to thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
If you want to take WordPress for a quick test drive before committing to a paid hosting service, there is a modified version of WordPress available for free at WordPress.com (which is different from WordPress.org). They will host your website, give you a free WordPress.com subdomain and let you use a lite version of WordPress with limited customization. You won’t be able to use plugins, you’ll have limited control of your site, and you’ll have to put up with third-party ads. Because of this, we only recommend this option for testing, not building a permanent site.
Choose A Domain Name
Choosing a domain name is one of the most important steps in building a WordPress website.
Your domain name is much more than just an address. It tells people important information about your site, it helps people find your site through search engines, and it helps to define your brand image. Because of this, it’s important to choose a domain name that has the right keywords, is easy to remember, and provides a positive first impression.
Here are some tips for choosing the perfect domain name:
- Try to choose a domain name that is short and simple. Long domain names are hard to remember, take longer to type, and will be misspelled more often.
- Try to avoid a domain name that is difficult to say or has purposely misspelled words. If you’re creating a site for selling guitars and the domain name tomsguitars.com is already taken, don’t go with tomsguitarz.com. Most of your customers will go straight to your competitor’s site, and you’ll get sick of explaining to everyone that “it’s guitars with a Z”.
- Try to include relevant keywords in the domain name if you can. It will help improve your search engine ranking and will make it easier for people to quickly identify the purpose of your site. For example, if you run a tutoring business in New York, try to include the keywords “tutoring” and “New York” or “NY” in the domain name.
- Always try to get a .com top level domain (TLD) extension. It may be tempting to choose a unique TLD extension such as .abc, .club or .business, but these extensions make it much harder for visitors to find your site.
Once you’ve got some idea of the domain name you’d like to use, you need to check to make sure it’s available.
See if your domain is available
Note: You cannot use any punctuation other than dashes in a domain name.
If you find a domain name that you like and is available, you need to register that name with a registrar. When you register a domain name, you are not buying the domain – you are simply paying for the right to use that domain for 12 months. While you don’t actually own the domain, as long as you keep paying the yearly registration fee you can keep using the name indefinitely.
If you are signing up with a new web hosting service, look for a service that offers a free domain for the first year. If that’s not an option, see if your web hosting company offers a domain name registration service. This will make things easier as they will automatically configure the domain name for use with your account.
You may be able to save a little money by registering the domain through a third-party registrar, but you’ll have to go through the extra steps of getting the domain name linked to your web hosting account.
How to Install WordPress
There are two ways you can install WordPress.
The easiest way is to use the one-click installation option provided by most major web hosting services. This is the option we recommend as it’s fast and simple. Installation should take just a few minutes.
If you don’t have a one-click installation option with your web hosting service, you’ll have to install the files manually. This option is a little more complicated, but we will provide a step-by-step guide in this tutorial.
NOTE: Some of the screenshots in this tutorial may differ slightly depending on which web hosting service you are using. However, the basic process for installing the WordPress files should be the same for all hosting services.
To use the one-click installation option for WordPress, you’ll need to log in to the control panel of your hosting account. Your hosting company should provide you with the login address, username and password.
The control panel is a point-and-click interface that makes it easy to complete tasks such as installing software, adding email accounts, managing files and performing maintenance. The screenshots in this tutorial are from the popular cPanel control panel.
Once you’ve logged in, scroll down and look for either a WordPress installer script icon or an application installer. In this screenshot, we can see both the WordPress icon and the Softaculous Apps Installer icon. Both options will let us install WordPress, so let’s click on the WordPress script icon.
The next screen should show you information about the WordPress application.
Click the “Install Now” button.
Next, you have to enter a few details about the WordPress site.
Use the drop down box to pick the domain you’d like to use for your WordPress installation. If you can’t find the domain you previously registered, it means that the domain has not been linked with your hosting account. You’ll need to contact your web hosting company for help with this.
If you’d like, you can enter a name for your site and a site description. You can change these options later, so you don’t have to decide now.
Scroll down and enter an admin username, password and a valid email address. Your username and password can be anything, but it’s a good idea to choose something other than “admin” as this can easily be guessed by hackers. Don’t forget to keep a copy of your username and password as you’ll have to enter this information to access your site.
You may have the option to install some plugins with your initial WordPress installation. You can easily install these plugins later, so you don’t need to install them now.
Click the “Install” button.
After a minute or two, the installer should report that WordPress has been successfully installed.
You can click on the URL link to see what your basic site looks like, or you can click on the Administrative URL to access the WordPress Dashboard for your site. The Dashboard is where you can start creating your site by adding plugins, themes and content.
If you used the one-click install option (above), then you don’t need to worry about this step.
Manual installation of WordPress can be tricky, and the process may differ slightly depending on which web hosting service you are using, so we always recommend using the one-click installation option if it is available.
Download The Source Files
To manually install WordPress you need to download the installation package from wordpress.org/download (not wordpress.com). You may find copies of WordPress available for download from other sites, but it’s always a good idea to download the latest version from the official site. If you download files from a third-party site, there’s a chance that these files will include malicious code.
Go to the WordPress download page and click on the “Download WordPress” button to download a .zip file containing the WordPress software.
Create A New Database
Next, you’ll need to create a database to store all the information about your WordPress site.
Log in to your control panel using the steps above and look for a section called Databases.
Click on the “MySQL Databases” icon.
In the Create New Database section, enter the name of your database (it can be anything, but it’s probably a good idea to choose a relevant name) and click “Create Database”. Make a note of your database name.
Once the database has been created, go back to the previous page and scroll down to the Add New User section. Add a username and password and click “Create User”. Make a note of the username and password.
Once the user has been created, go back to the previous page and scroll down to the Add User To Database section. Select the user and database you just created and click “Add”.
On the next page, check the All Privileges box and click “Make Changes”.
Upload The Files To Your Server
Next, you need to upload the WordPress .zip file to the root folder of your site. You can use a free FTP app like FileZilla, but it’s probably easier to use the file manager included with your control panel.
Go to the main page of your control panel and click on the “File Manager” icon.
Locate the root folder in the file tree on the left. The root folder is usually named “public_html” but depends on what your host has set up on the server. If you’re unsure about which folder to upload the file into, it’s a good idea to ask your hosting service.
Once you’ve found the root folder, click “Upload” and upload the WordPress .zip file.
When the file has been uploaded, go back to the file manager, right click on the .zip file you just uploaded, and click “Extract”. Your root directory should now contain these files.
Configure The Database
The last step is to configure the WordPress database. In your web browser, go to the URL: yourdomain.com/wp-admin/install.php (replace yourdomain.com with the name of your domain).
Choose a language and read the instructions for configuring the database. Click “Let’s Go”.
In the Database Name box, add the name of the database you created.
In the Username and Password, add the username and password you created.
You can ignore the other boxes.
If all the information is correct, you should see this screen. Run the install.
Add your information to each box and click Install WordPress.
Once the software has been installed, you can log in to see your new WordPress site.
Configuring your New Website
Open The Dashboard
Adding new pages and posts, changing themes, adding plugins and editing the settings of your WordPress site is all done using the Dashboard interface.
The Dashboard can be accessed by visiting yourdomain.com/wp-admin/ (replace yourdomain.com with the name of your domain) and entering your username and password.
Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do from the Dashboard.
In the top left corner of the top menu is the My Blog icon. You can click on this to see what your blog currently looks like.
To the right of that is the Update icon. You can click on this (or click on “Updates” in the sidebar) to update your core files, themes and plugins.
The next icon is the Comment icon. You can click on this (or click on “Comments” in the sidebar) to read, edit and delete blog post comments.
The last icon is the New icon. This is a quick link that allows you to add new posts, pages, users and media to your site. Each of these options can also be accessed using the sidebar.
The Sidebar is used to access menus that let you do things like change the appearance of your site, add plugins and edit the basic settings of the site. We’ll look at some of these options in more detail later.
The Welcome to WordPress box contains links that help new users get started with their first WordPress site.
The At a Glance and Activity boxes show you basic information about your site. The Quick Draft box lets you save a quick draft of a new blog post. The Events and News box shows you current information about WordPress news and events.
Choose A Theme
If you click on the My Blog icon, you’ll notice that your site looks very basic.
You can change the style of your site by adding a new Theme.
Themes are templates that instantly make your site look better by changing things like the layout, font, colors, icons and menu style.
WordPress users have access to thousands of free themes that have been professionally designed and coded and are easy to install. All you need to do is navigate to the Theme menu, find a theme you like and click the Install button.
For most users, free themes are the best place to start. When you install a new theme, it doesn’t change the content on your site, only the layout. This means you can download and install a number of different themes to see which theme suits you best. If you feel like you need something more advanced than a free theme, you can always install a paid theme at a later date.
Let’s try installing a new theme.
Click on “Appearance” and “Themes” in the sidebar, then click the “Add New” button.
You can use this page to browse or search for themes. You can click on the Feature Filter to filter your search by layout, features and subject. This feature can be useful if you have a particular style in mind for your site, such as a portfolio or an e-commerce site.
Take your time to search for a theme you like. You can click the Preview button on each theme to see a live preview of what your site will look like with this theme installed.
When you’ve found a theme you like, click the “Install” button. Once the theme has been installed, you need to click the “Activate” button to activate it. You can then click “Customize” to change various theme settings.
If you click on “My Blog” and take a look at your site, you should see a much nicer design and layout than before, with new colors, images, menus and widgets all pre-installed.
Add Some New Content
Now that you’ve installed a new theme, it’s time to start adding some content.
However, before you start adding content, it’s important to learn the difference between pages and posts.
Pages form the structure of your site and contain content that you most likely won’t edit very often.
For example, if you’re creating a site for a restaurant, you might have a Home page, a Menu page, a Reservation page and an Access page. If you’re creating a fan site for your favorite soccer team you might have a Home page, a Players page, a Results page and a Blog page. If you take a look at your current site, you should see two pages already in the menu bar – Home and Sample Page.
Posts (also known as blog entries) are content that is added to a Blog which is located on a Page.
Posts are used for regularly adding content. They can be sorted chronologically and tagged by category and author. You can also let people add comments to a post. If you look at your Home page, you should see a Post titled “Hello world!”.
Add A New Page
To add a new page to your site, click on “Pages” and “Add New” on your Dashboard.
You should see a page editor that looks similar to Microsoft Word or Apple Pages.
You can add a page title in the Enter title here box.
In the main text editor area, you can add content to the page just like you do when using a regular text editor. You can use the toolbar to add headings, bold text, italic text and change the text alignment.
Above the editor you can click on Add Media to add images or video, and Add Form to add a form that can collect data input from users.
In the right sidebar, you can change various page attributes and set a featured image that will appear on this page. You can also Save, Preview and Publish the page.
Go ahead and create a test page with any title and content you like. Don’t forget to save the page when you’re done. Once you’ve saved the page, the content will be stored but the page will not yet be visible on your site. To make the page visible, you need to click “Publish”.
Once you’ve published the page, click on the View Page link to see what it looks like.
Add A New Post To Your Blog
To add a new post to your blog click “Posts” and “Add New” in the Dashboard sidebar.
You should see a post editor that looks very similar to the page editor.
Just like the page editor, you can add a post title, text content, media content, forms and a featured image.
The biggest difference between the page editor and the post editor are the Categories and Tags boxes.
Categories are used to create groups of content that are relevant to the purpose of your site. For example, if you’re creating a site about Italian Food, you might have a category for Recipes, a category for Restaurant Reviews, and a category for News.
Categories are important for both organization and SEO. Generally, you want to put a blog post in just one category.
Tags are used to create groups of content that apply to multiple categories. Using the previous Italian Food blog example, a single recipe post may include tags such as Pasta, Vegetarian, Dinner, Cheap and Healthy.
Tags are important as they allow visitors to quickly navigate your site and find what they’re looking for.
To add your post to a category, you need to check the box next to the most appropriate category. If there is no appropriate category, you can make a new one by clicking on the Add New Category link.
To add tags to your post, simply type the tags in the box and click “Add”.
Go ahead and create a new post. You can add any title and content you’d like. Try adding a new category and tags to your post. When you’ve finished, don’t forget to save and publish the post.
You can click on the Permalink or navigate to the Home page of your site to see your new blog post.
Install Some Plugins
One of the things that sets WordPress apart from its competitors is the large range of plugins available for download. There are currently over 40,000 plugins in the WordPress Plugin Directory than can be installed in just a few seconds. In most cases, all you have to do is find a plugin you’d like to install, click “Install Now”, then click “Activate”.
Plugins are used to add features to your site without having to write any code. With the right plugins, you can turn a simple blog into a gallery, a forum or an online store.
You can check out the Plugin Directory by clicking “Plugins” and “Add New” in the Dashboard sidebar.
Once the page has loaded, you can sort plugins by Featured, Popular, Recommended and Favorites, or you can search for keywords using the search tool.
Here are a few things to consider when installing plugins:
- Look for plugins that are regularly updated as that’s a good sign that the developers will quickly address any security vulnerabilities or other problems.
- Make sure the plugin is compatible with your version of WordPress.
- Read the reviews to make sure the plugin is stable.
- Some people argue that too many plugins can slow down your site. Others argue that poorly coded plugins slow down your site. If you suddenly experience a site slowdown, it’s a good idea to try disabling recently installed plugins to find the culprit.
Here are a few of the most popular plugins that you should consider installing on your site:
Yoast SEO is a plugin that helps you optimize both your site and your content for search engine crawlers.
Akismet is a plugin that comes pre-installed with WordPress. It helps you keep your comments free of spam.
Contact Form 7 is a simple form plugin that allows people to email you without having to log in to their email app.
WooCommerce is a powerful plugin that contains everything you need to turn your site into an fully-functional e-commerce store.
Let’s practice using plugins by installing the Yoast SEO plugin.
Search for Yoast SEO by using the search tool or look for it under the Popular tag. Once you’ve found it, click “Install Now”. When the plugin has finished installing, click “Activate” to start using it.
Once you’ve installed the plugin, you should have a new item in your sidebar called SEO and a new quick link in the top menu bar. You should also have a new entry on the Installed Plugins page. You can view this page by clicking “Plugins” and “Installed Plugins” in the sidebar.
From this page you can change the settings for each plugin, deactivate plugins and delete plugins you are no longer using.
Edit Your Site’s General Settings
If you didn’t specify a site title during the installation process or you want to change your site title, you can do this by accessing the General Settings page. Click on “Settings” and “General” in the sidebar.
On this page you can edit the Site Title and Tagline.
The site title can be different from your domain name, but it should explain in short, simple language what your site is about. It should also contain any keywords that you want search engines to focus on.
The tagline is a short blurb that is displayed after the site name. It can be slightly more detailed than the site name, and should also contain any important keywords.
If you scroll down further, you can change other settings such as the Site Address, the Admin Email Address and the Site Language.
At the bottom of the page you can change the Timezone, Date Format and Time Format. These settings will affect the date and time shown on new blog posts.
Edit Your Site’s Front Page Settings
The final thing we’ll look at in this tutorial is your front page settings.
If you take a look at your front page, you’ll notice that it displays your most recent blog posts. This is fine if your site is focused on blogging, but if you’re running a business site, you might prefer your front page to be a regular “homepage” that always shows the same content. A page that doesn’t change is called a Static Page.
To edit your front page settings, click on “Settings” and “Reading” in the sidebar.
If you want your front page to be a static page, check the static page option under Front Page Displays. You’ll then need to use the dropdown box to select which page you want to be your front page. If you don’t have a front page ready, you’ll have to make a new one using the page editor.
You can then use the Posts Page dropdown box to choose which page will display your latest blog entries.
You can edit some of the other settings on this page to change how many blogs are displayed on your blog page, how many posts are displayed in your blog feed, and whether the full blog post is displayed or just a summary.
If you’ve followed this tutorial, you should be able to install WordPress, customize your site with a theme, add new pages and blog posts, add some useful plugins, and change some of the main settings for your site.
But all this is just the tip of the iceberg!
To make your site even more unique and functional, you’ll have to delve deeper into WordPress’ amazing array of customizable settings. You can do this by asking questions in WordPress forums, searching for specific WordPress tutorials, or just playing around with your site’s settings.
Here are some ideas that you might want to try:
- Add a background image to a page.
- Add a new logo to the site header.
- Customize your site’s menus.
- Change the default font for your headers and text.
- Customize your dashboard menus.
- My guide to making money with a blog (applies just the same to a website).
- Add some dashboard widgets.
- Add some more users who can edit or add posts to your site.
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