Have you ever wanted to start a website of your own? If yes, you’re in the right place.
WordPress is one of the fastest and easiest ways to create a full-fledged website. It’s so efficient that almost a third of all websites run on it. That’s millions of active websites around 75 million, actually—running on WordPress.
Those are incredible numbers for any platform. If you’re wondering why so many people choose WordPress, here are the main benefits:
- WordPress requires no coding knowledge—WordPress allows anyone to create websites easily. Creating a custom-coded website takes a lot of time, regardless of whether you know coding or hire a web developer. With WordPress’s intuitive interface, you can have a website up and running in a matter of hours.
- WordPress websites look great—despite being easy to create, WordPress sites look amazing. Just look at the website of BBC America and you’ll know what we’re talking about. You can use WordPress to create websites that fit just about any topic and look like they’ve been made by a web development pro.
- WordPress is free—all of that and for free! Talk of a great deal. Admittedly, hosting a website is never free, but we’ll get to hosting later. For now, suffice it to say WordPress is among the cheapest options for creating a website.
If these advantages interest you, we’ll tell you exactly how to set up your own WordPress site and use it to dazzle people everywhere.
Choose Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com
If you Google “WordPress” you get these two different websites in the results. It’s a significant difference so we’ll take a moment to explain it.
WordPress.org lets you download the WordPress software for free. The software lets you create a website you have to host by yourself. You have complete control over this website but you need a hosting plan. We’ll talk more about this in the following section.
WordPress.com gives you a free website as a sub domain on the WordPress.com site. The site runs on WordPress software and you do not need hosting, but there is a cost. You can only install the programs and themes included on the WordPress platform by default and you have to pay extra if you want to monetize your site.
Which one do you pick, then?
You should go with WordPress.com if you want to be a hobby blogger or if you want to try out the WordPress platform. WordPress.com comes with its limitations, but you have enough functionality to create a decent website. An added plus is that you don’t have to think about backups and maintenance. Pick this option if you want to have an easy time.
Go with WordPress.org if you plan on growing and monetizing your website. Getting a shared hosting plan and setting up WordPress is often much cheaper than paying to run ads on WordPress.com. WordPress.org also offers you more freedom and customization. Go with this if you want the full WordPress experience.
Some of the things we talk about in the rest of this guide only apply to WordPress.org sites. However, that does not mean there’s nothing here for WordPress.com bloggers. A lot of it are general guidelines for WordPress website owners.
Let’s talk about your choice of hosting next. Don’t download WordPress just yet—it might not be necessary.
Get a Hosting Plan
If you chose WordPress.org, you’ll need a hosting provider. The hosting provider influences everything regarding your website, so it pays off to put thought into your choice of hosting.
We could dedicate an entire article just on why hosting is important. A bad hosting provider can cause security breaches, website speed issues, and ridiculous downtime. In short, a bad provider spells all kinds of trouble down the road.
Likewise, a good provider is more helpful than you might think. It pays off to find a provider that’s secure, fast, and has quality customer support.
Most providers offer an affordable starting plan so you don’t have to worry about investing too much. If your site grows, you can monetize it before scaling up into more expensive hosting plans.
An added advantage WordPress users have over custom-coded website owners is something called managed WordPress hosting. Managed WordPress hosting means your site is on a server populated solely by other WordPress websites.
This makes it easier for customer support to detect and resolve any potential issues. Websites hosted this way are typically less vulnerable to hacking. Even if there is a breach, the support team can provide better help. More importantly, managed WordPress hosting platforms are optimized to for the CMS, providing much better performance across the board.
Remember when we told you there would be no need to download WordPress? Good hosting providers typically enable you to install WordPress automatically, especially managed hosting providers. Just find the option in the control panel.
In case you need to install WordPress manually, you can find the guide here. The installation is easy and it shouldn’t take any more than a few minutes so don’t worry.
Keep all of this in mind when choosing a provider. Review hosting options and give special consideration to providers that offer managed WordPress hosting.
Register a Domain Name
Domain names are for the most part permanent. Once you register a domain name, you’re stuck with it until it expires. All you can do is pay to register another domain name and have the latter lead to your website.
A good domain name matters as it makes your website memorable, builds you a strong identity on the internet, and makes you look professional. That’s why it’s worth taking the time to come up with the best domain name.
You’ll typically want a name that’s short, simple, and memorable. Don’t pick anything too fancy or you risk users misspelling it when looking for your site. Besides hosting, a good domain name is the only mandatory investment, so it’s worthwhile to get it right.
The good news is that most hosting providers let you choose a domain name when purchasing a hosting plan. You just need to put in your desired domain name and they’ll tell you if it’s available. Some even throw in a free domain name when you sign up for a hosting plan.
If you need to register a domain name without getting a hosting plan, visit any domain name registrar like GoDaddy.com. There will typically be a search bar that lets you look for available domain names. You can just register one there.
A little side note for WordPress.com users. You get a sub domain for your website so you don’t technically need a domain name. However, we recommend that you get one anyway and connect it to your site.
The default site addresses on WordPress.com look something like “gibberish.wordpress.com”. Your website will look more serious if you register a domain name like “www.example.com”. Mind that using a domain name is a paid upgrade on WordPress.com, but a domain name is required if you want to monetize your site anyway.
Choose a Theme
You’ve set up a WordPress site and you’ve got a good domain name for it. What do you do now?
You could start writing content right away. In fact, we recommend that you have at least a few completed posts before you make your site public. You don’t want visitors to find an empty website when they get there, do you?
Still, you know best what kind of content you want to write and we won’t meddle with that. Instead, let’s talk about the appearance of your website.
When you first get into it, you’ll notice that your site is strangely empty. There will be no buttons, search bars, or widgets. You need to build all of that from the ground up.
Let’s start with themes. A theme is one of the key features of WordPress. A theme is a template which determines the entire appearance of your website.
When choosing a theme, make it fit with the topic of your website. A cheerful and flamboyant theme might be great for a website dedicated to music, but it wouldn’t work well for a politics website.
Read the reviews on themes and thoroughly test them before settling for one. You want a theme that’s responsive, meaning it’s optimized for mobile devices, and that doesn’t have too many unnecessary features. Too much clutter can cause performance issues so go for a theme that only has the features you think are necessary. You’ll find that in WordPress less is often more.
A big debate is whether free themes are preferable to premium ones. There is no definite answer and, honestly, both categories have their advantages and disadvantages.
Free WordPress themes have to pass a strict review process to be backed by WordPress. They are practically guaranteed to offer security, privacy, and quality.
Their main disadvantage is that the developers are not obligated to provide support in case something goes wrong. Free themes also have fewer customization options and are less unique as many WordPress sites install them.
Premium themes offer support and uniqueness. Also, there’s a lot of competition driving the business so developers try to offer you as many features as possible at an affordable price.
The problem with paid themes is that they don’t have to go through any authorization process. This allows for bad code. What’s more, the attempts to include as many functions as possible usually makes the theme bloated which leads to poor website performance and other issues.
If you’re just starting out, we recommend experimenting with free themes first. You can find all free themes in the WordPress theme directory. Don’t install free themes which are not on this list; they are likely not safe as they did not pass the review process.
Just find a theme that works well and fits into your niche. There are many options to choose from so you shouldn’t have too much trouble. If you change your mind, you can always change your theme.
Pick the Right Plugins
Plugins are probably the best thing about WordPress. They help you add more features to your website. The best part is that there’s a plugin for just about anything. You can find plugins for anything from image compression and form creation, to search engine optimization.
It pays off to be careful here as well. There are many free plugins and again, customer support is not mandatory. To find some useful info, check out our post on everything you should know about WordPress plugins.
Here, we’ll briefly mention several must-have plugins for your website.
Jetpack is a plugin does it all. It takes care of things like image optimization, security, backups, automated social media sharing, and many more things. If you want a plugin that takes care of a bunch of stuff for you in a couple of clicks, go with Jetpack.
Yoast SEO is the reigning king of SEO plugins. It helps you manage all the features of your SEO. Its features include creating XML sitemaps, managing titles and meta descriptions, canonical URL management, and SEO content analysis. In short, Yoast SEO is a great tool that solves all of your SEO problems.
W3 Total Cache is for website speed what Yoast SEO is for search engine optimization. If you want a fast website, W3 Total Cache is your go-to plugin. It has too many features to list out here, but it is definitely a must-have plugin if you want to avoid any nasty performance issues.
There are a lot of plugins available so if you see a nice feature on another website, there’s probably a plugin for that. Don’t be afraid to look for plugins on your own.
Just remember that too many plugins can also cause performance issues and crashes so delete the plugins you don’t use. Keep only the plugins in active duty and you should be fine.
Once you’ve gone through all these steps, you’re ready to put pen to paper and write your content. Remember that WordPress is about experimentation. You need to find out which themes and plugins fit your personal style and work from there.
If you get stuck, it’s no crime to look at the websites of your favorite bloggers and brainstorm ideas from there. It’s often a good idea to include a contact page, delete the example pages that come with your WordPress site, and perhaps to create a static homepage for your site.