What is WordPress?
If you’re a complete newbie or you’ve been living under a rock during the past few years, allow me to quickly explain what WordPress is.
WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS) that you to build your own website or blog.
When it was released in 2003, it was initially used as a blogging platform, although since then it has grown into the most popular CMS in the world.
Of course, there’s more to WordPress than just uploading blog posts.
WordPress has come a long way since 2003, It’s come so far in fact that it actually powers 28.6% of all websites. And this is no surprise.
When you first install WordPress, you will notice just how many cool features there are.
There are literally thousands of different plugins and themes that allow users to customise their website and also incorporate a range of different functions.
This means WordPress isn’t just great for blogs, it’s great for business websites too.
Why Use WordPress to Build Your Website?
It’s free and incredibly easy to learn.
That’s it really.
Once you know the basics and how to navigate your way around the dashboard, you’ll be surprised at just how easy WordPress is to use. And another thing that’s so great about WordPress, is the continuous support groups available to users.
Because so many people use it, there’s always a helping hand just one click away. There’s even a dedicated support forum.
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com
They’re not the same thing.
I see all too often people confuse the two platforms. All you need to know is that WordPress.org is the “real WordPress” that will allow you to create a website, all you need is domain name and hosting.
Step 1: Domain Name and Hosting
If you are a complete beginner and don’t even know what a domain name is yet, no worries, it’s very simple!
The domain name is simply the name of your website. For example, mine is https://www.nickkeeping.com/
Your domain name is the identity of your website and your business if you have one. Therefore, a lot of thought and consideration should be carried out before deciding on one. In an ideal world, you want your domain name to be short, memorable, and easy to type.
You should also think about using relevant keywords in your domain name. For example, if you’re a photographer, you should include a word related to photography. For example, joebloggsphotographer.com
Using relevant keywords makes it clear to the user what your website is about and what sort of content you write about. It’s also a great way to rank higher in search engines like Google and Bing.
For example, look what comes up if you type the word ‘ bodybuilding’ in Google:
It’s no surprise that bodybuilding.com is ranked at the top of Google.
Yes they have thousands of quality articles and their marketing is on point, but having the word ‘bodybuilding’ as the domain name drives millions of users to their site, simply because there are so many people searching the term ‘bodybuilding’ into Google.
That’s why it’s important to think carefully about what domain name you want. It cost Ryan Deluca (founder of Bodybuilding.com) $20,000 to have this domain name. After selling the company for an estimated $120 million, choosing the right domain name certainly paid off.
Unfortunately, the chances of finding an available one-word domain name that immediately tells the user what your website is about, such as photography, bodybuilding, cars, food, etc, is damn right impossible these days.
However, on the upside it allows you to have fun with it and be creative, which in some cases, is better for building a unique brand.
Purchasing your WordPress Domain Name
When it comes to purchasing your domain name, there are many sites on which you can do this.
Because it’s more convenient, I usually purchase my domain name with the same hosting provider. If you are a beginner, I strongly recommend you do the same. (See below for hosting info).
Using the same company for both domain registration and hosting is really simple and you always have the option of transferring your domain name to another hosting provider in the future.
For both domain registration and hosting, I really recommend SiteGround.
I’ve been using them since early 2018 after switching from another hosting company. It’s so easy to get set up and their customer support is outstanding.
Not only that but price-wise, they are very reasonable, one of the cheapest around.
I recommend their GrowBig plan as it’s the best in terms of value and it’s also the one I use.
Signing up to SiteGround
After you’ve selected which SiteGround Package suits you, the next step will be to register your domain name. You should see this page:
By default the first option will be checked, so you can leave this.
If you already have a domain name, simply choose this option as shown in the picture.
If you don’t have a domain name, you will be able to register it on this page. Type your chosen name into the box and SiteGround will automatically tell you if that name is available or not. This can be quite annoying because you could spend hours choosing the right name, only to find out that it’s not available.
It’s important to make sure you select the correct domain extension. (See below).
Next to where you have typed in your domain name, you should see a drop-down option.
Clicking this will present the above menu.
As SiteGround is a UK based hosting platform, by default you will see .CO.UK
If you have a UK-based business, then this is your best option. For anyone else, I recommend you choose a . COM extension.
After deciding on your domain name the only thing left to do is enter your payment details.
Once you’ve paid, SiteGround will email you a receipt of some sort and also a link that confirms your account. Once confirmed, you will be able to move onto the next stage – installing WordPress.
Step 2: How to Install WordPress
In order to build a WordPress website, you’ll obviously have to first install WordPress itself.
Siteground makes this very easy for us.
Step 1: Log in
Head over to the Siteground homepage and log in.
Step 2: My Accounts
After you log in to your Siteground account, navigate to where it says ‘My Accounts’ (see picture below).
Step 3: Go to your cPanel
You’ll see an orange button in the above picture. Clicking this will take you to your Control Panel.
This is what your Control Panel looks like:
There are tons of different services within your Control Panel and you should get to know these later down the line. However, I don’t want you to worry about anything else other than WordPress for the time being.
Step 4: Select WordPress
You will see under the ‘Auto Installers’ section, an option for WordPress. I want you to select this now.
You can also type in what you’re looking for using the search bar on the left. (see below).
Step 5: Install WordPress
Once you’ve selected the WordPress icon, you will be taken to the following page.
Click on ‘Install Now’.
Step 6: Customise Your Settings
This step is important, so make sure you don’t skip it.
From the drop-down, select the ‘HTTP://’ protocol.
The ‘In Directory’ option can be left blank.
You’ll next want to change the ‘Site Name’ and ‘Site Description’ sections. I recommend just having the name of your company or brand and a short sentence describing what you do.
You can always change this later on.
Scroll down and you will see options to change your ‘Admin Username’ and ‘Password‘.
You’ll definitely want to change these.
Username can be something simple like your own name or company name. The password should be well thought of and hard to guess. And remember to write your password down and keep it safe.
If you are worried about the security of your site, you should probably select to install ‘Limit Login Attempts (Loginizer)’.
However, there are many other great plugins you can install later on for this.
Finally, click the ‘Install’ button at the bottom of the page.
That’s it! The boring bit is over.
You’re now ready to create your WordPress website.
Step 3: Choosing a Theme
As there are thousands upon thousands of different themes, choosing the right one to match your brand and business goals can be challenging.
With so much choice on offer, it’s very easy to spend countless hours scrolling through pages of preview themes. So with my recommendations, I hope I can make your life a little easier.
To select which theme you want, first, you need to log into your WordPress dashboard.
To do this, simply open up a new tab and type your website’s URL in the search bar, followed by /wp-login.php. (See example below).
After you’ve entered your username and password (the ones you wrote down earlier) you’ll be taken to your WordPress dashboard. This is what mine currently looks like:
In order to choose which theme you want, simply click on where it says ‘Appearance’ on the left sidebar, and you will be taken to the following page.
You will then be taken to the page which has the default theme installed. This page will also show any themes you have manually uploaded. (I’ll explain later).
The next step is to click ‘Add New’ which will allow you to browse through all the themes WordPress has to offer.
You can even search for particular keywords which will narrow down the search results and display themes that are suitable for your needs. For example, you can see from the picture below that I have typed in the word ‘yoga’.
Look at the cool themes it suggests for you:
Hover over a theme you like the look of and click ‘Preview’.
After deciding on a theme, simply click ‘Install’ then ‘Activate’. Your theme will be uploaded in literally seconds.
You’re now ready to customise your theme and start adding plugins. However, before I get on to that bit, let me explain a little bit about premium WordPress themes.
Free vs Premium WordPress Themes
You want to build a WordPress website you can be proud of right? Then you better make sure you choose the best theme for the job.
Choosing a nice-looking theme that caters to your website goals can be challenging and time-consuming.
Luckily, WordPress is jammed packed full of beautifully designed free themes that I’m sure would suit most beginners.
In fact, the first time I tried to build a WordPress website I actually used a free theme. However, although the site looked aesthetically pleasing, the overall functionality of the theme was poor.
Choosing a free theme is the obvious choice for any beginner because guess what? It’s FREE.
This is perfectly fine if you just want a simple blog and you aren’t looking to build a brand or business.
However, if you do want to grow your brand or business, I strongly recommend you purchase a decent premium theme.
So why are premium WordPress themes better?
- Support and updates – Unlike free themes, premium themes come with support and updates. This is extremely useful if something goes wrong with your website. If you decide to get a free theme, you’re pretty much on your own in terms of support…so be careful.
- More features and customisation – Being able to make your website stand out and catch the readers attention is one of the key aspects to a successful online business. Premium themes have so much more to offer in terms of customisation and functionality when compared with free themes.
- More Unique – Due to the cost of some premium themes, they remain more unique. Free themes are used by so many websites and blogs that your own site is likely to have a similar design. Having a unique identity is important when it comes to building a brand; premium themes are definitely worth their weight in gold when it comes to this.
- Full documentation – With any premium theme you purchase, you should also get a detailed instruction manual, allowing you to set your new theme up with ease. Some free themes will fail to provide this service.
Where’s the best place to get a WordPress premium theme?
My favourite place to get premium themes is from a company called Studiopress.
Studiopress has a large collection of stunning themes that are purposely built to work with WordPress. I have been a customer since 2017 and so far I can’t think of any negatives.
If you would like to find out more about Studiopress head over to their website and you can check out all of their beautiful themes yourself.
If you really want to build a WordPress website that stands out from the crowd but you’d rather not go down the StudioPress route then I would recommend Divi.
If you are a complete beginner when it comes to web design then you might want to give Divi a try.
Divi has tons of cool features and you really do get a lot of bang for your buck. The best thing about it is the drag and drop interface that allows you to customise your website the way you want it, without the fuss that comes with other themes.
Although I must point out that over the last few years WordPress has made it even easier for beginners to create websites using drag and drop with their Gutenberg editor update.
Not to mention, Genesis have also released their very popular Genesis Blocks editor, which is included within their platform.
As you can see from the image above, Divi also has a whopping 800+ designs to choose from.
I would say the only downside of Divi is that it’s on the expensive side. But, it does come with some amazing features so I’m pretty certain that it would be money well spent should you decide to purchase it.
If you really want to build a WordPress website that will help your brand or business stand out, I think Studiopress and Divi are both safe bets.
However, the themes you get with Studiopress are built so unbelievably well that in my opinion, this trumps everything Divi has to offer.
And as I mentioned above, the inclusion of Genesis Blocks has made it incredibly simple to create and customise a website to your liking.
Step 4: An Introduction to Plugins
If you’ve never had experience with WordPress before, It’s very likely you’ve never heard of the term ‘plugin’.
A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They are programmed to integrate with your WordPress website, with each one providing a new feature or function.
If you want a particular feature on your website, that didn’t already come with your WordPress theme, you can install a plugin instead.
How to Install a WordPress Plugin
The first step is to make sure you are looking at your WordPress dashboard. If you aren’t, simply click ‘Dashboard’ which is located at the very top of the left sidebar.
The next thing is to navigate to where it says ‘Plugins’, and click ‘Add New’. (Pictured below).
From here you can select which plugin you need, find out more information about each individual plugin, read reviews from other users and install it directly into your site.
Note: Some plugins may not be compatible with your WordPress site, which could cause some interference. Make sure you only install the plugins that are compatible. Under each plugin logo, in the description box, it will say either ‘Compatible’ or ‘Untested’.
If you have done some research already and know which plugins you want, you can search for them using the keyword search bar, located on the top right. To help you out, WordPress also automatically displays which plugins are most recommended, located on the top left (see picture above).
To install the plugin, simply click ‘Install Now’ followed by ‘Activate’.
Before installing, please make sure you click ‘More Details’ and read up on each plugin to see if it’s right for your site. Reading some of the reviews can also be very helpful.
You’ll notice that at the top of the page next to ‘Add Plugins’, it says ‘Upload Plugin’.
Without confusing you too much, this is normally used for premium plugins you’ve purchased from somewhere else.
Now you know how to install and activate your plugins, the next step is to decide which plugins you want. So please read on!
Essential WordPress Plugins
WordPress offers more than 49,000 plugins, not to mention the thousands of 3rd party plugins that are available.
As there are so many to choose from, deciding which plugins to install can be difficult.
To get you started though, I have included a list of free plugins I recommend for beginners, based on the essential features every WordPress website should have, such as security and performance optimisation.
No matter what kind of site you are running, there are a few specific plugins I recommend you install. The list of plugins below is the same plugins I usually install on my own sites and some of my web design clients.
- Optimises your WordPress posts and pages using keywords and meta descriptions
- See how well your content is currently optimised, and make improvements easily
- Improve your content’s readability with simple tips
- Improves the SEO of your site so it shows up further in search engines
- Improvements in search engine result page rankings, especially for mobile-friendly websites and sites that use SSL
- At least 10x improvement in overall site performance (Grade A in WebPagetest or significant Google Page Speed improvements) when fully configured
- Reduced page load time: increased visitor time on site; visitors view more pages
- Improved web server performance; sustain high traffic periods.
- Up to 80% bandwidth savings when you minify HTML, minify CSS and minify JS files
- Create a simple contact form that can be added to your WordPress pages, posts or widgets
- Supports CAPTCHA
- Supports Askimet spam filtering
- Link to your personalised email address
- Free image optimization
- Compatible with JPG, PNG and GIF files up to 5MB
- Bulk optimization – optimize all images with 2 clicks
- Displays simple social media icons
- Very easy to customise
- Compatible with over 20 social media platforms
- Restores, as well as backing up
- Backs up to more cloud options than any others
- Allows you to set up automatic backup schedules, for the ultimate inconvenience
- Is faster, using up fewer server resources
- Has been tested on over 1 million sites
Step 5: Essential WordPress Pages
As every website is different, the pages you wish to display within your site will probably also be different.
However, there are a few pages I feel should be included no matter what the purpose of that website is.
- Products and Services
If you want to build a WordPress website that captures your reader’s attention, you’ll want to really focus on designing a homepage that stands out.
We’ve all heard the saying ‘first impressions count’. And this is especially true for your homepage.
Your homepage is essentially your front door and will be one of your most viewed pages, so you better make it good. In fact, some studies have shown that you have roughly 15 seconds to entice someone before they click off it.
So if your homepage sucks, you may be losing customers.
Note about the homepage
By default, WordPress displays your most recent posts on the homepage. This is fine if you have a simple blog, but if you have a business you are going to want to change this so you can use your homepage to describe what it is you do, what your services are, etc.
To do this first create a page in WordPress then navigate to ‘Settings’ → ‘Reading’ → ‘Select static page’ and then select the page you just made as your homepage.
There’s not really much to say on this, it’s quite obvious what this page is for. One thing I do think is important however is to try and be original and avoid generic statements.
Getting your personality across and showing that you are trustworthy helps build a relationship with the reader. Including pictures is also quite important.
As you can see from the image on my about page, I’ve tried to be different and stand out.
Products and Services
Apart from procrastination and shopping, the main reason someone browses the internet is to look for a solution to a problem.
Remember what I said above?
You have roughly 15 seconds to entice them. If the user feels you can’t help them, there’s no way they’re sticking around.
If you offer more than one product or service, make sure you give these a dedicated page. Never cram all your services into one page.
These pages should be filled with as much relevant information about what you’re offering as possible, whilst making sure you stay clear and concise.
Including a blog page within your site can be a real game-changer. If you’ve already got a business and you haven’t started a blog, you’re leaving money on the table.
According to Ascend2, 72% of marketers say relevant content creation was the most effective SEO tactic. If you can produce helpful content on a consistent basis, you will almost definitely attract more potential customers.
In fact, according to this HubSpot survey, 60% of businesses who blog acquire more customers. This is HUGE.
What’s the point in offering your products or services if no one can get in contact with you?
It’s important to include a few different ways for the visitor to contact you. Everyone has a preference when it comes to this. Personally, I prefer email, as I can really put some thought into what I want to say.
Give the visitor a choice.
As after all, they’re the ones who might buy something from you.
If you’re running a small, local business I recommend you include your business address on this page.
There are actually quite a few WordPress plugins that can integrate Google maps, making it easier for the user to find you. Plus this looks more professional.
Finally, the contact page is a great place to display your social media profiles.
Step 6: Adding Pages and Posts
So you now have an idea of what pages to include in your WordPress website, but how do you create them?
Well, it’s actually very easy.
From the main dashboard, navigate to where it says ‘Pages‘ and click ‘Add New‘.
You will then be taken to the following page.
This is where you can really let your creative juices flow and begin to add content.
In 2018 WordPress introduced the Gutenberg page builder that enables users to create great-looking content with ease.
Before this was introduced, you would have to use the classic editor, which required a much higher level of skill to create professional content.
To create content using the Gutenberg page builder, you simply add blocks to the page. Within these blocks, you can choose to add an array of different features, such as headings, paragraphs, images, bullet points, widgets, buttons, and loads more.
All of this content can be added with just a click of a button, it’s that easy.
I recommend familiarizing yourself with the Gutenberg page builder and play around with its features.
As I’ve already touched upon, Genesis has also released their amazing page editor ‘Genesis Blocks’.
Genesis Blocks lets you build a WordPress website with ease. You can create pages using their existing templates and add your own touches to make your website stand out.
You can use the ‘Preview‘ button to see how your page looks before publishing.
Once you are happy, click ‘Publish‘.
To add a new post, just follow the same instructions.
Step 7: Customising Your WordPress Website
The next step within my build a WordPress website guide, is to create a menu and add the pages you created in the previous step.
How to Create a Menu
Your menu will contain all of the most important pages of your website and is often displayed in two main places, the header, and the footer.
To add a menu, navigate to ‘Appearance‘ → ‘Menus‘.
To actually create your menu, follow the steps below.
1. Click on ‘Create a new menu‘.
2. Give your new menu a name. If it’s going to be displayed in the header you usually want your most important pages here, so I tend to just call mine ‘Main Menu‘.
3. Click ‘Create Menu‘.
The next step is selecting which pages you want to display in the menu and where you want the menu to be displayed.
4. Select the individual pages you want in the menu or click ‘Select All‘.
5. Once the pages are added, decide which order they should be in. You can drag and drop each page below or above one another. You can also drag and drop a page into another page.
This would then be classified as a ‘sub-item’. This is useful if for example you have a ‘services’ page and want to display a drop-down menu showing each individual service.
6. Choose where you want the menu to be displayed.
7. Click ‘Save Menu‘.
Now visit your homepage and see the result.
Customising Your Menu
Depending on which WordPress theme you are using, you may be limited in terms of the style and aesthetics of your menu.
Most themes by default, display the menu in a basic row within the header.
If you want a menu that stands out and looks far more professional, I highly recommend you try out Superfly Resonsive Menu.
It can be used as standalone navigation or compliment your main menu. Superfly makes navigation much easier and user-friendly both on desktops and mobiles.
If you navigate to the main dashboard menu and click on ‘Appearance‘ you should see an option called ‘Widgets‘.
Click this and you will be taken to a page that will show you all the available widgets you can use within your theme. You can select a feature on the left and drag and drop it into your preferred widget area.
So what actually is a widget?
Widgets are essentially small blocks that contain specific functions. Widgets give us more control over the design and functionality of our websites and allow us to add content to certain areas.
You can, however, add content to other areas – if your WordPress theme allows this or if you know the code to do it.
Adding widgets using code though can be tricky.
This is actually one of the reasons I use the Genesis framework by Studiopress. Remember I talked about Studiopress earlier?
Using the Genesis framework, you can add a variety of different widgets to your homepage in no time at all, making it very easy to build a highly customised WordPress website.
In order to actually customise the style of your WordPress website, you will need to head over to ‘Appearance‘ and click on ‘Customise‘.
If you have installed a premium theme, there will usually be quite a few customisation options here. A free theme may be limited in this regard.
Again, this is very much a matter of just playing around and seeing how everything works. Of course, you can hire a professional to customise your site for you and this might save hours if not days, but this can be expensive and where’s the fun in that?
Taking your WordPress Website further
If you want to build a WordPress website that stands out from your competitors, but your current theme lacks customisation options or you just need something a bit more professional-looking, there is a way around this without having to hire a professional. We can use the ‘Additional CSS‘ option to achieve this.
What is CSS?
CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets and is code that is used to style a website’s design and layout.
Using the ‘Additional CSS‘ option as I mentioned, you can type the code into the CSS editor and your design changes will be made instantly.
You’ll also be able to see how your site looks on other devices such as tablets and mobile.
Now because I created this article for beginners, I will assume you don’t have the faintest idea of what I’m talking about. And that’s fine!
But if you really want full control over how your WordPress website looks, I highly recommend you invest a bit of time learning about this.
Step 8: Keeping Your WordPress Website Secure
To build a WordPress website is one thing, but keeping it secure is another. However, this is actually very easy to do if you take the proper precautions. Follow my checklist below and you’ll be able to sleep soundly at night.
- Choose a Reliable Hosting Platform
The easiest way to keep your site secure is to choose a credible and reliable hosting platform that uses a variety of security measures. My go-to host is a company called Siteground. I highly recommend them.
2. Choose a Premium WordPress Theme
The benefit of a premium theme is that it’s more likely to be built to a higher standard. Now, of course, there will be some premium themes that aren’t built very well; so avoid at all costs.
However, if you do a little digging, you’ll find that there are some pretty incredible themes built by highly skilled developers.
As I’ve mentioned before, I use the Genesis framework by Studiopress. Studiopress has a very high level of expertise on hand so all their themes are coded with security in mind.
3. Install a WordPress Plugin
There’s an array of security plugins that can be installed within seconds from your WordPress dashboard. One of the most popular ones is WordFence.
4. Use a Strong Password
It’s important you use a password that is complex and hard to guess. Just make sure you remember it.
5. Keep Your Site Updated
When you log in to your WordPress dashboard you will be notified if there are any updates. Make sure you always update anything that needs it, as this ensures your site will have the latest security measures.
6. Install Loginizer
Loginizer is a WordPress plugin that helps you fight against brute-force attacks by blocking login for the IP after it reaches maximum retries allowed.
Step 9: Configuring your WordPress Settings
There shouldn’t actually be too much to change within the settings of your WordPress website, as the default settings are generally fine.
However, there are two important things I always make sure I do before anything else.
Change Permalink Structure
The very first thing I usually do is change the permalink structure. A permalink is essentially the URL of a particular page or post and when configured correctly, can improve SEO and increase the chances of a visitor actually clicking on that page or post.
To show you what I mean, this is the current URL of this blog post:
As you can see, it’s easy to read and very user-friendly.
If I used the default settings, it would look like this:
For some reason, WordPress thinks it’s necessary to include the date within the permalink structure. It’s obvious to see which URL looks more professional. So let me show you how to change this, it’s very easy.
The first thing you need to do is navigate to the settings menu which is located on the left-hand side of the main WordPress dashboard. Click on ‘Settings‘ → ‘Permalinks‘.
To change the permalink structure from default to my recommendation, simply check the box that says ‘Post name‘.
You’ll see the structure has now been changed from:/%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/
That’s it! Easy peasy.
I hope this article has given you the help you need to start building your WordPress website. I have tried my best to include all the important steps that are involved in the process of setting up a website using WordPress.
It has taken me a great deal of time and effort to write this article, so I would be extremely thankful if you could share it with anyone you feel might benefit from reading it.
Finally, I would like to remind you that there is no such thing as a perfect website. Therefore, please don’t be disheartened if your website doesn’t look quite right just yet.
Also, if you want to take your website even further or you just need help with some of the things I’ve discussed within this guide, please feel free to contact me.
Creating a truly amazing website takes time and a lot of experience and let’s not forget…Rome wasn’t built in a day.