Back in the days of yore, we pretty much had to hand-code everything.
Now, though, you don’t need to know a bunch of code (though I won’t lie, it does help) and you don’t need to rely on your techie friends to build a beautiful website for you.
If you have even a touch of tech-savviness or are the DIY type, starting a new Blog or Creating a new Website is a gazillion times simpler with a wonderful tool called WordPress. It’s easy to learn and update and if you’re motivated, you can even get your new website (or blog) up and running in a day.
And lest you think WordPress is just for small-time bloggers, it’s actually used by large businesses, too, which I think speaks to its power and capabilities.
Please note that if you use some of the links below, this site may earn a referral if you become a customer. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps support this site so I can offer free tutorials like this one. You’ll only find links to products that I personally bought, owned and used extensively enough to recommend. You don’t have to use the links, but I appreciate it and thank you very much if you do!
So with that, let’s get you started on creating your very own site!
TIP: Print out this guide so you can refer to it as you work.
Here’s a Quick Overview of the 10 Steps we’ll be covering:
(you can also jump ahead using these links)
4. Familiarize Yourself with WordPress
5. Configure WordPress Settings
1. Chose & Register Your Domain Name
Once you’ve decided you actually want to start a blog or create a website, you’ll need to decide what you want to use for your Domain Name.
What is a Domain Name?
Your domain name is what people will type into the address bar of a web browser in order to find your site. It’s your virtual online address. So, for example, Google’s is “google.com” and this site’s is “lifeofexploring.com”.
How to Choose Your Domain Name
You’ll want to choose this as wisely as possible because you need it to be memorable, easy to type and descriptive of your business. But choosing your domain name can be one of the toughest tasks you’ll encounter when you’re creating your own website. A lot of domain names are already taken and it can be difficult to find one you like that’s also available to use.
Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
- Shorter is usually better
- Avoid misspellings & plays on words
- Use words that are easy to pronounce and spell
- Avoid using numbers (people won’t remember if you domain is supposed to be something like tips4you.com or tipsforyou.com
- Don’t make up your own words (it works for big companies like Zappos, but is usually harder to make stick in potential customers’ minds for small companies)
- Avoid hyphens
- Stick to .com when possible (though some say .net and .org are decent)
So brainstorm a list of possible names – or even combinations of words – you like and write them all down.
How to Check if your preferred Domain Name is available & Register it
After you’ve decided on a few possible domain names, you’ll need to check their availability.
To do this, you can basically go to any website that offers domain name registration and enter the domain you wish to check.
One option is to do this with whichever service you choose to be your web host (which you’ll choose in the next step). Sometimes a free domain is included with a web-hosting package.
What I do though, because I have multiple domains registered, is use Namecheap.com. If you want to register multiple domains (or if your web host doesn’t offer a free domain name with your web hosting package), it can be cheaper to register your names elsewhere (which is why I use Namecheap for this).
If your name is available, perfect! Secure that baby and move on to the next step.
But what if your preferred domain is taken?
If your #1 preference isn’t available, you can also get creative and come up with alternatives.
Here are some ways to work around this dilemma:
- Add your location – if you’re based in Alaska, you can tack on “AK” or “Alaska” to your domain name
- Add your line of work – if your name is common you probably can’t get yourname.com. If that’s the case, you can append your line of work. For example, yournamecpa.com or yournamephotography.com.
2. Find Your Web Host
Once you’ve found and secured your domain name (hooray!), it’s time to find a place to put your blog or website. This is called your Web Host.
How to find a good Web Hosting Provider
Since your new blog or website is your virtual home, you’ll want only the best for it, right?
So here are a few of the most important things you should consider when comparing hosts:
- Reliability – is the host reputable? Will they be around in 5, 10, 20 years (it’s easier not to have to switch)?
- Uptime – does the host have systems in place that ensure your site will have little to no downtime?
- Affordability – does your host offer competitive and reasonable pricing?
- Support – will they be there when you need them or if you have questions about anything?
I’ve personally had experience with both mediocre and excellent web hosts and I can tell you there’s a big difference between the two. I can’t even imagine what a nightmare it would be if I had to deal with a bad web host.
At this point, I understand if you want to go and do your own research. That’s exactly what I did before I chose my own web host. Doing your own research can be a good thing because you will then be able to chose a web host provider you feel comfortable with and who you feel checks all of your boxes for what’s important to you.
But, if you just want to know what I recommend, read on.
Who I Recommend
Ultimately I chose Bluehost.com and, many years later, I’m still with them and satisfied with my choice.
3. Install & Log In to WordPress
Now that you have a place where you can create your virtual home (a.k.a. your blog or website), you’ll need to install the WordPress software.
*Note: There’s WordPress.org and WordPress.com. You want “.org“. WordPress.org lets you build your website on your own domain like “yoursitename.com” instead of “yoursitename.wordpress.com”. If you ever want to get serious with whatever website you’re building, you’ll want to be sure you have your own domain.
How you install WordPress will vary based on which web host you chose, but because it’s one of the most common ways people start a blog or website these days, it should be pretty easy to do and your web host should be able to provide you with guidance on the exact steps you’ll need.
How to Log In to your new WordPress Website
In order to do anything with your new website – like create pages, change the layout and choose your settings – you’ll need to log in to the administration area of your WordPress site.
- In your web browser’s address bar, you can type either of these two different URLs to log in to your WordPress website:
- Then on the WordPress log in page:
- Enter the Username & Password that you were given
- Click “Log In”
- The screen you see once you’ve logged in is your Dashboard, the main jumping-off point within WordPress.
4. Familiarize Yourself with WordPress
When you first log in to WordPress, it probably looks a bit overwhelming.
The admin area gives you access to a lot of tools and it may seem scary at first. But once you get a little tour I think you’ll find it quite easy to use.
Here are a few of the main areas where you’ll be spending the most time:
The Dashboard is where you’re taken when you first log in to WordPress. I’ve never really paid much attention to this area, and I think once you are familiar with WordPress and its admin area, you’ll probably ignore most of what’s on the Dashboard and simply jump straight into the task you want to perform.
If you blog or want to write regular articles for your readers, you’ll likely spend quite a bit of time here.
Posts are generally time-based articles where you’ll want to write about news-worthy events, specials or anything new that you want readers to know about. It’s also great for storytelling, which is what blogging – or web logging – was all about initially, anyway. An online home for sharing your thoughts.
Read more about posts here.
This section is where you’ll find your “Library” of all the media(images, video, recordings, and files) you’ve uploaded to your site, and also where you can “Add New” media. For more information about the Media Library, go here.
While similar to Posts, Pages are different in that you usually use them for more static content that doesn’t change much or that you want to keep in a more rigid organizational structure.
For example, you’d likely create pages for things like:
WordPress’s website goes into more detail on pages here.
Using WordPress is great if you want to have more interaction with your blog or site visitors. It allows you to engage with them by giving them the ability to write comments on your Posts and you the ability to respond directly to them.
You’ll probably spend quite a bit of time here, especially when you’re first getting started.
In this section, you can:
- Choose your Theme (which is essentially your site’s design)
- Modify your Widgets (which are the blocks of various content in the sidebars or footer of your site)
- Update your Menus (the links typically at the top where users will click to navigate within your site)
This section allows you choose and install add-ons, or Plugins, that enhance the functionality of your site. For example, if you want more advanced SEO (Search Engine Optimization), there’s a plugin for that. Or if you want to add Social Media sharing tools, there’s a plugin for that.
We’ll go over which plugins I recommend in the next step.
In this section you can add and modify the users of your new website.
Here is where you’ll update your user preferences like how your name will display when you create posts, pages or comments.
You can also change passwords here and alter the roles of users, like when you want to give someone full admin control, or only allow them to edit posts, etc.
Here you’ll find a lot of stuff I recommend you set up before you share your site with the world, like:
- Give your website a Name & Tagline (the Name might already appear if you entered it in when you installed WordPress)
- Change your Time Zone, Date Format and Time Format
- Decide how you want comments to be handled
- Choose your default image sizes
- Update your permalink structure (very important)
The last thing you’ll want to do when you’re done for the day is log out.
5. Configure Your WordPress Settings
The Settings area of WordPress is where you’ll want to tweak some settings before you get started. Doing this now will make it easier for you in the long run.
Usually you’ll want to enter your blog or website name here.
This is typically a quick sentence or group of words describing your site.
This email address will receive notifications for administration and maintenance purposes, so be sure to put one that’s checked regularly. It will not be visible to the public.
Setting your current time zone will ensure the accurate time is displayed when you create and publish posts.
It’s a personal preference if and how you set these, but if you do like your dates to look a certain way, select it here.
Like above, choose your favorite format so that it displays how you like it on your site.
Week Starts On
By default, the WordPress week will begin on Monday. You can switch it to any other day of the week you want here.
Front page displays
Here’s where you’ll choose whether you prefer to display recent blog posts or a specific page (like a Welcome Page, for instance) when visitors first come to your site.
Blog pages show at most
If you choose to show “Your latest posts”, you can determine the number of posts to display (default is 10) and whether or not to show the “Full text” (the entire post’s content) or just a “Summary” of the post (usually a few sentences).
Search Engine Visibility
Most times you’ll probably want this unchecked so that search engines can crawl and index your site’s content and make it available in search results.
WordPress automatically generates different sizes for the images you upload and here is where you specify what those particular dimensions will be.
Permalinks (very important step!)
Setting your Permalinks is a really important step to get right when you first start out.
Permalinks are the web addresses for all of the pages and posts you’ll be creating on your website. These links, as you can probably tell by the name, are permanent and so shouldn’t be messed with after setting them up.
These links will be used not only by you to link within your own site, but by others who may wish to link to your site. If you change your Permalink structure after someone has linked to a page or post within your site, that link will no longer work.
The default Permalink structure looks like this:
That’s really ugly, not user friendly and bad for SEO.
A much better alternative is to use a different option, and I like using “Post name”:
This structure uses your base website – in this case “www.testsite.com” – and appends the post’s name to the end. This is great not only for readability – visitors can understand what the post is about at a quick glance – but also for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) because it’ll likely contain some keywords related to the post.
Now that you’ve got your General Settings squared away, let’s move on to the next area: Plugins.
What are Plugins?
Plugins are ways to add more functionality to your site. They typically perform one specific task so you can pick and choose which ones to install based on your needs.
It seems like there’s a plugin for everything, nowadays, and you can definitely go crazy adding a ton of them to your site. But be careful about doing this. Too many Plugins can greatly affect the loading speed of your site and possibly render it more susceptible to security leaks if the plugin’s author doesn’t update it as new versions of WordPress are released.
With that word of caution out of the way, here’s a list of Plugins I think are good to start off with in the beginning.
This plugin generates a file that is indexed by search engines so that they know what content you have on your site and can serve relevant articles to users searching for content like yours.
This plugin looks at the comments submitted to your site and marks ones that look fishy as “Spam” so your main comments aren’t flooded by junk.
The Users section is where you’ll manage anybody who will be able to log in to your website.
When you first installed WordPress, a user with “Administrator” permissions was created. Administrators have full control within the admin area of WordPress.
If you click on a Username, you’ll have the ability to edit their contact information, change their password and update the name details.
In this section, I’d recommend adding and updating:
- First Name and Last Name – Enter the full name of your user.
- Display name publicly as – This is how the user’s name will be displayed on your site if they write a post. If you’ve entered the First and Last Name, you’ll have the option to select a combination of these or their Nickname.
6. Find & Install a Theme
What is a WordPress Theme?
When you use WordPress, you’ll need to install a Theme. This Theme holds the code that determines what your website will look like.
Your theme is basically a design template. And, the great news is, even if you have zero design skills, it’s super easy to find a great-looking theme.
Gone are the days of needing to hand code and program your website from scratch. Most people can easily find an existing theme that will work well for them without having to touch a line of code. Doesn’t get much simpler than that.
For many of the themes you’ll find, what you see is what you get. You simply choose a look and layout you like, paste in your text and images and you’re done.
Other themes allow for lots of customization, so if you do want to dig into the code and really tweak the theme, you can do that, too.
The beautiful thing is you have a choice as to exactly how hands on you want to be with your design.
How to get a Theme
WordPress themes are pretty easy to find. Some are accessible in the WordPress Directory that’s within your WordPress admin area, while others are available through many independent sites who offer dozens of designs to choose from.
Below we’ll go over how you can browse what’s available from these two sources.
1. How to find free WordPress Themes within the WordPress Directory
Within WordPress itself, you can search for many themes, all available to download for free. To use one of these, follow the instructions below in “How to Install a WordPress Theme”.
2. How to find themes elsewhere
You don’t have to rely solely on the WordPress Theme Directory. As I mentioned above, there are tons of companies who develop themes and offer them either for free or for a fee. The latter are usually referred to as “Premium” Themes.
I’ve used a handful in my life but the ones I finally settled on and use exclusively now are made by StudioPress. I like them because they have a well-built framework, have search engine optimized code and simple, effective designs.
Spend some time looking at and comparing the features of each theme and play around with the demos to see which one you like. If the theme is free, you can also go ahead and install it and use it on your own site to see how it works.
What’s better – a Free or Premium Theme?
While it can be fine to start out with a free theme, it’s usually a good idea to eventually move to a premium, or paid-for, theme.
When you pay for a theme, you usually get a higher-quality and more secure theme that allows you to do greater customizations.
Once you’ve picked a theme, it’s time to install it.
How to Install a WordPress Theme
There are many different ways to install themes, but in this section I’ll cover how to install a free theme found in the WordPress Directory.
- Go to Appearance > Themes.
- Click on the Install Themes tab at the top.
- Search for a theme either by theme name or by checking the box(es) next to the feature(s) you want.
- When the themes appear, you can click “Preview” to see what it’ll look like.
- If you like the way the theme looks, click “Install Now”.
- WordPress will work its magic in the background and let you know if the installation was successful.
- Click “Activate” to use this new theme and voila! Your new design is in place.
7. Write & Organize Your Content
The first thing you’ll want to do is consider not only what information you want to provide your website’s visitors and potential clients but what information they’ll be seeking.
Before You Begin Writing, Think About Your Content
Here are things to ask yourself:
- Why will your visitors be coming to your blog or site?
- What do they need to know about you that will be helpful to them?
- How will they get in touch with you if they have questions or need more information?
- What is the purpose of your site? To provide information? To tell stories? Sell products?
Try to define what it is you hope to achieve with your website and how your content will help you do this while also providing value to your visitors.
Get Organized – Pages vs. Posts
Once you’ve thought about what kind of information you want to make available on your site, you’ll want to organize it.
Most blogs and websites have two different types of content:
- Static or unchanging information
- Time-sensitive or new information
Based on whichever type of content you’ll be writing, you’ll want to create either a Page or a Post.
When to use Pages
As I touched on briefly above, usually you’ll create a WordPress page when you have more static or unchanging information. These will typically be things like:
Of course the content within these pages will change from time to time, but in general this content won’t need to be updated all that often. Once you create and write the content for these, you can usually leave them (mostly) alone.
When to use Posts
Posts are usually articles you’ll write that are more time sensitive. You’ll typically use posts for things like:
- Sales or Promotions
- New Product announcements
Posts are what make up your blog, if you have one, and are listed chronologically by date.
Organizing Your Posts
The great thing about WordPress is it lets you keep your posts organized. This is great both for you and your readers because it lets you both find stuff you need.
Posts can be filed into neat little Categories, or topics, and you can also attach meaningful Tags to help users find the content they’re looking for. Remember, though, that Categories & Tags only pertain to Posts, not Pages.
8. Input Your Content
Now that you know a little bit about creating posts and pages, let’s go ahead and enter some content (which is your text and/or images). WordPress makes this step so easy that you may even forget you’re building a website.
How to create a page
1. Log in to WordPress.
2. Go to “Pages” and click on “Add New”.
3. You’re now looking at the “Add New Page” screen.
- Title – the box at the top is for your Page’s title.
- Content box – This is where you’ll paste the “content”, or text, you wrote.
- Add a Photo – For most pages, it’s helpful to have at least one image or photo. Visuals really help break up the text on your page and add another element to your content.
4. Click the blue “Publish” button at the top right.
5. View your page.
Now, at the top of the page it’ll say “Edit Page” instead of “Add New Page” and you can click on the “View page” link to see your new page on your website.
6. Your page is now complete!
Your page can now be viewed by everybody on your website. And the great thing about WordPress is that it’s so easy to edit your pages at any time. Simply go back into the WordPress admin > Pages and click on the “Edit” link under your new page.
How to create a Post
The process for creating new posts is almost identical to creating new pages, however you can now add Categories and Tags, as well.
Rinse & Repeat
Simply repeat these steps for each Page and Post you want to create. It’s pretty easy and once you do it a few times, I think you’ll find your publishing groove.
9. Check Your Site
Before you fully release your blog or website to the world, one of the final steps is to thoroughly check everything to make sure there aren’t any errors, broken links or other problems.
Here’s a list of items you should double check.
- Does your site’s homepage convey your site’s purpose in 10 seconds or less?
Do you have an About page (it’s one of the most visited)?
- Have you removed any test content (if you have any)?
Design & Layout
- Is the overall design and layout readable and appealing?
- Is the navigation intuitive? Can the visitor find the information they need?
- Is all essential information easily accessible, meaning the user is never more than 2-3 clicks away from finding this information?
- Have you included enough images or photos? A good rule of thumb is to have at least one image per post or page.
- Are your images sized properly? Do they look good or are they pixelated?
- Do your images have Titles, Alt tags, Captions (if desired) and Descriptions?
- If you uploaded any videos or audio, do they play without any problems? Are they linked up okay?
- Do all your links work correctly?
- Do all your navigation or menu items work?
- If you have any contact forms, do they submit an inquiry without errors? Do you receive the inquiry?
Spelling, Grammar & Punctuation
- Have you fully proofread your content?
- Do your articles have any misspellings?
- Are there any missing periods, commas, apostrophes, brackets, quotes, hyphens, etc.?
- Have you capitalized proper words?
- How does your site look on mobile devices like smart phones, iPads and e-readers?
- Does your site work well on all major browsers (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, etc.)?
An Iterative Process
Because your website is a living, changing thing, it’s going to need regular checkups to make sure everything stays in good order. As you create new pages and posts or do redesigns on your site, be sure to check and recheck your website to make sure nothing gets broken along the way.
Now that you’ve checked your site, everything’s working properly and your content is ready to go, all you have to do now is tell the world about your new blog/website!
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