WordPress arrived on the web scene in 2003 and changed the way people express themselves online. Since that time, the platform has grown and shifted into a robust content management system (CMS) that powers 22 percent of all websites.
Why Should I Use WordPress?
There are many reasons to use WordPress to power a web presence. Here are the ones I think are the most important to make a website using WordPress.
- No coding experience required. A decade ago, building a website meant learning all sorts of HTML and CSS to get a site looking just right. That is how I started out, and one of my favorite things about WordPress is its theming system. There are thousands of beautiful themes to choose from, many of them free or low cost. Themes can be dropped into WordPress with no need to touch the code. This makes setting up a site super easy even for novice users.
- No creative limits. What I really love about WordPress is it does not restrict a person’s creativity. Whether it is news reporting, blogging, photography or ecommerce, the platform can do it all, often with just a few plugins.
- The plugins. Themes make a site look pretty while plugins extend the platform’s functionality. A few mouse clicks can add a professional photo gallery or a complete storefront complete with shopping cart. Most people cannot tell the difference between a WordPress ecommerce site and a big box store.
- Extensive support from the community. Since WordPress is so widely used around the world, there is a large community of user and development support available. I participate in it frequently and am constantly amazed at how friendly and helpful people are, especially for complex issues. Users are never left to figure things out on their own.
How I am Going to Help You
I am an experienced developer who spends all day working with WordPress, either building sites or using plugins for customization. The following tutorial will outline all the steps involved in setting up a basic WordPress site with a default theme.
The requirements for setup are:
- A hosting account on its own domain
- A modern browser like Chrome or Firefox
- A willingness to learn
- A purpose for the new site
Once all of that is in order, it is time to begin.
Acquiring a Domain Name and Hosting Account
Before anything else can start, there needs to be a domain name and a hosting account already in place. The domain can be registered and purchased through a trusted registrar, and while many web hosts offer domain registration services, I recommend the two be kept separate to avoid possible problems later on.
Nearly any web host can accommodate WordPress and some even specialize in hosting the platform. For a beginner, a basic shared hosting account is all that is required. Once the account is purchased, an email is sent with login details for the control panel and the name server settings. The name servers for the domain will need to be changed through the registrar’s site in order to point the domain to the web host. The registrar can assist with this process.
The platform can be installed a few different ways, but the easiest way for a novice is using a script installer such as Softalicious, which is available on the control panel through the majority of web hosts. What I like about this method is all the niggling details are handled by the installer including the database setup. All the user has to do is indicate the desired location and login information, and the installer does the rest. Once it finishes running, WordPress is ready to go with no fuss.
When the installation phase is complete, the user should be able to login by accessing “www.domain.com/wp-admin.” The home page of the site should be visible in the browser with a default “Hello World” post. If the site is not visible at this point, or the user cannot log in, I recommend waiting for the domain to resolve, which can take up to two days, before continuing.
When a person wants to make a website using WordPress, the magic is in the dashboard. This is where all the content is created and where the appearance of the site is controlled. The first order of business is to install a theme. The latest default theme will be automatically active, and this is the one I think is best to use until more experience is gained.
If a user wants a new theme later on, it can be changed by going to the left sidebar in the dashboard and choosing “Appearance” and “Add New Theme.” This will bring up the repository of free themes, which can be installed with a couple of clicks. If a theme is purchased elsewhere, it will need to be uploaded manually through the host control panel or with an FTP client.
When choosing a theme, the best practices are to choose simple themes that focus on content and do not contain malicious or junk code that could stall or crash the site. Some bad themes can even leave the door open for information theft, so it is safer to use WordPress approved themes or purchase from a respected theme author.
I like that WordPress makes it very easy to create blog posts and regular static pages. Both post types have their own links in the dashboard sidebar and clicking either one takes the user directly to an editor. Posts and other content can be created with rich text or plain text. I recommend rich text when first learning how to use the platform.
After deleting the “Hello World” blog post and the sample page, the user should decide whether to have the blog or a static page as the front page of the site. In addition, the user needs to:
- Create an “About” page. This page explains the purpose of the website while introducing the author.
- Create a “Contact” page. This can be as simple as an email address or may be part of a contact form plugin. Visitors are more likely to interact with a site that offers avenues of contact.
Users also need to change the permalinks to make them more attractive to search engines. This is done by going to the dashboard and choosing “Settings” and then “Permalinks” from the sidebar navigation.
I will admit the most challenging aspect of WordPress is security. Since it is so widely used, it is often the target of hackers. There are a variety of excellent plugins that will keep a WordPress site secure. The most important factor is preventing brute force attacks and this should be the focus when setting up defenses. Users can find security plugins on the WordPress.org site. It should be noted that site backups are the responsibility of the user and not the web host. This can be done on a regular schedule with a plugin.
After I make a website using WordPress, I tell all my friends and make several social media posts to get the word out and get the traffic coming in.