How to get started with a WordPress website
Last updated October 14, 2017 - Frank Ramey
WordPress has become the most widely-used content management system (CMS) on the Internet and 28% of all websites use WordPress. While WordPress started out as a way for someone to start a blog, it’s evolved into a machine that can handle almost any application you can think of (from event management systems to appointment scheduling to a full-fledged eCommerce storefront). If you’re looking to create a website, you’d be hardpressed to find a more versatile and robust solution as WordPress.
Now that I’ve convinced you to create your website using WordPress, let me show you the high level of how you go about setting up your site.
First and foremost, you’ve got to decide how you’ll be “storing” the content of your website. This is also called Hosting. I won’t go into the details of what hosting is (tons of folks have done that already) but I will tell you your options.
Self-hosting – Not for the faint of heart. This option has you using your own Internet-connected computer as the main server for your site. While technically the “cheapest” option for hosting, there are a ton of hidden costs and complexities that have to be considered for it. From fighting off spammers & hackers to handling traffic surges to managing up-time (how many times do you lose Internet connection at home?), you’ll likely be doing yourself (and your users) a fairly large disservice by self-hosting.
Hosting providers – These are companies like GoDaddy & BlueHost. Their main business is to get you to use their servers to host your website. This industry has seen a ton of consolidation over the past few years, so be sure to use the most recent reviews when trying to decide what host to use (since some of the larger hosts with poor reputations have gobbled up a large number of smaller hosts that once had great reputations). One of the great things about most hosting providers is that now they off easy “one-click” install of WordPress. While installing WordPress manually isn’t that complex, this is just one less thing for you to worry about.
Service providers like Squarespace, Shopify and Wix are pretty much an “all-in-one” solution in that they provide the hosting & content management system (not WordPress based though). They’re certainly an option for you to use to build your website, but for this article, I’ll be focusing solely on WordPress (plus they tend to be a lot more expensive to use).
Once you’ve picked your hosting provider, now comes the time to register your domain name (if you haven’t already). The simplest option is to register your domain name with the company you’re using for hosting (almost all provide this service for about $10). If you register your domain name with a different registrar, then you’ll need to change your nameservers to direct you hosting provider’s servers.
When trying to choose your domain name, I highly recommend using a service like NameMesh.com that checks a huge variation of domains in order to help you find the name that best fits your needs.
The next step is to install WordPress on your site. I recommend using the simple “one-click” install services that most hosting providers now offer for free. You can set up WordPress manually, but I suggest you Google that “how to.”
Now, we’re ready to start getting a little creative. While WordPress comes pre-packaged with four templates, you’ll want to install a theme that better suits your needs. You can find tons of free Templates in the WordPress Themes section of your website, but there is also the option to purchase and install a “Premium” theme instead.
Typically, the differences between Free & Premium themes are 1) Easy of use & 2) Level of customization. With free themes, you’re typically using the neutered version of a premium theme. This is well and good, it just means you might need to do some additional legwork, research & customization to get your site the way you want it.
Regardless if you get a free or a premium theme, I can’t stress enough to make sure you use a “responsive” theme. Responsive means that your website adjusts to the size of the viewport (ie monitor/screen size) of your website visitor.
This is important for a couple of reasons: 1) Google now “punishes” websites that are not responsive and 2) Up to 80 % of your visitors could be accessing your website via their mobile phone. If your website isn’t responsive and someone visits it through their phone, you can be assured they’re going to have a less than stellar experience. That said, just make sure you choose a theme that clearly claims to be “Responsive” and you should be pretty well OK.
Some great tools that help make designing/customizing your WordPress website even easier. Tools like SiteOrigin and BeaverBuilder are great options for simple “drag & drop” functionality when building your site. The ease of being able to quickly add and position a new element cannot be understated!
Framework/page builder tools like BeaverBuilder are the key to making sure your website works well and is easy to manage/update. Other tools like YoastSEO are great to have too, but not overly critical to having a functional website.
If you’re still feeling pretty daunted about firing up your own website, just let us know and we’d be more than happy to talk with you about getting your website spun up quickly and hitting your objectives ASAP!