So, you’re interested in joining the over 1 billion websites on the inter-web and you’re wondering “How can I build a WordPress site“? Well, we’re glad you asked! This just happens to be topic we know a little something about.
It’s an exciting experience to build your first website, and let’s face it, everyone remembers their first time! So congrats on taking the plunge! But before you jump off the deep end let’s go over some of the basics so you can get the most out of this new endeavour.
WordPress is a fantastic tool for building your first website, or even your 100th, but it’s also important to understand how it works so that you can get the most out of it and clearly understand the decisions you’ll need to make in order to create a usable website. That’s why we put together this basic guide to help you get started and make the most out of building your new WordPress website.
“Let’s start at the very beginning.”
Okay, we’ll maybe not at the very beginning but like learning anything new it’s good to understand the basics for building a website. Let’s look at the most general way in which a WordPress website is constructed:
- A website host
- The WordPress foundation
- A theme & plugins
That’s it. With these elements you can be up and running with your site in no time. But, lest we get ahead of ourselves, let’s break this down a bit more and work through this one step at a time.
It’s important to note that there are actually two different versions of WordPress.
- Self hosted WordPress
In the end they’re essentially the same “product” but you have the choice to use the WordPress software on the host of your choice (self hosted) or on WordPress.com’s infrastructure. There are trade offs to both but you are, in essence, choosing between greater control (self hosted) and lower barrier of entry (WordPress.com).
If you’re just wanting to get started with something as quick as possible then WordPress.com may be the right solution for you. However, for this tutorial we’re going to assume you’re going for WordPress on a self-hosted environment because, let’s face it, your destiny looks bright and the simple road isn’t for you.
So you’ve decided to self-host, great, but what the heck does that actually mean? Well it means that you’re going to use a third-party server to store and “serve” your website to all your adoring fans. In theory this could be your own server you have at home but that’s complicated to setup and generally not a good idea for various reasons so, for now, let’s assume you’ve decided on working with a third-party hosting company but are wondering, “how do I choose the right one? Good question!
There are two major types of WordPress hosting options:
- shared hosting environments
- dedicated WordPress hosting environments
We won’t go into detail about what’s what here but keep in mind that WordPress is a particular kind of animal and a regular old shared hosting environment isn’t setup to handle WordPress in the most optimized way. So you have a trade off, shared hosting environments are cheap, and if you’re really on a shoe-string budget they may be the way to go. For a shared hosting environment you’re looking at cost between $5-$10/month whereas for dedicated WordPress hosting you’re looking at between $20-$30/month. If you can swing it we highly recommend the latter. Some of the major issues with WordPress websites are speed and security (check out our blog post on How to increase your site speed) and a good dedicated WordPress hosting company is going to dramatically reduce these issues.
We work exclusively with a Dedicated WordPress host called WP-Engine. They know there stuff and manage WordPress like a boss; and we love them for it. But just like all good things, quality costs. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative we’d recommend BlueHost. They know there stuff and provide good quality hosting at very affordable prices.
Getting WordPress installed on your site
Now that you’re all setup with your WordPress host it’s time to get the WordPress software installed. Most WordPress hosts will handle this for you or have a ‘one-click’ install to get you started. If you need to do it manually it’s not too difficult and you can get started by going to WordPress.org.
Once WordPress has been installed, and unless you’ve already set it up on a custom domain, then you’ll probably have a temporary domain from your hosting company. You can use this temporary domain to get started building out your site and once you’re ready to go live you can switch it over to your custom domain.
Regardless of the domain you’re using you should be able to access your WordPress dashboard by going to www.yoursitename.com/wp-admin and typing in your username and password that you either setup yourself or got from your hosting company.
Welcome to WordPress!
You’ve officially entered the world of WordPress and your WordPress dashboard is your command central for managing your website in all it’s glory.
Now, you may be roaring to get started by adding content to your site but you’ll be quickly hit with the unfortunate truth that, at this point, your site is butt ugly. Luckily for you this is easy to fix and brings us to the world of WordPress themes.
How to Select a Perfect WordPress Theme
A theme is essentially a ‘skin’ for your site to give it a look and feel. There are quite literally hundred of thousands of WordPress themes and some are defiantly better then others. Where your site content and plugins are the guts of your site your theme is more like the clothing; meaning it can be changed relatively easily at any point without compromising the substance of your site. That being said you can easily head on over to the Appearance tab within your WordPress dashboard and then Themes to find some free quality themes that are available.
If you’re looking for something more specific we recommend Theme Forest; they have high quality themes and when you consider the cost it would take to get a designer and developer to create a custom theme ($1000-$5000) they’re very reasonably priced. For more info about the WordPress themes, check out our article Should I use a custom or premium WordPress theme.
Once you’ve upload the theme to your WordPress dashboard you can go ahead and Activate it and immediately see it’s shining colors by viewing your site. Keep in mind that it probably won’t look like it did in the demo you just saw but that’s because it’s missing all the content. Most themes will come with some amount of documentation to help you get started and others will let you download the demo content for getting started with exact look you saw in the demo.
Either way you’ll go about creating and editing your WordPress website in very similar ways regardless of the theme you choose. There are 4 main sections, or areas, to any website and once you get an idea of how to edit and customize these sections within WordPress you’ll be well on your way to making your website exactly as you want it.
- Header — this is, as it sounds, at the top of your website and generally is the home of your logo and site navigation. Most themes have a Theme Options panel within the WP dashboard where you can edit and customize some aspects of the theme. This is most likely where you’ll add your site logo but as far as the menu goes you’ll need to customize that within the Menus section under Appearance.
- Content — the content section of your site is the bulk of your site. It’s where you have content which could be text, images or videos. Content is generally managed withing the Posts or Pages tabs and these Pages are what you then add to your Menu so that people can browse between one page and another. Pages are generally used as the main pages of your site whereas posts are generally used for changing content like news or blog posts.
- Sidebars — within the content section of your posts or pages you can include sidebar content to add more or different content to pages. If your theme is setup to work with sidebars you should be able to manage and add content to them via the Appearance > Widgets section.
- Footer — the last piece we come to is your sites footer. This is generally where miscellaneous site info goes. You could reiterate your site navigation here or add your blog feed. Your theme should help you manage this content and you can add as much or as little as you want to this section.
Recommended Plugins for WordPress
Through the process of editing your site you may be thinking, “how do I add a newsletter signup” or “how can I add a gallery of images.” This is where WordPress plugins come in and where WordPress really shines. As far as WordPress plugins go the sky’s the limit. There is quite literally a plugin for just about anything you wan’t to accomplish with your site. But just like with choosing a WP theme there are variations in the quality of plugins. You can search plugins by going to the Plugins tab within your WP dashboard but just make sure that, with any plugin you choose, that it’s highly rated and compatible with your version of WordPress and theme you’re using.
All plugins are manged in slightly different ways but premium plugins should come with some amount of documentation for getting started.
Interested in the best plugins for getting started, check out our blog on the best WordPress plugins for every new site.
If possible it’s also a good idea to backup your site before installing plugins because it’s always possible to break your site when adding a new plugin.
How to Install and Setup Google Analytics in WordPress
The last piece we recommend when building a WordPress site is to setup Google Analytics to track your website audience. As your website grows in traffic GA is going to give you valuable insight into who your website audience is, where they’re coming from, and how your site pages are performing. Although it could be months or years before you really start to utilize this info, it’s a good practice to get setup with analytics tracking in the beginning so that you have as much data as possible once you decide you need it.
The first step to getting setup with Google Analytics is to create a free account google.com/analytics/
Once you’ve done this you’ll want to add your GA tracking code to your site. Some themes will have a field for easily adding this info but if not you can work with a plugin that allows you to easily copy and past the code. We prefer a plugin by Monster Insights that helps you to easily add this tracking code.
Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far your site is a beautiful addition to the World Wide Web and your a bonafide website creator!
Website creation is a fun and rewarding process and as you grow and improve your skills keep in mind their is an enormous community of support should you have questions along the way.
Have questions or comments about this tutorial? Feel free to give us your feedback and let us know how we can help.