A Beginners Guide to WordPress [How to Start Blogging in 6 Steps]

A Beginners Guide to WordPress [How to Start Blogging in 6 Steps]

I’m not going to lie to you — when I first started using WordPress it frightened the life out of me.

Although I now know the user interface back to front, the learning curve can be relatively steep. That is, if you let it.

In reality, anyone can start blogging with WordPress in a very short space of time — the key is to focus on the absolute basics and work your way up to learning more advanced things when the time is right. Too many people jump in at the deep end and try to create custom designed, plugin and widget-heavy blogs with all the bells and whistles and quickly become overwhelmed.

In this beginners guide to WordPress blogging I want to introduce you to the absolute basics of WordPress — what you need to know (and nothing more) in order to start your own self-hosted WordPress blog. You’ll be amazed at how simple it is.

Step 1: Install WordPress

In order to have your own self-hosted WordPress blog you’ll need to purchase a domain name (around $10) and some hosting (around $5-$10 per month).

I personally use Westhost (I reviewed it here), but there are loads of alternative options out there such as BlueHost and HostGatorAny of these hosts provide you with a simple one-click install of WordPress through their control panel — you just have to enter a few key details and you’re on your way.

Installing WordPress on Westhost with Softaculous.

Installing WordPress on Westhost with Softaculous.

To be honest, this is probably the most difficult part of the entire process. If you have any problems with installing WordPress then contact your hosting provider — they will guide you through the process (it’s something they do every day).

Once you’ve installed WordPress, you should see the default WordPress theme with some placeholder content when you visit your domain.

Something like this.

Something like this.

As you will see, your site is ready to go — all you need to do now is create some content!

Step 2: Resist Temptation

This step is more my advice on what you shouldn’t do next, rather than what you should. That may not immediately make sense, so let me explain.

WordPress is incredibly powerful. It is a blogging platform, a Content Management System (CMS) for just about any type of website you could imagine, and can even be used for app development. But with great power comes great depth and complexity — two things you want to avoid as a new WordPress user.

You may have heard of WordPress’ extensibility through themes and plugins — many of which are available free of charge. While it is true that you can extend and improve WordPress’ design and functionality with themes and plugins, you do not need them. Nor should you (in my opinion) start by fiddling with them. In reality, WordPress works perfectly well out of the box. In short, it is good to go — you can start blogging right now.

Don’t me wrong — WordPress’ extensibility is awesome and I will discuss it near the end of this post, but for now I want to get you started with what is by far the most important thing: content creation.

Step 3: Write Your First Blog Post

Like I said before, as soon as you have installed WordPress, you can start blogging. It comes packaged with default themes that serve perfectly well for beginner blogs. In fact, I own blogs that still use a default theme.

Why? Because they work. They’re clean and uncluttered and the average visitor is going to like that. Although getting down and dirty with free and premium themes can be a lot of fun and you can use them to make your site look a lot prettier, any beginner WordPress user would do well to stick with a default theme and concentrate on writing.

So let’s talk content creation. The content on your site will be split up into two different types:

  1. Posts
  2. Pages

Posts are content you produce periodically in the same way that a magazine publishes articles. Pages are typically anchor points on your site that you would expect to see on most websites: an About page, Contact page, and so on. Pages also serve many other purposes, but those are the basics.

To write your first blog post, log into your WordPress dashboard (this should be available at http://www.yoursite.com/wp-admin/) and click on Posts > Add New in the sidebar. This will bring you to the screen in which you will create your first WordPress blog post.

Adding A New WordPress Post

You only need to worry about three things:

  1. Adding a title
  2. Adding some content
  3. Hitting the Publish button

There is plenty more you can do to make a post better optimized and more dynamic and interesting, but they’re all optional extras. If you’re keen to start publishing content (and you should be, given that you’ve launched a blog!) all you need to do is add content and hit Publish.

And I encourage every new WordPress user to do just that. You can always go back and tweak things, but nothing is more important than getting your writing published and seeing it live on your site.

If you have ever used a Word Processing application then you will be comfortable enough with doing some basic formatting on your post — it’s all pretty self-explanatory.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to create your first post — get writing and hit Publish!

Step 4: Create Your About and Contact Pages

Writing blog posts is all very well and good, but you’re also going to need a few pages to let visitors know what your site is about, etc. I recommend the following two pages to start with:

  1. About
  2. Contact

Your About page shouldn’t just be about you it should explain what the site is about and give the visitor a reason to hang around (i.e. what is the benefit of them exploring your site further?). If you’re interested in learning more about how to create a great About page then click here. But don’t get carried away with the finer points — a simple About page will do the job nicely for now.

The Contact page should of course give people a means of contacting you. You can simply include your email address on this page, but I would advise against it (a scraper may pick it up and you will then be inundated with spam). Instead I recommend that you create a contact form.

To do that, we need a plugin.

Step 5: Install Your First Plugin

But not just any plugin — my recommendation is the awesome Jetpack.

Jetpack

My reasoning behind suggesting Jetpack as the first plugin you should install is threefold:

  1. It includes great contact form functionality
  2. It includes a bunch of other exciting features
  3. It is developed by Automattic (the guys who created WordPress) and as such is solidly coded and well supported

I know I said earlier that you shouldn’t get carried away with extensibility, but Jetpack is a great introduction to WordPress plugins. In fact, it’ll probably spoil you a little. If you want to learn more about Jetpack before taking the plunge then check out my recent guide.

To install a plugin, just navigate to Plugins > Add New in the sidebar from your WordPress dashboard. On the following screen, type in “Jetpack” in the search box and click Search Plugins. Jetpack will be the first result — click the Install Now link, Activate the plugin once the installation is complete, and that’s it! You’ve just installed your first WordPress plugin.

You will need to sign up for a WordPress.com account if you haven’t already, but once you’ve done that we can create a form for your Contact page. Just navigate back to the page and you will notice a little icon next to the Add Media button:

Add Contact Form Button

Click on that button and you will be presented with a screen where you can create and customize your form.

Contact Form Builder

Add and remove fields as you see fit then click the “Add this form to my post” button. A little shortcode will be added to your page and when you click Publish you will be able to see the form live on your site! It’s that simple.

Step 6: Experiment!

By now you should have a couple of pages on your site and at least one post. You have installed your first plugin and created a contact form. While content creation is incredibly important (and you should remain focused on it above all other matters), you may wish to start exploring at this stage.

I would recommend that you start with the Jetpack plugin you have already installed by clicking on the Jetpack button in the sidebar on your WordPress dashboard. You’ll be presented with a huge list of features offered by the plugin, including (but not limited to):

  • Social media publishing options
  • Site stats
  • A custom comments system
  • Sharing buttons
  • Extra sidebar widgets

There’s so much I haven’t covered in this post — basic things that are not necessary for you to create your site, but that can help you create something bigger and better in time. I have kept things deliberately basic here, but don’t be afraid to get stuck in! If you ever feel overwhelmed then bear in mind that you already know what you need to know — the rest is optional.

What Would You Do Next?

Now I’d like to turn it over to you — whether you’re brand new to WordPress or an experienced user.

If you had followed the steps above, what would you do next? Install a new theme? Customize one of the default themes? Add widgets to the sidebar or create a custom menu

The sky really is the limit and I’d love to know what you think is important to do when first launching a WordPress blog. Let us know in the comments section below!

Tom Ewer
Tom Ewer is the editor of the ManageWP Blog and a blogger for hire.
Tom Ewer
Tom Ewer
This article has 5 comments
  1. Rob de Barela says:

    I’m fairly new to WordPress so your article was of interest to me. I have a three comments on your 6-step process for your consideration.

    (1) For the absolute beginner, I would recommend starting with a local WordPress install (using WAMP, MAMP or Bitnami). There are many tutorials and videos on the web on how to do a local install. Your article could refer, for example, to the tutorial in WPExplorer written by Sourav K (http://bit.ly/12O2fHI). A local install is a much safer place to start because if you “hose” the install or database (as I did), it’s much easier and quicker to recover. Moreover, no worries about someone hacking your site. So, for me it seems prudent to play on your PC or Mac — and gain experience with WordPress (and blogging). Only after that, would I recommend going live with the WordPress site.

    (2) On installing a live site, many articles on the web say you should never install WordPress in subdirectory /wp — as indicated in your Softaculous image. This subdirectory is the first place hackers generally look. I’ve read that it’s safer to use an obscure name for the install directory. There was much “buzz” recently about hackers attacking WordPress sites. In fact, there was evidence that someone from Romania was trying to hack my site on Dreamhost. Fortunately, I had a couple of security plugins, a cryptic username and a very strong password — so the hacker(s) wasted their time. For this reason, I think your article is missing a very key step — namely, Securing Your Site.

    (3) On picking a WP theme for a live site, I would NOT go with the 2012 theme — this is a preference on my part. My preference is based on the fact that there are so many attractive free themes that are very well designed (i.e., layout, font and color selection) and with greater functionality (i.e., widget, sliders, etc). For me it’s easier to develop a blog knowing that my content is show-cased by an attractive theme. By the way, I must say that I really like the design of the WPExplorer theme. Is there a Premium theme you can recommend, that has the look and feel of WPExplorer.com?

    That’s a wrap. Thanks for considering my comments and look forward to reading your responses. Cheers.

  2. Tom Ewer says:

    Hi Rob,

    1. I definitely *wouldn’t* recommend this for the absolute beginner; it can be a troublesome process, especially if you are brand new to blogging. I encourage any beginner blogger to start publishing content on the web as soon as possible — that’s what it’s all about!

    2. There are a million things that can be said about security precautions — I’m not worried about the installation subdirectory. If you keep everything updated and use a unique password, you should be fine. https://managewp.com/is-wordpress-secure

    3. Your preference is duly noted :-) I’m not aware of a premium theme with the look of WPExplorer.

    Cheers,

    Tom

    Author
  3. Mahdi says:

    Hi Tom
    i’m realy beginner & have a problem
    i use the classy wordpress and when i work on localhaost , no problem exist
    but when i upload it , i see a header in my pages that i did not created it
    [edited]
    i’ll happy if you help me , thanks

  4. Karel says:

    Thanks for this post. I recently started my own blog. This can very helpful

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