So you’re looking to set up a new website. You’ve got a good idea of what your site will be about, what content you’ll have on it, whether you’ll be selling anything, the list goes on.
It seems like you’re all ready to begin, right? But wait, what about your platform? If you’re reading this, you’ve probably chosen – or are considering choosing – WordPress as your site platform, but aren’t sure how to begin (or maybe you just need a refresher on how it works). This article will help make the process easier by taking you step by step through getting started with your WordPress site.
Step 1: Hosting
Before you can use WordPress.org you need a hosting service. You can set up your own server and install WordPress on your computer, but when you’re just starting out it’s easier to subscribe to a service that already has servers set up and ready to host a WordPress site. Some services are free, and some are paid; we recommend using a paid one, as they will provide higher quality services and features.
Not sure which type of hosting or which host to choose? We completely understand (and we’ve been there before, WPExplorer has switched hosts a couple times before finding a perfect fit). There are a few different types of hosting to consider, all with their own pros and cons. Here are the hosting options we’d recommend to new WordPress users.
Shared Hosting is what most new WordPress users start with. It’s an easy budget-friendly option that has enough resources to host a new website. Most shared hosts offer one-click WordPress installation, a reasonable amount of storage & bandwidth and sometimes a few perks (like Google Adwords coupons or even a free domain name). In our opinion the best shared hosting plan is from Bluehost. Starting at just $3.49 per month it’s a great option for those just starting out with WordPress.
Managed VPS (which stands for Virtual Private Servers) is a step up from shared hosting. You still share a server with other users, but the server is partitioned into sections so you each have your own mini server for better security, privacy and website operation. Plus, with managed VPS you don’t have to maintain your server – the hosting company handles software updates and code WordPress updates for you so you can focus on your website. Our pick for the best managed VPS is Flywheel. They offer fantastic services like free migrations, built-in caching, automated backups and more giving you a lot of bang for your buck.
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And the last hosting option is Managed WordPress Hosting, which is when the hosting company fully manages your server for you. Managed hosting offers more features and website resources than shared, and many managed hosts will offer scalable hosting plans so you can start small and upgrade your server as your business grows. We’ve used managed hosting from WP Engine for years and are extremely happy with the quality of our hosting as well as the awesome service from their support team. They offer a great personal plan for new bloggers, as well as amazing premium & enterprise level plans for high traffic websites.
Step 2: Naming
You probably already have your website name, or a shortlist of names, picked out. That’s great! If you don’t, there are plenty of articles that can help you brainstorm ideas (. Remember: It should reflect the purpose of your site and be interesting enough to draw visitors.
The other part of naming that gets somewhat less attention is the domain name. In technical terms, a domain name is the part of a URL that identifies IP addresses (which identify computers or devices on a network) and web pages. More simply, it’s your web address. Every domain name has a suffix, such as .com or .org. You can register any domain name you like that isn’t already taken – for an annual fee. Some hosts will give you a free domain registration for the first year, and as part of the sign-up process, hosts will also automatically check to see if the domain is available for you to use. But you can always purchase a domain name directly from a registrar like NameCheap or GoDaddy.
After you’ve settled on a domain name, follow your host’s instructions for completing the setup process. Now the real work begins! The next steps don’t necessarily have to happen in a particular order, as you can now access your dashboard and turn your attention to whatever you feel is most pressing.
At this point it can be helpful to view your site and have a look through your admin options so you know what you have to work with.
Step 3: Appearance
WordPress defaults to a particular theme which you can stick with as-is, customize or change it to a new theme. WordPress has several pre-installed themes to choose from. To see the directory of other WordPress themes, go on Appearance, and then Themes. If you click Add New you’ll see a list of free WordPress themes from the WOrdpress.org directory along with details about the themes, and the option preview or install them.
You can also choose to install a theme developed by a third party. Third party premium themes offer more variety and often include many more features than the themes you’ll find in the free theme directory. Themeforest is a good starting place to find a premium theme, or you can browse the many theme round-ups we’ve done here at WPExplorer. After you’ve downloaded the theme you want, go to the theme directory and click Upload Theme.
The next screen prompts you to browse for the theme on your computer. Follow the instructions to install your theme. After installing your theme, you’ll need to activate it in order to use it.
Other parts of your appearance that you’ll want to customize are the widgets, menu(s), header and background. Aside from the menu, these can be changed with the theme customizer which you can find under Appearance (just below the themes option). Click on it to open up the love WOrdPress customizer:
WordPress comes preloaded with a number of widgets, some of which are activated and appear in your site’s sidebar. You can rearrange them as necessary, and if you want new ones you can install them from the plugin directory.
Your theme may support different kinds of menus or multiple menus. If it doesn’t, menu plugins are available for installation. You probably won’t need to worry too much about your menu until you have several pages set up.
Step 4: Plugins
Depending on both how you’re using your site and on the functionality of your theme, you will likely need to install and activate various plugins. These add to what your site is able to do. Akismet is one plugin that WordPress comes pre-installed with; all you need to do is activate it. This one’s important because it defends your site against spam.
To install other plugins, visit the plugin directory by clicking on Plugins and then Add New.
Step 5: Pages
Unless it’s designed to be a one-page site, every website should have at least a couple pages, including an about page and a contact page. Depending on your site’s purpose, you’ll probably want other pages as well, such as a portfolio or gallery to show off your work. If you have products to sell, you’d want a store page. Keep in mind you may need to install plugins (like Contact Form 7, WooCommerce, etc.) in order to have these types of pages. We also recommend a blog page to house your news or posts.
Step 6: Importing and Exporting Content
These tools often get overlooked in discussions about getting started. If you’re new to WordPress but not to blogging or website management, importing and exporting are handy tools to have, and easy to do. To move content from an old WordPress website, use the export tool:
To bring in your content from another site, use the import tool. If you purchase a premium theme it probably came with sample data (in the dorm of a .xml file) that you can import to help get you started. We recommend using the sample data if you need help figuring out how to use a theme or if you want to import an exact demo (especially when using themes like Total that have tons of sample demos to choose from).
Step 6: Getting Informed
This article discusses the important parts of getting started with WordPress. However, if you’re still feeling lost, here are some more resources for you:
- Unsure what everything in WP Admin does? Check out our article on the WordPress Back End Explained For Beginners
- Still getting used to the lingo? Have a look at our WordPress Glossary for Beginners (where we explain confusing terms)
- For getting down to the nitty gritty of starting a website, have a look at this guide from WordPress
- Can’t pick a theme? Here are the Best WordPress themes for infopreneurs (which is a fancy word for bloggers)
- Here’s another great article on How to Launch a Self-hosted WordPress Blog in Under 15 Minutes
- For a guide on using a free theme checkout How To Start A Blog with the free Zero WordPress theme
- And if you want to start selling products this article on How To Become A Successful Blogpreneur is a great place to start
WP Explorer has a ton of other resources to help you learn more about using WordPress. Browse our blog and other articles to get familiar with it!
Whether you’re new to owning a website, or simply new to WordPress, it can be tough to start out. Having a guide and other resources is invaluable in situations like that. Using the tools we’ve provided here can help make the process smoother, and get your site up and running even quicker.
What do you wish you had known when first starting your WordPress website? If you’re starting out now, what would help you feel more confident about it? Let us know in the comments!