How to Make a WordPress Website
Follow this step-by-step guide and you will build a fully functional WordPress website. No coding knowledge necessary. We will walk through the following:
Step 1 – Choose a hosting provider and a domain name registrar
Step 2 – Point your domain name to your host
Step 3 – Set up WordPress and install a theme
If you don’t know what any of that means, don’t worry, we’ll explain everything using as little techno-babble as possible.
So… why use WordPress? We recommend it for its ease of use and built-in security. The WordPress content management system is a piece of software that helps you create pages and blog posts without needing to know how to code. Plus endless amounts of plugins extend the core functionality so you can make just about anything you’d like. Alright, let’s learn how to make a WordPress website!
Step 1: Choose a hosting provider and a domain name registrar
Two basic items are essential for any website: the host server that stores the files for the website and the domain name that tells a web browser how to find the particular host. Now let’s clarify what those terms mean and setup each one.
Purchase web hosting
The company that owns the physical servers where your website files are stored is called a hosting provider or web host. Reliability is the number one factor we look for in hosting. Select a provider that has an average up-time of 99% or greater (“up-time” is the percentage of time that a web host is functioning properly). Most modern hosts also offer guided WordPress installation and some are tailored specifically to host WordPress sites.
We recommend Flywheel hosting hands down. They provide blazing fast speed, a responsive support team that takes ownership of problems, and excellent security. We use them ourselves with confidence.
Purchase a domain name
A domain name looks like www.YourCompany.com and directs internet traffic to your website files (the ones stored with your hosting provider). There are several big providers, but we recommend NameCheap for domains. They have never been hacked as of this writing and don’t lobby to restrict the free access internet rights like GoDaddy does.
Step 2: Point your domain name to your host
Once you have both a domain name and a hosting account, you will need to point your domain to your host’s servers. Your hosting provider will send you either the names “nameservers” or an “IP address” to use for this purpose. Nameservers look like ns1.nameserver.com and ns2.nameserver.com and an IP address looks like 126.96.36.199. Your host will tell you which you need to use.
Use name servers: On the website of your domain registrar, find an option titled something similar to “change your nameservers” or “domain name server setup.” This is where you will enter the nameservers of your hosting provider. Once you have done this, the system takes up to 24 hours to propagate the change. Keep checking by entering your domain name into a browser. The process is completed when you see your host’s landing page.
Use an IP address: On your domain registrar’s website, find the “all host records” option. Here you will set an A record. Insert the IP address provided by your host in both the @ and www records.
If you are having any difficulty at all, contact your host to help resolve these issues. They typically have dedicated support people to help you resolve these types of issues. We can also assist our monthly subscribers with these items.
Step 3: Set up WordPress and install a theme
If you signed up with WP Engine, then WordPress is already installed for you. Simply navigate to your WordPress admin link and login to your installation.
Many hosting companies provide guided installation programs such as Softaculous. NameCheap provides an article on how to install WordPress using Softaculous. (Make sure you install in the root directory and don’t use a /something/ when prompted.
A manual WordPress installation is necessary if your host does not provide one of the above automated options.
The default WordPress theme will be visible once you successfully setup WordPress. If you see this page when you enter your domain name into a web browser, then you’ve installed WordPress properly!
Choose and install a new theme
Now let’s change that default theme. Log in to your WordPress admin panel at www.yoursite.com/wp-admin. This is the control center where you post content, change settings, and install new themes and new plugins. There are hundreds of free themes available just by searching within the WordPress admin panel.
To search the free themes through the WordPress admin panel, click on “Themes” under the “Appearance” menu item. Then click on “Add New.” This will bring up a page allowing you to browse and filter hundreds of free themes.
Premium paid themes offer the ability to get designer-quality web layouts without the thousand dollar price tag. Many off the professionally designed sites you visit are actually based on themes and not custom made. The ThemeForest marketplace is a great resource to find gorgeous professional themes. Countless well-designed and highly functional themes are available for $25-$100 a piece.
When selecting a theme, make sure that you choose a theme that is “responsive” so it looks proper on mobile phones and tablets.
Let’s make sure a few settings are correct now that you’ve got WordPress installed.
First thing you should do is set your site title and tagline. Browse to the “General” link under the “Settings” menu item. The very first two options are your Site Title and Tagline. Enter whatever you’d like and then scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Save Changes.”
Now let’s jump over to the “Reading” page under “Settings.” By default, WordPress will display your latest blog posts on the home page. If you’d like to show something different, such as a custom home page associated with your theme, then change the “Front page displays” option to “static page” and select which page is your front page.
While we’re here, make sure the checkbox for “Search Engine Visibility” is not checked. That is, unless you want search engines to ignore your site.
Finally go to the “Permalinks” page under “Settings.” These settings determine how the links are structured for your pages and blog posts. Our preference is to select the option for “Post name.” This creates short, clean URLs and is advantageous for SEO reasons.
Create content and add plugins
Content on your new site falls into a few basic types: pages, posts, menus, and widgets.
Pages: Pages represent unique areas of your site that hold the text and images you upload. In your admin panel, click on “Add New” under the “Pages” menu item to create a new page. You should start with a Contact, Blog and Home Page as a general starting place.
Posts: Similar to above, browse to “Add New” under the “Posts” menu item to create a new blog post. Posts are individual updates and will automatically show up on your Blog page or Home Page, depending on your “Reading” settings that you changed in the above step. Use posts to write articles, upload photos, and share links.
Menus: You can set which pages show up in which menus in “Menus” option under “Appearance” on the left-side admin menu. Each theme has specific places that menus show up. You can select which pages show up in which menu and even create custom links to blog posts or anything else.
Widgets: Many themes feature a sidebar on the right or left side of the page. By going to “Widgets” under “Appearance” you can drag-and-drop items into these areas.
What else is possible?
WordPress plugins are small packages of code that add additional functionality. Some are paid, but many are free. There thousands of available options to do just about anything you can dream up. To add a plugin, go to “Add New” under the “Plugins” menu item and search the available options or use the keyword search tool (recognizing the pattern yet?).
Here are a few plugins to get you started:
Spam Protection: WordPress comes with a plugin called Akismet. You can activate this plugin and sign up for a key to utilize. Alternatively we like a plugin called WP-SpamShield.
Contact Forms: Enabling communication through your website is a standard feature of modern websites. A straightforward contact form plugin is Contact Form 7. For a premium plugin with more custom options, try Gravity Forms.
WordPress SEO: This great plugin makes a lot of basic SEO changes for you and allows you to set custom titles for pages and posts. The plugin adds a page analysis section below each post to let you know how you’re doing. Get it here.
You can also purchase or download plugins from sites around the internet and upload them yourself using the WordPress admin panel. Once in the “Add New” section under “Plugins,” click the “Upload Plugin” button.
A note on security: The WordPress platform comes with good security out of the box. No website is 100% secure, however. We recommend keeping WordPress up to date, removing the default admin username account, and backing up your site frequently. We handle this for you as part of our WordPress support package.
Congratulations! Welcome to glorious world of website ownership. Please feel free to contact us or reach out on Twitter if you have any questions about how to make a WordPress website.