How to Use WordPress to Build Your Website: A Beginner’s Guide
by Rose Wheeler | Published on May 18, 2022
If you’ve been anywhere on the Internet, you’ve probably used a website powered by WordPress. More than one-third of sites worldwide use WordPress, including big names such as Sony Music, Microsoft News, and The Walt Disney Company.
So, it makes sense that you might consider using WordPress to build your own website. It’s affordable, customizable, and relatively intuitive. With some solid planning and a step-by-step approach, creating a WordPress website is easier than you might expect.
Overview: What is WordPress?
Content management systems allow users to create and manage online content without coding. With little or no programming knowledge, you can use WordPress’ website builder to create and modify essential aspects of your site. For those with more advanced skills, upper-tier plans and a vast array of features and plug-ins allow for increased customization.
Initially developed for blogs, WordPress has expanded its use to business sites, e-commerce stores, portfolios, membership sites, and beyond. If you have a vision for a website, you can bring it to life with WordPress. Check out The Ascent's WordPress CMS review to learn more about this CMS system.
Wordpress.org vs. WordPress.com: What's the difference?
Many WordPress beginners don’t know that WordPress.org and WordPress.com are two separate platforms. It’s important to understand the difference to make sure you create a website that meets your needs.
When people refer to WordPress, they typically mean WordPress.org. WordPress.org requires you to pay monthly for web hosting. It allows access to increased customization and plug-in options, including powerful SEO features and analytics.
WordPress.org also includes the ability to create e-commerce stores and membership sites. You’re responsible for maintaining and optimizing your website.
On the other hand, WordPress.com offers free WordPress hosting and automatic maintenance. Unless you upgrade to the Premium or Business plan, it comes with limited theme options and no third-party plug-ins, which reduces your access to SEO and analytics tools.
Also, you’re not allowed to sell ads on your site with WordPress.com, and you can’t create an online store or membership site unless you upgrade.
If you want more control over customization and monetization of your site, WordPress.org is your best bet. You can choose to pay for upgrades on WordPress.com, but using WordPress.org is more cost-effective.
However, if you’re looking to create a simple blog or a basic website, WordPress.com is a free option with convenient automatic maintenance.
What to consider before creating a WordPress site
Before you jump into building your WordPress website, pause to consider factors such as the purpose and objective of the site, your budget, and whether you’ll need to hire extra assistance.
1. What features does your WordPress site need to include?
With any website, it’s vital to establish your purpose and objectives upfront. Answer such questions as:
- What do I want to accomplish with this site?
- What types of products or services will I offer?
- Who will use the website? What are they looking for?
- What actions do I want site visitors to take?
Answering these questions will help you determine which features you need on your site. For instance, do you need the ability to sell products through an e-commerce store? Do site visitors need to sign up for memberships, download digital products, or log in? What metrics will you use to measure success?
Some features may require plug-ins, which you need to factor into your budget. If you only need the basics to accomplish your goals, you might want to create a WordPress.com site instead of using WordPress.org.
2. What is your budget?
There are some costs you need to consider with both WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Here’s a quick overview of WordPress pricing.
WordPress.com plans include:
- Personal -- $48/year
- Premium -- $96/year
- Business -- $300/year
- E-commerce -- $540/year
- VIP -- $20,400+/year
If you use WordPress.org for your site, you’ll pay a yearly domain registration fee and a monthly fee for site hosting. Expect this to cost around $45-$100 annually.
Additional charges may include pre-made themes, plug-ins, website security, and anyone you hire to help with your website. Take these costs into account as you map out a plan for your site.
3. Will you need help building your site?
Depending on the size of your business and the budget you’ve established, hiring a site administrator or a web developer might seem obvious. And if you have limited experience with building and maintaining a website, it’s typically a good choice.
Of course, budgets don’t always allow for hiring a web specialist, and finding the right person takes time. Fortunately, learning WordPress is fairly simple. It’s intuitive to use, and you can find plenty of free and low-cost WordPress tutorials and WordPress training online.
If you have more complex needs for your website or will require some coding, consider hiring experts on a contract basis.
How to use WordPress to build your website
After you’ve decided between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, built your budget, and planned out your site, you’re ready to begin building. Get started with these simple steps.
Step 1: Choose and register your domain name
A domain name is your website’s name and address. It’s a vital part of your web presence and branding. Your domain name should be short and straightforward, and it should include your company name.
Once you’ve selected your domain name, purchase it from a domain name registrar or the hosting provider you use for your site. Some providers such as Bluehost offer free domain name registration for the first year.
On most provider’s websites, you’ll simply search for your domain name.
The provider will inform you whether the domain name is available. If it isn’t, you’ll usually receive a list of similar available options. From there, add the domain name registration to your cart and proceed with checkout.
Step 2: Set up web hosting
The next step is to set up web hosting. Since you’re building a WordPress site, choose a host that offers one-click install for WordPress. Due to the popularity of WordPress, most hosts have this feature. You also want a host with no web traffic limitations and reliable customer support.
Most web hosts offer tiered plans, so you’ll select the plan that works best for you and checkout. You will receive login information and nameserver information.
If you register your domain name separately, you’ll need to copy the nameserver information and add it to your domain name. It tells the domain registrar which hosts your domain should point to.
Step 3: Install Wordpress
Now it’s time to install WordPress. Because most hosts offer one-click WordPress installation, this step is fast and easy. Depending on your host, you may need to fill out a form. In other cases, you simply click “Install” and let your host do the work for you.
Once you’ve installed WordPress, browse the Dashboard and click around to get a feel for how it works.
Step 4: Choose a WordPress theme
The theme you choose for your website dictates the appearance of your site. Many themes also come with a variety of built-in features.
You’ll find a wide variety of free and premium theme options through WordPress itself or via other online marketplaces. As a beginner, it’s best to use one of the carefully vetted themes from WordPress' directory.
Choose a theme that’s easy for you to use, supports your needs, loads quickly, and is mobile-friendly. Quality support is also important, and you’ll want to read reviews and check how regularly the theme is updated.
You can install most themes with one click. From the library, click “Install” and then click “Activate” to apply the theme to your site. If additional steps are required, you’ll receive a welcome message that walks you through them.
These may include customizing the color and type font, selecting from a variety of layout options, and uploading your logo.
Step 5: Select your plug-ins
Plug-ins add features and functions to your website. Like themes, plug-ins can be found within the WordPress library or from other sources. They can be free, paid, or free with premium features.
Every site needs the basics such as cache, security, backup, and SEO. You may also want plug-ins that add contact forms, social features, analytics, and much more. With thousands of plug-ins to choose from, you’ll find something to suit just about any need for your website.
Step 6: Add pages and content
With the basics of your website set up, you’re ready to begin adding pages and populating your website with content.
Essential pages include:
- About Page
- Contact Page
Depending on the purpose of your site, you might also have a Blog page, a Services page, and a Shop page.
To add a page on WordPress, click “Pages” on the sidebar to the left, then “Add New.” The WordPress editor makes it easy to add a title, insert images, and set up attributes for your page. When you’re done, you click “Save Draft” or “Publish.”
After your Pages are set up, you can add Posts. Posts work just like Pages. Under “Posts” on the dashboard menu, you click “Add New.” You then add your title, content, and images to the WordPress editor before publishing or saving as a draft.
You’re ready to launch your WordPress site
With such a simple and intuitive setup, it’s no wonder that WordPress is one of our favorite website builders for small businesses.
Depending on your needs and how you’d like to customize your site, you may follow additional steps, but the basics remain the same. The intuitive dashboard, block editor, and wide range of online tutorials and tips will continue to guide you on your WordPress journey.
And if you’re not convinced that WordPress is right for you, check out some alternatives to WordPress that might be a better fit.
About the Author
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