Gone are the days you either had to learn to code or hire someone to build a website for you.
Content management systems (CMS) have made it possible for virtually anyone to set up a website with little or no coding knowledge. WordPress, Drupal and Joomla are the 3 popular content management systems used to power websites, with WordPress being the foremost.
Recent statistics (October 2016) show that WordPress is used by 58.9% of websites powered by content management systems, and 26.8% of all websites on the internet.
Why is WordPress so popular?
Here are some of the reasons why WordPress is used to power over 50 million websites, and why you should use it too.
- Ease of use: This is one major reason WordPress has gained so much popularity. WordPress has made it possible for the non-techies and techies alike to easily create and manage a website.
- It is free: WordPress is an open-source platform. This means that it can be freely used and modified by anyone.
- Flexibility: With tons of plugins and themes at your disposal, you can easily add functionality and customize your site the way you want.
- Huge support and a large community of developers: Due to its open source nature, WordPress is actively supported by a large community of users and developers. You will most likely find solutions to any problem you encounter, and also be able to contribute to the community.
- SEO Friendly: WordPress takes care of the basics of SEO pretty well, allowing Google and other search engines to easily crawl websites built on the platform. Plugins like Yoast SEO can be used to make your site even more SEO friendly.
WordPress.com and WordPress.org
Confused? Don’t sweat it! I’ll demystify it for you.
There are two variations of WordPress – WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
WordPress.com is essentially free. You don’t pay for domain registration and hosting. Your website will be hosted on WordPress servers and everything will be managed for you. Your domain name will be something like:
http://www.yoursitename.wordpress.com which is similar to the “http://yoursitename.blogspot.com” of blogger.
Paid upgrades are also available if you need a custom domain (www.yoursitename.com) and extra features.
WordPress.com is okay if you just need a personal blog, hobby blog, or a simple website. But if you really mean business, then WordPress.com isn’t the best choice because it comes with some serious limitations :
- You don’t have total control over your site.
- You can’t install custom plugins.
- You have limited number of themes to choose from.
- You can’t use AdSense and other advertising platforms to generate money from your blog or website.
With WordPress.org, you get to handle everything yourself. You register your domain, host your blog or website, and manage it by yourself. WordPress doesn’t do this for you – that’s why it’s called “self-hosted WordPress”. This is the option you should be considering because it gives you full control over your site.
Now that i have explained the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, here are the next steps you need to take.
Step #1 : Choosing a Web Host
A web host provides space on its servers to store your website files so that it be accessible by others. There are numerous web hosting companies out there, and you could get overwhelmed trying to find the right one. Before i talk about the essentials to consider when choosing a web host for your WordPress website, let me give you a brief overview on the different types of web hosting.
Types of Web Hosting
There are four major types of web hosting available – Shared hosting, VPS hosting, Dedicated hosting, and Cloud hosting.
Since this article is mainly aimed at beginners, i’ll explain only the shared hosting type, as this is mostly recommended for beginners.
In shared hosting, many customers or users make use of a single web server. These users (with one or multiple websites) share server resources such as RAM, CPU, and disk space with each other. This is the most common and least expensive type of hosting. It is generally used for small to medium sized sites. This type of hosting however has its downsides such as site performance being affected by other sites on the same server – but its usually the preferred option for most beginners.
You can read this article, if you care to know more about the different types of hosting.
Essentials to consider when choosing a web host for your WordPress website
Here are five essential things you need to to look out for when choosing a web host for your WordPress website.
1. Server compatibility with WordPress: WordPress is based on PHP and MySQL. Most web host offer a one-click installation of WordPress, but you should confirm that your hosting provider meets the minimum requirements required to run WordPress. Currently, these are:
PHP version 5.6 or greater
MySQL version 5.6 or greater
2. Server Uptime: Server Uptime is also an important factor to consider when choosing a web host. You wouldn’t want your website going down several times in a day or week.
Truth is, no web host can provide 100% uptime – but a reliable web host should maintain at least 99.5% server uptime rate. High stakes, right? Anything short of that is unacceptable. Knowing how a web host handles downtime is important too.
Also, be wary of “free” or “cheap” web hosting because most web host that offer these can hardly give excellent or at least 99% server uptime.
3. Regular Automatic Backup: While it will be your responsibility to frequently backup, your web host should also provide regular automatic backup of your databases and files. Any mishap can occur at any time – hacking, human error, and the like. Your web host should be able to quickly restore your site to the state it was in before the problem occurred.
4. Disk Space and Bandwidth: Disk space is the amount of storage space available to store your website’s data and files, while bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transferred over a given period of time. Most hosting companies claim to offer unlimited disk space and bandwidth. Although you shouldn’t take what they say at face value, most of these companies do have a fair usage policy limit which most users are unlikely to reach. However, if your site begins to use too much of the server resources, then you’ll be asked to upgrade so you don’t affect other websites on the same server.
Also, if a web host allots space at a cost, go for a plan that gives you sufficient amount of space and also allows for growth.
5. Support: You will most likely need some information, or get stuck at some point – even if you are the most tech-savvy. Your web host should be able to provide 24/7 support via phone or live-chat.
Having said all that, i will personally recommend iPage. I have been hosting my website with iPage for over 2 years now and their services have been great. Their support staff is awesome, and always able to assist whenever i need help.
Apart from the essentials listed above, here are the other reasons i recommend iPage:
- Unlimited domains: Chances are you may want to have additional websites in the future. iPage lets you host multiple domains under one hosting account at no extra charge.
- 30-day money back guarantee: If after signing up, you aren’t satisfied with their hosting – iPage will give you a full refund of your hosting fees if you discontinue hosting within the first 30 days.
- Unlimited Email accounts: iPage also lets you create multiple email accounts with your domain name.
- Affordability: iPage is one of the few web host that offer quality services at an affordable rate. iPage is currently offering a special introductory price of $1.99/month (that’s 83% off the regular rate). The introductory price of $1.99/month is for 1, 2 and 3 years hosting. That means, you either pay $23.88 for 1 year, $47.76 for 2 years or $71.64 for 3 years. Note that after any duration you choose to pay for, your hosting plan will be renewed at the regular rate. I’ll advice you go for the 2 or 3 years hosting, as this will save you a lot of money in the long run.
Disclosure: I am an iPage affiliate, this means that i get a commission every time someone signs up via one of my links. However, i’ll like you to know that i recommend iPage because i’m using it myself, and they are one of the best hosting providers.
Step #2: Choosing a domain name and domain registrar
A domain name is the address people use to access your website. If you haven’t picked one yet, here are 5 tips that will be helpful in choosing a good domain name.
- It may not necessarily be short, but it should be easy to remember.
- It should be easy to type.
- Avoid hyphens.
- Your domain name should reflect your brand or business.
- Make sure not to infringe on any copyrights.
Domain suggestion tools like NameMesh and DomainsBot could also help in picking a good domain name.
After choosing a domain name, the next thing is picking a domain registrar.
Most hosting companies offer domain registration as well. You can either register your domain name with your hosting provider or register it with another company and point it to your host. Some say its better do the latter, but its okay (and more convenient as a beginner) to register your domain with your hosting provider.
Besides that, most web host offer free domain registration for the first year – so you’ll be saving a few bucks if you decide to stick to one company. However, if you choose to register domain separately, check for coupon codes from any registrar you choose so you can save some money.
iPage is one of the web host that offer free domain registration for the 1st year, so you don’t need to worry about paying for a domain.
Step #3: Registering your domain name and purchasing a hosting plan
Since iPage is my recommended web host, i’ll be showing you how to register a domain and purchase a hosting plan on iPage. All things being equal, you should be able to do this in 15 minutes or less .
Click here to go to the iPage Sign Up page.
Click on Sign Up Now.
This will take you to a page where you can either register a new domain or use an existing domain.
After inputting your domain name, click on “Check Availability”.
If your domain name is available you’ll be taken to the next page, otherwise you’ll have to try another domain.
On the next page, fill in the required details under “Contact Information”.
For payment, please note that you can only make payment via PayPal, Mastercard, Visa or any other credit card that supports online international transactions. If you have any of the above, you can input your details under “Payment Information”.
This is the stage you also get to choose your payment plan, Click on the drop-down menu and select your desired payment term (1, 2, or 3 years).
Under “Website Essentials”, you need to pay extra attention to ensure you don’t pay for features you don’t need. Now, uncheck “Advanced Site Protection…..” and “Strongly Recommended….. “ Also, go back to “Purchase Information” and uncheck “Domain privacy”.
Just to be sure you’ve unchecked all the add-ons, confirm that your total charge is $23.88 for 1 year, $47.76 for 2 years or $71.64 for 3 years.
After the confirmation, you can now hit the Checkout button.
After this, you’ll be directed to some after-sale pages. Just click No thanks on the pages.
On the next page, click Log in. Choose a security question and provide an answer. Also insert a password you’ll use to login to your hosting account. Then click save and continue.
You’ll then receive an email containing the login information for your new account.
Now you have finished registering your domain name and purchasing a hosting plan.
That wasn’t so difficult, was it?
Step #4: Installing WordPress
After logging in, you’ll be directed to your Control Panel. This is where you’ll manage all that has to do with your hosting account.
On your control panel, scroll down to the “WEBSITE” section and select “WordPress” from the list.
On the next page, click “Install”.
On the next page, click on the drop-down arrow and select your domain name under “domain without www”. Then click on “Check Domain”.
Click on “show advanced options” and fill in the required details. Make sure you don’t use “admin” as your username.
Then check the “I have read terms and condition of the GPLv2” and confirm that “Automatically create a database for this installation” is checked.
Click “Install Now”, and the installation process will take a few minutes. And yup!, you now have a website.
You will receive an email regarding the installation.
Lastly, you need to set up your newly created WordPress website
Step #5: Setting up your WordPress website
Login to your dashboard by going to http://www.yoursitename.com/wp-admin (replace “yoursitename.com” with your domain name)
#1: Setting up permalinks
This controls the URL structure of your posts, pages, tags and categories . The default permalink in WordPress is not SEO-friendly and needs to be changed.
To change it, go to Settings > Permalinks and select “Post Name” from the options. Then scroll down and click on “Save Changes”.
#2: Changing the Timezone
You need to change the default timezone to your local timezone. To do this, go to Settings > General. Locate the “Timezone” option and select a city that in the same timezone as you. Then click on “Save Changes”
Also, you can change your site name and tagline on this page.
#3: Installing Themes
You can install themes from the WordPress theme respository or download a theme and upload it in zip format. Make sure you download from trusted sources only.
To add a theme from the WordPress theme repository, go to Appearance > Themes and click on the “Add New” button at the top of the page.
If you wish to upload a theme, go to Appearance > Themes > Add New > Upload Theme. Browse for the theme on your computer and install it.
#4: Installing Plugins
Plugins add functionality to your site, and WordPress has a whole lot of them in its respository. Just like the themes, you can also upload plugins in zip format.
To install a plugin from the WordPress Plugin respository, go to Appearance > Plugin > Add New. Search for the plugin you’ll like to install and click on “Install Now”.
This will take a few minutes, and after that you can activate the plugin.
Here are some essential plugins to install on your WordPress website
- Askimet – protects your site from spam comments.
- WordPress SEO by Yoast – for optimizing your site for search engines.
- JetPack – this plugin offers a wide range of features such as social sharing, contact form, and more.
- W3 Total Cache – for making your site load faster.
- Updraft Plus – for backing up your website.
- iTheme Security – enhances the security of your website.
- WP Smush – optimizes images to improve site speed.
#5: Adding Categories
Categories act as containers for your contents. This helps to keep them organized. By default, WordPress puts your posts into the “Uncategorized” category.
To add a new category, go to Post > Categories, and put the name in the provided space on the left. Scroll down and hit the “Add New Category” button.
To change the default category, go to Settings > Writing, and change the WordPress “Default Post Category” to your category of choice. Don’t forget to save the changes.
#6: Adding Post and Pages
Before you start adding post and pages, you need to delete the sample post and page that WordPress comes with.
To delete the sample post, go to Posts > All Posts. Hover on the post name and select “Trash” from the menu.
The same process goes for the page, Click on Pages > All Pages, hover on Sample Page and hit “Trash”.
Now you can add your own post and pages
To add a post, go to Posts > Add New.
After writing your post, you can format it, add media, and then hit the “Publish” button.
Similarly, to add a page, go to Pages > Add New.
#7: Creating Menus
Menus help users to navigate your site easily. First, you need to create a new menu, and then add menu items.
To create a menu, go to Appearance > Menus. Input a menu name and save. The name wouldn’t be displayed on your front-end – since you can create multiple menus and place them in different positions, this only helps in distinguishing them.
After creating a menu, you can add menu items from the column on the left. The menu items could be pages, posts, categories, or custom links.
Also, depending on your theme a number of menu locations will be available. After creating a menu, you need to choose where you want to it be placed.
#8: Adding Widgets
WordPress widgets are smaller blocks of functionality that can be placed in pre-defined widget areas of your theme such as your sidebar, header and footer.
WordPress comes with a number of default widgets, and plugins often add new widgets too.
To see how widgets work, go to Appearance > Widgets. On the left side of the page, you’ll find the default widgets that come with WordPress, and new widgets are placed here too. On the right side is where you’ll find the widget-ready areas of your theme.
To activate a widget, simply drag it from the left into any widget location on the right. You can add multiple widgets to a particular area and reorder them as you like.
To deactivate a widget, simply drag it back to the “Available Widget” area on the left. If you want to deactivate a widget but save its settings, drag it the “Inactive Widget” area just below the “Available Widget” area on the left side of the page.
Congratulations, your site is now up and running. Creating a website is just the beginning, a lot of things go into building a successful web presence. Nonetheless, you can congratulate yourself for taking the bold step to create a website.
If you encounter any problems or have any questions, do let me know in the comment below. I’ll be happy to help you out.
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Ukeme likes to keep things simple and believes that tech doesn’t really have to be complicated. She is also a web designer and loves to learn new things.