If you’re interested in launching a website, you’ve probably heard about this “WordPress” thing. That’s because self-hosted WordPress now powers over 27% of the known web, making it by far the most popular tool to build a website.
But despite that popularity, many beginners still find it difficult to get started with self-hosted WordPress. So to help you out, I’m going to show you everything you need to create a website with WordPress.
After you read this post, you’ll know all about:
- Picking a domain
- Signing up for hosting
- Installing self-hosted WordPress
- Choosing / customizing a theme
- Adding plugins
- Writing posts and pages
If you’re ready to go from WordPress zero to WordPress hero, let’s get started! Here are the 6 steps you need to follow to create a WordPress site…
Step 1: Purchase an Awesome Domain Name
Think of your domain name as your WordPress site’s permanent address on the Internet. It’s a standardized format that allows anyone around the world to easily find your website. For example, no matter where you are in the world, you can easily get to WP Mayor by going to “wpmayor.com”.
Tips for Choosing a Standout Domain Name
Choosing a domain name is a lot like getting married. It’s supposed to be permanent. And while you can always get a second chance if needed, it’s a complicated process that will cause you enormous stress 😉
That’s why you should spend some time seriously thinking about the domain name you choose. You need to find a domain that balances brandability with contextuality.
wpmayor.com is a great example – the “WP” part provides context (WordPress) and the “Mayor” part provides brandability. When in doubt, this formula of “Context” + “Brand” is a great way to structure your domain.
Here are some other tips to help you out:
- Stay short – shorter domains are easier to remember and therefore preferable to longer domains.
- Don’t use hyphens – while they’re more available, domains with hyphens can be confusing.
- Try to get a .com – other domain extensions are becoming more popular, but .com is still the most recognizable domain extension.
If you need some inspiration, there are domain name generators which help you brainstorm available domains. Here are two worth trying:
Just remember that each domain name can only be used once! So if someone has already registered your desired domain name, you’ll need to choose a backup.
Where to Purchase a Domain Name
To actually buy your domain name, you’ll need something called a “domain registrar”. Your registrar is licensed to register and manage your domain name.
Most hosting providers double as registrars and offer a free domain name as a signup incentive. I’ll discuss hosting in the next section and how you can get a free domain from your host.
But you can also purchase a domain name through a third-party registrar. Personally, I like using a third-party registrar because I can keep all of my domain names secure in one place. Here are two that we recommend:
To purchase your domain, all you need to do is enter your desired domain in the search box and then add it to your cart and follow the checkout process:
Step 2: Sign Up for Reliable Hosting
While domain names help direct traffic, web hosts are the services which actually serve up all that pretty content you see in your web browser. In order to make your WordPress site available to visitors from around the world, you’ll need a web host.
You’ll install WordPress on this host and use it to store and deliver all of your posts and content.
While high-performance web hosts can easily cost hundreds of dollars a month, you don’t need to spend anywhere near that as a beginner. Instead, you can get affordable web hosting for basically the price of a latte or a pint of beer. Usually $4-10 per month.
Our Recommend Budget WordPress Hosting for Beginners
For beginners, we recommend SiteGround Hosting. Not only is SiteGround affordable, it also has excellent performance and uptime. The former is important because your readers will demand fast page load speeds. And the latter is important because you want your WordPress site to always be available.
SiteGround also offers automatic updates for your WordPress software, which is an essential element of keeping your site safe from hackers. And they’ll even give you a free domain name.
If you’d like to learn even more about why we recommend SiteGround, you can check out Jean’s SiteGround review.
How to Sign Up For SiteGround Hosting
To sign up for SiteGround Hosting, you first need to go to SiteGround. Then scroll down to see the list of available plans:
For beginners, I recommend the StartUp plan. It only costs $3.95 per month and offers plenty of performance for beginners. Just note that, as is standard for the hosting industry, the $3.95 price is promotional and only applies to your first billing cycle.
Once you select your plan, you’ll be prompted to enter a domain name. If you purchased your domain name through a third-party registrar, choose the I already have a Domain option. Otherwise, choose Register a New Domain and enter your desired domain name in the box below:
Next, you’ll need to enter your account and payment information:
At the bottom of the page, you’ll also need to make some decisions.
First, choose your Data Center. This is the actual physical location of your web server. Because it can have an effect on performance, you should always choose the data center that is nearest to the majority of your target readers:
Then, you need to choose your add-ons:
I recommend unchecking both Domain Privacy and HackAlert Monitoring. Neither are essential to your site.
Then, click Pay Now and you should be finished! SiteGround will set up your hosting in a few minutes and send you an email when it’s ready.
Other Good WordPress Hosting Options
While SiteGround is great, it’s not the only quality web host out there. If you’d like to weigh your options, here are some other hosts we recommend:
- Bluehost – another popular affordable option.
- WP Engine – where WP Mayor is hosted. It has excellent performance, but the price might be overkill for your first WordPress site. Read Jean’s first hand WP Engine review for more details.
- Media Temple – a good mid-tier hosting option.
Step 3: Install the Self-Hosted WordPress.org Software
Once you have your domain and hosting all squared away, you’re ready to actually install WordPress. Installing WordPress will give your website its basic form. While you’ll still need to add themes and plugins to truly personalize your WordPress website (that’s next!), you will have a fully functioning WordPress site after you complete this step.
There are two ways to install WordPress:
- Automatically through your host’s dashboard
- Manually using something called FTP (not great for beginners)
How to Install WordPress via SiteGround
If you followed our hosting recommendation, you can quickly install WordPress via your SiteGround dashboard. When you sign into your SiteGround account for the first time, you’ll see the Website Setup Wizard. All you need to do is select Get WordPress preinstalled on this account and SiteGround will automatically install WordPress for you:
Just follow the wizard and enter the login details which you want to use for your new WordPress account:
How to Install WordPress With Other Hosts
If you’re using a different host, you’ll need to go to your host’s knowledge base or contact their support to find the specific process for your host. But if your site uses cPanel, here’s a general guide for how to install WordPress.
Go to your cPanel dashboard and find the Autoinstallers section. Then, select WordPress:
On the next screen, click Install Now and follow the instructions:
How to Install WordPress Manually
If you need to install WordPress manually, you’ll have to dig into your site via FTP and MySQL. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll direct you to the official wordpress.org guide.
While the installation process is simple if you’re familiar with basic web technologies, it’s still intimidating to most beginners. That’s why I recommend going with your host’s automatic installation process whenever possible.
Once you’ve installed WordPress via any of the above methods, you can access your WordPress dashboard by going to “yourdomain.com/wp-admin” and logging in with the account credentials you created during the install process:
Step 4: Pick a Beautiful Theme to Change Your Site’s Design
Your WordPress theme dictates how your site looks. Think of it like your website’s “clothing”.
If you’re ok with those trade-offs, you can find heaps of free themes at the official WordPress.org Theme Directory.
If you want to go with a premium theme, we recommend these theme developers. All of them provide aesthetic, well-coded, and user friendly themes:
- StudioPress – StudioPress’ Genesis framework is great for beginners.
- Elegant Themes – Best known for their Divi theme, Elegant Themes offers an array of well-designed themes.
- Elmastudio – A theme shop selling beautiful, minimalist designs.
- Tesla Themes – Beautiful, functional themes.
- AppThemes – Themes offering very specific, niche functionality.
There are certainly other quality theme shops out there, but these are our favorites.
How to Install a WordPress Theme
Once you’ve chosen your theme, you need to actually install and activate it. If you chose a free theme from the official WordPress.org Theme Directory, you can install it directly from your WordPress dashboard by going to Appearance → Themes → Add New and searching for the theme name:
If you’re using a premium theme, you’ll need to upload the .zip file through a similar interface. Go to Appearance → Themes → Add New → Upload Theme:
No matter which method you use, make sure to Activate your theme after you install it:
Customizing Your WordPress Theme
Once you activate a theme, you can customize it to make it even more your own. For most themes, you can do this by going to Appearance → Customize:
In the WordPress Customizer, you can make changes and preview them in real time:
Some themes might use custom interfaces for theme customization, as well.
Step 5: Activate Some Basic Plugins to Add Functionality
Plugins add extra and/or improved functionality to the default WordPress software. They’re incredibly versatile. Plugins can add minor tweaks like a new menu item or full-scale site changes like turning your WordPress site into a social network.
The specific plugins that you add to your site will depend on your exact goals. But there are some all-purpose plugins that all sites can benefit from.
Essential Plugins for All WordPress Sites
Here are the plugins all sites should consider…
- Yoast SEO – every WordPress site needs a good SEO plugin. Yoast is one of the best.
- W3 Total Cache – caching plugins speed up your site and minimize the resources it uses.
- Gravity Forms – a versatile way to create all kinds of forms with WordPress.
- BlogVault – takes backup and enables easy restoration with a single click.
- BackupBuddy – keep your data safe with regular backups.
- Jetpack – Jetpack is packed with added features.
- MalCare – keeps your site safe from hackers bots and the rest.
Those are the bare essentials – check out Mark’s post for a full list of our recommended WordPress plugins.
Where to Find Additional WordPress Plugins
If you want to add additional functionality specific to your niche, here are some good sites to find both free and premium plugins:
- WordPress.org Plugin Repository – the best directory of free plugins
- Code Canyon – a marketplace for premium plugins
- Google – you can use Google to find plenty of plugin roundups which feature the best plugins for specific uses.
How to Install a WordPress Plugin
Installing a plugin is almost identical to installing a theme. Just go to Plugins → Add New:
If you’re installing a free plugin listed in the wordpress.org plugin repository, you can add it directly here. If you’re installing a premium plugin, you need to click the Upload Plugin button to upload the .zip file.
As with themes, you need to make sure to Activate the plugins that you install before you can use them.
Step 6: Write Your First Blog Post and Publish Some Pages
Now that you have your theme and plugins all set up, you’re ready for the fun part:
There are two basic types of content you can create:
- Posts – these are blog posts. Older posts will get pushed down by newer posts, so they’re strictly to be used for blog content.
- Pages – these are permanent pages. They’re good to use for static content like your About and Contact pages.
You can create posts by going to Posts → Add New:
Similarly, you can create pages by going to Pages → Add New:
Both posts and pages use the WordPress Editor, which allows you to format posts in a WYSIWYG interface similar to Microsoft Word or Google Docs. You can also upload images or other media by clicking on Add Media:
Once you’re finished with your content, just click Publish to share it with the world.
Enjoy Your New WordPress Site
And that’s it! You’ve just learned how to create a website with WordPress. You’ve got your own domain name, your own theme, and you’ve customized your site with some essential plugins.
If you need help tweaking your WordPress site, we always recommend Codeable for WordPress customizations.
We’ve also put together a detailed list of WordPress resources if you want to learn more about the best WordPress tools out there.
I hope you enjoyed this guide and don’t hesitate to ask any questions in the comments!