So you want to set up a website or blog for yourself. You’re in good company – there are approximately 400 million blogs today! The process of developing a website has changed considerably since the early days, thanks in large part to WordPress. For instance, in 2019 there are plenty of HTML editors and Google sites that will teach you how to build a website from scratch and for free.
Creating your own website might seem like a daunting task, especially if you don’t know much about coding or programming, but with a little research, just about anyone can set up a WordPress site and join the ranks of personal bloggers. We’re kicking things off for you, with this step-by-step guide to building your site.
WordPress.com or WordPress.org?
The first decision you’ll need to make is whether to go with a WordPress.com site, or use WordPress.org. WordPress.com is a hosting site, similar to Medium, Tumblr, or Blogger. You can get an entirely free version, or you can pay for a personal or business account, which gives you more control over the site’s design.
WordPress.org is self-hosted, which means that you will have to acquire your own domain name and web hosting. The software is entirely free, but a user must pay for a domain name and hosting services (don’t worry; they’re not expensive).
The .org version is fairly limited, so it’s best for people who just want a simple platform for expressing their thoughts or sharing content with friends.
If you want to establish a professional website for your portfolio or small business, or if you’d like to generate advertising revenue, WordPress.com is a better choice. It will give you much more control over your site, with thousands of free templates and tens of thousands of free plugins.
Time to Choose a Theme
Once you’re set up with either version of WordPress, you will need to choose a theme. A word to the wise: the sheer number of available themes makes this a tempting rabbit hole to fall down, so if you suffer from decision paralysis, you’ll want to narrow your options right out of the gate.
A good way to do this is by searching for themes that suit your site’s purpose. Do you want to showcase your photography portfolio, set up an e-commerce site, publish poetry, or share recipes? Many themes are designed for particular types of sites, and offer appearance, features, and options suited to that purpose.
Next, Consider Adding Plug-Ins
Remember the old Apple iPhone slogan “there’s an app for that”? In the world of WordPress, the expression is “there’s a plug-in for that.” Plug-ins are simply pieces of software that you can tack on to your site when you need a certain service or feature. Adding a contact form, installing security checks, optimizing your site for search engines, editing photos, or using a CAPTCHA are just a few of the tasks tackled by plug-ins.
As with themes, the choices can be overwhelming. Go slowly, select only the necessities at first, and make sure that the plug-ins you do install are top-notch in terms of quality. You can always add or remove plug-ins down the line, once the site has been up and running for a while, and you have a better idea of which features are essential and which you can do without.
Educate Yourself About Errors
It’s a fact of our technologically advanced life: errors happen. One of the best things about using WordPress software is that there are so many users around the world sharing their experience and expertise. That makes it relatively easy to research errors (or, really, any aspect of putting together your website) and troubleshoot what went wrong.
Check out this list of common WordPress errors first. If you don’t find your answer there, a simple Google search ought to give you plenty of results to skim through. The support team at WordPress is another superb resource – no matter what issue you’re having, chances are good that they’ve seen it or something like it.
Essential WordPress Pages
No matter what purpose your website or blog is intended to serve, there are a few static pages that you’ll want to include. The big three are Home, About, and Contact. Let’s take a look at each of them.
“Home” is the place where visitors to your website begin their experience. The default for WordPress sites is a dynamic home page, which simply means that the content there changes to reflect your updates – in this case, the home page shows the 10 most recent posts. However, you can make your home page a static one, so that visitors see the same content every time they arrive.
“About” should inform the visitor about your website and what it offers. In many cases, you will want to include some information about yourself, as well. A professional or business website should list your education, experience, and skills, while a personal blog can provide a more casual bio. Some bloggers tend to think of the “About” page as a throwaway, but don’t underestimate it. Help your readers get to know you, and tell them what to expect as they navigate around your site.
Lastly, “Contact” provides your contact details. But don’t just include your email address and call it a day. There are spambots out there, just crawling the web looking for email addresses, and by posting yours, you’re opening your inbox up to massive amounts of spam. Get a plug-in that provides a contact form that routes to your email, instead.
These initial tasks ought to keep you busy for a while! It’s also a safe bet that you’ll discover plenty of additional topics to explore as you research the first steps and get your website or blog up and running.
Have you built a site using WordPress before? Have we omitted any crucial first steps, or important tips? Leave a comment below and share your experience!