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How to build a website with WordPress

Updated on June 20th, 2018

Thinking about creating a website with WordPress? Great choice!

This guide will show you exactly how it’s done

As you might know already, WordPress is the most popular content management system in the world. The reasons are quite simple:

  • it’s easy to use, making it a popular choice among beginners
  • It offers thousands of free good-looking themes, giving your website a professional look right away.
  • It offers thousands of plugins, allowing you to add lots of functionality to your site without touching a single line of code.

WordPress might not be the perfect solution for every website, but it’s really great when it comes to creating content sites like blogs, portfolios and simple business websites.

If you need a more in-depth explanation of when to choose WordPress, have a read in the WordPress section of the Content Management System article.

Now let’s get started with what this is all about, creating a WordPress site.

STEP 1: Get a domain name

Before you can start building your website, you need a domain name.

A domain name is what uniquely identifies your site, like thewebsiteroad.com.

It basically becomes your brand on the internet, so I would recommend spending some time on finding a good one.

Finding a good domain name

Finding a good domain name that is not yet taken can be a bit tricky, but here’s 3 things you should keep in mind.

  • Keep it short and memorable – Keeping it short will reduce the risk of mistyping and misspelling. If you can find one that is catchy and easy to remember as well, then you have a winner!
  • Avoid hyphens – It doesn’t look good and will be harder to remember. It also takes away the uniqueness, so people that want to visit Your-Site.com ends up visiting YourSite.com, which is not your site…
  • Avoid numbers – Numbers are easily misunderstood. Especially if people hear your site name, they wouldn’t know if it’s numerical (2) or spelled out (Two)

I use NameCheap as my Domain Registrar – they have good customer support and are easy to use.

Here’s how to register a domain name.

STEP 2: Get website hosting

Once you’ve secured your domain name, you’ll need someone that will host your website.

A Web host is basically a company that allows you to store your website on their servers for a small fee. In return, they will display your website to the public when someone types in your domain name.

Finding a good host

There are a few things you should keep in mind when selecting your host:

  • Uptime – When you’ve first spent time and money on creating your website, you’ll want a web host that actually keeps it online for people to see. Aim for a web host with uptime scores at 99,9% and above.
  • Loading speed – If your site spends ages on loading, people will just leave before they’ve seen the content.
  • Support – As always, having a friendly support team that is actually available when you need it is worth quite a bit.
  • Cost – Don’t get blinded by a small startup cost, some hosts bump up their prices quite significantly when it’s time for the renewal of your hosting plan.

I recommend using SiteGround – Good uptime, great speed, and really great support. The cost might be a bit higher than some other hosts, but in my opinion, it’s worth it.

Here’s how to setup hosting

STEP 3: Install WordPress

Once your domain and hosting are in place, it’s time for installing WordPress.

There are two possible ways to install WordPress

One-click installation

Most well-established hosting companies provide one-click installations for popular Content Management Systems like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.

So, if you signed up with SiteGround or any similar company, there should be a one-click installation button in your control panel.

All you have to do is to follow these steps:

1. Log into your hosting account

2. Go to your control panel

SiteGround Go To CPanel Button

3. Find the WordPress button under Autoinstallers.

WordPress Autoinstaller In SiteGround CPanel

4. Click the Install tab

How To Install WordPress On SiteGround

That’s it, the installation is now complete.

Manual installation

If your host for some reason does not have a one-click installation, check out my guide on how to manually install WordPress.

STEP 4: Configure your WordPress site

If you now visit YourDomain.com you’ll see that your site is up and running.

Now it’s time for some minor configurations that I recommend you do before you start adding content.

Log in to WordPress admin panel

First, you’ll have to login to the admin panel. That’s done by typing YourDomain.com/wp-admin

In the login window that appears you should enter the username and password you created during the installation.

Once you’re logged in, you’ll see a admin panel that looks like this

WordPress Admin Panel

If this looks a bit overwhelming, don’t worry, I’ll guide you through the next steps.

Set permalink structure

A permalink is the link/URL to a specific page or post on your website.

So, if you wanted to share a specific blog post on Facebook, you would share the permalink.

Permalink structure can be set by going to Settings->Permalinks

Adjusting Permalink Settings In WordPress

As you can see, Post Name is by far the easiest one to read, and the one I recommend.

Aim for descriptive URL’s that makes it easy for your visitors to understand what the page is about.

NOTE: It’s also possible to manually edit permalinks directly in the post/page sections.

Adjusting Permalink Directly In WordPress Post

Setup WordPress to use SSL and HTTPS

Setting up your website with an SSL-certificate is something I strongly recommend.

It might seem a bit advanced, but it will save you a lot of trouble in the long run. All you have to do is to follow every single step.

What is SSL?

I’ll try to give a short explanation of SSL here, but if you want more information you can read my post about SSL-certificates.

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is an encryption protocol that ensures secure communication between a web server (your website) and a user’s web browser (e.g. Chrome) by encrypting the information sent.

That could be credit card details for an e-commerce website, or simply the password you use to login to your WordPress admin panel. Regardless of what it is, you don’t want hackers to get ahold of it, and that’s what an SSL-certificate helps you with.

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transport Protocol Secure, and you’ve probably seen it many URL’s already, just look at the website you’re on now.

TheWebsiteRoad.com With Https And Secure Mark

The link between HTTPS and SSL is simply that https replaces http in the URL when a site is secured by an SSL-certificate.

Phew, that’s some heavy stuff!

How do I add an SSL-certificate to my site?

It depends on your host. If you’ve signed up with SiteGround, a free SSL-certificate can easily be installed on your domain.

If you did not sign up with SiteGround, try asking your host if they support the free SSL-certificate Let’s Encrypt, and how to set it up for your site.

If you now have a SSL certificate in place, you should navigate to Settings->General

Add a s to the http in the WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL)

How To Configure General Site Settings In WordPress

Important! If you want to change from http to https for an existing site that has existed for a while, you might be looking at a larger clean-up job. Check out the checklist written in this blog post by Moz for some tips on moving from http to https.

Adding permanent redirect

Once SSL-certificate is in place, the next step is to ensure that everyone visiting your site ends up at the https URL you prefer (e.g. https://yourwebsite.com)

That is done by editing the .htaccess file.

1. Log in to your SiteGround user area and navigate to cPanel.

2. Scroll down until you come to the Files section and click File Manager.

File Manager In SiteGround CPanel

3. When you get the “File Manager Directory Selection” make sure that Web Root and Show Hidden Files are checked and click Go. That should open a file manager.

SiteGround File Manager Directory Selection

4. Scroll down until you find a file called .htaccess, mark it, and click edit and edit.

How To Edit The Htaccess File

www or non-www

When editing the .htaccess file you have two options when you decide on your website URL. You can choose to have a URL with or without www, just like these two examples:

https://yourwebsite.com

https://www.yourwebsite.com

Personally, I always choose the ones without www., simply because I think it looks better. But it all comes down to personal preference.

If you want https://yourwebsite.com you should add:

RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\. [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://yourwebsite.com%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301]

If you want https://www.yourwebsite.com you should add:

RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www\. [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.yourwebsite.com%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301]

Remember to replace yourwebsite.com with the website URL you prefer.

Once you’ve made your choice and saved the .htaccess file, you’re done with establishing the permanent redirect.

If you want to check if it got set up correctly, just go to this great redirect mapper and input your URL.

The goal is to have all the different URL versions ending up at the same URL. In my case that is https://thewebsiteroad.com

Overview Of Redirects For Thewebsiteroad.com

STEP 5: Customize your website

With the configurations out of the way, it’s time to customize the look and feel of your site. That’s when you need a theme.

Themes

A theme is basically a starting template for your site that will provide you with a good-looking layout and some example content.

The good thing about WordPress is that it offers you thousands of these themes for FREE.

Find and install a new theme

Navigate to Appearance->Themes->Add New

How To Add New Theme In WordPress

Spend some time and browse through some of the different options, there’s a lot of great themes out there.

If you need some additional guidance, you can check out Colorlib’s list of 50+ beautiful & free responsive WordPress themes.

If you’re still not able to find any theme that you really like, you might want to consider checking out some premium themes. ThemeForest offer a wide range of professional themes at a varying cost, and might be worth checking out.

Once you’ve found your preferred theme, just click “Install” followed by “Activate”.

How To Install New Theme In WordPress

Add content and create new pages/posts

Now that you’ve added a good-looking theme, let’s have a look at how to add content.

Adding and editing pages

Maybe you want to add a “Products” page or an “About us” page?

Just go to Pages and click “Add New”

If you want to edit an existing page, just hover your mouse over the page and you’ll see an “Edit” button.

How To Add New Pages In WordPress

That will take you to a screen where you can add page title and add content like text and images.

Once you’re done, click “Publish” to make it available to the public.

Adding pages to the menu

Once you’ve created your first site, you might want to add it to your homepage menu.

That’s done by going to Appearance->Menus

Select the pages you want to add and click “Add to Menu” and the “Create Menu”.

How To Create And Extend Menus In WordPress

When the menu is created, just ensure that “Display location” is checked for “Primary Menu”.

How To Set A Menu As Primary Menu In WordPress

Adding and editing posts

If you’re creating a blog, you’ll also need to know how to create and edit posts.

It’s actually quite similar to adding a page, you go to Posts and click Add New.

How To Add New Post In WordPress

The difference however, is the presence of Categories and Tags.

Categories are used to create groups of posts that are related to the same topic.

Tags are meant to describe the content of a specific post.

The intention of both Categories and tags are simply to assist your visitors in finding the content they’re interested in reading.

If you want to read more on the topic, you can check out the categories vs tags post written by wpbeginner.

You can create new Categories by going to Posts->Categories, type in your new category and click Create New Category.

Similarly, you can create new Tags by going to Posts->Tags, type in a new tag and click Create New Tag.

Adding categories to the menu

With posts and categories in place, it’s even possible to make post categories available from a dropdown menu. That will create a page displaying any posts you have added to that given category.

That’s done the same way as for pages, by going to Appearance->Menus and selecting Categories.

The trick here is that once you’ve added the category to the menu, you drag it underneath the menu item that should get the dropdown. In this case I’m placing the “WordPress” category under the “My Blog” page.

How To Add Categories To Menu In WordPress

More WordPress configurations

Let’s have a look at some more WordPress configurations that might be handy to know about.

Disabling/enabling comments for specific pages

Depending on what kind of site you’re creating, you might want to control whether or not visitors are allowed to leave comments.

This is done by when creating a new page/post, by clicking the Screen Options and checking the Discussions box.

How To Access The Comments Configurations For A Given WordPress Page

This will make a Discussion box appear at the very bottom of the page, where you can check/uncheck “Allow comments”.

Button For Allowing Comments On A WordPress Page

Disable comments by default for all new post and pages

This is done by going to Settings->Discussion and uncheck the option that says “Allow people to post comments on new articles”.

A General WordPress Setting For Allowing Comments On New Articles

Set static front page

By now, some of you might have noticed that your frontpage looks like a blog post. The reason is simply that WordPress has been setup to display your latest blog post on the homepage.

This can be solved by setting a static homepage, a page you have decided should be the main landing page.

Changing to static site is easily done by

Going to Settings->Reading

Select “A static page” and choose the page you would like as your homepage.

How To Set A Static Frontpage In WordPress

Extending WordPress functionality with Plugins

We’re getting close to the end now, but we have yet to talk about one of the most important things WordPress has to offer, Plugins.

What is a plugin?

A plugin is small program that can be installed on your WordPress to add extra functionality.

They can range from something simple as social media sharing buttons, to a whole ecommerce plugin.

They’ve be created so that you don’t have to write code from scratch, and WordPress have thousands of them.

Installing a plugin

As with most other things in WordPress, installing a plugin is fairly easy.

You go to Plugins->Add New, and start searching.

When you’ve found what you were looking for, just click “Install Now” and “Activate”.

Overview Of WordPress Plugins

Pretty simple, right?

I would like to warn you though, plugins can also have a negative impact on your site, especially if you forget to keep them up to date.

So, before you go ahead installing all these awesome plugins, I suggest that you read through these 10 things you should know about using WordPress plugins.

5 recommended plugins

UpdraftPlus – A free backup plugin that stores a backup of your files and databases directly in the cloud. Don’t rely on the backups done by your host.

Yoast SEO – A free SEO plugin that helps you do the right tweaks to your website in order to make your site more user friendly and more likely to rank well in Google searches.

Contact Form 7 – A free contact form plugin. Any website owners who would like to stay in touch with their visitors should have a contact form.

All In One WP Security & Firewall – A free security plugin that will improve your overall WordPress security. Due to its popularity, WordPress is a popular target for hackers, a security plugin will make things a bit harder.

Google Analytics Dashboard – A Google analytics plugin that allows you to track the number of visitors to your site and their behavior. Perfect for analyzing the effectiveness of different advertisement strategies.

Congratulations!

If you followed this guide, you now have a really great basis for a good website. There’s still quite a bit to go, and a good website will need to continuously evolve and improve, but this is a great start!

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