So you want to create a website or blog but don’t know where to start? Well my friend, let me introduce you to WordPress – the world’s most popular website creation and management software.
Developed in 2003, WordPress now powers over 40% of all websites on the internet. Chances are pretty high that at least one site you visited today is running on WordPress!
Some key reasons for WordPress’ popularity:
- It’s 100% free and open source – no license fees or costs to get started.
- User-friendly interface – Easy enough for beginners, powerful enough for experts.
- Thousands of themes and plugins – Find a design you like and add functionality.
- SEO-friendly – Built-in tools and features to optimize for search engines.
- Active community – Get help from other users and developers.
- Customizable and scalable – Grow your site from a simple blog to a full-featured business website.
For individuals and businesses of any size, WordPress makes it fast and easy to create almost any kind of website imaginable – blogs, e-commerce stores, portfolios, magazines…you name it!
And you don’t need any prior web development experience. With a few clicks, you can choose a design theme, add content like blog posts and pages, and publish your site to the internet.
In this beginner’s guide, I’ll walk you through the basics of using WordPress to build your first website or blog. So whether you’re a complete beginner or have some experience, read on to learn how WordPress works and how to get up and running fast!
- WordPress is open-source CMS software used to build websites and blogs. It’s free, easy to use, and powers over 40% of all websites.
- With WordPress you can quickly create posts and pages with text, images, video etc. There are thousands of free themes and plugins to extend functionality.
- WordPress hosting provides the server environment to run WordPress. Choose managed WordPress hosting for easy setup and maintenance.
- Learn the WordPress dashboard and settings to configure your site. Important pages include Posts, Pages, Media, Plugins and Appearance.
- Optimize your site with SEO plugins, strong metadata and use of keywords. Promote it by leveraging social media, email newsletters, and content marketing.
- For advanced use, learn web development skills like PHP, MySQL, and HTML/CSS. Or hire a WordPress development company to handle customization.
How Does WordPress Work?
Before we dive into using WordPress, let’s briefly cover the underlying technology that makes it tick. Don’t worry, I’ll keep this high-level and easy to grasp!
Fundamentally, WordPress is a web application built in PHP and MySQL that you install on a web server.
When a visitor comes to your WordPress site, their browser requests pages from your site domain. Those requests are routed to your web server where WordPress generates each page by pulling content from the MySQL database.
The page is then sent back to the visitor’s browser as HTML for display. WordPress seamlessly handles this whole process behind the scenes.
So you don’t need to be a PHP developer or database admin to use WordPress (although those skills help if you want to dig deeper).
WordPress handles all the complex backend stuff, while you focus on creating content and optimizing the user experience for your site visitors.
Now the specific web hosting environment required to run WordPress can be broken down into 3 core components:
Web Server: This is the computer hardware and server software (like Apache or Nginx) that delivers web pages to visitors.
PHP: The scripting language that WordPress is built in, allowing it to dynamically generate web pages.
MySQL Database: Where all your site’s content and settings are stored.
- Visitor requests page > Request hits web server > Web server runs PHP code > WordPress generates page from MySQL database > Page served to visitor’s browser as HTML
That’s the basic sequence that happens behind the scenes whenever someone browses your WordPress site.
Of course, you don’t have to worry about any of that technical stuff. Good web hosting for WordPress will provide you with all those components pre-configured and ready to go.
Next, let’s look at your options for hosting WordPress.
Choosing WordPress Hosting
Since WordPress is powered by PHP and MySQL, your first step is finding web hosting that supports those technologies.
Here are the main options for WordPress hosting:
Shared Web Hosting
With shared hosting, your site lives on a server shared with hundreds or thousands of other sites. It’s the cheapest web hosting option but comes with some downsides:
- Slower performance – Shared server resources spread across many sites.
- Less flexibility – Can’t customize server configuration.
- Not optimized for WordPress – Requires manual setup and tweaking.
Managed WordPress Hosting
This is web hosting optimized specifically for WordPress sites. The advantages:
- Pre-configured setup – Optimized PHP, MySQL, and Apache for WordPress.
- Staging environments – Test changes before going live.
- Managed backups – Automatic daily backups of your site.
- Auto updates – One-click WordPress and plugin updates.
- Enhanced security – Protection against attacks and malware.
- Site acceleration – CDNs and caching for faster performance.
- Expert support – Help specific to WordPress issues.
So managed WordPress hosting takes care of all the server configurations and optimizations for you. It’s the easiest way to launch and manage a WordPress site.
Popular managed WordPress hosts include:
- WP Engine
Prices start around $5-$10 per month for basic plans. Overall I’d strongly recommend managed WordPress hosting, particularly if this is your first site.
VPS and Dedicated Servers
For large high-traffic sites, you may want a virtual private server (VPS) or dedicated server. This gives you:
- Full administrative server access
- Root privileges to install software
- Ability to fully customize configurations
- More CPU cores and RAM for increased performance
But you also have to handle setup, security, backups and updates yourself. So VPS/dedicated servers are only recommended for experienced users running large-scale sites with heavy traffic.
To recap, if you’re just starting out go with managed WordPress hosting. But for large established sites, VPS and dedicated servers give you maximum performance and control.
Registering a Domain Name
Along with web hosting, the other thing you’ll need is a domain name (like example.com) for your WordPress site.
You can register domains through any reputable registrar like GoDaddy, Namecheap, Google Domains etc. Expect to pay around $12-15 per year for a .com domain.
When registering, you’ll select your domain name, confirm availability, and setup the registration details. Take note of the registrar’s name servers (NS records) as you’ll need to configure those with your web host.
Once the domain is registered, you’ll point it to your web hosting account by setting the name servers and/or A record. This connects your domain to the server where WordPress is installed.
Most managed WordPress hosts make the process seamless by integrating domain registration and automatically configuring DNS settings. But check your registrar and host documentation for specifics.
In addition to the main domain, I recommend registering a few alternative extensions like .net .org .info to protect your brand name online. You can just have these redirects back to your primary .com domain.
WordPress Installation Walkthrough
Now that you have your web hosting and domain name ready to go, it’s time to install WordPress! Here’s an overview of the step-by-step process:
1. Login to Web Hosting Account
Your web host will provide login details to access your hosting dashboard. This is where you can do things like:
- Setup new sites
- Manage domains
- View server environments
- Check resource usage
- Access file managers, databases
- View analytics
- Configure backups
- Manage SSL certificates
The exact options vary by host but look for the WordPress or website installation section.
2. Start New WordPress Installation
In your hosting dashboard, start the process to install WordPress onto your account. You’ll need to provide these details:
- Domain name
- Site subfolder (optional)
- Admin username, password
- Site title
- Email address
Some hosts also let you select a WordPress template and plugins to pre-install.
3. WordPress Files Install on Server
Your host will then handle all the technical aspects of installing WordPress:
- Creating a new MySQL database
- Installing required PHP extensions
- Setting proper filesystem permissions
- Downloading and installing WordPress core files
- Creating wp-config.php with database credentials
Within a few minutes your new WordPress site will be installed and ready to configure.
Your First Look at the WordPress Dashboard
Once WordPress is installed, you can access the admin dashboard by going to yourdomain.com/wp-admin and logging in with your username and password.
This is the central area where you’ll manage your entire site. Let’s briefly highlight the main sections:
1. Dashboard Summary
The main dashboard page displays key analytics like:
- Total posts, pages, comments
- Latest comments and reviews
- Traffic stats and trends
- Quick draft box to jot down ideas
- Feed of latest WordPress news
This gives you an overview of your site’s status at a glance.
2. Posts vs. Pages
These are the two main content types in WordPress:
Posts – For time-specific content like blog articles, news updates, and announcements. Displayed in reverse chronological order.
Pages – For more general static content like About, Contact, and Services pages. Order is set manually.
You use posts for date-based blogging content, and pages for more general static pages.
3. Media Library
All images, videos, and documents uploaded to your site are stored here. You can see file names, and dimensions, edit alt text, view galleries, etc.
Plugins extend WordPress functionality. There are 50,000+ free and paid plugins available. Search and install them here.
This section lets you customize the design and layout of your site using themes. There are thousands of free and premium WordPress themes available.
Configure your overall site settings like title, admin email, time zone, membership options, privacy, and more. Vital for proper site setup.
That covers the key areas of the WordPress dashboard. You’ll become very familiar with these as you manage your site on a daily basis.
Now let’s dive into creating your actual content.
Adding Your First WordPress Page and Post
Once WordPress is installed and you’ve explored the dashboard, it’s time to start creating content!
Your site needs two main types of content – pages and posts:
Pages – For static content like an About page. Does not change frequently.
Posts – For dynamic content like blog articles. Displayed in reverse chronological order.
Let’s walk through adding your first sample page and blog post in WordPress:
Creating Your First Page
- Go to Pages > Add New in your WP dashboard.
- Enter a page title like “About Us”. This will be the browser tab name.
- In the main editor, add your content – images, text, embeds, whatever you like. Use the formatting buttons to style text, add links, etc.
- On the right, set a parent page if this will be a sub-page. Leave it blank for a top-level page.
- Below that set the author’s name. This will be your admin username by default.
- Hit Publish when done! View the live page at yourdomain.com/about-us
Creating pages in WordPress is that simple! Now let’s look at adding blog posts.
Adding Your First Blog Post
- Go to Posts > Add New in your dashboard.
- Enter a title like “Welcome to My Blog!”
- In the editor add your text and media. Embed videos, add images etc.
- Set a featured image by going to the right sidebar and uploading or selecting a media file.
- Below that select your categories like Tech, Marketing, Design etc. Tags are optional.
- Hit Publish and view your post at yourdomain.com (homepage)
The publish date and author will be automatically added. New posts will appear at the top in reverse chronological order on your blog page.
That’s the basics of creating pages and posts – the building blocks of your WordPress content. Get familiar with adding new content so you can flesh out your site.
Now let’s look at how to find and activate themes to change the appearance and layout.
Finding and Installing WordPress Themes
One of the great advantages of WordPress is its vast library of themes you can use to customize your site’s design.
Themes control the overall look, layout, styling, and functionality of your site. There are thousands of free and paid themes available, with options for blogs, e-commerce, portfolios, videos, etc.
Let’s go over how to find and install themes:
Browsing the WordPress Theme Directory
The official WordPress Theme Directory contains thousands of free themes curated by the WordPress team. These are all open source, well-coded, and kept up-to-date.
To browse themes, go to Appearance > Themes > Add New in your WP dashboard.
You can filter themes by:
- Subject/industry like blog, business etc.
Click on a theme thumbnail to preview how it would look. Then click the Live Preview button for a complete interactive demo.
When you find one you like, click Install, then Activate to make it your live site theme.
Finding Premium WordPress Themes
The Theme Directory contains great free options. But for more advanced designs and functionality, consider premium paid themes.
Popular WordPress theme marketplaces include:
- Elegant Themes
- Creative Market
- Template Monster
Premium themes typically cost $30 – $100+ and allow for commercial use. The advantages are better designs, customizability, documentation and support.
Browse each marketplace until you find the perfect theme for your site!
Customizing Your Active Theme
Once you have a theme installed and activated, you can customize it:
Go to Appearance > Customize
Here you can tweak site identity settings, colors, fonts, layouts, and more. Premium themes often have 100+ customization options to personalize your design.
Take time to familiarize yourself with your theme’s settings and documentation. Choosing the right theme goes a long way in making your WordPress site shine!
Finding and Installing WordPress Plugins
Along with themes, another way to extend WordPress functionality is with plugins. Think of plugins as apps for your site.
With over 50,000+ free and paid plugins, you can add all kinds of features:
- eCommerce (WooCommerce)
- Forms (Contact Form 7)
- SEO (Yoast SEO)
- Social media (Social Pug)
- Security (WordFence)
- Performance (W3 Total Cache)
And many more! Browse plugins here:
Plugins > Add New
To install a plugin:
- Search and click the one you want
- Click Install Now
- After installation finishes, click Activate
Search the plugin directory to find ones that match your needs. Must-have plugins to start with include:
- Yoast SEO – optimize your site for search engines
- Google Analytics – connect Google Analytics tracking
- Akismet – block spam comments
Take your time to configure plugin settings. But let’s look at some key configuration steps you’ll want to take…
Configuring Key Settings in WordPress
Beyond content, themes, and plugins – there are some key configurations you should make in your WordPress site:
1. General Settings
Go here to configure your:
- Site title
- Admin email
- Membership options
- Date and time settings
Double check all settings are correct, as they impact site behavior.
2. Permalink Settings
- By default, WordPress uses ugly post URLs like ?p=123.
- To improve SEO you want pretty permalinks like:
- Go to Settings > Permalinks and select a format like Post Name. Save changes.
3. Discussion Settings
Configure how your comments work under Settings > Discussion:
- Who can comment?
- Comment moderation?
- Other options
Adjust based on your preferences.
4. Configure Plugins
- Each plugin has its own settings. But some important ones:
- Yoast SEO – Set title formats, meta descriptions, XML sitemaps
- Contact Form 7 – Add contact forms to pages
- Google Analytics – Connect your Google Analytics account
Take the time to dive into plugin settings to maximize their value.
Maintaining and Securing Your WordPress Site
A well-configured WordPress site requires minimal long-term maintenance. But here are some tasks you should do periodically:
Update WordPress Core
Keep WordPress updated to the latest version for security and feature improvements. Just click “Updates” in your dashboard to run one-click updates.
Update Plugins and Themes
Developers regularly release plugin and theme updates with bug fixes and enhancements. Again, use the one-click updates in your dashboard.
Change your WordPress login and hosting account passwords every few months for security. Don’t use simple passwords!
Always maintain current backups of your WordPress files and database in case a disaster strikes. Managed WordPress hosts make backups easy.
Tweak and Improve
Revisit your site analytics and make changes to improve performance over time – page speed optimizations, fixing broken links, tweaking SEO title tags, improving call-to-action language etc.
Manage Comments and Users
Moderate comments, block spammers, and update user roles and permissions as needed to keep your site running smoothly.
Watch for Issues
Periodically browse your whole site to check for problems like broken images, typos, formatting issues or bugs not caught by plugins.
Staying proactive with WordPress maintenance keeps your site in tip-top shape!
Top WordPress Learning Resources
To recap, here are some of the top resources for learning WordPress:
- WordPress Codex – Official docs and tutorials
- WPBeginner – WordPress tutorials and tips
- WPTuts+ – Development tutorials
- WP101 – WordPress video courses
- Lynda.com – WordPress and web design courses
- Udemy – Cheap online courses
- YouTube – Free video tutorials & guides
- Podcasts – WordPress podcasts like WP Watercooler
- Books – WordPress All-in-One For Dummies, Professional WordPress
Reading the Codex and blog tutorials will take you far. Video courses and books provide more structured learning.
Take it step-by-step and use these resources to keep leveling up your WordPress skills.
If you made it this far – congratulations – you now have a solid foundation for getting started with WordPress!
- How WordPress works as a CMS
- Different hosting options
- Steps for installation & setup
- An overview of the WordPress dashboard
- Creating posts, pages and content
- Finding/installing themes and plugins
- Configuring key settings
- Promoting your site
- Maintaining and securing WordPress
- Resources for learning
The possibilities are endless with WordPress. Start turning your idea into a real website. Keep learning, tweaking and optimizing as you go.
I hope this beginner’s guide to WordPress was helpful! Let me know if you have any other questions – I’m happy to point you in the right direction.
Now go unleash your potential with WordPress. Create an amazing website that achieves your dreams and goals!
Hitesh Darji, a WordPress Web Developer from the dynamic team at Simplior Technologies Pvt Ltd, is renowned as a leading WordPress Development Company in India. His proficiency encompasses a diverse spectrum of customized WordPress solutions, plugin development, and the crafting of flawless user interfaces. As integral members of the Simplior team, we are equipped with the expertise and practical know-how needed to deliver exceptional WordPress web solutions finely tuned to suit your distinctive requirements.