This article is a simple step by step overview of the process of setting up a WordPress website.
If you’ve never had a website before (and I imagine you haven’t or you probably wouldn’t be reading this) I recommend you head over to wordpress.com and sign up for a free blog there first.
That way you can learn how to use WordPress so that when you do set up your website you don’t have to waste a bunch of time trying to figure out how to add content, change settings, or make simple changes to your theme.
Once you get used to using WordPress and kind of figure out what you’re doing a little bit, you can start setting up your website.
Step One: Register A Domain Name
The first thing you need to set up a website is a domain name.
Many hosting companies will offer you a “free” domain name if you purchase their hosting service, but it’s usually only for the first year. (And I’ve heard that it’s better to spend a teeny bit more and use separate companies for your hosting and your domain so that no one company has total control of your website.)
I recommend Namecheap for registering your domain name. Their prices are very affordable and they give you free WhoisGuard Privacy Protection for the first year (and it’s only $2.88 per year after that) which protects your name, address, email, and phone number from spammers.
They also support great causes like stopping SOPA and CISPA, the Rainforest Alliance, and the World Wildlife Fund.
All in all, Namecheap is pretty freakin awesome.
(Update: Namecheap now offers hosting too.)
Step Two: Get Website Hosting
Once you have a domain name, you need hosting for your website.
(Your domain name is your website’s address, and your web hosting is like your website’s house. When you purchase hosting it’s like renting a place for your website to “live”.)
Web hosting is quickly becoming just as big a source of pollution as airplanes. I highly recommend going with AISO or another web host that uses renewable energy.
If that’s a little too expensive for you right now, go with a company that purchases Renewable Energy Certificates. Hostgator is one that a lot of people recommend. Fat Cow is also one I’ve seen recommend a few times.
If you’re really, really, super extremely broke and trying to do things as cheaply as possible, the cheapest hosting I’ve come across so far is offered by 1&1. (Update: Namecheap now offers hosting too and it’s even cheaper than 1&1!)
After you purchase your hosting, you’re going to want to read the email they send you to find out what nameservers (also called DNS servers) they use.
Once you find out, log into Namecheap or whatever company you registered your domain name with and add your hosting company’s nameservers to your domain.
Step Three: Install WordPress
WordPress is an extremely popular free content management system. A lot of people use it, recommend it, and develop themes and plugins for it.
Most web hosts, especially those with cPanel, have a quick and easy “one click install” section (sometimes called Fantastico, Installatron, or Softaculous) where you can just follow the instructions to install WordPress to your website. If there are different categories, WordPress will be found under “blogs”.
If your host does not use cPanel or have a one click install section, instructions for installing WordPress can be found here: http://codex.wordpress.org/Installing_WordPress
Make sure to choose a secure password and don’t pick something obvious liike “admin” or your name or your domain name for your username.
Step Four: Choose And Customize A Theme
Once you’ve registered your domain, purchased hosting, and installed WordPress, you’re probably going to want to customize the theme or install a new one.
This is one of the reasons I recommend signing up for a free blog on wordpress.com first. It allows you to get a little bit of practice customizing themes and helps you figure out what sort of theme you might want for your website.
For security reasons, stick to themes you find on WordPress.org (http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/) or other popular, trusted, and frequently recommended websites. DO NOT just search Google for “wordpress themes” and download whatever looks cool.
The best way to customize your theme is by using the Edit CSS section (Get this by installing the Jetpack plugin). That way your changes won’t get erased when you update your theme.
Step Five: Install Plugins
You’ll probably also want to install Jetpack by WordPress.com. Jetpack has a lot of useful features like stats, sharing buttons, gallery options, a CSS editor, and more.
If you’re going to be blogging frequently, you’ll probably want to install WordPress Popular Posts and some sort of related posts plugin like Contextual Related Posts to encourage people to read more posts on your site.
If you have any interest in optimizing your site for search engines, check out WordPress SEO by Yoast.
And if you want to test out other themes without actually changing your theme you’ll want to install something like Theme Test Drive.
Tips for using plugins:
- Find them through http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/
- Limit the number of plugins on your site. Install only the ones you really need.
- Uninstall any plugins you no longer use. You can always reinstall if you need it later.
Five steps to setting up a website. Once you’ve completed these steps you can start adding content and telling people to check out your new site.
If you want more detailed instructions (with pictures) you may want to take a look at one of these guides:
- Setting up a WordPress Blog – Free Guide for Beginners (free download, no sign up required)
- How to Launch a Blog in Under an Hour for
SuperSTUPIDLY Cheap (email sign up required)