I have put together this overview Free WordPress Guide: How to Make a Website with WordPress geared toward Beginners (although it will probably be helpful for ALL WordPress skill levels) to help clear up any confusion about the process of building your website using WordPress. There are so many details and a lot of ways to mess things up, so I wanted to share a few insider tips to help you create your WordPress website with ease. This guide was designed to cover the basic as quickly as possible. When you are ready to take your WordPress website to the next level or need WordPress support make sure to take advantage of the Do It Yourself Website video training where I provide greater detail, step by step video walkthroughs and customized WordPress support.
1. WordPress Guide to Planning
Don’t make this mistake of avoiding the website planning phase. Make sure to determine your goals, objectives and call-to-actions. Also make sure you list your website requirements like branding, colors, technical requirements (sell products, include live chat, email marketing, social media integration…), etc. In addition to planning your website make sure to outline your website pages.
I usually do this in an outline view like this:
- About us
- What We Do (Services)
- Service 1
- Service 2
- Service 3
- Work Examples (Portfolio/Testimonials)
- Contact (Lead Capture Form)
- Blog (Site Updates, Articles)
2. Domain Name for Your WordPress Website
This is your website URL, for example www.SiteBuilder.ws. If this is a brand new website, I’d typically base the domain name on a keyword phrase so that I can potentially show up on the first page of Google. (More about marketing later).
- You can search keyword phrases by using the Google External Keyword tools.
- Register your domain name where you host your website so things are setup to work together automatically. See next step
3. WordPress Web Hosting
Nearly all web hosting companies support WordPress. Until you have a ton of traffic it really boils down to uptime, support and pricing. Don’t fret over this too much, here are my recommendations for you.
- Best Option - Free WordPress Hosting AND Free Domain Name – Members get all the tools, but more importantly you will get the personalized support you need to quickly build a website with WordPress
- FatCow Hosting – I like the tools, cost, and incentives that they offer. Read my overview of why I recommend FatCow as a Hostgator Alternative
- Godaddy Alternative -
Note: If you had previously registered and hosted your domain name somewhere else don’t fret. You just need to go to the domain registrar and update your name servers to point to your new web hosting.
4. WordPress Installation
WordPress makes the installation process a snap. I’m assuming that you’ve taken my advice in terms of hosting (but it’s easy at most hosting companies). WordPress Installation is as simple as going to your hosting control panel, click the Softaculous icon, then following the WordPress install wizard. Familiar hosting control panels will use cPanel, vDeck, Parallels and you can even do a manual WordPress installations. Consult with your web host for specific instructions.
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5. WordPress Guide for Settings
Most settings will remain as defaults for now, but here is a list of the WordPress Guide settings that I recommend you make:
- General – Update Site Title, Tagline, e-mail address, Timezone
- Media – uncheck “Organzie my uploads into months/years based folders”
- Permalink – Select “Post name”
6. WordPress Plugins
In this free WordPress guide, I only touch on WordPress plugins, which are what extends our websites functionality. If you need some sort of functionality on your website, it is likely that there is a WordPress plugin to accomplish it. There are other plugins that I recommend, and that you might use, but right now as part of the setup process it is important to get WordPress SEO setup since it is important to make your website search engine friendly, and to get your permalinks right before add your content.
Install the following plugin:
- WordPress SEO
- Navigate to Plugin > Add New > Enter Name and click the Search Plugins button.
- Then you’ll need to activate, and configure/setup each plugin.
7. Choose a WordPress Theme
Based on the WordPress Guide planning in step one, you should have a really good idea of your requirements. For example, you plan on having about 8 pages, a blog to add content on a regular basis, you want to support video, have a certain color scheme and will want to display photos.
You can now search for a plugin that meets your specific preferences and requirements. Look this is the main part of your website, don’t be a cheapskate here. Spend the $25-40 bucks and get are great looking premium WordPress theme.
I recommend you check out these two places to find your theme:
- Elegant Themes (about $39 for over 60 themes)
- Theme Forest (about $25-$40 per theme)
- View a comprehensive list of commercial Wordpress themes
8. How to Install a WordPress Theme
I hope you listened to me and purchased a premium WordPress theme instead of trying to use a free theme that’s gonna come back to bite you in the arse! Anyway, make sure to download and unzip your theme to your computer. (Usually theme designers have an initial download that contains the source file, help files as well as the theme zip file.).
- Navigate to Appearance > Themes > Install Themes Tab > Click the Upload link
- Browse to your theme’s zip file, then click the Install Now button.
- Now click the Activate link
If for some reason you can’t use the WordPress Dashboard to upload your theme, then you’ll have to install your WordPress theme manually.
9. WordPress Guide to Creating Pages, Posts and Categories
Important: In order to get ranked in Google, get more subscribers, followers or general increase in traffic “Content is King!” You must lose the I don’t want to blog mentality and plan to add new content on a regular basis if you want a website that if successful. Done said it.
Looking back at your website sitemap that you outlined earlier WordPress Guide planning stage, you’ll now create the pages and posts in WordPress. Don’t worry if you haven’t written your content yet, wer’re just getting your website setup. But first let me give you the cliff note version of pages, posts and categories:
- Pages – used for static pages that don’t change much, i.e. about, services, contact us, products, etc.
- Posts – used for content that is dated, categorized, blog post or for articles. For example your first post might be entitled “Company Name Launches New Website”.
- Categories – Because WordPress has a built-in blog, the category function allows you to organize your posts by categories. So you may have only one category like blog, or you may choose to organize it by topics e.g. updates, blog, topic one, topic two, etc. The good news is that posts can belong to multiple categories.
How to Create Pages:
- Navigate to Pages > Add New
- Title - Enter a meaningful title, your page name (permalink used for search engine optimization) will be based on this title. For example, About My Company Name. giving you the permalink like http://yourwebsite.com/about-my-company-name
- Permalink - After a few seconds or after you save your page, this will appear under your title, you can click the edit button to change or correct the permalink.
- Content: Paste existing content or type “about us content coming soon”
- Click the Publish button to save the page.
How to Create Categories
- Go to Posts > Categories
- Click the “uncategorized” category and change to a name that fits your website like updates, news or blog. Update the slug to reflect your new category name, then click the Update button.
- Add additonal categories as needed.
How to Create a Post
- Go to Posts > Add New
- Title - Enter a meaningful title, your page name like described above regarding pages.
- Permalink - Same as pages.
- Content - Paste existing content or type “about us content coming soon”
- Category – This is the primary difference between pages and post. On the right in the Categories panel, choose one or more categories.
- Click the Publish button to save the page.
NOTE: I will usually use the default “Hello World” post during setup, then possibly add one or two more short or empty posts. The main reason we are doing this now is to organize our websites to see our layout and how our website works. Later on, you’ll come back and add more meaningful posts and delete the Hello World post.
10. WordPress Guide to Setting Up Navigation Menus
Now that we’ve added some pages we can setup our navigation menus. This does two things for us, it builds the framework of our website and it makes it easier for us to organize the the site layout and to add content.
Agan based on our earlier outline of our content create your WordPress navigation. There are a couple steps here: create a menu, associate the menu with your theme, and adding menu items (pages and categories).
Create a Menu
- Go to Appearance > Menus
- Create a New Menu by clicking the “+” sign, enter a Menu Name and clicking the Save Menu button.
Associate the Menu to Your Theme
It is necessary to have created a menu before performing this step. Please note that this varies from theme to theme and you may have to create multiple menus.
- Under Theme Locations use the drop down menu to choose the respective menus and click the Save button.
Add Menu Items
Now lets add our action menu buttons, tabs, links or whatever you want to call them.
- Under Pages, click the View All tab (do this because it gives you the Home button)
- Check the boxes of the Pages you wish to add to your menu, then click the Add to Menu button.
11. Setup Your WordPress Theme
Often times the interior pages, meaning your pages and posts are pretty straight forward when it comes to setting your website up. But this can vary greatly depending on your theme. It is a good idea to read your themes WordPress guide or documentation to figure out specific setup for your homepage, custom post types, widget setup or any other theme specific setup specifics.
Just to reiterate, the biggest concern is to figure out how to setup your homepage and to identify how featured content is displayed on the homepage. It may be displayed as posts, pages, featured images or even custom post types. RTFM on this one!
12. WordPress Guide to Content Insertion
When it comes to content, we’re usually talking about text, photos, links and videos. Fortunately, WordPress makes it easy to insert content and I’ll give you a quick overview of how to do it in this WordPress guide.
How to Insert Text into WordPress
When you are in are either a page or post there are two editors available the Visual Editor and the HTML Editor. For most, the easiest way to add or edit content is by using the Visual Editor in WordPress. To add content start typing or either paste it in.
How to Paste Content in Visual Editor
Be careful when pasting content because it might contain unwanted formatting or HTML, to avoid that issue you can do a couple different things.
NOTE: Make sure that you’ve clicked the Hide/Show Kitchen Sink button to show the second row of formatting buttons.
- Click the Paste as Plain Text button,then paste in your text to strip out the formatting.
- Click Paste as Word button, then paste your text from Word.
Formatting Text in WordPress
When formatting your content you should use your theme’s built in formatting and headings. On the second row you’ll see a dropdown that says Paragraph, Heading 1, Heading 2, etc. This is the best way to format your website. It will automatically control sizing and colors that match your themes styles. Not only that, proper use of the heading tags will can and improve your search engine rankings. For advanced text formatting options, see your theme’s documentation.
How to Insert Photos and Images to WordPress
There are really two primary aspects that I’ll cover regarding photos with WordPress, inserting photos into WordPress and insert the photos into your content.
Uploading Images to WordPress
Images are stored in the Media Library and can be uploaded in two ways, either directly or from inside a page or post. I recommend uploading within the page or posts because it associates the image with the respective page.
- Recommended: From a page or post click the Upload/Insert Media (Add Media) icon.
- Drag and Drop files in the areas or click the Select Files button to browse and select your image.
Insert Images into Your Page
- When starting, you should place your cursor in the location within the text where you wish to insert your photo.
- Continuing from the previous upload instructions, the Add Media lightbox window may still be open
- If not, then click the Upload/Insert Media icon and choose the Gallery link (this link will be here if you’ve uploaded an image via the page or post) otherwise you can click the Media Library link to see existing uploads.
- Select the image you wish to insert and do the following:
- Alternate Text – fill this using a keywords related to your content, for SEO purposes.
- Link URL – There are several linking options here, for now select NONE
- Alignment - Make a choice or experiment
- Size – Hopefully when you uploaded your image it wasn’t a massive image. If thats the case, WordPress tries to resize it down for you, click the size you wish to use.
- Click the Insert into Post button which inserts the photo.
- If you need to move the photo to another place, just click and drag it.
- If you need to resize or realign the photo, you can click on the photo which will show two icons, the Edit Image icon and Delete Image icon. Click the Edit Image icon to make adjustments.
It seems like a lot of steps, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find out how easy it is to upload and insert images into WordPress.
When you want to insert links into your content there are primarily two types of links internal (link within your website) and external (links to other websites). Adding these links are pretty much the same.
- Select the text you want to turn into the link.
- Click the Insert/Edit Link icon.
- External Links – type or paste the URL and make sure to use http://, for example http://126.96.36.199/~sitebui9 and make sure to check the “Open link in a new window/tab”.
- Internal Links - Click the “or link to existing content” link to expand and show your existing pages. The search for for the page you want or choose from the list below. Then click the Add Link button.
You can easily insert Video into YouTube. By default, WordPress will automatically convert a link from YouTube, Vimeo, Daily Motion or one of the many other video websites on the Internet.
Just copy copy the video url e.g. “http://youtu.be/IjPvVZEutm4″and it will automatically convert to an embedded video, but may be bigger than your content area.
If you need more control you can control the width and height you can use the embed code, shown, then demostrated by the video below.
Ultimately you’ll probably want even more control which will require a bit more tweaking to get your videos just right. Make sure to check out our WordPress Bundle called the WP Quickstart Package and get all the answers you need.
13. Setup Widgets
Widgets allows us to add all types of functionality to our website. Themes are typically “widgetized” in various places throughout the theme layout like in the sidebar, header, footer. Click the screen shot to see how this theme provides six different locations you can insert widgets.
In addition to the built-in widgets like Custom Menus, Categories, RSS, Tag Cloud, etc., certain plugins you install will also create widgets. One of my favorite widgets is the Text widget because it allows me to add my own text or HTML. Often times I use this to insert my phone number or custom HTML code.
Drag some widgets to the widgetized areas on the right to test it out to see how it enhances your website.
14. Additional Resources
In addition to creating this free WordPress guide, I have authored the Do It Yourself Website Training Course that teaches you how to build a website with WordPress. It covers the following topics in greater detail and also come with additional help. If you are interested in personalized help with a WordPress expert, then you should sign up today.