How Do You Get Started With WordPress?
Using WordPress is one of the best ways to build a website, but getting started with WordPress can be a little bit confusing. In fact without the right information building a WordPress website can be down right frustrating.
In this guide I’m going to demystify WordPress. I’ll help you understand what you need to create a WordPress website, what options you have and what options you should avoid.
It’s my goal to help you find the best and easiest ways to build a website. WordPress is one of the best ways to build a website, and with the right knowledge, services and tools it can also be one of the easiest ways to build a website.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a website platform. It’s like the operating system for your computer or the powertrane and frame of a car. It serves as the base platform for building your website, but WordPress is not complete on it’s own. To make a website with WordPress you need to add a theme that gives your website a look and creates the pages, and you may need to add plugins that add functionality to your website. Let’s take a closer look and go into deatail about what WordPress is.
The Two Versions of WorPress
Yes there are two versions of WordPress. This is one of the things that can confuse people when they are looking to get started with WordPress. The first version you can find at WordPress.org and the other version you can find at WordPress.com. So what is the difference?
The WordPress.org version is open source software, and it’s the version of WordPress that I’m going to focus on in this guide. The WordPress.org version is open and free for anyone to download use and expand upon. It’s a platform with lots of easy ways to expand the functionality and look of your website.
The WordPress.com version of WordPress is an all-in-one website building platform. By all-in-one I mean that everything you need to build your website is provided and controlled by WordPress.com. It is a closed system. The themes that you can use and plugins for adding functionality are all determined by the managers of WordPress.com. You can only use the tools and features that they select. Also the interface is different between WordPress.com and WordPress.org versions.
Which Version Of WordPress Should You Use?
There are ways to make quality websites with both versions of WordPress. I think that for most people the freedom and options available with the WordPress.org version make it a better choice. You have more options in the tools that you can use and how much you want to use and what you want to do with your website.
In this guide I’m going to focus on the WordPress.org method. If you think that the WordPress.com method may be better for you I have a video tutorial on how to build a wordpress.com website to help you get started with that.
What is the WordPress.org Version?
The WordPress.org version of WordPress is an Open Source CMS. What does that mean? Let’s break it down.
Open source means that the software code is free for anyone to view, redistributes and to improve or modify. What’s great about that is that there are many software developers adding to and improving the WordPress platform. With the right tools for WordPress you can get great functionality and you don’t need to know how to code. If you do know how to code you can modify or add to WordPress to customize it to suit your needs.
A CMS is a content management system, or software designed to manage the content that you create. For example blog posts, pages and media files. For a website you can think of a CMS as the operating system of the website. It provides the core functionality of the site, but to make a complete website you need to add additional software or in this case themes and plugins (we’ll get in to these later).
WordPress is the most widely used website building platform. So you know that you are in good company when you decide to make a WordPress website.
Since the WordPress software on it’s own isn’t enough to make a website. You need a few things to turn the WordPress software into a website.
What do you need to get started with WordPress?
In order to create a complete website with WordPress you need to do 3 things:
Steps to build a website with WordPress:
- Get WordPress software
- Setup website hosting, or a place to build your website
- Install a WordPress theme
Getting WordPress Software
Getting WordPress software is really easy. You can download your own copy at wordpress.org or most hosting companies will download and install WordPress for you when you sign up for hosting.
It is important to ensure that you configure WordPress properly before you get started. It’s not difficult, but there are a important few steps that you won’t want to miss. I cover that in all of my getting started with WordPress tutorial.
Setup Website Hosting: Where to build your Website
You need a place to build a website. Websites live on special computers called servers. Servers have specialized software and hardware, that is designed to support websites and make them viewable to multiple people at once.
There are two main places that you can build your website. You can build it live online using a hosting service. This is what I recommend if you are new to building websites. You can also build your website on your computer using special software that makes your computer look like a web server. If you choose this second method you then need transfer your website to a hosting service so that it will be accessible on the internet.
Building Your Website On A Hosting Company
Here is a quick look at the basics of hosting and the most popular hosting offerings.
The Different Types of Hosting
There are 3 main types of hosting that you will be interested in for your WordPress website.
Shared hosting is the lowest cost hosting available. It’s perfect for just starting out or for smaller websites. With shared hosting you are given a folder on a server that holds your website. Your website shares all of the server resources with other websites hosted on the same server. The operating system and all of the servers resources like memory and processors are all shared. There may be many different kinds of websites or different kinds of software all on the same server.
Virtual Private Server also know as a VPS is a very specialized type of shared server. Each of the hosting customers is given a virtual server to host their website on. A virtual server looks like a separate computer. The resources are allocated more specifically to each website. It’s the closest thing that you can get to having your own server with out the expense of an entire server computer all for just your website.
WordPress Managed Hosting This type of hosting is usually also a VPS. The difference is that the hardware and software installed is designed and configured specifically for running WordPress websites. When a hosting company offers WordPress managed hosting they also usually provide extra services specific to WordPress. These services might include special WordPress specific security measures to protect your site from hackers. Specialized backups and caching to make your website run faster.
A hosting company is the best and easiest way to build your website and get it up and running quickly. I have a run down of my favorite hosting solutions for WordPress in my guide on how to choose a hosting company for your WordPress Website. The other option is to build your website on your computer.
Building A WordPress Website On Your computer
An alternative to building your website online on a hosting company is to install WordPress on your computer. I do not recommend this for beginners, or anyone looking to reduce potential problems in building their website. There are more steps involved and more things that could potentially go wrong.
In order to setup WordPress on your computer you need to make your computer look like a server. There are special pieces of software that you can load onto your computer that will help you to do that.
The best and easiest way to get started building your website is to build it online directly at a hosting company, but building it on your computer is another option.
The next step after installing and configuring WordPress on your server is to get a theme so that you can start building your website.
What Is A WordPress Theme And How Do I Get One?
What Is A WordPress Theme?
A WordPress theme is what gives your website it’s look and feel. WordPress on it’s own is like the operating system for your computer of the frame and drivetrain of a car. It is the basis of a website but it’s not complete on it’s own.
The WordPress theme is what creates the actual webpages of your website. So after deciding on WordPress the second most important part of your website is the theme.
Choosing the wrong theme is what gets so many people frustrated with building WordPress websites. Not all themes offer the same features or level of control.
I like to break down WordPress themes into 3 categories.
Three Basic Types Of WordPress Themes
There are three basic types of WordPress themes.
- Static Themes
- Page Builders
Static Themes are themes where the theme creator has given you specific page layouts and page designs for you to add your content to. Sometimes you will have some options over the basic colors of your site or the fonts, but most of the layout and design decisions have been decided by the theme creator. Some great examples of static themes are the ones that you will find pre installed with WordPress.
Static Themes Pre-installed with WordPress:
- Twenty Seventeen Theme
- Twenty Sixteen Theme
- Twenty Fifteen Theme
There are numerous other examples, in fact most themes that are available for WordPress are static themes. This is because they are easy to create. Static themes will allow you to get started building your website quickly, but if you want to make any changes to the design of your pages it’s also a quick way to get frustrated in building your website.
Even basic changes to static themes like the colors on your page usually requires you to modify the code of the theme. It’s not exactly quick or easy to make changes unless you are a coding expert.
The first themes that I tried for WordPress were static themes and I found them to be very frustrating. I might see a layout that I liked, but after I adding my content to the page the layout and design no longer looked right. I would advise against using static themes.
WordPress Framework Themes
WordPress Framework themes designed specifically to be modified. What a framework provides is a basic look and all of the coding that is needed to create a WordPress theme. Frameworks are used as shortcuts for coders to creating their own website design or theme. If you are good at coding what is great about frameworks is that all of the ground work and basic design has been created.
The framework is specifically designed to make it easy to modify the code to change the design and look and feel of the framework them.
Popular examples of WordPress Frameworks are:
Frameworks are a great shortcut for if you know and are comfortable with code. If you know CSS and HTML, a framework is a great place to start. They make it so that you don’t need to create a theme from scratch and provide a lot of the basic code that you need to create a theme. These are high quality products, but if you don’t know how to code, they aren’t easy use or get started with.
WordPress Page Builder Themes
WordPress Page builder themes are my favorite. They are designed to make building and designing pages easy. Page builder themes allow you to add content and create your page layouts visually without needing to know how to code. The best page builders currently available have what is called a frontend builder. This allows you to see the design you are editing while you are working on it.
Examples of WordPress Page Builder Themes:
- Divi Theme
- Beaver Builder Theme and Plugin
Page builders can also be added as a plugin to an existing theme. I prefer page builders that are part of a theme or that have their own theme. This just keeps your entire setup simple. In my experience the key to avoiding frustration is to keep things as simple as possible.
When you add a page builder to another theme there is always a chance that at some point there may be a conflict between the theme and the plugin. I have seen it happen.
Page builder plugins don’t always behave the way that you would expect them to on all themes. Choosing the right theme and page builder combo is really important. This is why I recommend choosing a theme that has a built in page builder, or a situation where the theme and page builder are designed by the same company, and designed specifically to work together.
Having a great experience with WordPress is about finding good quality easy to use tools and keeping it as simple as possible. The fewer moving pieces the more stable and easier to manage your website will be.
I hope that gives you a good background and understanding of WordPress. Now you will have a basic understanding of what you need to make a WordPress website and a basic understanding of what options you have to choose from.
So what’s next?
Start building your website!
The basic process is simple:
- Choose a Hosting Company
- Install and Configure WordPress
- Choose a theme
- Get started building your website!
If you want to be guided step-by-step thru building your website I have a few tutorials that will help you get started building your WordPress website with a great theme.
My top pick for building a WordPress website is to build it with the Divi theme. It’s the same theme that I use for Real Website Hints and it’s the same theme that I would recommend to a friend. I think it’s the right theme for most people to use to build their website with. If you want to learn more about the Divi theme check out my Divi Theme Review.
If you want to start building your website with Divi, I have a complete free tutorial series that will walk you thru the entire process of building a website using the Divi theme. I’ll start from the beginning.
In the course you will learn:
- The basics of website design
- How to choose the right WordPress hosting for your needs
- How to install and configure WordPress
- How to upload and install a WordPress theme manually
- How to configure the Divi theme to speed up your website building process
- How to use the Divi theme.
It’s a complete guide on getting started building your website. It’s my top recommended method of easily building a website after years of testing and trying all sorts of different ways to build a website.