How to Start the WordPress Blog the Right Way: Step-by-Step Guide
If you strive to create a gorgeous website but have never done this before, you may not know what to begin with. Technical tutorials often cover this or that aspect of website creating, but do not give a comprehensive outline of all the stages of website creation. In this article, I share with all of you, who want to launch your first WordPress website, an all-in-one step-by step guidance.
WordPress is currently the most popular and widely known CMS in the world. CMS stands for Content Management System, which is online software that helps you manage the content of your website. At present, your WordPress dashboard (i.e. the interface of the CMS you work in) is not limited to managing only contents. Here you can also modify the styling and additional functionality of your website.
WordPress is used by about 28% of all the websites in the world and is the leader among the website engines. In CMS segment, its popularity reaches 59% meaning that every 2 out of 3 online blogs/corporate websites go for it (find out more here). Why it’s so popular? Due to its simplicity, comprehensiveness, and extendibility. Managing content with WordPress is a true pleasure, as its dashboard has it all well-sorted in clear-cut sections so that you always know where to look for the needed option. Impressive extensibility of WordPress stands for 47,000 plugins that you can choose from on WordPress plugin market. Moreover, if you use a modern WordPress theme for creating your website, some of the plugins may come pre-packed with the theme, which is very handy. In case you are interested, we also prepared an infographic that shows 28 interesting facts about WordPress.
As you can see, WordPress is simple in customization and content management. So, creating and launching a website with it is not rocket science, believe me. I hope that, with the guidance provided below, you’ll be able to finish the initial WordPress set up and customization in an hour or two (of course, you can do it faster, I just give you some extra time, so that you can enjoy the process and experiment with different options). So, it’s time to see what the steps that you take to create a WordPress website are and how to accomplish them.
Step 1: Choose a Theme that You Are Going To Use
You may wonder why I start with this step. However, this is the right way to get started and you’ll see why as you read further.
The theme determines the overall look and feel of your website. Its choice is perhaps the most important one when you start your WordPress blog. If you want to start some kind of a personal non-profit blog, then one of the themes offered free at WordPress.org will do. Or you can also try one of our lite themes for free to see if they are a good fit for you. If you want to launch a commercial blog or website, then it’s better to go for one of the premium themes that are offered in large quantities on several markets and shops.
Premium themes let you create a website with unique style and set of features and are worth investing in one of them. Spending some $50- $70 on it will pay off manifold as modern premium templates are well-tested, SEO-optimized and come with a number of pre-built plugins that you get free (otherwise you’ll have to pay for them).
When choosing the right theme, you should search on the websites of large template providers. By doing so, you may be sure that you get the template that adheres to high-quality standards and has a clean and valid code. Large corporations invest more in testing their templates and ensure that you get the product of the highest quality. This is one of the reasons why I never go for templates found on template marketplaces. You never know who designed them or if the templates are well-tested and free of bugs. At the same time, large template providers offer you as many templates as you can find on a marketplace, and all the themes undergo thorough testing and adhere to the same standards of quality. For instance, check out fashion blog WordPress themes or any other latest templates by TemplateMonster and you’ll have an opportunity to witness the high quality of the templates offered there. Alternatively, check out our templates at PremiumCoding, our quality is also impeccable. But we focus more on blog themes lately so if you are a blogger we are the correct address to turn to. For multipurpose and great niche themes, be sure to check TemplateMonster themes.
Everly WordPress Blog Theme
One more tip: when selecting a template, always pay attention to its technical requirements. From this, you can learn, whether the theme is compatible with the latest version of WordPress (this must be the case) and what kind of server/hosting plan you need. Also, spend your time to play around with the theme’s Live Demo to see how the template will look and function right after you install it. And how it looks on mobile devices since this is now a must (even for simple blogs).
Step 2: Settle Down with Hosting Plan and Domain name
Now you know what the template that you’re going to use is and what the minimal hosting characteristics your server should offer. I advise that you go for large hosting companies that have reliable servers and quality customer support, such as GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, DreamHost, InMotion Hosting, etc. You shouldn’t be lured by free options, you won’t get what you need for creating a successful modern website.
Pay attention to the PHP and MySQL version offered by your hosting provider; it should be not lower than what is specified in your template’s hosting requirements. Moreover, make sure that your hosting plan includes cPanel and a FileManager in it: these things make your life way simpler.
Purchase a domain name. Keep it short, memorable and easy to type. Try to avoid numbers and hyphens – they are often misunderstood, misplaced and forgotten. Choose the extension that fits your website best. E.g. .biz – for commercial websites, .me – for personal portfolios and online resumes, .net – for non-profit organizations, etc.
Step 3: Install WordPress
Download WordPress at wordpress.org/download. The latest currently available version is 4.7.5. Be sure to always install the latest version and update it as soon as the new stable version is available.
Upload the .zip of the engine to your root folder on the server and unzip it there. Then, open your browser address bar and enter your website URL +/wordpress (e.g. www.yoursitename.com/wordpress). You’ll see WordPress installation screen. Complete a couple of steps:
- Select the language that will be used for your WordPress website. You can change this language in WordPress dashboard, so don’t worry about that.
- Enter your database access details (if you haven’t got a database, create one in your hosting cPanel). I recommend that you doesn’t change the default _wp database prefix and use a clean database for your WordPress installation.
- Enter your admin panel access details. Make sure that the password you use is strong. Jot down the details for further reference and don’t share them with other people.
After completing these steps you’ll the success message that tells you that WordPress is successfully installed. Now, go to your website URL +/wp-admin (e.g. www.yoursitename.com/wp-admin) and you’ll arrive at your WordPress dashboard. If just enter the URL of your website to the address bar, you’ll see the default WordPress website look there.
Another great option is to use Softaculous if you have cPanel on your hosting. It’s much more straightforward and simple and you can check a great tutorial about how to utilize it.
Step 4: Template + Sample Data Installation
Now you need to install a theme. If you want to use one of the default WordPress templates, go to Appearance > Themes in your dashboard and choose the theme you prefer. If you go for a premium template, you can upload it in the admin panel as well. After you’ve uploaded the theme, you should activate it by pressing the corresponding button.
Modern premium website templates come with sample data that include imagery, sample content, and plugins that you can use to create your website. Sample data gives a huge boost to your website and lets you finalize the website in no time if you’re not about to change a lot there. The process of sample data installation differs from template to template, so I won’t go into much detail here. Refer to your template documentation to learn, how you get it done in your particular case. In our Themes, we use the automatic Import where all you have to do is click the Import button and after the import is done simply select which layout from our live demos you wish to have.
Visit your website after you finish sample data installation. Now, you should see exactly the same that you saw on the template’s Live Demo. Test how quickly the website loads and check the functioning of links there. Is everything fine? Great! You’re done with the installation stage.
Here is a short video tutorial that shows what I’ve described above in detail:
Step 5: General Configuration
Navigate to Settings > General section of your WordPress admin panel. It contains the settings that are most crucial for your website. Here you can change your site name and slogan, define time zone, time and date formatting and change your e-mail when needed. Also, look through other Settings pages, such as Writing, Reading, Discussion, Media, Permalinks and Languages and change what you need there. Be careful with making these changes; make sure you know what you are changing and how it will affect your website.
Step 6: It’s time to style!
It’s always fun to customize your template styling. Appearance > Customize (or Appearance > Theme’s options) section is created for this purpose. Here you can not only change styles, but add some custom CSS code if needed.
If your theme comes with some kind of a WYSIWYG builder, do not hesitate to use it to customize the template’s layout and colors, fonts and other styles. WYSIWYG editors are great both in terms of customizing the template content and design, and are bound to be your ultimate tool on your path to successful website launch.
This financial accounting website is built with the help of Power Builder WYSIWYG editor. This editor allows you to work with content using simple drag-n-drop, has an inbuilt library of layouts and allows you add custom CSS coding for each module used.
Step 7: You Need Content
Managing you website content with WordPress is a true piece of cake. Do you see these Posts, Media, Links, Pages, Comments, etc. on top in WP dashboard? There you can add/edit/remove posts, media files, links, pages and other types of content. As simple as that!
When working with posts, start with changing the content of sample posts for your content. This will let you see what information you need to provide there, and you’ll be more confident creating new posts in future. When creating new posts, do not forget about adding metadata, excerpt and a featured image.
As the number of your blog posts grows, don’t miss the chance to categorize them. Then it’s simpler for site guests to view the posts of the category they are most interested in. Moreover, you can use a ‘Categories’ widget in the sidebar of your blog page to lets users quickly click through the categories.
Step 8: Think Twice: Your Website Navigation
Navigation is a pretty important element of your website. Users shouldn’t spend ages looking for your contact details, services description or pricing plans. Well-though navigation adds a lot to website usability and even influences your position in search engine search results.
The standard set of website pages includes such pages as Home Page, About Us (including Our Team), Services, Testimonials and Contact Us pages. This set may vary depending on specifics of your website and your desire to include something extra.
One of the modern ways to build menus that are more complex than the pure basics is MegaMenu. You need a plugin for creating such a menu. MegaMenu allows you to add not only pages, but also categories, posts, widgets and image banners to your website menu. Large MegaMenu panel proved effective in creating detailed website navigation that is more visually appealing than the standard one.
Speaking about website navigation, I refer not only to your main navigation. You should also carefully think of navigation elements offered in the footer of your website, as well as about user menu panel. Make sure these elements of your website are effective and add to convenience of your site guests.
Step 9: All the Plugins You Need: Foster Usability of Your Website
As I’ve mentioned earlier, extendibility is one of the well-known advantages of WordPress. To boost the usability of your website, you can make use of a number of plugins offered on the plugin market. Some of them are free, some of them are paid. So, it’s good if you get all the needed basics with your template.
Typically, plugins add new menu tabs to your admin menu in WordPress dashboard. In these tabs, you can add content of new types that the plugin offers. Some plugins are meant to be used by the admin only. Such plugins include WYSISWYG editors, plugins that generate stats, SEO optimization plugins, etc.
Let’s review the types of plugins that you can’t get a successful website without:
- Contact form 7 is free and most popular contact form plugin. It allows you to create a contact form of any type and size and manage automated replies that a customer gets after contacting you. Use this plugin or any other one to create a contact form.
- Newsletter Popup plugin. If you want to get more people subscribe to your newsletter and provide their e-mail addresses, you’ll need a newsletter popup plugin. Search for it on the plugin market and use the one that best fits your needs.
- Social buttons plugin. It’s expected that a modern website would be tied to your pages in social networks. For this, you’ll need a plugin that displays social buttons in your website’s header, footer, or wherever you need them. You can also go for plugins that additionally display your social networks feeds on one of the website pages. For example, Instagram feed, displayed by corresponding plugins, is very effective for fashion/lifestyle blogs.
- SEO plugins. For a high-ranking website, you’ll need one or a couple of plugins that guard your SEO interests. Among them, the most popular ones that you should consider installing are WordPress SEO by Yoast, SEO Squirrly, and Broken Link Checker.
- Stats plugin. It’s pretty important to know your website statistics, such as the number of page visits and page bounce rates. Among the most popular WordPress statistics plugins pay attention to JetPack by WordPress.com, Google Analyticator or Advanced Blog Metrics.
- Industry-related plugins. Such plugins are meant to boost the usability of the website of a certain branch of industry. For instance, for a restaurant website, it’s great to have a menu plugin and a table reservation plugin, for a dance school, you’ll need and interactive timetable and online sign-up plugin, for a hotel website, you’ll need a hotel booking plugin. It’s great when such plugins come with the template of your choice. If this is not the case, think what you need and find such plugins on the plugin market. You can check the wide selection of premium plugins at CodeCanyon to choose the perfect one for your needs.
This list of plugins is by no means extensive. Actually, finding new great plugins is like finding new apps for your phone. The process of search and discovery is easy to get hung up.
Step 10: Never Lose Your Progress
Once you have some customization of your website template done, step aside and evaluate your progress. Then create a backup, i.e. save all the files of your website to your PC in a .zip. WordPress admin panel offers you a great backup creation tool in its Tools > Export section.
If you have a backup, any time you have done something you don’t like on the website, or something gets wrong there, you can always import the backup and have it all back. So, create backups regularly, as your effort is worth preserving.
Now you know what comes first, what comes last in the creation of a WordPress blog. If you complete these stages step-by-step, it won’t take much time until your blog is launched and open to the public. If you need more information about setting up a blog, there are plenty more resources on the internet.
I wish you good luck in the creation of the blog of your dreams and hope it fulfills all your expectations!
Have I missed something out? Let me know by dropping a line in the Comments section. I’m always happy to see the feedback. Stay tuned!
P.S. For those of you, who got this far with me, I want to share an e-book that’s a great guidance for starting your online business and make some money from your new blog.