How to Make a WordPress Website 2020

WordPress is a great platform to choose for building your website. It’s simple enough to create a website without writing any code. You just choose a theme, the plugins you want, and start creating webpages.

As your site grows, its fully capable of keeping up with any customizations you need. Programmers can code themes, plugins or any other functionality you need for your site. And best of all, the WordPress software is free.

You might be wondering if WordPress is right for you or you might have chosen WordPress and need some examples to show you the core functionality. If that’s you let’s start with an explanation or WordPress.com vs WordPress.org. 

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

While doing research you might have realized there are two popular ways to create a website with WordPress: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. While both are WordPress, they function quite differently.

The main difference between the two is how you host your WordPress site. WordPress.com is hosted for you. You pick a plan and templates guide you through creating your website. With WordPress.org, you have to find a web host and install WordPress before you start developing your website.

Another difference is the flexibility in which you have to create your website. WordPress.com uses their own proprietary version of WordPress and locks down third-party themes and plug-ins. To unlock them, you’ll have to pay for a higher priced business plan. With WordPress.org you can install whatever you wish as long as the host permits it.

If you’re interested in WordPress.com you can test it by signing up for a free plan. It’s free so it’s worth trying, but if you’re serious about creating a website, I’d recommend WordPress.org due to its low cost and flexibility.

From here on we’ll be looking at how to get started with WordPress.org. I’ll be referring to WordPress.org simply as WordPress.

Register a Domain Name, Choose a Hosting Plan and Install WordPress

WordPress is a free application, but it requires a domain name and web host to publish your website on the internet. There are a lot of ways to register a domain name and choose a hosting account, but most are relatively cheap.

When you sign up for a hosting account, the web host will ask you what your domain name is. Some hosts allow you to use a sub domain of the host while others make you register or point your existing domain to your hosting account. If you don’t have a domain name, How to Find and Register a Great Domain Name can help you register one.

If you’re looking for a web host, I’d recommend you read the The 12 Best Web Hosting Services. It walks you through finding a reputable web host and choosing a hosting plan that fits your needs. If you’re looking for the highest quality, most value provided or just the cheapest shared hosting plan you find some recommendations at the end of the article.

Once you have a hosting account, read through your hosts documentation and install WordPress. Sometimes you can skip this step if your host installs WordPress during the sign-up process. For example, A2hosting will install an A2 Optimized version of WordPress for you when you sign up for a new hosting account.

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Logging Into WordPress

After installing WordPress you’ll want to log into the WordPress Dashboard.

To log into the WordPress Dashboard:

  1. Go to http://example.com/wp-admin. Make sure to replace example.com with your domain name.
  2. Enter your Username and Password then press Log In. This will log you in and take you to the WordPress dashboard.
Note: If you can’t log in from /wp-admin you’ll need to contact your host to find the proper URL. Some hosts will change the default URL to make it harder for hackers to log into your website.

The WordPress Dashboard

The Dashboard is the homepage for the admin console. It’s the first screen you see when you sign into WordPress and displays information and notifications about your WordPress installation.

Update Notifications

WordPress frequently releases software updates and security patches. If a WordPress update is available, you’ll see a notification in the top left corner of the dashboard. Click “Please update now” if you want to install the update.

Getting Started

If you’re signing into WordPress for the first time, the Getting Started section might have caught your eye. Here you’ll find quick links to important admin screens. Some of the links let you edit your front page, add additional links and quickly view your site.

Admin Screens

The admins screens are where you configure your WordPress website. Links to the admin screens are displayed on the left-hand navigation bar and let you do things like upload images, create pages and install plugins. You can also change various settings such as your admins email address and how WordPress displays URLs.

For the rest of this article we’ll be learning about different Admin Screens and how they work.

Turn Search Engine Visibility On or Off

Search Engine Visibility is where you tell search engines whether to index your site or not. When you have a new website, you might not want search engines to index it because it could index an unfinished version.  In most cases, it’s better to wait until the site is finished before indexing it.

To view your search settings:

  1. Go to Settings > Readings.

    If you want to prevent search engines from indexing your site, check Discourage search engines from indexing this site next to Search Engine Visibility. If you choose to check this option, make sure to uncheck it when your site is complete.

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Uploading Images to The Media Library

The media library is where you upload and store files that will be published on your website. This can include images, videos, music, documents and other files. In this section, we’ll look at image settings and how to upload an image to the Media Library.

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Image Settings

When you upload an image to the media library, WordPress uploads the original and three other variations of it. Each variation is a different size than the other. WordPress does this so it can display images more efficiently.

For example, when you upload an image, a thumbnail of that image is created and displayed in the Media Library. If the thumbnail wasn’t created, a much larger image would need to be downloaded and resized by the browser. This could significantly impact how long it takes to download your web pages.

The Image Upload Settings determine how many images are uploaded and their dimensions. To view the Image Upload Settings:

  1. Go to the Left Navigation Bar and click Settings then Media.

Under Image Sizes, you can change the default image sizes or stop them from being created. I’d recommend keeping the default settings, but if you need to save diskspace or have no need for an image, set the Max Width and Max Height to zero and WordPress will not create the image.

Note: Some themes may add additional images sizes, so don’t worry if you see more than three sizes.

Uploading an Image

Uploading images to WordPress is pretty easy. First, you’ll need to find an image to upload. If you don’t have one, Pixabay has thousands of free images you can use royalty free.

It’s important that you upload an image that you have the right to use because in the next section, WordPress Pages, we’ll be creating a webpage and adding the image to it.

Note: Before uploading your image, take a look at the maximum upload file size. This is the maximum file size you can upload through WordPress. If you need to increase the upload size, you’ll need to contact your hosting company for help.

To upload an image to the media library:

  1. From the Dashboard click on Media > Add New.
  2. On the Upload New Media screen, click Select Files and select the image you’d like to upload. If you decide to drag and drop files to the “Drop files here” section, make sure to do it one at a time. Sometimes uploading multiple images at the same time will freeze the page.
Note: You can select multiple images at the same time:

  • On a Mac keyboard: hold down the command key and select the individual images.
  • On a Windows keyboard: hold down the control key and select the individual images.
  • On a Mac or Windows keyboard, you can select a range of images by clicking the first image, holding down the shift key and selecting the last image.
  1. After the image uploads, you should see a thumbnail of the image just below the upload box. If you’d like to edit the image, Click Edit to the right of the image.

The image should now be available to use in WordPress.

Note: If you upload images through ftp vs the media library, you won’t see them in the media library. And the media library won’t create the three additional image sizes.

WordPress Pages

Web pages are an important part of your website. They display your content and if organized properly, can help your visitors find what they’re looking for.

Unlike Posts, WordPress Pages are static. Meaning, after you create them, the content rarely changes. For example, once you create an About page or a Contact page, you’re probably not going to change the content on the page very often.

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Create A New WordPress Page

To create a new Page in WordPress:

  1. From the Dashboard click Pages > New Page.
  2. Let’s create your websites About page. In the Enter Title Here box, type About for the page name.

    The title will be used to create the permalink or URL address for the page. If you enter spaces in the title, they’ll be replaced in the permalink with hyphens. We’ll cover permalinks more in the next section.

  3. Under Page Attributes, make sure the Default Template is selected.

    Pages can use different templates. Templates determine how the content will be displayed on the page. If you change themes don’t be surprised if the items in this list change. Some themes and plugins come with additional page templates.

  4. In the Page Editor, make sure you’re on the Visual Tab then enter some text. It doesn’t have to be much. Just enough for something to show up on the page.

    The Page Editor has two tabs:

    Visual Tab: The Visual tab functions like a Word processor. Anything you type in the content area shows up on the screen.

    Text Tab: The Text tab functions like a code editor. You can control exactly how the content on your page will appear by entering HTML and CSS tags into the content editor.

  5. Click Publish to create the page and make it viewable on the internet.

    There are two important sections under Publish:

    Status: You can switch the page between Draft and Published view. This publishes the page online or takes it offline, so users can’t see it.

    Visibility: Visibility determines who can see the page. You can set it to Public where everyone can see it or Private where only Editors and Administrators can see it. You can also Password Protect the page under visibility.

  6. To view your page, click on the permalink under the page title.

Adding an Image to a Page

Remember the image we uploaded in the last section, Uploading Images to The Media Library? Let’s add that to the page.

To add an image to the page:

  1. From the Dashboard, click Pages then Edit the About page we created in the last example.
  2. Place your cursor on the page where you want the image to appear.
  3. Click Add Media > Select an Image > and click Insert Into Page. This will insert the image into the page.
  4. To View your image on the page click Preview Changes.
  5. If you like the image, click Update to save the changes. Otherwise, you can delete the image and add a new one.

Permalink settings

Permalinks are the addresses or URLs that people use to find your webpage on the internet. WordPress lets you choose how to display your URLs.

To choose the default URL format:

  1. Go to Settings > Permalinks.
  2. Under Common Settings choose a default setting.

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Most websites use the Post Name format for their URLs with the exception of blogs. A blog might use Month and Name so it’s easier for users to find groups of posts on their site. Choose the permalink settings that works best for your site.

Set Your WordPress Homepage

When you first install WordPress, the Posts page is set as your homepage. Unless you run a blog, you probably want to personalize your site by creating your own homepage. Let’s change the home page from the Post Page to a different page.

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To set a static homepage:

  1. Go to Settings > Readings.
  2. Under Your Homepage Displays, select A static page (select below).
  3. In the Homepage section, select the page you’d like to have as your homepage.

    If you haven’t created a page or would like to create a new home page for your site, refer to the section above called Create A New WordPress Page.

  4. In the Post page section, you’ll have to select a place for your posts. You can select the Blog page to manage your posts, https://example.com/blog, or choose another page if you’d like.
  5. Click Save Changes when you’re done.

You should now have a new homepage for your site. Go to your homepage and see if it’s been updated.

WordPress Themes

WordPress themes are pre-made designs you can use to define the look and feel of your website. They define things like fonts, colors and sometimes the layout of your web pages. Some people refer to a theme as the skin of your website.

Themes can also define some of the functionality on your website. They do this by providing widgets which are small programs that let you perform one or two functions. This could be adding a map, an image or allowing you to write html in a widget area.

While it’s nice to have added functionality through widgets or other functions, you don’t want to rely themes for functionality. If you decide to change your theme in the future, and the new theme doesn’t perform a function in your old theme, you’ll have to find another way to perform that function or live without it. Its best to leave functionality to plug-ins and choose a theme based on how it makes your site look.

Where to find WordPress Themes

WordPress has over 10,000 themes and there are multiple places to find them. The most popular is the Theme Directory. You open the Theme Directory in WordPress by going to Appearance > Themes. Each theme in the directory has a free version and they’re reviewed by the Theme Review Team before they’re uploaded.

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There’s also plenty of third-party sites where you can get themes. Some might have free versions of the theme while others only offer premium themes. One of the most popular sites for premium themes is themeforest.net. At themeforest.net you can browse themes by category and most cost between $39 – $59.

How to choose a theme

Looks aren’t everything! When it comes to choosing a good theme, you want to choose something that looks good but before you marry your theme, make sure it’s as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. Here’s a few things to review while looking at themes:

Free or Premium

There are free themes and premium themes that you pay for. When looking for a theme, try to find one with a free version. This will allow you to test the theme with your content and see how easy it is setup before spending your hard-earned dollars on it.

Layout

Layout describes the location of the header, footer, content, site navigation and each element within them. Some themes are more flexible than others in terms of letting you customize the layout. Make sure to test the layout with some of your content. See if the theme lets you position and resize content to your satisfaction.

Features

Look for features that allow you to customize things like fonts, colors, the header, footer and menus but don’t rely on the themes functions for core functionality. Instead, use plug-ins to enhance functionality. That way you’re not stuck with the theme if you decide to change themes.

Responsiveness

You’ll want to find a theme with a responsive design. A responsive design automatically adjusts to any screen size and should look good on at least a computer, tablet and mobile phone. If you don’t have these devices to test the theme’s demo on, you can use free online tools like Responsinator.

Speed

Poor coding and large images can contribute to a slow theme. Test the themes speed to see how fast it loads. You can test the speed of the demo with third-party speed tests like Pingdom or GTmetrix.

Support

Is there good documentation for the theme or will you have to figure out how to configure it yourself? Will the developer help you install the theme and get your website looking like the demo? Finding good support can speed up the process of developing your website.

Updates

You want to find a theme that is frequently updated. If it hasn’t been updated in the last 6 months you could run into problems like features not working with newer versions of WordPress or it could be vulnerable to viruses. Make sure to find a theme that is frequently updated.

Ratings and Reviews

What are other people saying about the theme? Do they like it or are they having problems with it? If other people aren’t satisfied with the theme you might not be either. Look at reviews and ratings to get inside information from others who have used the theme.

Installing a WordPress theme

In this section, we’ll look at two ways to install a theme. You can install it though the WordPress themes directory or you can upload a theme you’ve previously downloaded.

Note: Not all themes have the same functions and your content and layout might not port over to the new theme. Make sure to back up your WordPress files and database before proceeding.

Installing a WordPress Theme from the Theme Directory

To install a WordPress theme from the Theme Directory:

  1. Go to Appearance > Themes.
  2. Click Add New to go to the Add Themes
  3. Click on Feature Filter and select the features you want your theme to have.
  4. Search through the available themes.
  5. When you find a theme you like, hover over the theme and click Install.
  6. After the theme is installed, click Activate.

Uploading a WordPress Theme

Before you can upload a theme, you’ll have to download its .zip file. Once you’ve downloaded the .zip file this is how you install it:

  1. Go to Appearance > Themes.
  2. Click Add New to go to the Add Themes
  3. Click on Upload Theme and Select the .zip file for your theme.
  4. When you find a theme you like, hover over the theme and click Install.
  5. After the theme is installed, click Activate.

After you install a good theme, you’ll want to customize it with additional functionality. In the next section, we’ll be looking at how to extend your websites functionality with Plug-ins.

WordPress Plug-ins

Plug-ins are applications that allow you to extend the functionality of your WordPress website. They let you add functionality like web forms, optimizations that speed up your website and security features to keep hackers out among many other things.

You can view the plug-ins you’ve installed by going to the Plug-Ins link on the admin tool bar. Scroll down a little bit and you should see your plugins.

Installed Plug-ins can be active or deactivated. You’ll see this option below the plug-in in the installed Plug-ins section. Before you can delete a plug-in, you must make sure that it is deactivated.

If you’d like to add new plug-ins, click on Add New under the Plugins link on the admin tool bar. If you want to browse plugins use the filter options: Featured – Popular – Recommended – Favorites in the WordPress Plugin directory. You can also search the more than 55,000 plugins in the WordPress directory using the Search plugins search box.

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There are a few rules to keep in mind when searching for plugins. To avoid any problems, choose plugins that:

  • Have good user reviews.
  • Have a lot of active installs.
  • Are frequently updated.
  • Compatible with your version of WordPress.

This increases the likely hood that the plugins have been well developed, tested, and have frequent security updates.

While most plug-ins work pretty well, there are some bad apples too. A poorly written plug-in can slow down your website, stop it from displaying content or open security holes that allow hackers to exploit it. It’s advisable to always backup your website before installing any plugins.

In this example, we’ll use the automatic install to install a plug-in called WP Forms. WP Forms allows you to create web forms so your visitors can contact you.

To Install WP Forms:

  1. From the Dashboard, click Plugins > Add New.
  2. In the Search Plugins box, type wpforms and press Enter.
  3. In the search results, click on Contact Form by WPForms – Drag & Drop Form Builder for WordPress
  4. After installing WPForms, Activate it under Plugins > Installed Plugins.

To configure WP Forms, go to WP Forms > Configure. Here you can set the WP Form settings and create forms for your website.

Getting Help with WordPress

The flexibility of WordPress is great. It allows a lot of different people to contribute to its success. But when it comes to support, WordPress’ flexibility can make it difficult to know who to turn to for help.

Three areas you might need help with are:

  • Hosting issues
  • WordPress issues
  • Themes and Plugins

WordPress and Hosting Issues

The easiest way to get help for WordPress is through a managed WordPress hosting plan. With managed WordPress, the host will install software updates and security patches for you. They’ll also provide technical support for WordPress. If you don’t have a managed hosting account, your web host will still troubleshoot web hosting issues for you.

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WordPress Troubleshooting

If you don’t have a managed WordPress hosting account, you’ll be on the hook for troubleshooting WordPress related issues. Start by googling the issue. There are a lot of sites that provide solutions to common WordPress issues. If you can’t find a solution you can try posting your problems to the WordPress.org Support Forums. If you don’t find support in the forums or you need a fast resolution, there are companies online that will fix WordPress issues for $100 or less depending on the issue. To find them search for “WordPress Fix”.

Themes and Plugins

If you’re having a problem with a theme or plugin, you’ll have to contact the developer for support. Many themes and plugins are free and may require you upgrade to a paid version for support. Make sure to check your theme or plug-ins documentation for support information.

Automatic Daily Backups

Before things go wrong with your website, be proactive and create backups of your website. The best way to make backups is to find a hosting plan that includes automatic daily backups. If you run into problems, you’ll be able to quickly restore your website to a working version.