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The Beginner's Guide to WordPress: How to Set Up and Customize Your Website in No Time

By Mike Bowden —  | |  — No Comments
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The Beginner's Guide to WordPress: How to Set Up and Customize Your Website in No Time

You may feel overwhelmed by the many options and technical jargon if you're new to WordPress website creation. But don’t worry — WordPress is here to make things simple. As one of the most popular content management systems in the world, WordPress offers a user-friendly interface and a wealth of customization options for building and managing a website. This beginner’s guide will take you step-by-step through setting up and customizing a WordPress site. WordPress is an excellent choice whether you’re a small business owner, artist, blogger, or want to share your thoughts with the world. Let’s get started!

Brief Overview of WordPress

WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that enables users to create and manage a website easily. Initially released in 2003 as a blogging platform, it has since evolved into a powerful tool for creating all types of websites. In addition, WordPress is open-source, meaning that it is freely available for anyone to use and modify.

One of the main benefits of WordPress is its user-friendliness. With an intuitive interface and a vast array of themes and plugins, WordPress makes it easy for users with little or no coding experience to create and customize a professional-looking website.

In terms of popularity, WordPress is the most widely used CMS in the world. According to WordPress.org, WordPress powers over 60 million websites, representing more than 39% of all websites on the internet. This widespread adoption is a testament to WordPress’s versatility, ease of use, and robust feature set. So WordPress has something to offer, whether you’re a small business owner, blogger, artist, or anything in between.

Who is this Guide for?

This guide is intended for new WordPress users looking to set up and customize their websites. WordPress is an excellent choice whether you’re a small business owner, blogger, artist, or want to share your thoughts with the world. We’ll walk you through setting up a WordPress site from start to finish, including registering a domain name, choosing a hosting provider, and installing WordPress. We’ll also cover the basics of creating and organizing content, enhancing your site with plugins, and maintaining your site’s security and updates. By the end of this guide, you’ll have a fully functioning WordPress site and the knowledge to continue building and expanding it.

What is the Difference Between Self-Hosted and WordPress.com?

Regarding using WordPress, there are two main options: self-hosting and WordPress.com. Understanding these two options is crucial to choosing the right platform for your website.

Self-hosting is hosting a WordPress site on your server or web hosting account. This option gives you complete control over your site and allows you to customize it to your heart’s desire. To self-host a WordPress site, you’ll need to purchase a domain name and web hosting from a provider, install WordPress on your server, and then set up and customize your site.

WordPress.com, on the other hand, WordPress.com is a website builder and hosting service provided by Automattic, the company behind WordPress. With WordPress.com, you can create a website using various customizable templates without worrying about installing or updating WordPress. While this option is more straightforward and requires less technical knowledge, it also has some limitations. For example, you don’t have complete control over the site’s code and may be restricted in terms of the themes, plugins, and features you can use.

Setting up a WordPress Website

Before building your WordPress site, you’ll need to register a domain name and choose a hosting provider. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting set up:

  1. Choose a domain name: Your domain name is the address of your website, and it should be unique and easy to remember. For example, “yoursite.com” or “yoursite.org.” You can register a domain name through a domain registrar like Google or Cloudflare.
  2. Choose a hosting provider: A hosting provider is a company that stores your website’s files on a server and makes them accessible to visitors. There are many hosting providers to choose from, and the right one for you will depend on your needs and budget. Check out another article I wrote on how to select a secure web hosting company.
  3. Purchase hosting and register your domain name: Once you’ve chosen a hosting provider and domain registrar, you’ll need to purchase hosting and register your domain name. This is usually done through the hosting provider’s website, and you’ll need to follow their specific instructions.
  4. Set up your hosting account: After you’ve purchased hosting, you’ll need to set up your hosting account. This usually involves creating an account and choosing a hosting plan. Some hosting providers will offer one-click WordPress installation, making it easy to start.

You’ll have everything you need to start building your WordPress site by following these steps. In the next section, we’ll walk you through installing WordPress and creating your site.

Installing and Setting up WordPress

Now that you’ve registered a domain name and set up hosting, it’s time to install WordPress and build your site. There are two main ways to install WordPress: through a hosting provider’s control panel or manually. Here’s a step-by-step guide to both methods:

Installing WordPress through a hosting provider’s control panel:

  1. Log in to your hosting account’s control panel (e.g., cPanel, Plesk).
  2. Find the “WordPress” or “Website” section and click on the corresponding icon.
  3. Follow the prompts to select your domain name and set up your WordPress site.
  4. Once the installation is complete, you’ll receive a notification and a link to your site’s login page.

Installing WordPress manually:

  1. Download the latest version of WordPress from wordpress.org.
  2. Create a new database and user for WordPress through your hosting account’s control panel.
  3. Upload the WordPress files to your server using an FTP client (e.g., FileZilla) or the hosting provider’s file manager.
  4. Navigate to your domain name in a web browser and follow the prompts to set up WordPress.
  5. Once the installation is complete, you’ll receive a notification and a link to your site’s login page.

Either method should result in a fully functional WordPress site, ready for you to start building and customizing. The following section will cover tips for selecting a theme and customizing your site’s appearance.

Selecting the Right WordPress Theme

After installing WordPress, the next step is to choose a theme and customize your site’s appearance. A theme is a pre-designed template that controls your site's overall look and feels. With the wide variety of themes available, choosing one that aligns with your site’s purpose and target audience is essential.

Here are some tips for selecting and customizing a WordPress theme:

  1. Choose a theme that fits your needs: WordPress has a wide variety of themes, from simple and minimal to complex and feature-packed. Consider your site’s purpose and target audience, and choose a theme that aligns with your goals. You can browse and preview themes from the WordPress directory or third-party sources.
  2. Customize your theme’s appearance: Most WordPress themes have customization options that allow you to change the site’s colors, fonts, and layout. You can access these options from the “Appearance” menu in the WordPress dashboard.
  3. Use widgets to add functionality: Widgets are small blocks of content that can be displayed in various areas of your site, such as the sidebar, footer, or header. WordPress has several default widgets, and many themes come with additional widgets. You can add and arrange widgets from the “Widgets” menu in the WordPress dashboard.
  4. Use the Customizer to preview changes: The WordPress Customizer is a tool that allows you to make live changes to your site and preview them before they go live. You can access the Customizer from the “Appearance” menu in the WordPress dashboard.
  5. Use a child theme to customize your theme: If you want to make extensive customizations, it’s a good idea to use a child theme. A child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality of another theme (the “parent” theme) and allows you to make customizations without modifying the parent theme’s code. This is a good practice because it will enable you to update the parent theme without losing customizations.

Creating Content with WordPress

WordPress is a powerful content management system enabling you to create and manage various content types efficiently.

Here are some common types of content that can be made with WordPress:

  • Posts are content listed in reverse chronological order on your site’s homepage or blog page. Posts are typically used for blogging or news-style content and can be organized using categories and tags.
  • Pages are static pieces of content that are not listed in reverse chronological order. Examples of pages include an “About” page, a “Contact” page, or a page for a specific product or service. Pages can be organized using a hierarchical structure, with parent and child pages.
  • Media refers to images, audio, video, and other media that can be added to your WordPress site. Using the text editor, you can upload media to the WordPress media library and insert it into posts and pages.
  • WordPress also allows you to create custom post types, which are custom content types with their own set of fields and options. For example, you could create a custom post type for products, events, or job listings.

By understanding the different types of content that can be created with WordPress, you’ll be able to create and organize your site’s content in a way that best suits your needs. In the next section, we’ll discuss the user-friendly text editor and how to add formatting, links, and media to your content.

WordPress’s Text Editor

WordPress has a user-friendly text editor that makes it easy to add formatting, links, and media to your content. The most recent version of the text editor is called Gutenberg. However, you can disable Gutenberg with a plugin to get the classic text WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, which may be easier for some.

Here’s a brief overview of the text editor and how to use it:

  • Formatting: The text editor includes a toolbar with buttons for adding bold, italic, and strikethrough text, as well as headings and lists. You can also use the “Text” tab to add HTML formatting to your content.
  • Links: To add a link to your content, highlight the text you want to use as the link and click the “Insert/edit link” button in the toolbar. This will bring up a dialog box where you can enter the link’s URL and set its target (e.g., open in the same window or a new window).
  • Media: To add media to your content, click the “Add Media” button in the toolbar. This will bring up the media library, where you can select and insert images, audio, or video into your content. You can also upload new media to the library from this screen.
  • Blocks: In addition to the classic text editor, WordPress also includes a block editor that allows you to add and arrange content using blocks. You can easily add and customize tables, columns, buttons, and more with blocks.

Using Categories and Tags

WordPress allows you to organize your content using categories and tags, which can help visitors navigate your site and find the content they’re interested in. Tags and categories can also help with search engine optimization.

Here’s a brief overview of how to use categories and tags:

  • Categories: You can assign broad groups to your posts. For example, a blog about food might have categories such as “Recipes,” “Restaurant Reviews,” and “Food News.” Visitors can click on a category to see all the posts in that category.
  • Tags: Tags are smaller, more specific labels that you can assign to your posts. For example, a post about a particular type of recipe might be tagged with keywords such as “vegan,” “gluten-free,” and “dessert.” Visitors can click on a tag to see all the posts with that tag.
  • Assigning categories and tags: To assign categories and tags to a post, you can use the “Categories” and “Tags” meta boxes in the post editor. You can also create and manage categories and tags from the “Posts” menu in the WordPress dashboard.

Enhancing a WordPress site with Plugins

One of the great things about WordPress is its extensibility through plugins. Plugins are small software installed on your WordPress site to add new features and functionality. Thousands of WordPress plugins are available, ranging from simple tools to complex applications.

Some examples of things you can do with WordPress plugins include:

  • Adding contact forms and other forms to your site
  • Enhancing the security and performance of your site
  • Integrating your site with social media or other platforms
  • Adding e-commerce functionality to your site

Plugins are installed and managed from the “Plugins” menu in the WordPress dashboard. To find and install a plugin, you can search the WordPress plugin directory or upload a plugin from a third-party source.

Using plugins, you can easily add new features to your WordPress site and customize it to meet your specific needs. In the next section, we’ll discuss some tips for selecting and managing plugins on your site.

Starting with Plugins

If you’re new to WordPress and looking for some plugins to enhance your site, here are a few popular options to consider:

  • Contact Form 7: This plugin allows you to add customizable contact forms to your site. Install the plugin, add the shortcode to a post or page, and your form will be up and running.
  • Jetpack: Jetpack is a plugin suite from WordPress.com that offers a variety of features, including security, performance, and marketing tools. Install the plugin and choose which parts you want to enable.
  • Yoast SEO: This plugin helps you optimize your site’s content for search engines by analyzing your pages and posts and offering suggestions for improvement. Install the plugin, set up your site’s metadata, and use the plugin’s tools to optimize your content.

To install and activate a plugin, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the “Plugins” menu from the WordPress dashboard and click “Add New.”
  2. Search for the plugin you want to install or upload from a third-party source.
  3. Click “Install” and “Activate” to install and activate the plugin.
  4. Some plugins may require additional setup or configuration after activation. In this case, you’ll see a notification or a new menu item in the WordPress dashboard. Follow the plugin’s instructions to complete the setup process.
  5. If you want to deactivate or delete a plugin, go to the “Plugins” menu and click “Deactivate” or “Delete” next to the plugin. Be sure to back up your site before deleting a plugin, as some plugins may leave behind data or settings that could cause issues if not properly removed.

By following these steps, you’ll be able to easily install and activate WordPress plugins and enhance your site’s functionality. Just be sure to only install and activate plugins from trusted sources, as poorly coded, or malicious plugins can pose a security risk to your site.

Maintenance and Security

One of the keys to maintaining a secure WordPress site is keeping it up to date. WordPress regularly releases updates that include new features, bug fixes, and security patches. By keeping your site up to date, you can take advantage of these improvements and protect your site against vulnerabilities.

To learn more about how to keep your WordPress website secure, read my article on 5 Shocking Ways Hackers Can Break Into Your WordPress Site (And How to Stop Them).

Updating WordPress is easy:

  1. Go to the “Updates” menu from the WordPress dashboard.
  2. If there are any updates available, you’ll see a notification and a button to “Update Now.”
  3. Click the button and follow the prompts to update WordPress.

It’s a good idea to regularly check for updates and apply them as soon as possible. You can also set up automatic updates to ensure that your site is always up to date. To do this, go to the “Updates” menu and click “Options.” From here, you can choose which types of updates to apply automatically.

In addition to keeping WordPress itself up to date, it’s also essential to keep your plugins and themes up to date. Unfortunately, plugins and themes can also contain security vulnerabilities, so it’s a good idea to check for and apply updates for these regularly.

Basic WordPress Security Measures

You can take several other essential measures to protect your site from security threats.

Here are a few tips:

  • Use strong passwords: A strong password is a password that is difficult for others to guess or crack. Use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters, and avoid using common words or personal information. You can use a password manager to generate and store strong passwords.
  • Use security plugins: Many WordPress plugins can help secure your site. Some popular options include Wordfence, Sucuri Security, and iThemes Security. These plugins can help protect your site from malware, brute-force attacks, and other threats.
  • Enable two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security measure that requires you to enter a code in addition to your password when logging in. This helps protect against unauthorized access, even if someone has your password. You can enable 2FA for your WordPress site using a plugin or your hosting provider’s security features.
  • Back up your site: Regularly backing up your site ensures that you have a copy of your site’s content and settings in case something goes wrong. Again, you can use a plugin or your hosting provider’s backup tools to automate this process.

These basic security measures can help protect your WordPress site from potential threats. However, it’s also a good idea to keep an eye on your site’s security and stay informed about potential threats and best practices. If you are unfamiliar with handling WordPress security, it’s a good idea to hire a company that specializes in it, such as YourWPManager.com.

WordPress Isn’t Scary

We’ve covered the basics of using WordPress to set up and customize your website. We’ve discussed the difference between self-hosted WordPress and WordPress.com, how to create and organize content, and how to enhance your site with plugins. We’ve also touched on the importance of maintaining and securing your WordPress site.

We hope this guide has shown you how easy it is to use WordPress and how powerful it can be as a content management system. If you’re a brand new WordPress user, we encourage you to try and explore all that WordPress offers.

If you’d like to learn more about WordPress, many resources are available, including WordPress documentation and online courses. With a little bit of practice and some helpful resources, you’ll be well on your way to creating and managing your WordPress site.

Mike Bowden
With a diverse background as a tech enthusiast, writer, educator, and small business owner, I bring decades of experience creating, hosting, securing, and maintaining WordPress websites. Join me on my journey as we navigate the digital age and uncover insights that inspire growth and success.
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