WordPress offers businesses self-hosting options plus one of the world’s most popular content management systems (CMS) and has a market share of 35% of websites worldwide. Although it may seem like a daunting task to build a website from scratch, WordPress users don’t need any prior knowledge of coding or web development.
A CMS is software that allows users to create, publish, or edit online content without the need for any previous experience building websites. People who build websites without a CMS must create and load static HTML files onto a computer, which can prove complicated for anyone lacking web development expertise.
In the past, small businesses often found it expensive to set up a CMS. But, the arrival of open-source software — computer applications with copyrights that permit anyone to use them — made some CMS software free to use.
Today, anyone can build a WordPress website within a few hours. Just follow the six steps outlined below, which cover everything from purchasing a domain name to site customization.
6 Steps to Building a WordPress Website
Before starting the process of building a WordPress website, users must first understand the key differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. This will help them determine which platform will work best for their business.
WordPress.com is a hosting service that provides a platform more suited to blogs that don’t seek to earn money online. It comes with 3 GB of free storage, but has a limited capacity for customization.
WordPress.org — often referred to as “the real WordPress” — is an open-source website platform that gives users full control over their site customization. Also called a self-hosting website platform, WordPress.org is the recommended option for any business or professional blogger aiming to make money online.
Step One: Choose and Purchase a Domain Name
The first step to building a WordPress website involves choosing a domain name — your future website’s name or address. Start by brainstorming some terms and phrases related to your business as well as commonly searched keywords that will improve your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) ranking. To boost your site’s ranking, learn How To Improve SEO.
Next, you must research the availability of your desired domain name(s) because some are unavailable given the large number of existing websites. You can verify a domain name’s availability for free using our Domain Name Generator. This tool can refine a search to a specific state, industry, and top-level domain (TLD) like “.com,” “.org,” “.net,” or “.gov.”
Once you verify the availability of your desired domain name, you must then purchase it through a domain registrar like GoDaddy or Bluehost. Our comparison guide, GoDaddy vs. Bluehost, can help you choose the best one for your business.
Step Two: Choose and Purchase a Web Hosting Service
Next, you must choose a web hosting service for your site. These service providers have large, online web servers that act as a “host” for websites by storing all of their information. While the many web hosting companies on the market today offer different pricing packages, some include a free domain name purchase. (In some cases, it may be easier to buy hosting services and a domain name registration from one provider.)
Check out our guide to the Best Web Hosting Providers to help you make an informed decision.
Step Three: Install WordPress
Once you secure a domain name and hosting service, you’re ready to install WordPress and start building your website. Your WordPress.org account’s dashboard — also referred to as the cPanel — will display various icons and folders that relate to the website’s server and setup.
Within the cPanel, choose the “Install WordPress” icon and then click the option that starts the installation process on the pop-up screen. This will look different, depending on the hosting provider you use. If you use Bluehost as your hosting provider, for example, you’ll see a “quick install” screen with a “next” button to click to continue the installation.
You’ll need to provide personal details to complete the installation process, including your site name or title as well as your administrator’s username and password. You also must check boxes related to the WordPress Terms of Agreement.
Once you finish installing WordPress, you can log in to your new website via a link that redirects you to your WordPress login page. Some users have difficulty finding the URL for their WordPress login page for a variety of reasons, including the web hosting service they choose. To rectify this issue, users can add either “/admin/” or “/login/” to the end of their website’s URL and it will direct them to their login page.
Step Four: Choose and Install a WordPress Theme
After installing WordPress and logging in to the platform, it’s time to choose a WordPress theme for your website. These themes provide designed templates you can use to create the visual appearance of your website and determine how online visitors interact with its content.
You business type and industry should inform your theme selection. A personal trainer might choose a theme tailored for the fitness industry, for example, while an online store might select a theme optimized for ecommerce.
The WordPress theme directory includes options to refine a search according to “featured,” “popular,” “latest,” and “favorite” themes. In addition, the directory’s “feature filter” can narrow a search to a desired industry or layout (e.g., columns or grids).
New WordPress websites come with a default theme installed. But, with thousands of free or premium (paid) WordPress themes available, users can install one with more features to suit their specific business needs.
With the right theme, any business can achieve the goal of providing a simple, yet professional and user-friendly website optimized for advanced performance. Read our evaluation of the Best WordPress Themes to learn more.
You can download and install a theme within the WordPress admin dashboard by clicking the “appearance” option and then clicking on “themes.” An “add new” button will then direct you to a page from which you can choose a theme. When you click on your chosen theme, you can either preview it or start the installation process.
Step Five: Add Content to Posts and Pages
Posts and pages are two content types that come standard with WordPress themes.
Posts refer to blog content so this is where you’ll add written content that provides information and educational resources related to your business. You also can add subscription plug-ins, such as Mailchimp or AWeber, to your website’s front page for visitors who wish to receive regular updates about your new blog posts.
Before customizing a new theme, you must first add the relevant content to your site’s posts and pages. While you should aim to know what content you’ll need before you start building your website, you can continue to refine it as the website evolves.
To access the “Posts” and “Pages” areas, go to the WordPress admin dashboard menu on the left of the screen. These areas provide options for “All Posts,” “All Pages,” and “Add New,” allowing users to add new blog content and create the relevant pages to build their websites.
When you complete a page, click the “Publish” button — usually in the top right corner — to make the page live. This means people can now see and access the page on the internet, and it will appear on search engines like Google.
Finally, remember to create an engaging homepage for your website with a title, relevant text, images, and/or videos that convey the site’s purpose. A homepage acts like a business storefront so it must make a good first impression with visitors.
Step Six: Add Customizations and Plug-Ins
After populating your website with relevant content, you can customize it to better suit your business needs and provide an optimal user experience.
Start by going to the WordPress admin dashboard on the left side of the screen and clicking on “Settings” and then “Reading.” You’ll now have the option of keeping the homepage static or changing it to show the latest blog posts (this option appears under “Front Page Displays”).
You also will have the option to amend the elements outlined below to create an optimized and attractive website.
Title and Tagline
Two notable customizations users can make to their websites involve changing the site title and tagline, which is a short description of the website. You can do this by clicking on “Settings” and then “General.”
If your site includes a blog, you also can control how comments appear and prevent spam by clicking the “Discussion” option under “Settings.”
Navigation menus, which appear on the homepage, allow users to easily find specific content within a website. You can customize your site’s navigation menu by clicking on “Appearance” then “Menus” and choosing the “Create Menus” option. You also can add pages to a menu by clicking on “Add to Menu” and then rearranging the menu options in any desired order.
You’ll find two options for a menu’s display location in WordPress: the Primary Menu and the Footer Menu. The Primary Menu is the standard display location.
Colors and Fonts
WordPress themes also allow users to customize elements like color schemes, text colors, and fonts. There are three primary ways to do this:
- Using the visual editor: This is the best option for changing just a few words, a paragraph, or a heading when you’re writing content.
- Using the theme customizer: This is the best choice for when you want to change font colors across the entire site. However, it’s not supported by all themes.
- Using CSS code: You can use this to change font color across the entire site, and it’s possible with any theme.
Widgets and Plug-Ins
Different WordPress themes have different locations where you can insert widgets — the drag-and-drop blocks of content that add a variety of features to a page from sign-up forms and calendars to social media icons. The most common locations include the sidebar and footer, but some themes also allow widgets in the header or on other pages.
In addition, you may want to download and install some plug-ins to enhance your website’s functionality. Unlike widgets, which come ready to drop onto a page, plug-ins work more like apps on a website.
You can find thousands of plug-ins on the WordPress Plug-In Directory or by conducting a Google search. Some important plug-ins to consider installing include:
- WPForms Lite (a contact form)
- MonsterInsights (a Google Analytics connection that tracks a website’s user engagement)
- Yoast SEO (a tool that improves a website’s online ranking in search engines for better traffic)
- WP Super Cache (a tool that assists with website speed)
- UpdraftPlus (a security tool that creates site backups)
For more examples, check out our review of the Best Plug-Ins for a WordPress Site.
WordPress.org provides thousands of features and options for any new or established business to build its website. With a basic understanding of the key steps involved in building a website, you can learn to do it yourself within a few hours and take full control over the customization.