Using any sort of software for the first time can be overwhelming. There are many options and buttons, making it challenging to know where to begin! Don’t worry, though, I’ve got you covered on WordPress!
June 18, 2020
I have been using WordPress for many years now, so I have put together a tutorial on how to use this popular platform in order to create a website. From installing WordPress to backing up your site; I will take you through everything you need to know.
Background Information About WordPress
WordPress is an open-source content management system, which means it is free to use! It is well known for its template system and plugin architecture. This is what makes WordPress so customizable! You really do have the power to create any site you wish.
Originally, WordPress was purely designed as a platform for publishing blog posts. Over time, though, it has evolved into supporting many different kinds of web content. This includes online stores, learning management systems (LMS), membership sites, media galleries, and traditional forums and mailing lists.
There are over 60 million sites that are powered on WordPress, showing just how popular it is. Since it was released in 2003 by English developer Mike Little and American developer Matt Mullenweg, it really has not looked back.
Why Do So Many People Love WordPress?
You may be wondering what has made WordPress so popular! I’ll give you my thoughts…
- It’s free – Who doesn’t like free things? – Of course, the fact that WordPress does not have a price tag has a big role to play! Everyone loves getting stuff for free! You are going to need to purchase a web host and a domain name, but that’s the only expense that’s a necessity to get going.
- SEO friendliness – WordPress has been written with the use of standard compliance high-quality codes. It also produces semantic markup. Some of you may be reading this and wondering what the hell that means! Google and other search engines adore WordPress. This is why you will often see WordPress sites ranking very highly. Not only is it SEO friendly straight out-of-the-box, but there are many plugins that can optimise your experience even further. Yoast is one of the most well-known, and I would advise installing this!
- Customization is a breeze – This is probably my personal favorite when it comes to WordPress. There are so many different plugins and themes for you to choose from. You can customize pretty much every element of your website without needing to know code.
- Easy management – When you use WordPress, you will get an updates management system built-in. This means that your themes and plugins can be managed with your admin dashboard on WordPress. You can also update your website with a mere click of a button whenever a new WordPress version becomes available.
- It handles all media forms – I also think WordPress has become so popular because it supports all media forms, from video files to audio and images. It also supports oEmbed enabled sites, which means all you need to do is paste in the URL to embed Soundcloud audio, Tweets, Instagram photos, and YouTube videos.
Should You Use WordPress.Org or WordPress.Com?
You may be a bit perplexed when searching WordPress on Google to see that you have WordPress.com and WordPress.org to choose from. The main difference between these two options lies within the host.
With WordPress.com, all of the hosting is taken care of for you. This means that you do not have to download any software, pay for hosting, or manage a web server. Sounds great, right? Well, it may be easy, quick, and free, but the customization options are minimal. You can’t use custom themes or plugins, and your website will also have “WordPress.com” in the URL.
Because of those facts, I much, much prefer WordPress.org, and you will find that most people are in this camp too! It’s still free to use, but you need to download the script. You also need to host it yourself. Getting a hosting provider is easy enough, and there are plenty of good options out there, including SiteGround, Hostinger, and BlueHost.
Another reason why so many people love WordPress is the low system requirements that are needed to run this CMS on your web server. You will need MySQL version 5.0.15 or greater, or PHP version 5.2.4 or greater.
So, how do you install WordPress? It’s pretty easy and straightforward, just like installing any other type of software really! If you have installed a computer program before, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem.
Begin by heading to WordPress.org and downloading the latest version of WordPress. Once the download is finished, you can begin to upload your WordPress files to your hosting account. For this, you can use it with an FTP client or a File Manager that your hosting has supplied. There is no difference between the two.
It is mandatory to create a database, as this is how WordPress stores information. You can do this via your host. Make sure you jot down the details for your database, as you are going to require them later.
To start the installation process, visit your domain name. You will be asked to fill in the database details, site information, and administrator details.
Migrating your site to WordPress
Of course, you may not want to start a website from scratch; you may want to migrate your site to WordPress. I’d recommend simply using a plugin to do this. It is going to make your life a lot easier.
There are plenty of options available, including All-in-One WP Migration and UpdraftPlus Premium. Personally, I am a fan of Duplicator Pro. The flexibility of this plugin is what I really appreciate; it works effectively for a lot of different types of migration scenarios.
You will be guided through the migration with a simple step-by-step wizard, so if you’re not overly tech-savvy, you don’t have to worry.
Firstly, you will need to make a migration package of your site and download it to your PC along with the installer script.
Once you have done this, you will need to upload the package and installer script to the new location, i.e. the new host or server, and then run the migration wizard. Your content will be unpacked by Duplicator, installing them onto the system.
You are also given the option of updating URLs to make certain that everything runs smoothly once you have unpacked.
Getting Familiar With the WordPress Dashboard
Now that you have gotten all of the technical stuff out of the way, it is an excellent opportunity for you to explore the dashboard. So, log into the WordPress administrator dashboard, and see what it is all about!
To be directed to your website, all you need to do is add /wp-admin onto the end of your website address. From here, you can log-in. You will need to use the username and password that you would have created while you were installing WordPress.
Once you have logged in, you will be met with your site’s dashboard, which is pretty straightforward.
You will see a welcome module when you log into WordPress for the first time. This will keep appearing until you press the Dismiss button to hide it. There are some helpful links in this module, so I’d recommend checking it out.
At the top, you have a toolbar. This is where you will receive notifications, and you can also see the number of new comments on your site.
You then have the main navigation menu on the left-hand side. This where you will find your plugins, pages, comments, and a lot more.
In the middle, you have your main work area. You will be able to see your site at a glance, recent activity, and WordPress news. You can also make a quick draft of a post from here.
Installing a WordPress Theme
I would definitely recommend adding a theme to your website. This is the only way that you are going to be able to make your website look unique.
There are WordPress themes that are generic and can be used across a number of different websites. There are then those that have been built with a specific purpose in mind, for example, themes for fashion blogs or themes for e-commerce stores.
It is really easy to add a WordPress theme to your website. All you need to do is head to the ‘Appearance’ section, after which you can search for a theme that appeals to you. You can filter your choice based on colour or features.
Use the theme preview feature to see how your site looks with a theme you are considering.
If you want to add a premium theme to your website, you will need to pay for this elsewhere and upload it manually. To do this, head to the same ‘Appearance’ section, choose the ‘Upload Theme’ button, and select the .zip file that you have saved on your computer for the theme.
Adding Content to Your WordPress Website
You need to add some content to your website, and there are two main options here: Pages and Posts. So, what’s the difference between the two?
- Pages – These are designed for content that is dateless and static. They don’t have tags or categories. A good example would be the ‘About’ page on your website. This is always going to stay the same.
- Posts – This is time-sensitive content. Posts can be archived, tagged, and categorised.
How to create a new post
To create a new post, under Posts, select ‘New’ and then the ‘Post’ option from the toolbar at the top. An editing screen will pop up with several different posting features for you to choose from.
Start off by creating a title for your post, after which you will be able to add the content of your post in the field below. You can use the toolbar options to format your text. It reminds me of the text editor you get in MS Word, so it is really easy to use.
The Meta boxes are at the right-hand side of the screen. Each box has a different function. The featured image box enables you to set a featured image for your post. Once your post is published, this will be visible at the top, although the exact location can differ depending on the theme you have chosen.
Tags enables you to add new tags to your content with ease. You will also be able to assign a specific category to your post via the Categories section. Or, if you want to add a new category, simply click on the ‘+ Add New Category’ button.
Finally, you will want to publish your post. You can schedule it or you can publish it live right away. If you’re not happy with your post and you want to start again, simply hit on the ‘Move to Trash’ button.
How to create a new page
If you want to create a new page on WordPress, head to the Pages menu, click ‘Add New’, or do it via heading to the ‘New’ button and click ‘Page’ in the toolbar at the top of WordPress.
The editor is the same as the Posts section, so you will have no trouble using it!
You will probably notice that there are not any Categories or Tags meta-boxes in the Pages section. Rather, there are Page Attributes. In this section, you can amend the set parent pages and the order of the pages. This is beneficial if you have a number of pages under one parent page.
Making the Most of WordPress Plugins
There are some great plugins, which are designed to expand the functionality of WordPress. Really, this is what WordPress is all about!
Through installing and activating a plugin, you are going to be able to add new features to your website without needing to know about any coding.
Some plugins are free, others are paid. They have different purposes as well, from enhancing site security to offering SEO assistance.
In order to add a plugin to your WordPress website, you will see that there is a ‘Plugins’ section on the menu on the left hand side of your dashboard. From here, you can ‘Add New’ and then choose ‘Upload Plugin.’ Alternatively, you can simply search for the plugin you are interested in on Google and add it via the official website.
Some of my favorite WordPress plugins
Improving the Performance of Your WordPress Website
One thing I definitely recommend doing is staying on top of the performance of your WordPress site. After all, there is nothing worse than trying to access a website and having to wait ages for it to load, right?
Download a WordPress caching plugin
The first step I would recommend is setting up a WordPress caching plugin.
Basically, a cache is a temporary data storage. In most scenarios, your active data is cached, which will lower loading times. For instance, when you access a site that you frequently access, your browser is already going to have a bit of the site’s static content in the cache. Because of this, a lower number of information or files are needed to load the site, which makes it quicker to load.
With WordPress caching plugins, a standard version of your site will be created, meaning that PHP scripts do not need to be loaded every time that someone re-enters or refreshes your site.
Optimise your images on WordPress
This is another critical step you need to take to make sure your site performs well. There are typically two problems with images that result in them slowing down a website.
The first is when you have not fully compressed your images. I recommend using WP Smush to compress your images. This plugin will save you a lot of bandwidth and space.
The next issue is using images that are too large. For instance, let’s say you upload a picture that is 500 x 500 in dimension, yet it is resized to 100 x 100 by your site. Consequently, the larger file will be downloaded by the visitor’s browser first, and then it will need to be scaled down to be displayed. This takes a lot of work! You would be much better off uploading the picture with dimensions of 100 x 100 to begin with.
Enable lazy loading
When a web page opens, typically the content will all load at once. This is known as eager loading. I would recommend enabling lazy loading. This means that the initialization of some objects are delayed, such as the images. Use a plugin like Rocket Lazy Load or Lazy Load for this.
Enable gzip compression
The final piece of advice I would give you when it comes to optimizing your WordPress site is to enable gzip compression. This is an excellent way of enhancing performance and speed.
CSS and HTML files have a lot of repetitive spaces and text, and so gzip compression is highly effective. This works by locating similar strings in a text file and replacing it on a temporary basis, meaning the file size will reduce.
Gzip compression can reduce the size of a page on WordPress by as much as 70 per cent, so it is really effective!
You can either do this by using a plugin like GZip Ninja Speed or by using a .htaccess file to enable gzip compression.
Keep Your WordPress Site Secure
The final piece of the puzzle is to make sure that you keep your WordPress site secure. The importance of security is something I cannot stress enough!
Make sure you choose unique passwords and usernames. WordPress will set ‘admin’ as the username by default, so make sure that you change this in order to add another layer of security.
You also need to perform regular backups. You can automate backups to happen daily, weekly, or monthly using one of the plugins available.
Don’t forget to keep WordPress updated as well. Most of the updates that WordPress releases includes security updates, so you should never ignore them.
So there you have it: an introduction into how to use WordPress effectively. I hope you have found this tutorial useful. If you have any queries or require further assistance, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Yes, WordPress is free. You can download and use the software without spending a penny. However, you are going to need to pay for a host in order to publish your website and you will need a domain name for your site as well.
I wouldn’t say it was mega easy, but it does not require too much of a steep learning curve to get started. However, with so many different plugins to use, you will never stop learning. While you can set-up a site quickly, it will take a little bit of time for you to master WordPress and use it to the highest potential.
As mentioned, WordPress is completely free to use and download. The costs associated with WordPress include hosting and domains, as well as any plugins or themes that you decide to pay for.
There is no denying that WordPress is one of the most popular and powerful content management systems (CMS) and website builders. I personally believe there are a few reasons for this, yet the main one is the sheer level of customisation you get with WordPress. Plus, WordPress is free to download and use, which is always a massive plus!
Yes, a lot of web designers have chosen WordPress as their main choice of content management system. This is because it is highly flexible.
Yes, you definitely can. There are plenty of great resources online, meaning there is no need to pay for lessons or anything of that nature.
Not necessarily, no. Yes, if you have some knowledge of coding, it can be helpful in making changes to your site. At the same time, you are definitely not required to have any coding knowledge. There are a lot of plugins that have been designed to help you get your website to where you want it to be without knowing any coding.