Learn step-by-step the ins and outs of building a website with WordPress, including how to use WordPress themes, pick the right plugins and more…
So, you want to hop on the most popular web building platform out there, do you? Great – we’re here to help you navigate the sometimes choppy waters of WordPress.
Time: 45 minutes-1 hour
Cost: $0-59 per month, for top-end e-commerce plan
- WordPress account
- .CA domain
First things first: You’ll need to decide whether you want to build a website with WordPress.org or WordPress.com.
WordPress.org or WordPress.com?
While they sound the same, the experiences they offer are very different. WordPress.com is an all-in-one, commercial web building platform, while WordPress.org is far more DIY-focused and backed by a massive open-source community.
Why would you pick WordPress.org? Chances are you’re looking to start your first blog, promote your small business and showcase your work. But at the same time, you want the freedom to customize as you see fit and don’t want to break the bank with your annual costs.
WordPress.com, on the other hand, would be your preferred option if you’re looking for a web building platform where all the heavy lifting is done for you. For instance, you won’t need to manage your own server, pay for and source your own hosting or buy a domain (if you don’t want to). You can also pick from a number of professional-looking, pre-built templates that can help you tweak and customize your site.
Alright – on to the build guide!
How to build your website with WordPress
1. Pick a plan
With a WordPress.org, there’s just one, free plan option, but you’ll need to do more leg-work upfront in buying a domain, selecting your hosting provider as well as any plugins (apps), themes, templates and anything else you think you’ll need for your site.
WordPress.com pricing plans come in five flavours:
- Selecting the “free” plan gets you in the door, allowing you to create a simple website.
- The “personal” tier runs you about $5/month and lets you add a custom domain and access 24/7 support.
- “Premium” will set you back about $10/month and is the most popular option for freelancers and bloggers. This tier unlocks more advanced design tools and other features like custom CSS and Google Analytics support.
- The “business” plan costs $33/month and unlocks custom plugins and themes along with other features, like SEO tools, site monetization and up to 200GB of storage and live support.
- The “eCommerce” plan runs $59/month and allows you to accept payments and serves up premium themes, marketing tools and integration with shopping carriers like UPS.
Once you’ve picked a plan, it’s on to hosting!
2. Get hosting on WordPress
The biggest difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is who is hosting your website and its content.
WordPress.com can host your website for you, meaning you don’t need to manage a server or download any other software. If you go with WordPress.com, your website’s URL will look something like yourcoolwebsite.wordpress.com. If you want a custom domain, you’ll have to upgrade your WordPress.com account to one of the paid plans.
With WordPress.org, you’ll have to create a domain and choose a third-party hosting provider. You’ll be directed to create an account, pick a hosting plan and set up a new domain.
Psst – if you’d like to show that your site’s proudly Canadian, might we humbly suggest you choose a .CA domain? We can even help you search for and register your perfect .CA domain name.
3. Connect your hosting provider and domain with WordPress:
- Log into your domain registrar account, click “web hosting” and then “manage.”
- Scroll down to “options and settings” and look for a section called “popular apps.”
- Click on WordPress to start installing the app.
- Once WordPress is installed, you work through a few more questions about the domain you’d like to use, admin information etc.
- After about 24 hours, your new WordPress website will be fully installed and connected to your hosting account. You should receive a confirmation email from your hosting provider of choice.
The last part of your initial setup involves making your new, custom domain the “primary domain.” In WordPress, navigate to “my site,” click “domains” and choose the custom domain that you’d like visitors to be able to search.
4. Select WordPress themes and plugins
With the initial setup out of the way, now comes the fun part – making your WordPress.com or WordPress.org website look beautiful!
WordPress.com serves up over 300 possible layouts, templates, fonts, colour palettes and more. You can keep the default WordPress theme, but really – where’s the fun in that?
To search and select a theme in WordPress.com:
- Click “my site(s)”
- Scroll down and click on “design” and then “themes”
- Next, search for a theme. Depending on what look or functionality you’re after, you can enter keywords, like “portfolio” or “business” to narrow down your results
- Also – make sure you filter between the “free” and “premium” paid themes
Every WordPress.com theme has its own menu with additional options. For instance, “try and customize” lets you “try on” the theme and shows what your site’s content would look like with the theme applied. Selecting “activate” immediately applies the theme to your live site.
With WordPress.org, navigate over to your “admin” dashboard, then click “appearance” followed by “themes.” You’ll be brought to another page where you can browse all available themes or – similar to WordPress.com – search for a specific theme based on your own needs.
Once you’ve zeroed in on your favourite themes, click “install” so you can get started customizing it and populating your own content.
It’s important to remember that each theme has its own set of instructions around customization, so do a little homework so you can avoid any headaches later. Fortunately, each theme’s website (and accompanying info) is available via the WordPress.org theme and template library.
5. Start adding pages, posts and other content
Want to add a post or a page? Pages are more static pieces that always remain in place – like information about your business. Posts, meanwhile, are used typically for more dynamic, changing content like blog posts or galleries/portfolios of your work.
Want to add a few quick layers of customization to the pages and posts? There are a few quick and easy ways to accomplish this.
First, you can create static or dynamic pages under the “settings” time in your admin menu. Static pages keep your content in one place for consistency, whereas dynamic pages are great for bloggers/writers that always want their latest content to appear at the top. Click “settings,” then “reading” and choose whether you want to see “latest posts” or “a static page.”
Be sure to customize your website’s name by clicking on the “general” tab under “settings.”
6. Picking and using plugins
Think of your WordPress website’s plugins like apps for your phone or tablet. They can be used to add specific features or functionality to your website – without having to do any of the coding yourself. Good deal, right? Best of all, if you’re building your website with WordPress.org, you have access to over 55,000 (last time we counted) of free, open-source plugins. Here are a few “bread n’ butter” plugins to get you started:
- Yoast SEO – make search engine optimization (SEO) tweaks so your site is more accessible (and visible) to search engines like Google. More traffic, more eyeballs on your page.
- WPForms – create and add interactive contact forms to your website, enabling your visitors to reach you more directly vs. posting your email address in plain text.
- Google Analytics for WordPress – integrates your website with the most popular visitor traffic analysis solution out there.
- UpdraftPlus – performs automatic backups of your website and all of its content.
- Wordfence Security – helps improve your WordPress site’s security from hackers and other threats.
- Askimet Anti-spam – automatically block spam comments from appearing on your site.
- WooCommerce – turn your WordPress.org website into a fully-functioning online shop. It’s super-flexible in terms of customization, allowing you to tweak features and functionality so you can sell physical and digital goods, link to affiliates and add a number of different payment methods.
Installing your plugins is extremely straightforward. If you’re installing free, open-source plugins to your WordPress dashboard, then navigate to “Plugins – Add New”. All you need to do here is type in the name of your desired plugin into the search field, click “install,” followed by “activate” and voila – you’re up and running!
WordPress will let you know that your new plugins are running via a notification at the top of the page.
These first few steps should set you up nicely in building a brilliant, custom WordPress.com or WordPress.org website.
In need of inspiration? Check out this great list of the best websites created using the WordPress platform.