If you’re thinking of creating a website for your business or for your portfolio or whatever reason it could be, but you’re not much of a coder then you should probably go for a free and open-source content management system, and for this, we recommend using WordPress. However, there are other alternatives including Drupal, Joomla, Django, Omeka, and Plone, to mention a few, but we would still recommend WordPress.
WordPress is the most popular and versatile content management system (CMS) for creating websites. As mentioned before, it is a free and open-source platform —thus, you can modify it to fit your preference when creating your/(a) website. Whether you want to showcase your portfolio, start a blog, sell your products, or promote your services, WordPress can help you achieve your goals with ease and style.
In this article, we guide you through the steps of creating a professional website using WordPress, from choosing a domain name and hosting plan to designing and launching your site.
Step 1: Choose a Domain Name and Web Hosting
A domain name is your website’s equivalent to a physical address. It helps users find your site easily instead of using its IP address. Choosing a domain name and web hosting provider is the very first thing you have to do before you go into the developing process. When choosing a domain name, make sure it is easy to remember, relevant to your website, and easy to spell. On the other hand, when choosing a web hosting provider, look for one that has an affordable pricing plan, offers reliable service, fast loading speeds, and excellent customer support, to mention a few.
You can use your business/brand name as your domain name, however, the domain name you select has to be available and if that’s taken, you have to consider a couple of other options such as using a different name extension; for example, instead of .com, you can use .net, or you can use a suffix; adding a word to the end of your domain name to differentiate it from the existing one or you can use a prefix; adding an action-oriented verb at the start of your domain.
To check the availability of your domain name, you can use the web hosting provider you opt for to host your website. Some of these providers include; BlueHost, Godaddy, Namecheap, and SiteGround, among others. They provide a free domain name search tool that allows you to do this (via a record system called WHOIS and RDAP). If you search and find the domain name is unavailable, then you would opt for other options.
Purchasing a domain can cost a starting price of as low as a dollar to $15 but these aren’t sold for a flat rate. Instead, they’re paid for on a recurring basis (usually annually). When considering the costs of your domain, be mindful of the difference between the starting price and the renewal price.
Step 2: Install WordPress
Once you have chosen a domain name and web hosting and paid for them, the next step is to install WordPress CMS on your hosting account —this can be done in two ways, one-click installation or manual installation.
Installing using one-click installation:
- Log in to your hosting account’s dashboard scroll to the bottom and look for an option that says “Install WordPress”, “WordPress Installer”, “Softaculous”, or something similar.
- Click on the option and follow the instructions. Choose a name for your site, create an admin username and password, and select some basic settings.
- Wait for the installation to complete and then log in to your WordPress site using the credentials you created (in step 2).
- Download the WordPress CMS from wordpress.org/download.
- Go to your download folder, unzip the downloaded file, and rename the folder as “WordPress”.
- Log in to your hosting account’s cPanel or FTP client and upload the “WordPress” folder to the root directory of your domain name. For example, if your domain name is www.example.com, you need to upload the folder to www.example.com/wordpress.
- Create a MySQL database and user for your WordPress site using your hosting account’s cPanel or phpMyAdmin. You will need to note down the database name, username, password, and host for later use.
- Visit www.example.com/wordpress in your browser and follow the instructions on the screen. You will need to enter the database information you created earlier, as well as create an admin username and password for your WordPress site.
We highly recommend that you opt for the first option, using one-click installation is easy and more way straightforward.
ALSO READ: IS WORDPRESS STILL THE BEST CMS IN 2023?
Step 3: Choosing a WordPress theme
By default, WordPress comes with three themes pre-installed, however, these aren’t more professional just basic themes to start off. To opt for a more professional and appealing look, there are thousands of free and premium WordPress themes available, and you can choose one that suits your website’s niche and design preferences. You can get these themes from WordPress on collection or you could opt for sites such as ThemeForest, Elegant Themes, ThemeGrill, Creative Market, and Mojo Marketplace, among others. We highly recommend going for premium themes with them come theme updates and other features that the free versions don’t offer.
To browse and install themes:
- Once logged in to your WordPress site, on the sidebar menu, select Appearance >> Themes.
- You can choose from the active themes or select “Add Themes” browse through the available themes and select one that you prefer. Alternatively, you can upload a theme.
- Once you have identified the theme you need, click install, and thereafter activate it by clicking on the Activate button. The same goes if you uploaded the theme, once uploaded, go ahead and activate it.
Step 4: Install Essential WordPress Plugins
Before going ahead with customizing your theme, firstly, you need to install essential plugins. Plugins are add-ons that add functionality to your website. After installing and activating the theme (usually the ones you uploaded), you are provided with plugins to install, thus go ahead and install them.
To install other plugins that suit your website, go to Plugins > Add New in your WordPress dashboard. You can search for plugins by name or browse popular plugins by category. Alternatively, you can upload a plugin.
Some essential WordPress plugins we can recommend include:
- Yoast SEO; will help you optimize your website for search engines.
- Jetpack; adds security, performance, and marketing tools to your website.
- Disqus; helps increase engagement and build loyal audiences.
- Image Omptizers; reduces file size for your images for better site performance.
- Quttera Web Malware Scanner; to scan for malware and vulnerability exploits.
- Contact Form 7; allows you to create and manage contact forms on your website
Step 4: Customize Your Theme
After installing and activating your WordPress theme and plugins, you can now customize the theme to your preference to match your content and style. With customization, you can change your website’s layout, add pages & posts, add menus, change fonts, and change colors, among others.
The WordPress Customizer allows you to modify your theme while previewing your changes in real-time. To access the WordPress Customizer
- Select Appearance >> Customize.
- You can change your site identity, modify the homepage settings, and add custom widgets and menus.
- Once done, select Publish to save your changes.
Step 5: Add Pages and Posts to Your Website
Create pages and posts for your website. Unlike posts, pages are static, they don’t change frequently, such as an about page, contact page, privacy page, or service page. Posts are dynamic content that is published regularly, such as blog posts or news updates. NOTE: pages and posts determine your homepage, for instance, a news site will differ from a portfolio or a company/business site.
To add a page;
- Go to Pages >> Add New.
- Enter a title and content for your page.
- Use the settings in the right panel to assign attributes, and add a featured image.
- Then Publish.
To add a post;
- Go to Posts > Add New.
- Enter a title and content for your post or page.
- Use the editor toolbar to format your content and add media.
- Use the settings in the right panel to assign categories, tags, and a featured image.
- Then Publish.
You can use your Pages for menus and to do so, once you’ve added your pages go to Appearance >> Menus >> Add only the pages you need >> Click save menu.
If your theme supports more than one menu, from the Menu section, select the menu you need to edit, add pages, and then save.
Step 6: Launch your website
Pretty much that is all you need and your website is ready for launch. But before launching, make sure you have tested it thoroughly for any errors, broken links, or compatibility issues. You can also ask friends or colleagues to review your website and provide feedback and where needed, you make the change(s).
Once you’re satisfied with the results, you can then launch the website officially.
Once your website is launched, you need a couple of things done;
- Optimizing your website for search engines to help you rank higher in results pages (SERPs) and attract more organic traffic to your website.
- Add security measures to protect your website from hackers and malware. Some essential security measures include keeping your WordPress and plugins updated, using 2FA on top of your passwords, installing more security plugins such as Wordfence or Sucuri to monitor and prevent security threats, and using SSL encryption.
- Add analytics and tracking tools to help you understand your website’s performance and visitor behavior. Some essential tools include Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Heatmap tools like Crazy Egg or Hotjar.
Creating a professional website using WordPress requires planning, effort, and attention to detail. By following these steps, you can create a website that is functional, secure, and optimized for search engines and visitors. Remember to keep your website updated and maintain its security and performance regularly.