WordPress Beginners Guide
Everyone knows that the Internet isn’t short on information about starting your first WordPress endeavour. When I first started with WordPress around 2 years ago, I Googled, and Googled, and Googled until I had all the information I needed to take my first steps into the wonderful world of WordPress, so to save you the trouble I thought I’d write this guide. This is by no means exhaustive, but it will certainly get you started.
Let’s start with the basics. What actually is WordPress? Well, WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that allows you to create fantastic websites in a very simple way. WordPress has an admin portal that sits behind your website which allows you to manage the content on your site. Here is a sneaky peak at what the back end looks like whilst I was writing this very article:
Looks easy doesn’t it? See what I mean, not a piece of code in sight. You can write the content for your site in the exact same way as you would write a letter in your favourite word processor.
WordPress doesn’t stop there though, oh no! It’s also caters for the uber technical people out there, allowing you to customise every single part of your websites look and feel through it’s built in code editor. This isn’t a requirement though, many people run WordPress websites without ever looking at a single piece of code.
So now you know what WordPress actually is, let’s get started on out WordPress beginners guide and start to look at the different pieces of the puzzle that you will need to get started.
Get a good web host
The first thing you’re going to need is a host to actually run your WordPress site for you. There are literally thousands of web hosts to choose from, some great, some not so great. There are a couple of things you really need to look out for when choosing a host, the main things are as follows:
- Bandwidth - this is the amount of data that can be transferred to and from your hosting account every month. If you hit your limit then your site will go down, more is definitely better here. Luckily a lot of hosts come with unlimited bandwidth (like the recommendations below).
- Storage Space - whilst not massively important, you still need to take this into consideration. Websites aren’t actually that big in size, for example, RefuGeeks is just over 600MB in total, and we’re a pretty large website. Again though, a lot of web hosts provide unlimited webspace.
- Functionality - You need to think about the extras. Will you require email? If so, email storage will need to be taken into account when selecting the amount of storage you need. What about sub-domains, additional domains, or SQL databases? The latter is a requirement of WordPress, so you need to make sure you get all of this functionality.
I’ve used a lot of hosts over the years, but for smaller sites, which you will undoubtedly have if you’re just starting out with WordPress, then I would recommend BlueHost if you’re over in the states, and 5quidHost is you’re in the UK like me. BlueHost only offer one plan, and that’s an unlimited plan for around $4.00 per month, in this you will get everything you need and more to host multiple WordPress sites.
With 5quidHost, you can choose from a selection of plans. Ranging from a free account that has 35MB of storage, 1 SQL database, and 100MB of monthly bandwidth (enough for a small WordPress site); right up to an unlimited plan for Â£10 per month. Personally I prefer 5quidHost as I’ve used them for years and their support is excellent. BlueHost don’t host .co.uk domains so this may be a problem for UK users if you know DNS that well.
Ultimately it’s completely up to you which web host you use, these are just my recommendations. Note: these are not affiliate links, I am recommending these services as I personally think they are the best around, not because I am making money from them. If you’re not sure on what host to pick then feel free to leave a comment below and I’m sure someone will be able to help.
Now that we have our host picked out, we need to look at installing WordPress. Both of the providers above use cPanel (as do many other providers) to manage their web servers. This makes installing WordPress extremely easy. Once you’ve logged into your panel, you will usually have a web applications manager like Softalicious. If you’re not sure then use your web hosts tech support for help. They usually have very simple ways of installing WordPress.
You can also use a service live Installatron to quickly and easily install WordPress to your web host. Though non-technical users may struggle with this option.
Once installed you will be able to navigate to your website and you should have a plain WordPress site sporting the default Twenty Twelve theme. That’s it. You now have your very own, self-hosted WordPress site! Next we’ll take a look at what the next steps are with navigating around WordPress and adding some content.
Login to your admin back-end
To manage your WordPress site you need to be able to access the admin back-end. To do this simply navigate to http://yoursite.com/wp-admin you will then see a login prompt. Enter the username and password you entered during the installation process and hey presto, you have your admin back-end.
From here you can install plugins, create pages, menu’s, blog posts, and much more. The WordPress admin interface is actually very intuitive, after just a few clicks around the back-end you will soon start to find your way around. It’s very simple to use, but if you get stuck, WordPress have a great resource that gives you a map of the admin back-end. Click here to take a look.
Secure your site
No WordPress beginners guide would be complete without a section about securing your site. Especially with all the speculation of WordPress site attacks going around the net recently.
The first and most important tip I can give you when securing your WordPress site is do not use the “admin” username. This is the first thing any attacker will look for. Most online installers for WordPress allow you to set your own username during the initial setup process, but the default username is always “admin”. Please, please, please make sure you change this!
A while back a wrote an article about some of the best ways to secure WordPress. So rather than re-write that article in this WordPress beginners guide, here is a link to take a look for yourself. This is also another useful article on getting rid of some unwanted visitors and securing your WordPress site.
Pick a theme
We should now be familiar with the back-end and have a nice secure WordPress installation. The next thing we need to look at is giving our site a more personal look and this is done by Themes. The default theme for WordPress is called Twenty Twelve, and it really is a great theme. It’s clean, basic, and looks great. But if you want a more customised look then you can find thousands of WordPress themes online that are both free and paid for. Personally I usually opt for paid for, premium themes from sites like Theme Forest, but there are also tonnes of free themes in the WordPress theme repository. Here are some of my favourite free WordPress themes.
Installing a theme is very simple, especially if you’re adding one from the WordPress repository. From the admin interface go to Appearance > Themes and then click on the Install Themes tab. From here you can search the database and easily add a theme, or you can click on the Upload link to upload a .zip theme that you have downloaded from somewhere else.
Once you’ve found a theme you like, just click on the Install Now link and the theme will then be installed. Once installed, click on the Activate link to apply the theme to your site. Here’s my site now with a new theme applied:
If at any point you decide that you don’t like your new theme, then you can go back to Appearance > Themes and switch back to another theme, remove the theme that you’ve just installed, or add more themes. Easy this WordPress stuff isn’t it?
Plugins & widgets
If you’ve been following along with this WordPress beginners guide, then you should now be ready to start looking at plugins and widgets. Plugins & widgets add extra functionality and features to your site. There are tens of thousands to pick from and they can be used for pretty much anything, from adding social media sharing, to contact forms. You can search for plugins and widgets in much the same way as themes, simply go to Plugins > Add New too search the WordPress plugin database.
Usually, if you want too add features to your site, you would do this with a plugin (unless you are a programmer). In this section I’ll show you a few of my favourite plugins to add some cool features to your site.
Social Media Widget
The Social Media Widget is a really useful way off quickly and easily adding your social links to your site by the use of pretty cool buttons. There are a bunch of pre-made social buttons to choose from or your can make your own like we have on RefuGeeks.
Once you’ve installed and activated the Social Media Widget, go to Appearance > Widgets to manage your widgets. Widgets are the parts of the site that make up your side bar and in some themes, the footer. You can add as many or as few as you like to each widgetised section. Simply drag and drop the widgets you want to use into the area you want to use them.
Here we’ve added the Social Media Widget to our sidebar and activated a Facebook, Google+, and Twitter icons by simply placing our social media links into the corresponding fields within the widget admin screen. It’s extremely simple.
Now we’re going to add a contact form to our site to ensure that our readers can say hello if they want to. A contact form is an essential part of any website if you intend to receive any kind of feedback from your readers. People always like to know that there’s an easy way to contact the website owners should they need to.
To add our contact form we’re going to head back over to our plugins admin page then search for and add Contact Form 7. Contact Form 7 is extremely easy to use and can create great looking contact forms in no time at all. Once installed you will see a new section added to your admin sidebar on the left called Contact. Click on this to view the Contact Form 7 settings.
You will immediately see that you already have “Contact Form 1″ setup and ready for you. By default Contact Form 7 will send any emails from the form to the address you specified when setting up WordPress. You can override this by clicking on “Contact Form 1″ and editing the To: section under Mail.
From the Contact settings screen you will see a shortcode that looks similar to this - [contact-form-7 id="4" title="Contact form 1"] copy that code as you will need it to add the contact form to your page. Now we need to go to Pages > Add New so we can add our new contact page. Now give your page a title like Contact Us, fill in some intrductory text and add the shortcode you copied before below it. As shown below:
Once you’re happy with the page, click on the blue Publish button. This will publish the page and make it visible on your site. Go back yo your website and you should now see the Contact Us page within your navigation menu. When you click on that link you should see your awesome new contact us page. I’d now recommend you send yourself a test to make sure it’s all working.
SEO by Yoast
SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation is extremely important. What’s the point in having a website if no one can find you? The best plugin for SEO that I’ve found is SEO by Yoast. It’s a great tool that automatically manages your SEO for you. It give you a helpful little “traffic light” that tells you how good your page/post is for SEO and it allows you to add keywords and meta data quickly and easily from within the WordPress page/post editor. I can’t recommend this plugin highly enough, with around 70% of all traffic on RefuGeeks coming from Google, you can see how important SEO is.
There are so many other plugins that you can get and use with WordPress that the options are pretty much limitless. If you want to add a feature and you’re not sure what plugin you’re looking for, then I would recommend the WordPress User Forums as it’s full of WordPress veterans (like myself) that are always happy to help and offer up advice.
Start Making Pages
I’ve already told you how to make a page in WordPress when we covered the contact page. At this point you may want to add some more pages to your site. Some good options for additional pages would be About Us, Portfolio, Home and Blog.
Now the last two may sound a little strange, as your homepage is your blog, right? Well, not always. What if you want a “normal” homepage that displays some information about your site/company and then a separate blog page as well. That’s also simply done, first of all create two new pages by going to Pages > Add New. You want to call them Home and Blog. Make sure you add the content you want to your homepage but leave the blog page completely blank.
Now, go to Settings > Reading from the admin interface. At the top of the page you will see Front Page Displays. Change the option from Your latest posts to A static page. Then select the home page you made for the front page and the blog page you made for the posts, as shown below:
Save the changes and go back to view your website. You should now see the home page when you go to the main URL for your site, and the Blog page should display your posts.
Start writing great content
You now have the basics of a great new WordPress site all setup and working. So, the next thing is to start writing some great content on your blog. Blogs are great as they allow you to express yourself online, and also Google rewards fresh content, so it will help your SEO.
Writing blog posts is pretty much the same as making pages. Just go to Posts > Add New and start writing a post. Once you’re happy that the post is ready, hit the blue Publish button and your post will immediately be live on your website for the whole world to see.
There are no rules as to how often you should write content on your blog. Personally I like to try and write as much as possible on RefuGeeks, but sometime I’m busy and can’t afford to write everyday, so there can sometimes be gaps for days. That isn’t a bad thing though, as long as you’re writing new content once a week or so and you have something interesting to say, then you should steadily see your numbers increasing.
For me this is the most important part of owning a website/blog. The minute I stop enjoying writing is the minute that RefuGeeks will cease to exist. You shouldn’t write a website/blog to make money, you should write because you enjoy it and because you think you have something valid/interesting to say. If your site is successful, then you can monetise it further down the road.
Running a website isn’t easy, and it will only get harder as your site grows. But trust me when I say this, the satisfaction that you get when you see people enjoying the content that you have painstakingly created is really awesome!
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