How To Build A Website With WordPress: The Beginner’s Guide
In the world of online publishing, WordPress is big. Actually, it’s more than big. WordPress users create 70 million posts and generate 77 million comments, each and every month. If those numbers aren’t enough to impress you, consider this one: More than 409 million people will load up more than 20 billion WordPress pages this month. Some of those pages are attached to big names, too. Users include TED, CNN, Spotify — and even our own Merchant Maverick site.
With its reputation as a CMS (Content Management System), it might surprise you that WordPress is also a top choice for website building. In fact, you can use WordPress to get your small business website up and running, even if you don’t have a bit of coding experience. Especially if you’ve been using WordPress to host a blog, you easily can create a business site.
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First Things First: Understanding WordPress.Com VS WordPress.Org
Before we go any further, it’s important to understand that when we talk about WordPress, we are talking about two distinct services:
- WordPress.org is open-source software
- WordPress.com is a hosting service
You can use either to build and maintain a website. But before you start, it’s important to understand the differences between the two.
What’s The Difference Between WordPress.Com & WordPress.Org?
Despite the name they share, WordPress.com and WordPress.org are quite different. WordPress.com is a service hosting WordPress websites. WordPress.org, on the other hand, is a platform for using the open-source WordPress software. You can download that software to run on your own computer and use it to create a website, if you’re comfortable coding.
Set up a self-hosted WordPress.org site, and you will need to find a site host before you can publish your website. Or use WordPress.com to create a fully hosted site. Though you can create a complete website using WordPress.com, you will need to pay to add some functions. With a WordPress.org site, the sky’s the limit — as long as you have the coding know-how.
How To Choose Between WordPress.Com VS WordPress.Org
It’s free to create a site using either WordPress.com or WordPress.org, so you can check them both out before you make your final decision. Either one can be a good option. Which is right for you boils down to your interest in coding. If you’re capable of using the open-source WordPress software to write code to create your website, WordPress.org may be the best choice.
If you’re less comfortable in the coding arena and want an easy solution to get your business website up and running quickly and with little fuss, check out WordPress.com. In fact, you can do more than check it out. You can keep reading and follow along as we create a WordPress.com website and show you just how easy it is.
What You’ll Need To Start Your WordPress Website
You won’t need much to start a WordPress website. Gather up these few things, and head to WordPress.com to get started.
- Business name
- Domain name, if you have one
- Credit card
You won’t need that last item right away, but you may want it soon. WordPress does not offer a free trial period. So if you want to unlock advanced features and add eCommerce to your webpage, you will need to upgrade to a paid plan.
How To Build A WordPress Website
Once you’ve picked WordPress as your website solution, the next question is how do you actually build a WordPress website? Follow along with this step-by-step guide, and you’ll learn everything you need to know to set up a WordPress website.
Step 1: Create Your Account
Getting a WordPress website up and running is easy. Go to WordPress.com and click the blue button to start your website. You’ll need only an email address to get started, or you can use your Google or Apple ID if you prefer.
Step 2: Choose A Name & Domain
WordPress is a hosted solution, meaning that you won’t need to find — or pay for — a site host or domain name. In fact, as soon as you create your WordPress account, you’ll be prompted to put a name to your developing website and choose a domain name. If you don’t have a name ready, don’t worry. You can enter something now and change it later, or you can skip this step entirely for now.
Based on the name you entered, you will see choices for domain names, meaning the web address assigned to your site. There will be a free choice that includes a wordpress.com extension, and other possibilities without WordPress branding. Those come with a price tag that is waived if you sign up for a WordPress plan later.
Step 3: Create Your Style
Make your choice among 21 themes for your homepage layout as you start to build your website. Most of the themes are free to use, but a couple are included only in premium plans. You can customize or change your layout later. Next, you’ll get to choose the font you want to use on your site from about five options. You’ll be able to see how each font looks on your chosen page design, although you won’t be able to see pages yet with your own photos or text. Again, you will have a chance to adjust later if you like.
One nice feature: You can toggle between views to see how your template will look on desktops, mobile devices, and tablets. Although most website builders offer responsive designs, not all let you see the different view so early in the design process — that’s something that could help you in your early-stage choices.
Step 4: Add Features & Choose A Plan
You can set up a WordPress website without spending any money. However, if you’re open to considering a few expenditures, you can improve your site’s functionality. Plans start at $4 per month, and here are some of the options you can choose to add, depending on the plan you select:
- Custom Domain
- SEO Tools
- Image Storage
- Video Storage
- Priority Support
When you select any of these options and continue, you’ll see the price you will need to pay to access it. For example, if you want a custom domain, you can use the Personal plan, at $4 per month. If you want to add eCommerce, you’ll need to go up to a $45 monthly plan. You can sell subscriptions/recurring payments using the Personal plan and sell single items using the Premium plan, which costs $8 per month.
However, if you want to be able to set up an online store and conduct eCommerce, you will need the $45 eCommerce plan. That plan also lets you remove WordPress branding, gives you more customization options including plugins, lets you accept online payment for products and services, lets you integrate with shipping carriers, and more. Note that WordPress lists prices as a monthly expense, but the billing is done annually, so you’ll pay for a year upfront.
Unlike other website builders, WordPress doesn’t offer a free trial. So how can you be sure that you’re making the right decision before you have to put any money down? Unless you’re sure that spending $540 right now for an eCommerce enabled website is the right thing to do, don’t feel rushed to a decision. You can go back a few steps and play around with the website you just created.
Step 5: Revisit Your Site Menu
Hit the Back button on your browser, and you’ll arrive at your page admin. This is where you’ll see options for building and even launching your site, if you decide to stick with the free version. Midway down the page on the right side, you should see a menu titled Manage your site. That’s a great place to start.
From that menu, choose any option you like and dig in. If you click Edit homepage, for example, you’ll be able to add content (text and photos) and change the overall look and feel of the page using the WordPressblock editor. As you make changes, click the Preview link on the top right side of the page to see how viewers will see your page on different devices.
Click on each section on the page to bring up a menu of customization options. Although you won’t find a drag-and-drop editor, like some website builders include, it’s not too difficult to make the changes you want using the WordPress block editor. Don’t forget to Preview your page as you work.
Step 6: Add Pages
What does your website need next? You can add as many pages as you’d like. Design your own or, from your admin page, click Add a page to see some prebuilt page options, including:
Once you add a page, they’re easy to customize with the block editor.
Take Your Website To The Next Level With WordPress Plug-Ins
You’ve built a basic website, with the pages you need to get your business story out there. But is your website ready for business? Maybe not.
What’s missing? You may want to add some plug-ins to give your site better functionality.
What Are WordPress Plug-Ins?
Plug-ins are software that you can download to add groups of functions or features to your website. They are fully coded solutions that integrate with the WordPress software.
What kinds of plug-ins work with WordPress, and how can you access them? From your admin page on WordPress, you can see a link for Plugins on the left-side menu. Right away, you’ll see three categories: Featured, popular, and new plug-ins. That’s just the tip of the plug-in iceberg, however. Remember that the WordPress software is open-source, so that anyone with coding knowledge can use it. That has resulted in thousands of plug-ins that you can add to your site. You definitely won’t want to add them all, and the truth is you probably won’t want to add very many.
Here’s a good starting point, if you’re interested in selling products on your WordPress website: Search the plug-ins menu for “eCommerce,” then make your pick from the choices displayed. If you’re unsure, look into a few options until you find one you like. You will need to upgrade to a Business plan in order to add an eCommerce option, as mentioned above. The $45 monthly price tag gives you extra benefits, including the removal of WordPress branding, so you’ll have a more professional looking website.
Getting Your WordPress Site Up & Running
Because your WordPress website is built on open-source software, you’ll never stop seeing improvements and new plug-ins you can add. Don’t stop at eCommerce. Keep browsing the plug-in menu until you have added the functions you will need to operate your business website. That includes improving your website (staying on top of SEO capabilities and analytics) as well as building your knowledge around using CRM in eCommerce (customer relationship management).
If this website will be your first venture into eCommerce, you should continue to build your knowledge base in that area, too, and stay on top of developing trends. Once your website is up and running, you’ll be ready to learn how to increase your online sales and develop an online presence to build and strengthen your brand for continuing business success.