“You need a website. Why not do it yourself?”
How many times have you heard this wix.com ad play at the beginning of a YouTube video?
Yes, there are many, many services that you can use to build a website for yourself.
At the “easy” end of the spectrum, you could use a simple website-builder like Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace. You could even build a simple homepage on a social media network like Tumblr. These are all tempting options, since they only take a few minutes to set up and require no technical knowledge whatsoever. It’s so easy, a baby could do it.
Honestly, if all you need is a simple website, and you need it now — and you’re absolutely sure that you won’t care about customizing it or upkeeping it in the future — then the services listed above might actually be perfect for you.
But if you want a website that will stand the test of time — a website that you’ll actually be able to keep, and update, and own for the long-term — and you don’t have the time, money, or technical skills to code it yourself — then setting up a self-hosted WordPress site is, by far, your best option.
And while it may not be as simple as Wix or Weebly, it isn’t rocket science either. In fact, you can set up a wordpress website in under an hour!
When you build a website on a service like Wix, Weebly, or Tumblr, you don’t actually own your website. Your site is owned by Wix, Weebly, or Tumblr. If they decide to close up shop tomorrow, then your website, and all the work you put into it, disappears. If you want to expand or update your site in a particular way that’s not supported by that particular platform… too bad for you. And if you want to move your site to another host? Sorry, but it’s not your site to move.
WordPress, on the other hand, is free, open-source software, that is constantly being tweaked and improved by a community of thousands of web developers. It’s infinitely customizable, with thousands of “plugins” that you can use to do pretty much anything you can imagine. If you ever learn how to code, or have money to hire a coder, you can even adjust the code yourself in whatever way you so desire.
When you download the free WordPress software, you own it. It’s yours. You can install it on any server, anywhere on the internet. You can even install it on your personal computer, or a “home server” if you want to be really “independent.”
With so many incredible benefits, it’s no wonder that more than 25% of the internet (that’s ~75,000,000 websites) runs on WordPress.
But you don’t have to worry about all of that for right now. For now, just rest assured that whatever the future brings, your WordPress website will be able to handle it.
Now let’s get you started. This entire process should take less than 30 minutes. Even if you’re really slow, you should be up and running within an hour.
HOW TO SET UP A WORDPRESS WEBSITE IN UNDER AN HOUR
Step 1: Get a hosting account (10 minutes).
Websites are files that live on computers. When you type in www.randomwebsite.com and hit enter, your browser (Google Chrome, for example, or Safari, or Internet Explorer) looks up which computer randomwebsite.com is “hosted” on, and then connects with that computer so that it can access the website files.
You could technically host your website on your own computer, or on Amazon AWS, but that would require technical skills that are beyond the scope of this tutorial.
Instead, most people pay a “hosting provider” to host their websites for them. A hosting provider, like GoDaddy or HostGator, is a company that has a bunch of huge computers (often called “servers”) that are sitting in a giant data center somewhere. If you pay GoDaddy a few dollars per month, they’ll rent you some space on one of their computers. You can upload your website files to the hard drive space that they provide, and GoDaddy will take care of the rest.
While GoDaddy is by far the largest hosting provider — https://visual.ly/community/infographic/ computers/worlds-largest-web-hosts — in the world, it isn’t necessarily the best.
Instead, try one of wordpress.org’s officially recommended hosting providers: https:// wordpress.org/hosting/. Of those three, we recommend SiteGround. It’s easy, it’s cheap, it’s blazing fast, and it has great tech support. It’s made specifically for WordPress, and their WordPress support staff are extremely knowledgeable, helpful and friendly.
No matter which hosting provider you choose, setting up an account should only take a few minutes. Every hosting provider makes the process fool-proof on their websites, because they want you to become their customer. SiteGround makes it extremely easy, by giving you a specialized WordPress Hosting setup wizard.
Click here to set up an account at SiteGround. It should take you less than 10 minutes.
In case you’re having trouble getting your SiteGround account set up, here’s a quick and easy video to walk you through the process.
Step 2: Set up and log in to your WordPress installation (5 minutes).
Different hosting providers have different ways of installing WordPress. Most hosting providers provide a Control Panel (or C-Panel) where you can click on the WordPress icon and go through a simple set-up wizard.
In SiteGround, installing WordPress is even easier than that. As soon as you finish paying for your account, you’ll be directed to your SiteGround dashboard. In the top-right corner, you’ll see a button that says “GET YOUR NEW SITE UP AND RUNNING!” Click the big orange button, and you’re on your way.
The wizard that opens up is self-explanatory, but make sure to check the option to “Get WordPress pre-installed on this account.” Also, when the wizard asks you to create a username and password, make sure to write them down! Those are very important pieces of information that you will need, every time you log into your WordPress website.
When you finish the wizard setup (which should take just a couple of minutes), you’ll get an “Admin URL.” This is the URL that you’ll use to log into your WordPress website whenever you want to edit your website or create new posts or content. Make sure to write this down as well, and store it in a safe location.
The URL will usually be your domain name, followed by something like /wp-login or /wp-admin. So, for example, if your domain name is samplewebsite.com, you would log into your WordPress admin dashboard at samplewebsite.com/wp-admin
Go to your admin URL, enter your username and password, and viola! Welcome to your WordPress Dashboard!
This dashboard is where you’ll be spending most of your time, as you set up, develop, and maintain your new WordPress website.
Now you can also go to your domain name (samplewebsite.com, or whatever URL you’re using) to see what it will look like to your visitors and customers.
Step 3: Choose and install your theme (10 minutes).
One of the most powerful features of WordPress is the ability to install themes. A theme defines the look and feel of your entire website.
Your website will come pre-set with a standard WordPress theme, like Twenty Seventeen or Twenty Eighteen. While you can certainly use this theme if you like it, you can also change to one of the thousands of other custom WordPress themes available all over the internet. If you Google “free WordPress themes” you’ll find tons of them.
On the black sidebar on the left side of your WordPress dashboard, click the link called “Appearance.” You’ll see the themes that are currently installed, and the theme that is currently active. If you want to change the theme, click the “Add New Theme” button. You can choose one from the selection of themes available in the WordPress dashboard, or upload your own.
Step 4: Create a blog post and a page (10 minutes).
Also in the black sidebar on the left side of your WordPress dashboard, you’ll find a couple of links called “Posts” and “Pages.”
A “post” is basically a blog post, which shows up in a sort of “blog” format. A “page” is more formal — it’s something that users generally access through your website’s navigation menu. For example, you might create an “About Us” page that users can access easily from anywhere on your site, but if you write a blog post about something that happened this week, it won’t, by default, appear in your site’s navigation. Depending on your theme, it will most likely show up as a “post” on your homepage.
Click on “posts” and then “add new” to create a new post. Do the same thing for “pages.” You can always delete them whenever you want. This is just to give you an idea of how they work, so you can create whatever posts and pages you need for your website.
Step 5: Add some plugins (10 minutes).
Check out that black sidebar again. It’s a very useful sidebar. Play around with its functions. Learn it well. For now, click on the “Plugins” link.
Plugins are basically extra features that WordPress developers are creating all the time. There are thousands of them to choose from. You can install a plugin that turns your site into a “membership” site, so people can log in. There are plugins that let you accept credit card payments and sell things on your website. For now, let’s just install a simple, universally useful one — Yoast SEO. This plugin helps people find your website through Google and other search engines.
Click the “Add New” button at the top of the Plugins page. This will show you all of the most popular plugins that are available for you to install. Since we are specifically looking for Yoast SEO, type “Yoast” (or just “SEO”) into the search bar on the top-right. Yoast SEO should be the first option that comes up, with 1+ Million Active Installs. Click the “Install Now” button, and the plugin will install itself! Just make sure to active plugins after you install them, by clicking the “activate plugin” link when necessary.
You can view, activate, and deactivate your plugins from that same “Plugins” page on the left sidebar.
Step 6: Keep tinkering, and enjoy your new WordPress website!
Owning a WordPress website is a bit like owning a car. It’s easy to get it started and get rolling, but there are a million ways that you can tinker with it and customize it. Keep playing around, keep building, keep growing. Most importantly, have fun with it!
To learn more about web development, and to dig deeper into the world of tech, check out techlaunch.io. Aside from other things, we often have free workshops in Miami, to teach you how to work with WordPress, and many other useful web technologies.