Pros and cons of building a website in WordPress
WordPress is the most used website building platform today. What makes it so popular is not necessarily its ease of use but its versatility. The thought of building a website in WordPress can be daunting for anyone new to the world of web design and development. The problem with it is that, because it’s created to be versatile, there are an insane number of settings and options. Beginners can also have a hard time figuring out how to design in it without knowing code, since each theme has its limitations. You might go through several different themes before finding one that has all of the features you need, and some of those may end up being paid premium themes.
That being said, there are many resources online to help you navigate the WordPress dashboard. There are also infinite themes to choose from, many of them offering visual building features. Many of them are free or low cost, and most of them come with great support from their developers. For the purposes of this tutorial, we’re going to assume you chose to build your website in WordPress, and I’ll show you how to get started.
WordPress.org or WordPress.com
So many people don’t know the difference between wordpress.org and wordpress.com. I get how that can be confusing. So here it is: WordPress.org is the original open source WordPress software that can be installed on any hosting capable of supporting it. It is completely customizable. WordPress.com is sort of a branch off of the original WordPress that incorporates the software on a built-in hosting platform. Sounds great up front, but there are restrictions to customization. I’m going to assume you want complete control over your website and have chosen to host your own WordPress.
Choosing a WordPress Host
So what makes a host good for WordPress? The first thing you should look for in a hosting company is that it has hosting plans that are specific for WordPress. Those plans come with features that are necessary for running all the processes that come with a WordPress website. They typically run higher levels of php and have more storage and resources. They usually offer easy migrations, backups, updates, and security features.
If you’re not familiar with website hosting at all, you’re probably wondering what all that means. Let’s keep it simple, then. Here are my recommended WordPress hosting companies: Design Rainbow (we offer our own WordPress specific hosting plans at our Domain-Rainbow.com site), GoDaddy, SiteGround, and WPengine. These are hosting services that we’ve used ourselves or are widely used in the WordPress community.
Setting Up Your Website
We’re going to brush past setting up your host and installing WordPress. Since that process is going to be specific to your hosting provider, and it’s better to get your instructions from them. We will go over how to set up WordPress on our hosting in another article. For now, let’s move on to using the WordPress dashboard to set up your website.
Step 1: Choose Your Theme
There are some settings which are common to all WordPress sites, but choosing your theme first is still very important since it may offer you additional settings. There are many themes or plugins that allow you to start with a base and build visually from there. I highly recommend going with a visual builder, and my favorite is definitely Divi. I’ve even created several Divi child themes to be used with Divi. A close second is Beaver Builder.
Another option would be to choose your theme based on the specific needs of your website. Look for theme recommendations online or ask others in your industry what they use. For example, if you’re a restaurant you may need to take orders online. Your POS system might offer integration options for online order, and you’d need to know which themes work with that. If you’re not sure how to get the functionality you need, you can always ask a professional web designer. Once you’ve chosen your theme, install it according to the instructions provided with the theme.
Step 2: Customize Your Theme
Go to Appearance again, and this time choose Customize. This will bring you to the theme customization panel that will show a preview of your front page (pro tip: you can navigate to another page within the preview window). On the left will be another toolbar of settings you can customize.
Here are the settings which come standard with WordPress:
1. Site Identity:
Choose a name and tagline for your site. This is what your SEO settings will default to. Depending on your theme, it may also be the default for your site header. You can also upload a favicon image (that’s the image on your browser tab, see the rainbow chevron at the top of this page next to the page name).
You can choose a basic color scheme for your website. This is a setting that a lot of themes will provide additional options for. If so, they will appear here as well.
3. Header Media:
Choose or upload a video or image for your site header. This is another setting that is commonly added to with themes. Sometimes with visual builder themes it’s removed altogether and replaced with in-page building options.
This is where you can choose where the menus created will show up. You can also control this and more in Appearance > Menus.
This is a place to quickly manage where your widgets show up. You can control that and more in Appearance > Widgets.
6. Home Page Settings:
This is an important one. Many websites are not exclusively, or even primarily, a blog. Since WordPress was originally created for blogs, its default is to display the blog feed on the front page. This setting allows you to choose a “static” (regular page) as the home page instead. And you can set your blog feed to show on a different page or choose not to select a blog page at all.
7. Theme Options:
This is often removed or replaced by specific theme settings. In the latest iteration of the default WordPress theme, you get to choose whether you want your page layout to be one column or two and which sections of the page to display content.
8. Additional CSS:
If you know CSS, you can add your code here to manipulate the styling of specific widgets or content.
Step 3: Edit and Add Users
This could easily be switched with Step 2, it really doesn’t matter which order you do these. You’ll want to go to Users (in the toolbar on the left of the main dashboard) > Your Profile first. You can enter your first and last name, upload a profile picture (through Gravatar), and choose a nickname. The nickname is important because you can choose this to show up on posts that you author instead of your username, which can deter hacking. You can also add other users with different roles (the can be administrators or authors, etc.)
Step 4: Create Pages
You don’t have to build them out or style them yet, but you do need to add all of the pages you intend to have on your website. Or at least the ones you’re sure of now. That way you can get your navigation and site structure set up.
Go to Pages in the toolbar. You can either select Add New from the drop down, or just click Pages and you’ll see all of your options there. You can add content as you do this if you want, or you can just title them and hit Publish (on the left of the page).
Step 5: Create Navigation Menus
Once you have some pages created, you can create specific navigation menus. You may have done that through Step 2 if you already had some pages set up. If not, go to Appearance > Menus, then enter a menu name (you may want to name them according to where they’ll go, like Primary, Top Menu, or Footer), and click Save Menu. After the menu is created, you can add pages, categories, or custom links (from the left) to your menu. Don’t forget to select its location at the bottom!
Preview Your Website
If you’ve followed these instructions, you now have the basic setup of your website complete. At this point, it’s a good idea to preview your website (even if you didn’t add content to your pages) to get a sense of the style and structure so far. That way you can adjust anything you need to, and it will help you get a sense of where you want to go with the design, which is the next step.
From the dashboard, hover over your website name in the upper left corner, click Visit Site.
Up Next: Creating Blog Posts
We walk you through blog posts in another article: Adding A Blog Post On Mobile. The instructions are specific to blogging from a mobile device, which is what most people are used to these days. However, if you’re on a desktop computer or laptop, the location of the settings will essentiall by the same, so you can easily use the same tutorial.
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