WordPress is perhaps the most popular way to build a website on the market today. For starters, it is free to use. Second, there are a wide variety of themes that you can choose to suit your needs and those themes can be fully customizable to give your business a fully branded website. It offers a CMS that you can utilize to maintain your site and make changes when needed. With over 30,000 plugins available, there is nothing you cannot add to your site, such as social media widgets, SEO, web analytics, feedback boxes, etc. To get the most out of a WordPress site, however, you may need to have at least some HTML knowledge and fall into the more techy category than not.
WordPress offers thousands of themes for every business type. The themes are not broken down into categories that are industry specific, so you will need to browse through them to see what will work for you. They do break them down into free, trending, newest, popular, and premium. The cost for a paid theme can be anywhere from $18 to $275.
Once you have chosen a theme, you are ready to begin customizing it. In order to do this, you must first download and install the theme. This will require that you already have a domain and hosting platform, or that you purchase one.
WordPress itself does not offer hosting. However, they have several preferred hosting partners that are listed on their site. A simple hosting package with custom URL, email, and storage can be as little as $3 a month. Once you have selected your hosting provider and your domain name, you are ready to install WordPress. Here is a good guide that will help you through the process.
First install WordPress to your domain. All of the hosting partners that WordPress recommends have very simple “one-click” installation. It will be located in your hosting cPanel. WordPress provides a guide for this, you can see it here. Once you have completed the installation process, go to yourdomain.com/wp-admin/install.php. You should see this page in your browser:
Depending on how techy you are, or how fast you learn, this can be a quick process, or a long one. Give yourself some time for trial and error. If you feel stuck you can find help in the trouble-shooting section or call your hosting provider for support.
Since this is the first step in building a WordPress website, we suggest you have really committed yourself to the theme you are using. Once you have selected a theme and you download and install it, changing it will be difficult. Since customizing a WordPress theme involves at least some coding (unless you limit yourself to the changes the theme allows), you will not be able to just transfer the coding changes over to the new theme. You will have to recode any custom elements you want all over again.
Now that you have completed all of the installation processes, you can begin to customize your site. Log into your administration area, this will bring up your “dashboard” or the CMS in WordPress. This is the brain of your website where you will customize your site, add widgets, and make changes. All of the information you need to understand the tool bar and different functions within the dashboard can be found here.
Each theme will come with its own unique customization options, which is why it is important to really look at each one carefully before you begin the installation process. The premium paid themes offer a wider range of customizable options and many have bells and whistles such as; high-def, widget ready, and already updated to be compatible with the latest WordPress internal updates. You can find a great list of some of the best WordPress themes released in 2014 here.
One thing to tuck away while choosing your WordPress theme, especially if you want to customize it, is to make sure you use a “child theme”. A child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality of another theme, called the parent theme. Child themes allow you to modify, or add to the functionality of that parent theme. A child theme is the best, safest, and easiest way to modify an existing theme, whether you want to make a few tiny changes or extensive changes. Instead of modifying the theme files directly, you can create a child theme and override within. You can read more about child themes here.
WordPress allows you to add, delete, and change the pages within your website. First, log in to your WordPress installation; make sure you have the proper admin privileges. Next, select the Administration > Pages > Add New option. From here you can add content, media, images, etc. This is a basic page that will mirror the other pages of your website.
If you want to create a custom page, or one that is different from the other pages in your site, it will involve editing or adding files in your “active” Theme’s folder. You can assign a custom template for any individual Page by using the Template dropdown in the Edit Page screen.
Add an Element
WordPress offers over 30,000 plugins to choose from that will help you customize your site. From Google analytics, to slide shows, to widgets, and beyond, there really is not anything you cannot add to your site. It is a good idea that you take some time to really research which plugins you need and which ones are compatible with your site. If you have downloaded WordPress 4.0 keep in mind that many older plugins have not been updated to be compatible with this version. This means they will either not work, or worse, break your entire site when you try to add them. You can use the plugin directory to help you decide which ones to use.
Since we used adding a slideshow in our “using a website builder” example, we will use the same example in this post. Here is a great tutorial from WordPress on how to add a slideshow to your site:
You can change the color scheme of your site, the font, add widgets, SEO, and other elements through the “appearance” tab found in your dashboard menu bar. In order to do things like change the color scheme you will have to install a plugin or you can purchase a color pallet. There are hundreds to choose from and you can preview them on your site for free, however, you must make sure that the theme you have chosen has custom color support. You can learn more about changing the color scheme of your site here.
Like changing the color scheme of your site, you must be sure that the theme you are using is widget-enabled. Most widget-enabled themes have 2 sidebars where the widgets will be housed (some can go in the footer). It is within these sidebars that you will add all of your social media feeds, Google maps, analytics, etc. For each widget that you want to install, you will need to be sure to update, or change it each time WordPress does an internal update, or the plugin will be overwritten and rendered useless.
It would be helpful to have a fair bit of coding knowledge to install the plugins properly and test their functionality before making your site live. This is another area where researching each plugin and reading the reviews will save you a lot of time and agony down the line.
This is a good article to read before installing any widgets.
In order to save changes that you have made to your WordPress site layout, you must click the “Update Files” button. Once you have clicked the button, you will see a message that says “File Edited Successfully.”
The editor does not make backup copies of PHP files. If your editing is done incorrectly, it may crash your site, and you cannot use the editor to fix the problem. In such a case, use FTP to either upload a functional backup of the problem file or change the folder name of the current theme so WordPress is forced to use a different theme.
Once your changes have been made and saved, your site is public. There is no way to “preview” the site beforehand. If you see a mistake, or decide you do not like the changes, you must go in and start all over.
Saving changes of a text on a page is much easier and requires just clicking ‘update’ after you changed the text.
Maintenance & System Updates
WordPress does do regular internal maintenance and updates, and these changes do affect your site, especially the plugins. The “White Screen of Death” is the universal panic term that every WordPress user will experience at some point. It comes when a plugin breaks, crashing your entire site. When this happens, you must deactivate all of your plugins (you should keep them all in a separate folder for easy access), and start over.
This is a great tutorial to help you fix the inevitable “white screen of death” that all WordPress users will face at some point. It is wise to make a habit out of regularly backing up your files and also keeping track of the plugins you use. Often the site will crash because one or more of your plugins is no longer compatible with the WordPress update. Some experts would encourage you to have a “dummy” site that mirrors your actual site where you can test plugins, see edits, and maintain copies of all of your files.
At the beginning of this post we showed you how to install your WordPress theme so that you could customize it. This is really also the way that you “publish” your site. Whichever hosting company you have chosen will typically have a “publish” or a “launch” button within your account manager dashboard. It is difficult to build and customize a WordPress site without doing the installation and hosting step first. Keep in mind that once your WordPress site is live, any changes you make will be visible to your user immediately.
Many beautiful custom sites have been built using WordPress. The options are limitless for those who have the time and coding knowledge to take advantage of all of the plugins and customization options. With some time and effort, and diligence in upkeep, you can create a one-of-a-kind WordPress site that suits all of your needs with little startup costs.
It is important to note that there is a difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org. If you are a newbie and just starting out on your website building journey, be careful to not confuse the two. WordPress.com does not allow you to use plugins, customize your site, and there are ads will appear on your site (from other companies). It should be used for people who want a simple one page blog or landing page. Of course you can upgrade your way out of all of these issues, but by then, you may as well head over to wordpress.org and pay for a simple package that allows you to have full-control of your website.