Getting Started With WordPress
- How to get up and running with WordPress
Having spoken to many would-be webmasters over the years, I’ve found there’s one thing that puts people off starting a website more than any other (hint: it isn’t a lack of technical skills).
I’m talking, of course, about money.
If you dream of having your own website, but think getting it up and running will cost you a small fortune, you’re not alone. However, this is a big misconception — especially if you choose to use WordPress (a platform that’s one of the most-capable AND easiest-to-learn) to build your site.
Be it for a personal project with just a few hundred visitors a month or for an online business with potentially tens of thousands of customers a year, let’s take a look at how little it can cost to put together your own top-notch website. Below, I’ll show you what’s required, and, perhaps more importantly, how affordable it can be to get your own professional website up and running.
Step One: Buy a Domain Name
Your journey to website ownership starts with a domain name. This is your tiny slice of online real estate, and will determine the URL (such as winningwp.com) that visitors will need to type in to access your website.
Although a domain name can be changed, most website owners tend to stick with the same one throughout the life of their business, so be sure to choose something that’s unique, memorable and representative of the site you’re putting together.
Assuming it’s available, either the .com domain or a location-specific domain, such as .co.uk will almost always be the best choice. However, if you’ve fallen in love with a domain and the .com is unavailable, there are a number of other choices to at least consider, such as .co, .org or .net, for example. (Note: Even if the domain name you want is unavailable (i.e. has already been bought by someone), it’s worth contacting the owner — check https://who.is — to see if they’d be interested in selling: especially if they’re not currently using said domain.)
Step Two: Get Set Up with Hosting
The next step for a new WordPress user is choosing a web host.
Your web host will provide you with space on a server from which to manage and run your website, and it’s via this server that internet users will connect to and view your website (your website can’t work without one).
It sounds high-tech, doesn’t it? And high-tech usually means expensive, right? Fortunately, hosting doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, as there are lots of affordable services out there.
The cheapest option is shared hosting, which typically cost around $10 to $15 a month. Our recommended shared hosting service of choice is SiteGround — a highly competent web hosting provider that offers reliable, fast and secure WordPress hosting plans from $9.95 a month.
Your web host will influence your site’s capacity, reliability and loading speed, so, if you’ve got the budget, it’s worth going for the best you can afford. For WordPress-powered websites, this means choosing a fully WordPress-optimised service, such as WP Engine. At $29 a month, it costs a little more than a regular shared hosting plan, but comes with a huge number of additional benefits.
Most popular web hosts, including the ones I’ve already mentioned, offer a highly recommended quick WordPress installation service that means you can be up and running in just minutes without having to manually install WordPress on a server yourself (a process that requires more than beginner-level skills).
For advice and recommendations on choosing an appropriate web host, check our handy guide. If you’re confused about whether to go for a relatively inexpensive shared host or a more expensive WordPress-specific host (a service also known as ‘managed WordPress hosting’), read this explanation.
- How to Choose the Best WordPress Hosting Service (2017 edition)
- Shared vs Managed WordPress Hosting
- Managed vs Unmanaged WordPress Hosting
- VPS vs Dedicated Hosting
Step Three: Pick a Theme
Now the fun starts: it’s time to choose a WordPress theme.
Your chosen theme is essentially a template for your website, and will determine your site’s layout, style, and design. Remember: your site’s appearance shapes your visitors’ first impressions, so you should give this step the time it deserves.
Luckily, there are thousands of WordPress themes available — meaning there’s an off-the-shelf design to suit just about every type of site.
WordPress themes come in two flavours: free and premium. If you want to learn more, here are a few of our most pertinent posts on the subject:
- What Are WordPress Themes and Where to Get New Ones?!
- WooThemes vs Elegant Themes (Two Leading Theme Shops Compared)
- A Guide to Finding – and Buying – Themes on ThemeForest
Most premium themes will set you back somewhere around the $30 to $60 mark, so they’re hardly going to break the bank.
For an extensive list of the best places to search for the ideal premium WordPress theme, take a look at another of our earlier endeavours: Where to Buy Top-Quality WordPress Themes.
If you’re on a limited budget, you can always opt for a free theme (although, considering how little a premium theme costs, it usually makes sense to set price aside and get exactly what you want). If the website you’re putting together is of the personal, non-money-making variety, though, then choosing a free theme could help you save those vital pennies. If that’s the case, be sure to check out the Official WordPress Theme Repository.
Remember: you don’t have to stick with your theme forever. With WordPress, it’s possible to change themes at a later date without too much fuss.
Step Four: Install Some Plugins
The final step when setting up your website is to install a few WordPress plugins. These give very specific functionality to your website — for example, social sharing buttons. If you want to learn more, check out our in-depth guide.
As with themes, there are several thousand WordPress plugins to choose from, and, like themes, they are also split between premium and free.
I can’t tell you which plugins to install — that’s a matter of personal preference and depends on the purpose of your website. However, there are a few go-to plugins that really almost no site should be without:
- WordPress SEO by Yoast — optimise your website for SEO and generate XML sitemaps.
- Jetpack — an entire suite of useful modules developed by the team behind WordPress.com, Automattic.
- Akismet — simply the best way to cut down on website comment spam.
- Google Analytics by Yoast — about the best, and easiest, way to link your website to Google Analytics (to measure visitor traffic, etc).
- WP Rocket — instantly (and very significantly) improves your website’s load times by caching posts and pages with minimal fuss.
- Ninja Forms — an absolutely brilliant means of creating online forms, such as ‘contact us’ forms.
- VaultPress — arguably the best WordPress backup plugin/service available (highly recommended).
With so many plugins available, there’s something for just about every purpose and functionality imaginable. If you’re looking for the best plugin in a specific category, be sure to check the WinningWP archives — we regularly put together lists of the best plugins for all sorts of scenarios.
Note: For an extensive list of free WordPress plugins to use on your site, look no further than the Official WordPress Plugin Repository.
Oh, and if you’re interested in seeing which plugins we use (in case you’re looking to put together a blog-type website such as this), check out our Under the Hood Page, which lists all of the plugins we’re currently using on WinningWP.
Doing the Math
That’s it, we’re done! We’ve covered just about everything you need to start your own WordPress-powered website: a domain, hosting, a theme, and some plugins. All that’s left to do is to flesh out your site with the content (words, images and perhaps videos) — the positioning of which will be largely predetermined by the theme you’ve chosen. The content will give your site the look and feel you desire — something that will depend on your objectives and the type of website you’re putting together.
For the uninitiated, the thought of starting a website may sound expensive, but I hope this guide has shown that it really doesn’t have to be.
To further illustrate the point, let’s take a quick look at an example scenario on the lower end of the spectrum: if you’re working on a restricted budget, you could opt for a cheap domain ($10 a year), budget hosting from SiteGround (around $120 a year), and use only free WordPress themes and plugins.
That’s $130 a year — a steal when you think of the potential return from having your own online business.
Even if you were to upgrade slightly, it still wouldn’t break the bank. Again, let’s go with the cheap domain ($10 a year), dedicated WordPress hosting with WP Engine (around $360 a year), a premium theme ($60), and four premium plugins (at, say, $30 each).
In the first year, assuming you put it together yourself, your website will cost you $550 — which should get you off to a flying start.
So, if you’re motivated and passionate enough to learn how to create your own website, don’t let concerns about the cost put you off.
Not only is WordPress one of the most affordable ways to get started online, it’s also one of the most capable, versatile and user-friendly content management systems available. And, if that’s not enough to convince you, it also powers more than 25% of the top 10 million websites.