Have you decided to take the leap and create your first WordPress website? Whether you have a business that could benefit from an online presence, want to build an e-commerce store, or are ready to grow your personal brand, here I put together a simple tutorial on how to create a WordPress website for beginners.
A website is an unparalleled opportunity to connect with your audience, customers, clients, or readers in an authentic and accessible way.
Regardless of the fact that you already have a business or you have a business idea waiting to be turned into a reality; your enterprise is small, large, or in-between; you’re selling products or services; your company is well-established or brand-new. You need a website.
What is a website?
A website (or site for short) is a collection of web pages (articles, blog posts, product detail pages, etc.) published under the same domain name (e.g. my domain name is bylauraiancu with the extension .com).
A website can be visited using a web browser (such as Google Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer and so on) by typing in the website’s address (also called a URL). A website can also be accessed directly from search engine results pages (SERPs) when somebody types in a query for which a website ranks. Or when somebody links to it from another website or a social media post.
Advantages of starting a WordPress website
- 35% of the web is powered by WordPress. From TechCrunch and Sony Music to Vogue and Katy Perry, many popular websites are built on WordPress, so you’re in good company.
- The reach of social media is diminishing as we enter into the pay-to-play era. Starting a website is a strategic decision.
- A website gives your business instant credibility and makes you look professional.
- A website gives you the possibility to answer the most frequent questions your customers ask and save time and money in the long run.
- A well-optimized website can help you attract new customers and clients through Google. These are people that wouldn’t have found you otherwise.
- A website is an ideal place to showcase your products or services in a well-organized and comprehensive manner.
- A website is an opportunity to grow your business, make more money, and automate your sales funnels.
- Creating a WordPress website is way easier and cheaper than you think (starting at only $2.95/month).
What is the difference between a blog and a website?
Blogs are regularly updated websites. Each new content entry added to a blog is called a blog post. Blog posts are displayed in reverse chronological order.
Websites, on the other hand, don’t require regular updates. Content is added in the form of pages (e.g. About page, Contact page, Shop page, etc.). Optionally, a blog can be added to meet the webmaster’s needs.
So basically, all blogs are either self-standing websites or part of a website. But not all websites are blogs.
What type of website do you want to create?
As a small business owner, the type of website you create matters. Here are just a few examples:
- A static website. This can work great for businesses that have a physical presence and don’t sell anything online. It can also work great for creative professionals (such as artists and designers) who want to create a portfolio website to showcase their best work.
- An e-commerce website. If you plan to sell your products through your site, then this is the type of website you need to build. An online store can be an extension of a business you already have or a new business entirely.
- An informational website. The focus of this type of website is on publishing fresh, relevant, and useful content. Monetization is achieved by placing ads or using content marketing in order to introduce readers to products and services in a nonintrusive way. News and magazine websites fall under this category. Content is usually organized in blog form. When creating a WordPress website, adding a blog to your website is super easy.
Steps to creating a WordPress website for beginners
Regardless of the nature of the website you want to create — an e-commerce website that offers physical or digital products for purchase or an informational website that uses content marketing to draw attention to products or services by informing instead of bluntly selling, the first steps to creating a WordPress website are basically the same.
Step 1: Buy a domain name and web hosting for your website
You really don’t need to spend a lot of time or money to create a website. In fact, I believe you should start simple and work towards finding the business model that best fits your personality and lifestyle.
Therefore, to start a website, you need two things — a custom domain name and hosting. These two are non-negotiable. They also require a very small initial investment. In fact, they are among the lowest expenses related to running a website. All the other bells and whistles? Well, they are usually nice to have, but they are optional.
What is a domain name and how does it work?
The custom domain name is basically your website’s name or web address (e.g. apple.com or forbes.com). This is what shows up in someone’s browser when visiting your website. It’s also what you’ll write on your business cards (shall you decide to have some made). Ideally, this is also the name of your business.
If you already have a business but no website, the name of your business might be already taken by somebody else. If that’s the case, you can also opt for a different domain extension other than .com. For example, you can also opt for .net, .co, .biz, .tech, .store or your country code (ie. .us, .co.uk). Some of these might even make more sense for your business than the universal .com.
Note: When you sign up for a hosting account with Bluehost, your domain name is free for the first year (and only $11.99 per year afterward).
What is web hosting and how does it work?
Web hosting is a bit more of an abstract matter. But for the sake of simplicity, let’s say that just like houses need a plot of land to be built on, websites need a slice of virtual space on a server in order to exist. Without it, you cannot start building your website.
Servers cost money to run. So that slice of virtual space on which you can build your website will cost you some money.
Luckily, if you choose Bluehost as your web hosting company, you can pay as little as $2.95 per month. This price is based on an initial term of 36 months. Naturally, if you pre-pay for 24 or 12 months, the monthly fee goes up a bit. But since this is such a small investment, I recommend you go for the 36 months term and save some money in the process.
Bluehost offers several hosting plans. But if this is your first website, the features that come with the Basic plan are probably all you need for now. If you find yourself requiring more storage space, features or simply want to start a second website in the future, you can upgrade your plan any time. Bluehost is truly great when it comes to scalability, so you don’t need to worry about this.
If you want to know more about Bluehost and why I recommend them, you can read my Bluehost review. In short, they are a great option when starting your first website. Not only are they super easy to use but the whole set up process takes only a few minutes.
On top of that, they are reliable and widely trusted — they are one of the largest web hosting companies in the world and are openly endorsed by WordPress. Add to that that they are truly affordable and even their Basic plan comes packed with features, such as a free SSL certificate and free custom email addresses, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
What is the difference between domain name and hosting?
Both the domain name and hosting are key when starting a website. You cannot start a WordPress website without purchasing a custom domain name and a web hosting plan first.
The domain name is a human-readable word (e.g. google.com or amazon.com) that you basically lease for a certain period of time from a domain registrar. This lease can be renewed as many times as you want.
The web hosting, on the other hand, means renting virtual space on a computer (aka server) for the purpose of storing your website’s files (text, images, PDFs, theme files, plugin files, etc.) and serving them to your readers and customers when requested, via an internet browser.
Buying your hosting plan and the domain name from the same company, as a bundle, greatly simplifies the process of starting a WordPress website. Below I’ll show you the exact steps you need to take to create a WordPress website, even if you aren’t techy and have zero experience building websites.
In order to sign up for a hosting account with Bluehost, CLICK HERE and hit the green ‘Get Started’ button to start a website for only $2.95 a month + snag a free domain name.
Next, choose a hosting plan that suits your needs. If all you want to do right now is create one website, I recommend you opt for the Basic plan. The Basic plan includes all you need for growing your website at the beginning, so there’s no point in paying extra. If you decide to upgrade later on, you can do so without any hiccups.
Click the green ‘Select’ button to go to the next step.
Grab your free domain name
On the next page, type in the domain name of your choice. As mentioned before, your domain name is your website’s address, the URL people will type in their browsers to access your website. It’s the web address you’ll print on your business cards. It’s a unique identifier and once you register yours, no one else can have it.
If you’ve already purchased a domain with a different registrar, type it in in the ‘Use a domain you own’ box. Otherwise, register a new domain name by typing in your existing business name or the name you’d like for your website in the ‘Create a new domain’ box to see if the domain of your choice is available.
If your first domain name choice isn’t available (hundreds of millions of domain names have been registered already!), try another extension from the drop-down list. Alternatively, type in a different domain name until you find one that you like.
In case your preferred domain name is not available and can’t come up with something you like right away, scroll down to the bottom of the page to skip this step and create a domain later by clicking on the ‘I’ll create my domain later’ link.
This way, you’ll be assigned a temporary domain name so you can go on and create your WordPress website. Once you’ve found a domain name you like, you can simply replace the temporary domain with it.
Create your Bluehost hosting account
Now it’s time to actually create your Bluehost hosting account. Fill out your account information (or sign in with Google), choose how long you want to pay in advance (12, 24, or 36 months), and check any extras you might want (optional).
My personal recommendation is to uncheck all extras except for the ‘Domain Privacy Protection’ (if available). All extras can be added later on if you need them, so if you want to keep your startup costs to a minimum, just uncheck them for now.
Add your payment information, agree to the Terms of Service, and click ‘Submit’.
The last step is to create a password for your Bluehost account. Choose a strong password, write it down, and store it somewhere safe.
Head to your WordPress dashboard
Click the ‘Log in’ button to go to your WordPress dashboard.
Bluehost will suggest some free themes. This is totally optional. Don’t overthink this as all those themes will still be available for you to browse from your WordPress dashboard later on. So you can skip this step for now or randomly pick a theme.
Click ‘Start building’. You’ll be asked if you want to set up a business or personal blog. You can follow WordPress’s automatic setup, but personally, I prefer to skip this step as well and do the set up manually. I’ll show you how in the next step.
If you’ve just registered a new domain the process will take up to 24 hours to complete. In the meantime, your website will be allocated a temporary domain name. You don’t need to do anything. Bluehost will take care of this for you.
Also, your website will show a ‘Coming soon!’ page courtesy of Bluehost until you’re ready to make your website public. You might want to add some content to your website before you do this, though.
Activate your free SSL certificate
As mentioned, all Bluehost hosting plans come with a free SSL certificate. This provides an additional layer of security to your website, so your readers, customers, or clients can introduce sensitive information (like subscribe to your newsletter or make a purchase) in a secure and encrypted way.
To activate your free SSL certificate, log into your Bluehost account, go to My Sites >> Manage site >> Security >> turn the Free SSL certificate on.
This will take up to 24 hours to complete, but once your SSL certificate is active, your website’s URL will start with https instead of http and you’ll see a lock sign next to your website’s name when opening it in any browser.
Congrats! You’ve just created your first website!
Step 2: Start building your WordPress website
Right now, your website comes with minimum features and you haven’t added your personal touch to it yet. Before you make it public, you need to write some content. You’ll probably want to change the design as well. And configure some basic WordPress website settings.
But first, let’s have a look around your WordPress dashboard. This is where you’ll manage all your website’s content, change the design by installing a new theme and add extra functionality by installing plugins.
How to log into the WordPress dashboard
Right after setting up your hosting account, you were taken to your WordPress admin dashboard.
Just in case you’ve closed that tab and for future reference as well, here’s how to log back into your WordPress dashboard.
Your login credentials should be easy to find in your Bluehost welcome emails.
So simply open a new browser tab and type http://yourdomainname.com/wp-admin/ (replace yourdomainname with your own domain (or temporary domain name)).
Introduce your username or email address and password and hit the ‘Log in‘ button. That’s all!
How to use the WordPress admin dashboard
When you first sign in to your WordPress admin dashboard you’ll see it is split into two — a dark left sidebar menu and a light grey area to the right divided into several sections.
This is of little consequence as truth be told, you’ll spend most of your time in other areas of the WordPress admin dashboard — like in the Posts tab writing content. Personally, I barely use the light grey overview area. I usually go straight to one of the menu options on the left.
By default, the sidebar menu comes with a number of options — Posts, Media, Pages, Comments, Appearance, Plugins, Settings, and so on. Some themes and plugins will add additional menu items so in time your WordPress sidebar menu will change slightly.
What’s more, each menu item has a submenu with several options. For example, if you hover over or click on the Posts tab, you’ll see four options — All Posts (for a list of all posts you’ve published so far), Add New (for starting writing a new post), Categories (for a list of categories you’ve created for your posts) and Tags (for a list of tags you’ve created for your posts). Obviously, if you click on any of them now, there will be little to see since you haven’t added any posts yet.
Change your website title and tagline
First step in customising your WordPress website is to make sure your website title and title are correctly set. This is important for Google and other search engines, as it tells them what text to display when somebody looks up your website.
- In your WordPress dashboard, go to Settings >> General.
- Change your site title and tagline to whatever you want them to be.
- Scroll to the bottom of the page and click ‘Save Changes‘.
Your site title can be either your website’s address with spaces in between words (myawesomewebsite.com becomes My Awesome Website) or something else entirely. More often than not, webmasters choose for the site title to be the same as the website’s address (with spaces).
For the tagline, you can get creative. Just keep it short and to the point.
Set up a static homepage
By default, WordPress displays the latest blog posts in reverse chronological order on the homepage. This is a classical blog structure. But you can change this and use a static homepage (or front page) instead (just like I do).
If you want to show a static homepage, first you need to create a page, then assign it as your static homepage.
- In your WordPress dashboard, go to Pages >> Add New.
- Give your page a title (such as ‘Home’ or ‘Welcome’ or anything else you want).
- Hit the blue ‘Publish‘ button.
- Go to Settings >> Reading.
- Under Your homepage displays choose A static page and select your newly created page from the drop-down menu.
- Scroll down to the end of the page and click the ‘Save changes‘ button.
Now you can go and make your homepage pretty, add text and images to it and design it to look any way you want.
Create a navigation menu
A navigation menu is a list of links pointing to important pages or sections of your website, such as your About and Contact pages or your Shop. These links usually are displayed in the form of a horizontal bar that stays at the top of every page as a reader browses your website. The idea is to help the reader explore your website and stay longer.
Before you create a navigation menu, I recommend you add a couple of pages (such as an About page and Contact page). Only then does it make sense for you to create a navigation menu.
- In your WordPress dashboard, go to Pages >> Add New.
- Give your page a title (such as ‘About’ or ‘Contact’ or anything else you want) and hit ‘Publish‘.
- Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you’ve created all the pages you want. You don’t have to add any content to these pages just yet. Right now, all you need is to create the permalink (the full, unique URL) for each page. The permalink is created automatically based on the page title.
- Go to Appearance >> Menus.
- Under the Menu structure section, give your menu a name (e.g. Top Menu) and click ‘Create Menu‘.
- Choose the pages you want to show under your navigation menu by selecting them from the Add menu items section.
- Once you’ve selected them all, click the ‘Add to Menu‘ button.
- Once your pages have been added to the menu, you can arrange them in the order you want them to appear from left to right, by dragging and dropping them.
- When ready, click ‘Save Menu‘.
Change the permalink structure
If you plan to add a blog to your website, it’s important to set the permalink structure the way you want it from the very beginning.
A permalink aka permanent link is the full web address or URL used to link to a blog post. It’s composed of your domain name and a slug, which is unique to each post.
My recommendation is to avoid using a plain, numeric, or dated permalink structures. Instead, your permalink structure should include a post’s name or keywords.
- In your WordPress dashboard, go to Settings >> Permalinks.
- Select Common Settings, choose Post name.
- Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the ‘Save Changes‘ button.
Step 3: Create outstanding website content
WordPress comes with a super flexible and powerful block editor that makes building websites a breeze.
This means that creating an outstanding website that not only communicates your message but does it in a beautiful and professional way is not only easy and fast but requires no coding experience whatsoever.
Start writing your website copy
They don’t have to be perfect. But they will give you something to work with. Once you’re ready, simply copy + paste the text into WordPress. That’s where all the formatting will take place.
The reason why I recommend you write your content offline is because it’s faster and you avoid WordPress uselessly creating a gazillion backups of your posts as your write.
The difference between posts and pages
WordPress has two default ways of creating content — posts and pages.
Pages are meant for static, timeless content, such as your About page, Contact page, Shop page, and legal pages. They can also be nested under one another (e.g. a product detail page can be nested under the Shop page).
Posts have a publish date and can be organized in categories and labeled with tags. They also have an author assigned to them and are included in your RSS feed (which helps readers subscribe to your latest content). Posts will always be displayed in reverse chronological order on your blog page.
WordPress Gutenberg editor basics
The Gutenberg editor transforms each paragraph and piece of multimedia content you add to your posts and pages into a block. This means each block can have its own formatting, which helps you build engaging content the easy way.
WordPress’s Gutenberg editor is still evolving and new features are added to it on a regular basis.
Right now you can create quite a few types of blocks by simply clicking on the + sign at the top of any post or page you’re viewing in editing mode. You can also create a block by clicking on the + sign that appears when you hover over an existing block.
Some of the most popular blocks you can choose from are Paragraph, Heading, List, Image, Buttons, Table, Columns, Media & Text, and so on. Simply click on the + sign symbol and you’ll see a list of all available blocks.
Each block comes with its own formatting options. Some of them are displayed right at the top of the block (when selected). Others are displayed in the right-hand sidebar under the ‘Block’ tab.
I recommend you create different blocks to see what’s possible to do with each.
When ready, copy + paste the text you wrote for each of your blog posts and pages. A separate block will be created for each paragraph.
If you want to transform a paragraph into a header, for example, select said block and click on the ¶ symbol. A list of blocks will show up and you can choose what you want to convert your paragraph into.
You can also insert images (or other block types) in between paragraphs as needed. Simply select a paragraph, click on the + button, and choose the image block.
To move a block up and down the page, select said block and use the up and down arrows.
The Gutenberg editor is quite intuitive. Once you spend a few minutes exploring it, you’ll see just how easy it is to use.
When ready to publish your page or post, hit the ‘Publish‘ button. If you want to preview it before publishing it, click the ‘Preview‘ button next to it to check the look and feel of your post or page before making it public.
Step 4: Choose the perfect WordPress theme for your website
Now that you have some content added to your website, it’s time to take care of the design. If you’re using a default theme you might be less than impressed with the looks of it. So below I’ll show you how to change your current theme and where to look for a professional one.
You can find all free WordPress themes under Appearance >> Themes >> Add new.
Unfortunatelly, the free themes you can choose from the WordPress repository have several downsides. They are overused. Some are poorly coded. And many aren’t updated all that often, leading to security loopholes.
You don’t absolutely need to get a premium theme. But if you can afford to invest in one right from the get-go, it’s highly recommended.
Where to find a professional theme for your WordPress website
There are many online shops that sell WordPress themes, but not all are created equal. The following are my absolute favorite:
Elegant Themes: This is the home of Divi, the most popular multi-purpose theme there is. While they offer a bunch of other themes, all well coded and suitable for different needs and business types, Divi is the crown of the jewel. That’s because it’s wonderfully flexible and you can create any type of website with it. You really can’t go wrong with Divi.
StudioPress: As the creators of the ever-popular Genesis Framework, StudioPress offers several dozen pre-designed themes. Each theme was specifically created for a particular niche, which means once you find a template that you love, you’ll have to invest very little time into adapting it to your needs.
Bluchic: This is the home of feminine WordPress themes, specially created for female entrepreneurs with an all-female audience. Needless to say, they are cuteness overload. If you run a service-based business, check out ChicServe (also available to use with the Divi builder here). If you run a product-based business, see ChicShop.
How to change your WordPress theme
Premium themes usually come with installation and customization instructions. But the first steps are always the same.
Once you’ve purchased a premium WordPress theme for your website, download it to your device.
Then go to to Appearance >> Themes >> Add New >> Upload Theme.
Then click the ‘Activate‘ button and you can start customizing it to your heart’s desire. This step might take as long or as little as you want.
If on the other hand, you want to use a free theme from the WordPress repository, go to Appearance >> Themes >> Add New. Browse through the available themes (you can preview each and every one of them by hovering over and clicking the ‘Preview‘ button). When you’re ready, click ‘Install‘. Activate it and start customizing.
Step 5: Add extra functionality to your WordPress website with plugins
By now, your website should look pretty much as you’ve envisioned it. But certain featured can’t be achieved with the Gutenberg editor and the theme alone. To put the final touches on your new WordPress website, you’ll need to install a few plugins.
What are plugins?
Plugins are add-ons that expand the functionality of your website. They go beyond what WordPress alone can do and take your website to the next level.
Given that everyone’s needs are different, WordPress developers saw no point in bloating WordPress itself with all the possible features under the sun. So they created the plugins and kept WordPress as light as possible.
This is one of the reasons why WordPress gained so much popularity and is widely used across niches.
Essential plugins for any website
No two websites are alike. So no two websites will have the exact set of plugins installed. Yet, some WordPress plugins are far more popular than others because they provide functionality that webmasters considered non-negotiable.
Because WordPress puts bread on the table for many developers, no matter what functionality you’re looking for, you’ll find several plugins to choose from. Some are clearly better than others. But most times it’s a matter of personal preference.
Here are some plugin ideas:
- Have blog comments turned on? Try Akismet or Antispam Bee.
- Want to improve your SEO? Try Yoast SEO or Rank Math.
- Wanna keep your website secure? Have a look at Wordfence.
- Would you like to automatically backup your website? UpdraftPlus is great!
- Ready to build a store? WooCommerce is the leading eCommerce solution for WordPress.
How to install a WordPress plugin
Installing plugins is super simple. Go to Plugins >> Add New. Search for the plugin you want. Install and activate it.
Some plugins are so simple, they just do what they are supposed to do without requiring you to tweak any settings.
Many plugins, however, have a bunch of settings that you can change (usually in the form of on and off checkboxes). If you need help setting up a plugin, you’ll most likely find step by step instructions on the plugin developer’s website.
Hey there dream chaser! I’m a writer, designer and the creator of The Smart Blog Planner. I’m on a mission to inspire and empower you to create a highly profitable minimalist online business and show up for your dreams in a sustainable way.