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How to Get Started with WordPress

Published: Sep. 6, 2020
Last Updated: Sep. 6, 2020

Ready to start your very own website? This tutorial will help you get your WordPress website up and running quickly.

I wrote this tutorial specifically for beginners. It walks you step by step through everything you need to get started.

<div class="wp-block-ideabox-toc ib-block-toc" data-anchors="h2,h3" data-include="" data-exclude="" data-collapsable="false" data-offset=""><div class="ib-toc-container ib-toc-list-style-numbers ib-toc-hierarchical ib-toc-expanded"><div class="ib-toc-header"><div class="ib-toc-header-title">Table of Contents</div></div><div class="ib-toc-separator" style="height:2px"></div><div class="ib-toc-body"><ol class="ib-toc-anchors"></ol></div></div></div>

Here’s a quick rundown of what this article covers.

Step 1: Domain Name and Hosting

First things first, you’ll need to secure a domain name and hosting account for your website. If you already have a domain and hosting, you can skip straight to Step 2.

There are many places to purchase a domain name and hosting. For purposes of this tutorial, I’ll be using SiteGround, which I highly recommend. The price is right and they have excellent support, speed and up-time.

The nice folks at SiteGround have offered my readers a special discount. Click here to get your first year of hosting for only $3.95 per month (a 60% discount off the normal price of $9.95 per month!). You’ll also get a professional email address (e.g. you@yourdomain.com) and a free SSL certificate, which can boost your Google search rankings.

Click Here to Get the Siteground 60% Discount!

Select Hosting Plan

If you click on the SiteGround discount link, you’ll be taken straight to the page where you can select your hosting plan. You can always upgrade later, so click on the “Get Started” button under the StartUp plan on the far left.

SiteGround Hosting Options

Register Domain Name

The next screen asks you to enter your domain name. If you’ve already registered a domain elsewhere, you can select the “I already have a Domain” option and enter your domain in the text box.

If you don’t have a domain, keep the “Register a New Domain” option selected. In the text box, you’ll need to enter the domain name and the extension that you’d like for your site. Examples of domain extensions are .com, .net and .org.

This part can be a little tricky, because many domain names are already taken. You might need to be a little creative with your domain name, or you might need to choose an extension other than .com.

Let’s say I would like to register anneschmidt.com. All I need to do is type ” anneschmidt” into the text box and leave “.com” in the drop-down. Then click the blue “Proceed” button.

Choose domain

The next screen lets me know if my domain name is available. Unfortunately, anneschmidt.com is already taken. SiteGround has suggested some alternatives with different extensions that I can choose.

Domain name is taken

You can select the radio button next to one of their suggestions, or you can type a new domain and/or domain extension into the text box to try again.

Once you enter a domain that is available, you’ll see a success message and be taken to the final step.

Congratulations, your domain name is available

Complete Checkout Process

The final page is a checkout page. Most of the checkout is very standard, but there are a few spots that can be confusing. So here’s a quick run down of what to do.

Account, Client and Payment Information

Pretty standard; just enter your email address, select a password, enter your contact details and enter credit card information.

Basic account and contact information

Purchase Information

Here’s where some questions typically come up. I’ll run through each line item here.

Purchase information
  • Hosting services
    • Plan. This is automatically populated based on the plan that you chose. You can click on the little gray arrow icon to the right if you’d like to select a different hosting plan.
    • Data center. This should automatically be set to the location nearest to you. If you are traveling or for some other reason would like to change it, you can do so by clicking on the gray arrow icon to the right.
    • Period. You can select your initial billing period. If you are using the SiteGround discount link, your first billing period will be 60% off ($3.95 per month). Once you renew, you’ll pay the regular rate of $9.95 per month. So selecting a longer time period here can save you some cash in the long run.
    • Hosting price. Shows the monthly price and the amount that will be billed immediately based on the options you’ve selected.
  • Extra Services
    • Domain registration. This will automatically be selected if you are registering a new domain name.
    • Domain privacy. I personally like to purchase this, but it’s totally up to you. It basically just hides your personal contact information if someone tries to look up who owns your domain.
    • SG Site Scanner. This is a hack/malware scanner. It’s nice to have if you are just starting out and aren’t super confident about security practices, but definitely not necessary.

Once you’ve picked your options, you’re all set. Click the blue “Pay Now” button to complete the transaction.

Pay Now section

Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a domain name and a hosting plan, and you’re ready to move onto the next step of the tutorial.

Step 2: Installing WordPress

Up next, we need to install WordPress so you can use it to power your website.

I’m going to run through two different (but similar) ways to install WordPress:

  • Using SiteGround hosting setup
  • Using a WordPress auto-installer, which is available on most hosting platforms

Installing WordPress on SiteGround

After you purchase your domain name and hosting plan, log into SiteGround using the login link in the upper right corner of the screen.

If this is your first time logging in, you will be prompted to set up your new hosting account via a pop up screen like the one below.

Set up your hosting account

Choose the radio button next to “Start a new website” and click on the WordPress logo as shown. Then enter your email address and choose a username and password that you will use to access your WordPress administrative area.

It is very important that you enter a valid email address that you have access to! This is how you will reset your password if it is lost.

Finally, click the “Confirm” button.

The next page will offer you enhancements that you can add to your site. The suite of offers is always changing. You can choose some if you’d like, but they are definitely not necessary.

Up next, you’ll get a confirmation screen. Check the box at the bottom and hit the “Complete Setup” button.

Complete setup

That’s it! Once the technical magic happens behind the scenes, you’ll see the following screen that lets you know that your hosting account is ready for use.

Hosting account is ready to use

In a few minutes, you should receive an email from SiteGround with the subject “Hosting account setup confirmation”. Once you have that email, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Installing WordPress Using an Auto-Installer

If you are using another hosting company, or you already have a SiteGround hosting plan set up, you can also install WordPress via an auto-installer.

The trickiest part of using an auto-installer is finding where it is located within your hosting account. Typically, once you log in to your hosting account, you’ll see a link for “cPanel”, which is short for “control panel”. In SiteGround, you can access the control panel by clicking on the “My Accounts” tab and then clicking the red “Go to cPanel” button.

Go to cPanel

Once you are inside your cPanel, the trick is to find the auto-installer. In most cases, you’ll see “WordPress” listed, as is the case in the screenshot below. Once you locate the auto-installer, go ahead and click on it.

Auto-installer within cPanel

There are several varieties of auto-installers, so if yours looks different than the screenshot below, don’t fret. They are typically very easy to use and pretty much self-explanatory.

In the SiteGround auto-installer below, I need to first click the blue “Install” button.

Install button

The next page is a simple one page form. The first section is Software Setup. You don’t need to do anything in this section; leave the default options.

Then you have Site Settings. Enter your site name and description. Do not check the box next to “Enable Multisite”.

Site Settings

Third is Admin Account. Choose a username and password for your website, and be sure to change the administrative email to an email that you have access to.

Admin account

The final sections are Choose Language, Select Plugin(s) and Choose Theme. Select the language for your site. Under plugins, I would recommend checking the box next to the Limit Login Attempts/Loginizer option. It’s free and helps secure your site. For now, don’t choose a theme; we’ll walk through themes later on.

Once you’ve filled out the form, click the Install button.

Final options

After the installation is complete, make note of the administrative URL, which will also be sent to you via email. You’re ready for the next step.

Step 3: Logging Into Your WordPress Site

Now you’re ready to log into your WordPress site and get to work.

After installing WordPress, you should receive an adminstrative URL by email. Typically, the URL is in the format www.yourdomain.com/wp-admin. So, for example, my administrative URL is anneschmidt.co/wp-admin.

Open your administrative URL in any browser, and log in with the username and password you created in the last step. If you forgot your password, just click the “Lost Password?” link to reset it.

WordPress login screen

Once you successfully log in, you are taken to your WordPress Dashboard. This is where you create and manage your website.

There’s a lot to take in here, so feel free to click around and get acquainted with the options. The important thing to know is that the black bar on the left-hand side acts as your navigation menu. You can click on any of the menu items, such as Pages, Posts or Media to manage the corresponding areas of your website.

WordPress dashboard

Don’t worry about figuring everything out just yet; that will come with time. I’ll go into more detail about some of the key areas of the Dashboard in the rest of this tutorial.

Step 4: Installing a Theme

A theme is WordPress terminology for template. The theme is what determines the appearance of your website.

There are thousands of WordPress themes out there. I’m going to show you how to install a free WordPress theme from the WordPress.org theme directory.

How to Find a Free Theme for Your Website

Within your WordPress Dashboard, hover over Appearance in the left-hand navigation menu and click “Themes”.

Appearance, themes

Then click the “Add New” button at the top of the Theme page.

Add New Theme button

The next page displays the hundreds of free WordPress themes available from the WordPress directory. A good way to browse these is to click on the “Popular” tab to view the most popular themes. There is also a search box in the top right corner where you can search for themes by name.

View free themes

Clicking on any of the theme images will give you details of the theme and a preview of how it will look on your site.

Details and preview

I’m going to be using the “Total” theme for this tutorial. If you want to follow along, I’d recommend installing Total on your site as well. You can always go back and switch themes after you’ve completed this tutorial and are a bit more comfortable with WordPress.

By the way, if none of the free themes catch your eye, you can also find hundreds of paid themes, many of which offer more flexibility than free themes. Some examples of popular paid themes are Divi, Enfold and Genesis.

Installing and Activating a Theme

Enter “Total” in the search bar in the upper right corner of the screen. Then hover over the theme image and click the blue “Install” button.

Install total theme

Once the theme is installed, the blue button’s text will change to “Activate”. Click “Activate” to make the theme live on your website.

Activate total theme

Alright, your theme is installed and ready to go! If you take a look at your homepage, it will probably look similar to the screenshot below.

Not quite what we want, but we’re getting there! In the next steps we’ll add text and images to the site via Pages and Posts.

Step 5: Pages

Unlike posts, which are dated, pages are typically relatively static. Most sites will have at least a handful of pages, such as Home, About and Contact.

Adding a New Page

To add a new page, hover over “Pages” in your Dashboard and click “Add New”.

Add new page

In the top text box, enter a title for your page. I’ll make this first page the About page.

In the large text box, type the paragraph text for your page. I’m going to copy in some meaningless text just for demonstration purposes.

Add page title and text

There’s a lot of different options here, but for this tutorial, let’s stick to the basics and leave all of the settings as is.

Click the blue “Publish” button in the top right corner to make the page live.

Publish page

Below the title is the link to your shiny new page. You can click on the link to view it on your site. Don’t worry about the sidebar on the right of the page, we’ll tackle that a bit later.

Page link
About page

By the way, the black bar you see at the top of the screenshot above is the administrative toolbar. It will only appear to users who are logged into your site.

Repeat this process for all of the Pages that you need on your site. After you’ve added all of the pages, you can click on “Pages” -> “All Pages” in your Dashboard to view a list of every Page on your website.

View a list of pages

Adding Images

To add images within your page, insert your cursor next to the text where you’d like the image to appear.

Next, click on the “Add Media” button between the page title and body text.

Add media button

In the dialog box that pops up, you can click the “Select Files” button to select a file from your computer, or you can drag and drop the image directly onto your screen. You can also click the “Media Library” tab at the top to select an image that has already been upload to your site.

Select files and media library

Once your file is uploaded, click the blue “Insert Into Page” button in the bottom right hand corner of the screen.

Insert into page

If you want to change the alignment of the image, just click the image itself. A small gray bar will appear below the image, and you can choose the appropriate alignment option.

Edit image alignment

Setting the Home and Blog Pages

By default, WordPress will show your latest blog posts on the home page. Typically you don’t want to do that; you want to create a Home page and have the blog posts displayed elsewhere.

To designate the home and blog pages, hover over “Settings” in your Dashboard and click “Reading”.

Settings reading

The very first option says “Your homepage displays” and allows you to choose between “Your latest posts” and “A static page”. Choose “A static page” and then select the Home page from the drop-down box. If you have a Blog, you’ll also want to choose the Blog page from the “Posts page” drop-down box.

Select home and blog pages

Step 6: Posts

The difference between Posts and Pages can be a little tricky. Posts are typically dated and appear on a blog page in reverse chronological order. Most of the time, they take the form of a blog or journal.

You don’t have to have any posts on your website. If you aren’t planning to blog, feel free to skip to the next step.

Adding a New Post

To add a new Post to your site, hover over “Posts” and click “Add New”.

Add a new post

At the top of the Post, enter the title. Then type the body of the post into the large text editor.

Add post text

If you would like to insert images in your post, see the section above on Adding Images.

When you’re ready to make the post live, click on the blue “Publish” button toward the upper right of the screen.

Post publish button

The featured image is the primary image that represents your post. Where featured images appear on your site depends on your theme, but typically they will appear in two places:

  • At the top of the individual blog post
  • On the main blog page that displays all of the posts on your site

To add a featured image, click on the “Set Featured Image” link at the bottom right of the post editing screen.

Featured image link

In the pop up, you can click “Select Files” to select an image from your computer, or just drag and drop the image onto your screen

Once your file is uploaded, click the blue “Set Featured Image” button in the bottom right corner of the screen.

Set featured image

That’s it! Be sure to click the blue “Update” button to update your Post and show your new featured image.

Excerpts

An excerpt is a short bit of text that displays on your blog page. It is typically around two or three sentences long and followed by a link to view the full post. How excerpts are displayed on your website will depend on your theme. Below is a screenshot of a typical excerpt.

The Ultimate Guide to Backing Up Your WordPress Website

WordPress will use the first text in your post to automatically generate excerpts. If you’d like to craft a custom excerpt, it’s easy to do.

First, click on the “Screen Options” drop down at the top of the Post editing screen.

Screen options drop down

Check the box next to Excerpts. You only need to do this once, and then the Excerpt box will automatically be checked for any Posts you add in the future.

Now if you scroll down below the main editing box, you’ll see there is a new text box where you can type your custom excerpt.

Excerpt box

That covers the very basics of Posts. There’s a lot more you can do with Posts, but this should be enough to get you started.

Step 7: Navigation Menus

WordPress makes is super easy to configure your site’s navigation menu.

Adding a Navigation Menu

In your WordPress Dashboard, hover over “Appearance” and click on “Menus”.

Appearance, menus

At the top of the page, click on the link to “create a new menu”.

Create a new menu

Now give your menu a name and click the blue “Create Menu” button.

Name your menu

Next you need to choose which Pages appear on your menu. On the left-hand side of the screen, you’ll see “Pages”, which lists the Pages most recently added to your site. There is also a “View All” tab that you can choose to show all of your website’s pages.

Check the box next to the Pages that you want to add to your menu. Then click the “Add to Menu” button.

Add to menu

The items you selected will appear on the right of your screen. You can drag and drop the items to reorder them as needed.

Once you have all of your menu items in the right order, click the blue “Save Menu” button.

Note that your menu will not automatically appear on your site until you complete the next step and set a display location.

Save menu

Setting the Menu Display Location

In order for your menu to appear on your website, you need to select a display location.

The display locations that you’ll have available to you will depend on your theme. For example, in addition to a main navigation menu, some themes have a footer menu or shop menu.

Under the menu that you just created, you’ll see a section titled “Menu Settings”. The second row here is “Display location”, which has check boxes for all of the available locations within your theme.

Simply check the box next to the location where you would like to show your menu.

Display location

Step 8: Key Site Settings

Now that we’ve added some basic content to our site, there are a few settings that you might want to change before you share your website with the world.

Site Name and Tagline

In your browser tab, you will see your site name and tagline. Having an accurate and appealing title and description is important for both usability and search engine optimization (SEO).

You can see below that my name and tagline leave much to be desired.

Original name and tagline

To change this setting, hover over “Setting” and click “General”.

Settings, general

At the very top, you’ll see text fields where you can change the “Site Title” and “Tagline”. After you change these fields, be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page and click “Save Changes”.

Change title and tagline

Enabling/Disabling Comments

You can globally enable/disable comments by hovering over “Settings” and clicking on “Discussion”.

Settings discussion

In the top section, just check or uncheck the box next to “Allow people to post comments on new articles”.

Enable or disable comments check box

Note that this setting will only apply to new posts. If you already have posts on your site and need to change the comment settings, you’ll need to first navigate over to “Posts” -> “All Posts”.

Hover over the post that you want to enable or disable comments for, and click on the “Quick Edit” link.

Quick edit link

Then check or uncheck the box next to “Allow Comments”. Finally, click the blue “Update” button.

quick edit comment box

Permalinks dictate the way that WordPress automatically creates URLs for your Pages and Posts.

It’s probably easiest to illustrate this by taking a look at the Permalinks settings, which are under “Settings” -> “Permalinks”.

Settings permalinks

You can choose from a variety of preset Permalink options, or define your own structure. A custom structure is advanced, so for now I would just choose a preset option.

The option that is typically recommended for search engine optimization is “Post Name”. If you prefer to have dates displayed in your URL, such as “http://mywebsite.com/freetheme/2018/05/30/sample-post/”, you’ll want to choose either the “Day and Name” or “Month and Name” options.

Permalink settings page

After you’ve made your selection, be sure to click the blue “Save Changes” button.

Step 9: Widgets

By default, most themes have a “Sidebar” that displays on Posts and Pages. You can see an example of a sidebar in the screenshot below.

Sidebar example

You can change what appears in the sidebar by hovering over “Appearance” and clicking on “Widgets”.

Appearance widgets

The left side of the Widgets page displays all of the available widgets. These are the various blocks that you can display within your Sidebar.

The right side of the Widgets page displays all of the widgetized areas that your theme provides. Typically the primary sidebar is named something like “Primary” or “Right Sidebar”.

Although the sidebar is the most common place for widgets to appear, many themes have additional widgetized areas, such as the Footer.

Adding a Widget

To add a widget, click the name of the widget you would like to add on the left-hand side under “Available Widgets”. Then drag and drop the widget to the sidebar area.

Add a widget

Editing a Widget

To edit the content of a widget, click on the arrow next to the widget you would like to edit.

Widget arrow

The options for the widget will appear. In the screenshot below, I can add an image and add an option title for the image.

Image options

Be sure to click “Save” in the bottom right corner of the widget to save your changes.

Deleting a Widget

To delete a widget, either drag it over to the left and release it, or click the red “Delete” link.

Delete a widget

Re-Ordering Widgets

To change the order of widgets, just drag and drop them as needed.

Change widget order

Step 10: The Customizer

The Customizer allows you to visually customize your theme. I’ve saved this for last because I find it’s easiest to do when most of your content is already loaded on your site.

I should mention that every theme has its own version of the Customizer. So if you are using a different theme, your Customizer will likely look pretty different than mine.

To open the customizer, hover over “Appearance” and click “Customize”.

Appearance customize

The left-hand side of the screen shows the various options that can be customized visually.

For example, say I want to change the main color of my website from yellow to blue. In the theme I am using, I need to first click on General Settings, and then click on Colors.

General settings
Colors

From there, I can click on the color box next to “Theme Primary Color” and select a new color. When I do so, I get a live preview of what my site looks like on the right side of the screen. Remember that every theme has its own Customizer options. If you don’t see the same Primary Color setting on your screen, it might be hidden elsewhere within your theme.

Change primary site color

When you are done making changes, be sure to Click the blue “Publish” button to save.

Wrapping Up

Phew! I know we just covered a ton of information, and we’ve just scratched the surface.

WordPress is incredibly powerful, and there’s a lot to learn.

I hope this free guide helps get you started on your WordPress journey. If you feel stuck or have any questions, shoot me an email at anne@anneschmidt.co and I’ll help you out.

Ready to build an amazing website?