Beginner’s Guide to Building a WordPress Website from Scratch

Posted on Thursday, May 19th, 2016 No Comments


Beginner's Guide to Building a WordPress Website from Scratch

 

This Beginner’s Guide to Building a WordPress Website from Scratch is a guide that you can follow to create a new website with WordPress, even if you’re starting with no knowledge on the subject.

The guide covers a basic 5-step process:

  1. Get Web Hosting
  2. Register a Domain
  3. Install WordPress
  4. A Few Configurations
  5. Install Your Theme

Following this process will take you from zero to owning a live WordPress website. It also includes some FAQs throughout the tutorial that help beginners learn what some technical terms mean.

How much technical knowledge is needed?

  • There is absolutely no coding required.
  • You should be comfortable with basic internet and computer usage—things like installing software, creating online accounts, and downloading files.
  • This guide has step-by-step instructions, but it is always possible that something online has changed since I wrote this, so you have to be adventurous enough that you won’t freak out if something looks a little different than what you see here.
  • The most important thing is to be open to learning something new.

What are the costs involved?

WordPress itself is free, but there are small costs involved with having your own website. Most domain registrations are $10-$12 per year for .com, .org, and .net domains. Web hosting is around $5-$10 per month, depending on what you need and whether you pay monthly or yearly. This guide includes a discount for DreamHost, the company I’ve used for web hosting for over 10 years.

Do I have to use DreamHost?

The only way I can create a guide with screenshots and step-by-step instructions is by referencing a web host that I have access to. You can use any other web hosting company you want, but you’ll have to find your own instructions. Most web hosts will provide tech support and documentation that you can use.

Now that you know a bit about what you’ll be doing, let’s get started.

 

Get Web Hosting

Sign up at DreamHost to get $25 off your web hosting. This is what that will look like:

website hosting discount

Click the Get Started Now button.

Q: What is web hosting?

A: Every website “lives” on a server. You can think of a server like a specialty computer that stores the files that make up websites. When you access any website, you’re actually viewing those files as stored on a server somewhere. You could set up a server for your website in your own home, but that’s way too much trouble for most of us, so there are web hosting companies that provide servers and host your website for you.

 

hosting step 2

Create a new account with your email address and a password.

Q: What is shared hosting?

A: “Shared hosting” means that your website will live on a server with other websites. If you’ll be running a WordPress blog, a small business website, or a shop with a plugin like WooCommerce, shared hosting is a good choice. It is possible to buy hosting that gives you a dedicated server that only hosts your website, and it’s much more expensive (around $100 per month or more). A dedicated server will usually give you benefits like faster page loads, but it’s only necessary for very large websites. A huge website like Amazon.com, for example, uses many servers.

 

hosting step 3

You are able to register a domain name now, but for the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll be doing it later. Select the I’ll set this up later option.

Q: What is a domain name?

A: A website’s domain name is the website’s address that you see in your browser’s address bar—the name plus the .com or .org, for example. Google.com, Facebook.com, Netflix.com, and Pandora.com are examples of domain names. So are whitehouse.gov, ucla.edu, and comcast.net.

 

hosting step 4

You can choose from any of these plans. The more you pay for in advance, the less you pay. I pay for my hosting yearly.

 

hosting step 5

This is not necessary, so you can leave this option un-checked and click the Continue button.

 

hosting step 6

Enter your payment info and scroll down to verify that you’re getting a promotional discount.

After you finish setting up your account, you’ll get a verification email from DreamHost, and then you’ll be able to login to your control panel at panel.dreamhost.com/index.cgi.

 

Register a Domain

Now that you have web hosting, you need to register a domain for your website.

Domain name tips:

  • Keep it short so that it’s memorable and easy to type.
  • Avoid dashes in the name (such as fancy-blue-widgets.com).
  • Most of the .com domain names are already taken, so if you want one of those, you’ll have to be creative.
  • Your domain name should match your business or blog name as closely as possible.
  • Consider using one of the new top-level domain names. Here’s a list. You might have an easier time getting the name you want, but they are currently more expensive to register.

To register a domain, login to your control panel at panel.dreamhost.com/index.cgi.

domain registration step 1

Click on Domains and then Registrations.

You can check to see whether the domain you want is available by typing it in the big box and clicking Check Availability.

 

domain registration step 2

If it is available, you’ll be taken to the next step, where you can pay for the domain. Remember, this is a yearly fee, not monthly, so it’s a pretty minor expense.

 

domain registration step 3

At the bottom of the form, you’ll see a question asking you whether you want to use DreamHost’s nameservers or another host’s nameservers. Select DreamHost’s nameservers, and then finish up your registration by clicking the “Continue” button and following any further prompts.

Domain names can take up to 48 hours to start working, but in my experience, they’re usually ready to go within a few minutes. You should get an email notifying you when yours is ready.

 

domain registration step 4

Finally, it’s necessary to apply hosting to your new domain name.

Under Domains in the sidebar, click Manage Domains. You should see something similar to the screenshot above.

From here on, I’ll be working with bonniejmartin.com, a domain name that I own but never do much with. You will see your own domain name instead.

Under the Web Hosting column, under DNS Only, click the Add link.

 

domain registration step 5

This screen will probably look intimidating at first, but there isn’t much that you need to be concerned with.

  1. Under Domain Name, select “Add WWW: make http://yourdomain.com redirect to http://www.yourdomain.com.”
  2. Under Users, Files, and Paths, create a username for yourself.
  3. Under Web Options, leave the HTTPS option unchecked unless you will need a security certificate for your website. That’s only necessary if you’ll be selling products or otherwise dealing with people’s sensitive information.
  4. Leave the rest as it is, and click the Fully host this domain button to finish up.

 

Install WordPress

Next, you’ll be installing the WordPress software and a database for it.

wordpress installation step 1

To get started, click Goodies in the sidebar, then One Click Installs.

Click the WordPress option.

 

wordpress installation step 2

Pay close attention to what you’re doing, because you run the risk of deleting any current website files or choosing non-optimal settings.

  1. In the first box, next to Install to, select your domain name.
  2. The blank box next to it should be left blank in most cases. If for some reason you want all of your WordPress files to be in a sub-folder, like yourdomain.com/something, then enter the name of the folder. That’s only necessary if you have other website files already saved on your server and you don’t want to override them, but it can make WordPress behave differently than normal. So in most cases, leave that box blank.
  3. For Select Database, select Automatically Create Database.
  4. You can choose Deluxe Install if you want to, but it’s not required. It installs a few basic themes and plugins for you.
  5. Click the Install it for me now! button.

You should get a confirmation page that looks like this:

wordpress installation step 3

 

There are a few steps left for your WordPress installation, where you’ll be creating your administrator username and password.

You should get an email that looks like this:

wordpress installation step 4

Click the first link for http://www.yourdomain.com/wp-admin/install.php

 

wordpress installation step 5

Select your language and click Continue.

 

wordpress installation step -6

  1. For Site Title, enter the title for your website. (This can be changed later.)
  2. For Username, it’s a good idea to enter something other than “admin.” Using “admin” can be a security risk since so many people use it.
  3. For Password, it should generate a very secure random password for you. Copy that down, or change it to something else.
  4. For Your Email, enter your email address.
  5. For Search Engine Visibility, leave the box unchecked. That will allow search engines to crawl your website and display it in search results. If for some reason you don’t want that, check the box.
  6. Click the Install WordPress button.

 

wordpress installation step 7

Click the Log In button.

 

wordpress installation step 8

Login with the username and password that you just created.

 

A Few Configurations

Congratulations! You’ve installed WordPress.

At this point, you could go ahead and start installing a theme and plugins, but there are a few WordPress settings that I want to point out first.

 

wordpress installation step 9

  1. In the sidebar, click Settings then General.
  2. For Tagline, write a brief description of your website. Even if you don’t plan on displaying this tagline on the website, it can sometimes show up in search engine results pages.
  3. For Timezone, select your timezone. This will affect the dates on your blog posts.
  4. Scroll down and select your preferred date and time settings (not pictured).
  5. Click the Save Changes button.

 

wordpress installation step 10

  1. In the sidebar, click Permalinks.
  2. Select the Post name option. This is the best choice for SEO and general usability.
  3. Click the Save Changes button.

 

wordpress installation step 11

  • In the sidebar, click Users then Your Profile.
  • Decide what you want your name to display as. If your theme shows a byline for blog posts, such as “Posted on May 11, 2016 by admin,” you might want “admin” to be your actual name, or something else entirely.
  • For Nickname, enter what you want your name to display as.
  • Then select the name you entered for Display name publicly as.
  • Scroll to the bottom and click the Save Changes button.

 

Install Your Theme

You are now ready to install your theme.

 

install theme step 1

In the sidebar, click on Appearance then Themes. Click the Add New button.

 

install theme step 2

Click the Upload Theme button.

 

install theme step 3

Click the Choose File button to find your theme .zip file on your computer.

Once you have that selected, click the Install Now button.

 

install theme step 4

Click the Activate link.

Congratulations! Your theme is installed and ready to be configured.

 

Getting Help

If you were a beginner when you started following this guide, you’ve really accomplished a lot. You set up web hosting, registered a domain name, installed WordPress, and installed a WordPress theme.

If you have questions or need help, here’s what you can do now:

Help with DreamHost Services

If you need help with something at DreamHost, they have great support. You can use their Wiki documentation or contact them. There may be some instances in which I can help you directly, but if you have a question regarding their servers or domain registration process, they are the best ones to help you.

Help with This Guide

Leave a comment below if you have questions about this guide.

Development Services

I offer web development services and I can do this entire process for you. Contact me for a cost estimate.

I hope you found this guide useful. If you liked it, share it!

 

Note: This post originally appeared on ZenWebThemes.com, but I’ve since taken that website offline and moved some of the popular blog content over to this website.




Posted in WordPress.