Websites are businesses’ digital entryways from which customers can learn about their brands as well as the products and services they offer. The fact that websites are accessible all the time has a substantial advantage over companies’ offline presence represented by the stores, for it always boosts the credibility, trust, and legitimacy businesses are always trying to build with their customers. A strong online presence also helps grow the business by reaching a wider audience, converting visitors into customers, increasing sales, and making bigger profits.
This is definitely not limited to companies. Individuals, too, working on their own or having small businesses, have come to understand the significance of having a website for their growth. Through their websites, they can showcase their work, present a comprehensive guide of the services they offer, promote their personal brands and even develop their skills from the comments or feedback they receive.
WordPress is one of the most widely used and extremely efficient content management systems (CMS) that companies and individuals use to establish and manage their websites. Although it was only a blogging platform when it first came out in 2003, it has grown over the years to offer a whole bunch of services to create a powerful online presence, from website building and web hosting to domain name registration and content creation and management.
In this article, we are going to walk you through the steps of installing and using WordPress to start developing your very own website right away. So, bring a big cup of coffee, for this is going to be somewhat of a long journey, and let’s hop into it.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is an open-source software that was initially developed to publish blogs but grew to publish other types of websites as well, such as online stores—e-commerce websites—, digital forums, and media galleries. As we mentioned earlier, WordPress can also be used to design and build websites, host websites that are built using the platform or any other website builder, create online course websites, get a professional email, and buy a domain name.
You might notice that there are two versions of WordPress. There is WordPress.org and WordPress.com. Both are the same CMS software you can use to manage your content. The main difference between them is actually the way they are hosted.
So, WordPress.org is self-hosted. This means you are entirely responsible for running your website. You have to create the website, choose a web hosting service, set up and pay for the server that will host the website, purchase a domain name, and connect it to the web host. When you publish your site, you will also need to take care of the site updates, security, backups, and maintenance yourself. In other words, you are totally on your own when it comes to self-hosting.
However, WordPress.org does have many advantages, just the way it is. For instance, it gives you complete control over your website and total freedom to customise it to your preference and modify the code to achieve full functionality. You can also install whatever plugins and themes you want using the enormous library available on WordPress.org or any others you get from third-party sources.
Apart from the cost of web hosting, domain name, and whatever else you purchase for your website, you can use WordPress.org free of charge.
On the other hand, with WordPress.com, your website is managed for you. It is like you are paying the platform to do everything that you can manually do with WordPress.org.
Through the different plans it offers, WordPress.com provides hosting for your website and gives it a free domain name with the format website.WordPress.com unless you have a custom domain name and want to use it for your site.
WordPress.com is also quite simplified. The interface is very user-friendly and easy to navigate through. Instead of building the site yourself or hiring a professional to do the job, you can use any of the hundreds of templates found on the website and customise it the way you want. You also get access to a library of themes and plugins to install into your website.
With WordPress.com, you do not also have to bother with website maintenance, updates, backup, or security. All of this is automatically done for you.
That said, things are not all nice and shiny when it comes to using this software. Unlike WordPress.org, WordPress.com has many limitations over customisation and how much control you have over your own website. You are also not entirely free to create the website you want, for you are limited to the templates and themes offered on the platform. Besides, you cannot modify the site code.
There are free and paid versions of WordPress.com, and as you may have guessed, the more freedom you want with your website, the more you will have to pay, and vice versa.
So, there are two ways to install WordPress, and it is different based on which software you are using.
For WordPress.org, you can use a web hosting platform like Bluehost that offers one-click WordPress installation. Bluehost is a web hosting platform that will help manage your website. But it also just means that once you buy a hosting plan with it, you can easily just click into your dashboard, set up WordPress, and manage all your installations from there.
There are many other hosting platforms that also offer one-click installations, by the way. For instance, there are HostGator, Hostinger, DigitalOcean, and SiteGround, and all of them provide similar features to help manage your website.
Installing WordPress Locally
The other option is to install WordPress locally, and you can do that in either of two ways. You can either download the information or you can use a separate program called Local, offered by the hosting provider called Flywheel. You can download Local fully for free. You do not even need to have a hosting plan with Flywheel in order to do that.
All you have to do then is just go on to localwp.com, click on the Download button on the top-right corner of the homepage, choose your operating system, whether this is Mac, Windows, or Linux, and then enter your first and last names, work email, and phone number. Once you have submitted that information, it will start downloading the package for you.
Once the program has been downloaded, the Local by Flywheel dashboard will open up. You may see there are a few sites set up already, but essentially, it should be blank, and you can start adding new sites.
So, to add a new site, all you need to do is click on the big plus button at the bottom left to add a local site, and then you should click Create New Site. Here, you should give your site a name. Below that, you can see the Advanced Options. If you click it, you can choose your domain and site path, which is essentially where your website files will remain, but for now, let’s just click Continue.
The next step is to choose your preferred environment. You can select Custom and then choose which PHP, web server, and database versions you want to use. But if you are unsure about all that, you can always choose the Preferred environment, which has these things already set up to spare yourself the hassle.
Click Continue, and in the next step, you will need to give your WordPress a username, a password, and an email. This is the WordPress information you are going to use to sign in. Make sure that you type in an email that you have access to in case you need to reset your profile or something.
Within this step, too, there are some Advanced Options which let you decide if it is going to be a multi-site or not, and if it is, you also need to choose whether it has a subdirectory or subdomain.
Once you are done, you will need to click Add Site, and Local by Flywheel will essentially start packaging up your site, creating all its folders and services, adding WordPress, and basically building it from the ground up for you. Your website will then be added to the Local sites list on your Local dashboard. This step will take a few minutes, though.
Once your site has been installed, you can see an overview of it on your dashboard that was empty a while ago. You will find that it already has WordPress with the version with the sequel that you wanted and the PHP version that you wanted as well.
All you need to do now is just open the site and edit it however you need to. To do that, just click on WP Admin on your Local dashboard to open the admin login version of the site, and use the email address that you set up in the beginning to log in and the password you created. Once you type this information, you will be redirected to the familiar WordPress dashboard.
At this step, there is nothing more you need to do. Everything has already been installed, including all the PHP, and by default, you can see it is using the 2023 theme. It is a completely blank WordPress install, and from here, you can start editing the site the way you want.
So, in terms of WordPress overview, what you see after you have logged in is the dashboard, and this is where you will see the main WordPress updates that you have, depending on the themes and plugins you have installed.
The first thing that you might want to do is tidy up your dashboard a little bit. So, for example, remove any bigger ads. Click dismiss on that Welcome section at the top of your dashboard. You can also change these boxes that you first see in the beginning. You surely can keep them where they are, or you can click and drag them to where you want them, just to have a more organised dashboard.
If there are any boxes that you absolutely do not need, for example, the news and events, you can go into Screen Options on the right top and uncheck the boxes that you do not need, and they will disappear from your dashboard.
Your dashboard is actually fully customisable, and there will be things added to it the more plugins you add. Each new plugin will occupy a new box on it.
On the left side of your dashboard, you can find many options that can help you manage your website, so let’s go over those.
First of all, you have Updates. This section includes any upcoming updates that you will need to do after that. Right at this moment, everything is up to date, but the more plugins you add, the more likely you need to be updating them every week. You will see an overview of what plugins and things need to be updated anyway. You can also see what version of WordPress that it is currently on as well.
Next, you have the Posts section. This is where all of the blog content goes. So, by default, when you first install WordPress, you will have the Hello World blog post. If you click on that, you will find it is already published, and you can see how the blog looks on the back end and how it looks on the front end.
This Posts overview is where you will add all of the post content. You can add all the post blocks, whether that is a heading, gallery, paragraph, images, etc. Within the post content, you can add featured images by uploading images directly from your computer library, or you can direct them from your media library on WordPress. This is also where you can find all the images that you have uploaded to your site, and you can indeed reuse them if you want.
Your posts can be organised into categories and tags as well, which you can find on the right side of the page. You can give it an excerpt, and depending on what theme you use, the excerpt will show on the post page or the homepage, but it also might not always show.
All the posts that you write, whether they are published or not, will all be shown up in the Posts section, as well as their publishing dates.
Similar to the dashboard, if you click on Screen Options, you can see Customise this dashboard. So, for example, you can customise what columns can be seen. So, if you do not want to see the author column or the comments column, you can take those away.
You can decide how many items you want to display per page. By default, the number is set to 20, but you can set it to 10 or 30. Obviously, the bigger this number is, the longer it might take to load this dashboard. So, just to be aware of that. Then you have a Compact view and an Extended view as well.
In addition to that, you can filter your posts by dates, categories or bulk actions, and you can use all of them at the same time.
Another thing you can do within this Posts dashboard is to add a new post. Given that this is the most important thing to do on your website, you can find the Add New button almost everywhere on your dashboard. You can find it on the left sidebar under All Posts. You can find + New on the top black bar, or you can just click Add New beside Posts.
You can also organise your posts into categories. So, if you click into categories, WordPress will always have the uncategorised category by default, but you can also add new categories. So, to add a new one, you would just type in the name of the category. Below that, you can see the URL slug, but you do not have to type that in. If you leave it blank, it will just take the name title and use that as the slug.
Then, you can give your category a description. Again, similar to the excerpt of a post, it is not always visible. Sometimes, it will just show the name of the category and the link. However, some themes may choose to show the description, for it is suitable for back-end use. Once you have done that, click Add New Category.
Another thing you can do with the categories is assign a parent category. So if you have a category that is meant to be a sub-category of an existing one, all you would need to do is type in the name of the category, and under the parent category, you want to give it the actual category that it is meant to be a subcategory of, give it a description if you would like to and click Add New Category.
You can see there is no limit on how many categories you can add. You can add as many as you need. But essentially, you want to make sure that you are adding parent categories if you need to. Once you have added all your categories, you can then assign those posts to the different categories.
You can also add categories directly from the posts’ back end. For instance, if you click on a post, you can see there is an option for categories on the right side of the page. There, you can see the existing categories you have already added beforehand and can add a new one directly from here as well.
As we mentioned earlier, you can add a parent category to that. The new category will automatically be checked and assigned to your post, but you must update the post to save these changes.
Another thing you can do is add tags as well, which you can find under Posts on the left side of the dashboard. Tags are similar to categories, except that tags have no hierarchy. It is just another way of organising your categories, but there is no sub-tag or anything like that equivalent to a sub-category.
To add a new tag, you would just type in the name of the tag that you want. You can give it a slug if you want. If you do not, similar to categories, it will just take the name of the tag and use that as a slug. The same applies to the description. It is not just displayed by default. It just depends on the theme that you use.
Once you are done adding this information, just click Add New Tag to add it as a new tag.
The next thing to explore on your dashboard is the Media Library. The media library is essentially where all of your media is stored once you have uploaded it to the site. This is not just images. It can be content like documents, audio files, video files, PDFs, spreadsheets, archives, etc. It is all going to be saved here.
To add a new one directly to the Media Library, you can click on Add New. Click on Select Files, and it will open up your computer library. So, just click on the file that you want, and it will be uploaded immediately. When the file is uploaded, you can see a box below it to add Alt Text.
Alt Text is really good for SEO because it tells Google search engines what this image is about. You can rank for this text as well, and you can give it a caption. But again, depending on the theme you are using, sometimes it will display the caption and other times it will not.
Another thing that it does is that it can give each file a URL. This will be good if you have any documents to display. You can paste the URL in buttons, so then when people click on it, they can download a PDF.
The next tab you have is Pages, and it is basically where all the pages of your website go. So, by default, you get the privacy page and the sample page. But if you want, you can add a new page by clicking Add New and just type the name of the page.
Now, depending on how you plan on building your site, if you have a theme, if you have decided to purchase the theme, or even if you have downloaded a free one, you can edit the page you added from that window.
Another option is to use a page builder like Divi or Elementor to design your own page. It is just vital that you have the actual page set up first and give it a featured image. Then, depending on what theme and plugins you are using, you can edit the pages that way.
The next thing, then, is the Comments section. So, if there is a comment section on any part of your website, usually it is in the blog, and the way that comments work is that they allow your visitors to have a discussion with you and with each other.
When you actually get comments on a page or a post, WordPress installs several kinds of text boxes after your content where people can submit their comments. So, you can actually see that with the comments and change their status to pending or approved. Pending means that the comments submitted by your visitors will not be visible on your blog. Approved, on the other hand, means that they are published and visible.
Comments flagged as spam are unwanted, and they will be automatically deleted after 30 days. You can definitely reply to comments, and you can also choose to edit anyone’s comments as well.
Once a visitor submits their comments, WordPress will follow your preferences and either hold the comment for your approval or post it immediately. If you see a comment that has been marked as spam and you actually realise it is a real comment, then you can mark it as not spam.
To look at your discussion settings, all you need to do is go into Settings from the left side of your dashboard and go into Discussion, where you can access the comment settings. From there, you can choose whether or not to allow people to post a comment without filling in their name or email or if they have to be logged in to write a comment.
If posts are older than 14 days, you can automatically close the comment boxes. So, older posts are able to have comments on them. You can show comments cookies, break comments into pages if you want, and set up notifications as well. So, if anyone posts a comment or if a comment is held for moderation, you get an email with this update.
Your default post settings are to allow people to submit comments on new posts, or you can enable links and notifications from other blogs. Before a comment appears, you can decide if you want to manually approve it or allow posting it if the author has previously approved it.
The next tab under Comments is Appearance, and here you can find all your themes. WordPress uses themes to control the design and layout of your site. Themes are essentially site files that are stored, and they control every part of your website in terms of how the header and footer should look, how a default page structure should be, and so on.
So, when you first install WordPress, you get the 2023 theme, or depending on what year you install WordPress, it will be a new theme depending on the year. To add a new theme, all you need to do is click on Add New, and you will be taken to the theme directory. There are loads of themes you can pick from, both free and paid.
If you go into the Featured filter, you can browse by subject if you know what type of website you are building. There are so many different subjects, from blogs, e-commerce, education, and entertainment to food and drink, holidays, news, photography, and portfolio.
You can also find the most suitable theme for your website by choosing the features or layouts you want to add to it. So, for example, if you click Blog and click Apply filters, it will show all the themes that are optimised for a blog content layout.
You can click on the theme you like to preview it. You will be able to see the fonts, colours, icons, buttons, and sections used in the theme. It can also give you a briefing on how to use this theme and how it works.
On the WordPress directory itself, there are free themes, but you can also go on to websites like Inventor Elements to look at premium themes as well. No matter where you get your themes, they will be managed from this tab.
Next is Plugins. So, a WordPress plugin is essentially a small piece of software that connects to your WordPress site to provide new functionality or extend the existing functionality on your site that allows you to create any website.
For example, if you want to make an e-commerce website on your WordPress, then you need to install a plugin called WooCommerce, which is an all-in-one solution for e-commerce websites to set up and sell products, create shipping information and delivery information, and so on. For booking websites, you might want to use a plugin like Amelia, which automates booking events and appointments.
Likewise, event management websites can install calendar plugins like Modern Event Calendar, which is also used for automating events. Whatever the plugin is, it is used to extend the functionality and efficiency of your website.
There are also plugins to help with performance, like the caching plugins. There are plugins that improve communication, like Gravity Forms, as well as page builder plugins.
There are two ways to add plugins. You can either go into Plugins, click on Add New and open the WordPress directory for plugins. All the free plugins will be found in the WordPress directory. So, things like Classic Editor, Gutenberg, and BuddyPress are all free plugins. You can go into Popular and see what the popular plugins are at the moment, what recommended plugins there are, etc. They are all free, and you can install them directly from here.
After installing a plugin, you just need to activate it so you can use it on your website. It will also add itself to the side menu under plugins. Sometimes, it adds itself as a new tab on the left sidebar. Other times, it is added within existing tabs, such as the Settings, Tools, or Plugins tabs.
It is important to note that sometimes when you install plugins, they come with a setup wizard. So, you can set them up using a step-by-step guide.
Initially, there are no plugins added when you first install WordPress, but all the plugins that you add will be in the Plugins dashboard. This is also where you can see if a plugin needs updating.
So, that is one way to add plugins. The other way to add plugins, and this is more for if this is a paid plugin, is to go to the plugin’s website directly, purchase it and download it from there.
For example, the Elementor plugin. Elementor is a really popular page builder plugin. While the Elementor Basic is free, its Pro version is paid. So, in order to get it, what you need to do is to go to elementor.com, create an account, choose Pricing and then Page Builder Plugins and buy the plugin that you need. You will be able to access the plugin from your account page and download it from there.
Once you have the plugin downloaded, what you need to do is go into the Upload plugin on your WordPress, choose File and select the plugin that you just downloaded. Make sure that it is zipped, and just click Install Now to begin installing that plugin. Once it is installed, click Activate Plugin.
With some plugins, WordPress will let you know if you are missing something. So, for example, with this Elemtator plugin you just installed and activated, you are actually missing the basic Elementor plugin, so you just need to download it directly from there.
The next tab you have on the left bar is Users. This is basically where all of the users that have access to your site, any access to your site, will be stored here. This includes any admin users, editor users, subscriber users, and so on.
There are usually lots of different roles for users. There is the admin who has complete control over the website. When you first install WordPress, whoever you add becomes your admin user. Admin users can add, edit, and delete users. They can control content across the website. Then, you have got the editor, who can manage and publish posts and schedule content, but they are not able to install or activate plugins nor manage themes.
Then, there is the author user, who is allowed to write and publish their own posts and pages. They can delete their own posts, but they cannot publish, edit, or delete anyone else’s posts. Editors can do that, but authors cannot. Contributors can write their posts as well, but they have to post them for review. They cannot publish it themselves. They just leave that to an admin or an editor.
Then, there are the subscriber users. Those can manage their own profiles and read their posts on WordPress sites, but they cannot write or publish their own posts.
To create a new user role, you need to have the user attached to it. So, just go into Add New on the Users dashboard; the first thing you need to add is their usernames. This is the username that they will use to sign in. Then, you want to assign them an email. It is important that you give them an email so that if there are any issues, they cannot reset their own passwords. Then, you can give them a first name and a last name. This just makes it a bit more personable when they log in.
The next thing is to generate a password. There are two ways to do that. You can either generate a random password, and if you are assigning the website to another person, you can send them this password. However, that is not always the best thing to do, as sending passwords over email or any other channel is not secure.
Instead, you can send a user notification. So, instead of you setting the password, the users will get an email from WordPress saying, “This is your user account”, and it will give them a link to set their own password.
After the password has been successfully set, the next thing is to give this user a role. As we mentioned, you have admin, editor, author, contributor, and subscriber roles. Sometimes, new user roles can be added when activating certain plugins. For example, if you use the RooCommerce plugin, it will add customer and shop manager user roles.
But by default, the main ones are admin, editor, author, contributor, and subscriber. So you select which user that you have and then click Add New User. This is when you can see in the user’s dashboard exactly who is on the site and which users have access.
After that, we have Tools, and these are essentially WordPress tools, which you will not always need, by the way. They are good for importing and exporting things from one website to another, from one WordPress site to another.
The main thing you want to look at is the site’s health. This gives you an overview of the general state of your site. It will give you recommendations on what you should do. For example, one of those recommendations is to remove inactive themes to help with your site security. It might tell you that one or more recommended modules for PHP are missing. All these are to help you improve the website’s health, and if you have the technical capability, you can sort out these site health issues by yourself.
The other thing you can do is take these issues and contact your hosting provider, as they will be equipped with how to handle these issues. They will either tell you how to do it, or they can do it themselves.
The next tab we have here is Settings. These are the general settings for your WordPress website; things like your site title and tagline are controlled here. Depending on if you have a membership site, you can decide if you want anyone to register.
You can change the default roles however you want. It is also important that you have the correct time zone, day and date format, what week the site starts, and the site language.
Then, you have got other options like writing. So, with that, you have options on what category something is supposed to be on and what post format something is supposed to be on. You have also got reading, which controls if the homepage is meant to display your latest posts or if it is a static page. You can decide which is your homepage and which is your post page, and how many posts the blog page is meant to show at a time and full-text post feed as well.
Another important feature that you may or may not want to use is search engine visibility. This is whether or not you want to discourage search engines from indexing the site. Now, if your site is not ready for public viewing, you can check that. However, it is up to the search engines to honour this request, but essentially, there will be robots blocking the site, and Google will be able to visit it. This is useful if you want to stop people from looking at a site that is not finished. However, you need to remember to enable that again. Otherwise, once the site is ready and this is not enabled, it will not be ranking for anything.
Last but not least, we have Permalinks. With the permalinks, by default, WordPress will just show the post name, but you can give it a custom structure or a plain structure as well. You just want to go for something readable. Then, just remember to save your changes once you are done.
WordPress is a great software that can help you build and maintain a powerful online presence. It might sound a little bit overwhelming at first, but hopefully, after we have shown how you would install WordPress and given you this basic overview, it feels easy to deal with it. What is sure is that the more you use it, the faster you will get the hang of it.