WordPress is a popular CMS (content management system) which is used by a huge portion of website owners in the world ranging from humble blog owners to powerful companies like eBay, Disney, Time, and Sony.
But, no matter how big or small your business, WordPress is a flexible platform that can help you build a professional site quickly and easily even when you have no prior web design skills. Use this beginner’s guide to get started with everything from installing WordPress on your site, to backing up your website files and everything in between.
Content Management System basically refers to a program which is designed to help you create, modify, and manage digital content. Such programs use a back end interface, while website builders like Weebly or Wix handle everything from inside one simple editing interface.
So, while WordPress will give you more options to customize your site, it takes a bit longer to learn how to use it than it does the site builders. But, the slightly longer learning curve is well worth the reward you get at the end, so let’s get on with it, shall we?
How to Setup WordPress
Before you can set up and use WordPress, you need to get hosting and then install the CMS. If you don’t already have a web hosting service, then you can use a host provider like SiteGround which offers you a one-click WordPress installation. You only have to log into your cPanel, run the WordPress installer, and you’re ready to go.
Some web hosting providers actually have plans that come with WordPress already installed on your domain which means you won’t even have to worry about it at all. But no matter which service you choose to go with, it’s not at all likely that you will ever need to do a manual WordPress installation.
In this section, we’re going to look at how to quickly and easily set up your site so that you’re ready to start creating content as soon as possible. We’ll look at the default settings in WordPress, as well as the themes, plugins, users, and the menus that the CMS comes with. This will give you a nice baseline site that you can customize and make your own.
How to Choose and Install a Theme
After you’ve installed WordPress, a default theme will be automatically loaded on your site. It’s best to swap this for a theme that is a bit more unique. You have lots of options when it comes to getting a new theme. You can get one either directly from WordPress, or you can get it from a third-party vendor like Thrive Themes or MOJO Marketplace.
Before you download or buy a theme, there are a few things to consider:
Your theme needs to be as simple as possible. Extravagant options will only slow down your site and cause you problems down the line. Your theme also plays a huge part in your site’s SEO (something that we are going to talk about in our Intermediate WordPress Guide).
But for now, just keep in mind that the theme you choose should have great ratings and be optimized for SEO. Also, check that the theme is mobile responsive. This is more important today than ever before as Google has made this one of the key ranking factors.
So Your Theme Should Be:
- And have Clean Code
Installing the theme is the easy part. On your WordPress dashboard, go to ‘Appearance>Themes’ and you will see the themes that are already installed on your website.
If you like one of them, go ahead and activate it, but if you bought one from somewhere else, then you have to download the theme as a zip file, and then click ‘add new’ at the top of the page. Next, choose ‘upload theme’, upload the file, and it will appear in the theme section. You can then click ‘activate’ and you’re done.
How to Install Plugins in WordPress
WordPress has access to a wealth of useful plugins and allows you to add just about anything you can think of to your site, from building forms, to landing pages, and even putting forums on your website. Some plugins come preinstalled, but installing them yourself is very easy.
All you need to do is go to the ‘plugins’ tab on the menu and click on ‘add new’. You will then be taken to a page that has some of the most commonly used plugins. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, just use the search bar located at the top of the page to find the plugin that you want and then click ‘install’. After it’s done installing, just click ‘activate’ and your new plugin is ready to work.
There are some plugins that you may need to configure in order to be able to use them. The settings for this can be found in the plugin window, in a seperate plugin menu under the ‘Settings’ tab or directly on the toolbar for WordPress.
Be careful when it comes to installing plugins, however, as too many of them could slow down your website significantly. So only install plugins that you really need, and deactivate any that aren’t in current use. Some of the most essential plugins that WordPress users typically install include:
- Yoast SEO
- WP Smush
- W3 Total Cache
How to Add and Manage Users in WordPress
You initially installed WordPress as the ‘admin’ and before moving on to customizing your website, you have to create another user that is separate from the admin. Go to ‘Users>Add New’ and set the new user’s name, email, password, and role. WordPress automatically sends that information to the email you entered.
You can set the role as ‘administrator’ or ‘editor’ if the user is a personal one. Editors have full control over all the content on the site (posts, pages, tables, etc) whereas administrators have access to theme changes, plugin installations, and other general settings.
Once you’ve done that, you can log in as the new user. If you intend to have members or subscribers to your site, then it’s best to use a plugin like Ultimate Member for this. It allows you to add a reCAPTCHA so you can weed out spam bots. You also have the option of managing your membership registrations through a simple forum plugin.
This feature inside WordPress sometimes causes some confusion among beginners. Let’s take a quick look at how you can set up your menus, what you can add, and where you can (and should) place them on your site.
WordPress comes with the following three menus by default:
- Top menu
- Main menu
- Footer menu
If you want to edit them, you go to the WordPress back end and click ‘Appearance>Menus’. You have the option of adding new menus, organizing existing ones, and renaming or deleting the ones that are already there.
The main menu is the one that is typically used for the site’s main navigation. You can add pages, categories, and custom links to it. If you check the box labeled ‘automatically add top level pages’ then every new page that you create will be added to your menu right away.
WordPress has a simple drag and drop feature which allows you to play around with your menu’s layout. You can put some menu items underneath others to make them subsections of that particular category. For instance, the ‘About Us’ tab on your menu could have under it ‘About the Owner’, ‘About the Team’, and ‘About the Business’ all as separate tabs under the main one.
You will also have different menu locations depending on the theme you’ve installed. There are ways of editing your theme’s CSS to change the menus, but that’s something for the more advanced WordPress users to do.
How to Customize Your Site
In this section, we’re going to look at how to customize your site to make it unique with a focus on content as opposed to themes and plugins. We’ll take a look at some of the fundamentals of WordPress and how you can use this indispensable CMS to deliver content effectively on your site.
Pages and Posts
WordPress offers you two main ways of creating content: You can either create a post or a page. You need to understand the difference between the two so that you can avoid the mistakes that a lot of WordPress users make when first getting started.
Pages are, well, pages on your site, and you only add a limited number of those to your menus or to build out some special areas on your website. Examples of pages include your homepage, about page, and your contact page.
By default, WordPress loads the most recent posts on your site’s homepage, which means that you have to change that and set up a static one if you want a more interesting and relevant homepage. To do this you just have to create the page you want and then click ‘customize’ on the top toolbar. You’ll see the ‘homepage settings’ where you can set the page you created as your site’s static homepage.
Posts are quite straightforward.
To create a new one, just click on ‘Posts>Add New’ and then start crafting content. You can easily add text, media, and set your tags all from within the editor. After you’ve created your content, simply set the category, and hit the publish button.
You can also create post categories from within the post page. Just click on ‘add new category’ and then name it. If you want to see more options in the post editor then just click ‘screen options’ on the top right corner. This will show you more options for the sections that you want to edit.
Most blogs look a whole lot better with sidebars than without. Sidebars make your site look complete and allow you to display some of your more important messages in a prominent way. And while they’re traditionally placed on the side of your content, some themes actually allow you to place sidebars above or below your content.
There are plugins that you can use to add a near infinite number of sidebars on your site. One such plugin is Custom Sidebars. To change the settings on the sidebars that you currently have, go to ‘Customize>Widgets’ or ‘Appearance>Widgets’ on your WordPress menu.
But, whichever method you use, you’ll still be able to view a list of your sidebars in WordPress, and you’ll be able to drag and drop various pieces of content into whatever order you want in any sidebar. Some of the default options in WordPress include post categories, a calendar, etc. but your theme will likely have its own unique options for the sidebar.
As your WordPress knowledge advances, you will find that your sidebars become way more useful to you and will allow you to build unique pages that serve different purposes.
Backing Up Your WordPress Website
One of the most important things to do on your site is to learn how to protect all the work that you invest in it. You do this by backing up your site so that you never lose all your hard work. A lot of web host services provide plans that come with automatic backups for WordPress sites. This means that your host takes care of all that, and you’re covered in case you ever lose all the information on your site.
But, the web hosts only keep a certain amount of your backups on file, which means that if you’ve got a big site, you may only recover a small part of the information you lost. So, to be on the safe side, it’s best to back up your website manually via an online backup service like BackBlaze.
This you can do in one of two ways:
- Either by using a simple plugin like BackUpWordPress, which schedules the backups and stores them on your web host
- Or you can download the backups and then place them in storage online. You can then delete them from your web host service so that they don’t take up valuable space.
The Final Word
WordPress is a deep platform, and this article is just an elementary look into the content management system. But, it does provide a great foundation for you. If you’re completely new to WordPress, then this is enough to get you started, but make sure to keep an eye out for our more advanced WordPress tutorials as you progress with the CMS.
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