Create a Website with WordPress Step by Step in 2020
New to WordPress and want to build a website? In this article, you will learn how to create a website with WordPress step by step. You will learn how to setup hosting and how to install plugins. The guide will show you how to build a custom homepage without any coding or web design knowledge.
Because that is what WordPress enables you to do. Long gone are the days when website creation was reserved for coders. Today, it’s something that anyone can do. Create a personal blog for yourself, build an eCommerce store and sell your products or create a website for your business. The limits are endless with WordPress and you’ll learn all of this today.
Table of Contents
Before we start creating the actual website, it’s important to know what WordPress is and why WordPress is a better option than other website systems like Wix or Weebly. WordPress is a content management system or CMS. It is, by far, the most popular CMS system being used for building websites.
According to Builtwith.com, 49% of all website built on a CMS platform, is powered by WordPress. The reason for this? WordPress is easier to use and it’s free. Yes, it’s true, you could learn HTML and start coding your own website with free tools but then you need to know how to code and you need to build everything from the ground up. With WordPress, you get all that and there is no coding required.
WordPress is a user-friendly CMS that is very easy to understand and get the hang of. Since WordPress is so big, there are whole businesses and websites that focus on nothing but WordPress, Bonzie.com is just one of thousands of websites with WordPress guides and support. This means that if you have a problem, the change is high that there is an article explaining the solution just a Google-search away.
WordPress can also be extended with plugins, expanding the features of your website. Plugins help you create any type of website with WordPress. For example, you can create a membership site, an eCommerce store, a conversion-focused business website, a video content website or a simple personal blog. Anything can be done.
It is also easy to change the look and feel of your website with WordPress as there are themes you can download and install on your site. These themes help you change the look of your website to better suit the type of website you are creating.
And all of this without knowing anything about coding or website design. That is the beauty of WordPress.
Requirements Before Getting Started
In this guide, we will set up a self-hosted WordPress website. This means that we will not register at wordpress.com, we will instead use wordpress.org and get our own domain and hosting. The reason for this is because using a self-hosted WordPress gives much more flexibility and control than a website hosted at WordPress.com. However, in order to get a self-hosted website, there are some requirements that need to be fulfilled first.
WordPress is free to use but if it should be possible to reach your website on the internet, you will need to purchase a domain and hosting. We are not talking about thousands of dollars. A .com domain cost between $10-15 and hosting can be as cheap as $3-4 per month. This is a cost that will come each year so you should be ready to spend at least $80 for the first year of your website.
While WordPress is easy to set up and configure, it will still take some time to get how you want. You might have seen videos or articles on how to set up a WordPress site in 10 minutes. While it doesn’t have to take longer than that, getting the site ready for visitors is usually at least a couple of hours.
Not everything will go according to plan, it rarely does. Be prepared for an error or something that doesn’t work the way you thought it would. I can guarantee that you are not the first person with this issue and that there is an answer on the internet. If you can’t find the answer in this article, search on Google.
If you have these three things, we can get started with the first step, buying a domain.
Registering a Domain Name
A domain is the address of your website. It’s what users put in the web browser to get to your website. For example, the domain of this website is bonize.com and you can type this in any browser on any device and you will get to this website.
As you want to create a website, I’ll assume that you have a name in mind for the website. I am sorry to say that the domain name for your idea is probably taken, at least if you want a .com domain. This is because there are so many websites today, each with its own, unique domain name. So, be ready to find variations of the name you have in mind.
You can purchase a domain on many websites and some hosting companies offer you to get a domain from them but the place I go to when I need to purchase a domain is Namecheap.com. They are a popular domain registrar. The reason why I like them is that they are cheap, and they value privacy.
You see, when you are the owner of a domain, people can look up the domain and see your name and contact information. You can get protection for that, called WhoisGuard. This is a service that many registrars are charging for but Namecheap includes it for free when you purchase a domain from them.
A .com domain at Namecheap cost $10.98 but they also have monthly promo codes, which you can find here, to get the price down to $9.06. You will then own the domain for a year.
Click here to go to Namecheap and purchase a domain
Buy Web Hosting
Hosting is the next step in the process. Hosting is where your website will live, if the domain is the address, hosting is the house. Here, the database and all images, videos and other files you upload, will be placed.
Having a good hosting solution is important for any website. The one I am using and recommend is SiteGround. They are one of three recommended hosting companies by WordPress themselves and that is because they are great. With SiteGround, it’s easy to set up a WordPress, as you do it with just a simple click.
SiteGround has a type of hosting made specifically for WordPress, called Managed WordPress Hosting. Here, you can choose between three plans, StartUp, GrowBig, and GoGeek. StartUp is the cheapest option but is also limited to just one website. It is good for about 10 000 visitors per month, which isn’t that much truth be told.
To avoid these basic limits, I’ll suggest that you go with GrowBig, where you have much more space, potential to grow your website with more visitors and the ability to add more websites.
Click here to go to SiteGround and purchase hosting
You can, of course, buy hosting from another company if you so wish but I will continue this guide on SiteGround, so it might look different for you in that case.
When choosing a plan and you click on Get Plan, you will need to enter a domain. SiteGround offers you to purchase a domain for $1595 but since you have already bought a domain from Namecheap, you choose “I already have a Domain” and then enter the domain in the field and then click on Proceed.
In the next step, you need to create an account and fill in your personal and payment details. In the last box, you can customize your order. SiteGround has data centers all over the world and you want to choose the data center that is closest to your visitors. If your visitors will come from US, choose USA and if they come from Europe, choose Europe. If you don’t know, choose USA.
Next, you will choose the period you want to purchase at the discounted stating price. I’ll recommend that you choose as long as you can afford it.
Lastly, you can choose to get a website file transfer and SG Site Scanner. The website file transfer service is included if you choose the GrowBig plan or higher and means that SiteGround will help you transfer an existing WordPress website to SiteGround. If you do not have a website, you can ignore this.
SG Site Scanner is a service that will scan your website for malicious code to make sure that your website is not infected with something bad. I usually skip this and use plugins inside WordPress instead.
Once you have made your purchase, you will be able to login to SiteGround. But now, there is a very important step you need to do and that is to change your DNS settings.
Changing Your DNS Settings
After purchasing hosting from SiteGround, you will receive a welcome email. In this email, you will find something called DNS Settings. This are two addresses that we need to point our domain to.
Since the domain you want to use was purchased at Namecheap, you need to point that domain to SiteGround in order for the website to work. If not, no web server will know that your website lives at SiteGround and you will get errors, which we don’t want.
To point your domain to SiteGround, login to Namecheap and follow these steps:
- Go to your domain list (Account > Domain List)
- Click on the Manage button next to your domain
- Scroll down to Nameservers and choose Custom DNS in the drop-down menu
- Enter the address as it looked like in the email. The address will be different depending on which region you chose
- Click on the green checkmark to confirm the settings
- You are done
This will tell all web browsers where someone enters your domain name that the website can be found at SiteGround. Now, it’s (finally) time to set up WordPress and get your website up and running.
Installing WordPress from the Client Area
Managing your website on SiteGround is easy. To go to your site settings, click on Websites in the top menu and then on Site Tools under your website in the list. Here, you can get information about your website, see how much traffic you have and manage files, email accounts and much else.
To install WordPress, do the following steps:
- In the side menu to the left, click on WordPress
- Click on Install & Manage
- Choose Select on the WordPress option. If you plan to run an eCommerce with WooCommerce, select the WordPress + WooCommerce option
Now, it’s time to enter some basic information for your new website.
- Installation Path can be the default
- Choose the language you want your website to be in
- Uncheck “Install with the Starter plugins” checkbox. I always prefer a clean WordPress installation without any plugins. You can install them manually later if needed
- Set a username you will use to login to your website. Make sure it’s a good admin username that is not easy to guess
- Set a password for your account. Make sure this password is strong so that no one can figure it out
- Enter an email address that will be connected to your admin account. It can be [email protected] or anything else really
After you have entered all the information, click on Install and WordPress will go ahead and be installed on your domain. After the installation is done, you can type your domain name in the browser and go to your website. To log in to WordPress, go to yourdomain.com/wp-admin and you will be prompted with a login page. Enter your admin credentials and click login.
Welcome to your first WordPress website!
Quick Overview of the Admin Area of WordPress
The WordPress admin area is where you will spend most of your time. Here, you create new pages, posts, upload images, change settings and install plugins and themes. Before moving on to themes and plugins, getting an overview of the admin area and what can be done is a good idea.
This is the first page when logging in. Here, you can see quick information about your website. Some plugins also add widgets here which will provide you with information. You can customize this view under Screen Options in the top, right corner.
This is where the posts that you write will be found. A post is a blog post and will show up in the blog roll. This will be covered later under Writing Your First Blog Post.
This is where all your images, videos, and other files will be placed when you upload them to your website.
Pages can be edited just like posts, but pages are used for most static content like the homepage, legal pages and other types of content that is not changed often. This will be covered later in the section Building the Home Page & Contact Page.
As a default, there is a comment section on each blog post. When someone is commentating, the comment will need to be approved by you before it can be seen. This is the section where you find these comments. You can also reply to comments directly from here.
For WordPress, it’s not uncommon to get spam comments. That is why there is a good idea to have a plugin that can stop these types of comments. Alternativity, you could just turn comments off if you don’t want to bother. This can be done under Settings.
This is where you change how your website looks. Installing and customizing themes as well as setting up navigation is done here. This will be covered later in the section Installing a Theme.
Here are all the plugins that you have installed listed. It’s also here where you search for, upload and installing new plugins. This will be covered later in the section Installing Essential Plugins.
Under this menu, you can create new user accounts that are able to login to the website. You can set different user roles with different permissions. Maybe you have someone that will write blog posts only and to limit their access to the website, you can make them an Author. The administrator is the highest permission that can do everything.
It is also here where you can write a short author bio about yourself, add your social media or change your password.
Here, you can export your whole website if you plan to move to another hosting company and, vice versa, you can also import website details. This is where you find tools for GDPR as well. GDPR is a law in the EU that allows any person living in the EU to request their personal data from any company. WordPress helped everyone on their platform by implementing a tool for this.
This is something that you should know is there but there is no need to know how it works until you have a bigger website or get a request from someone requesting their data.
Here, you can do most of the general settings for your website. You can change the site name, the base URL, date and time formats, how comments are made and much else. One thing you want to change here is the Permalinks.
By default, WordPress has Day and name chose which means that your posts will have a date in the URL. This doesn’t look very good and make it harder for users to get to a specific URL. What I, and most other bloggers, do is to change this to Post name, which will give a cleaner URL. It’s best to do this now when your website is brand new, so it won’t complicate things later.
Installing a Theme
A theme in WordPress will decide how your website will look. You can choose between both free and paid themes. A paid theme often comes with more features and customization while a free theme can have branding that can’t be removed and lack features that are nice to have.
The theme that I use on my websites is called Astra and there is both a free and paid version. For this guide, I will use the free version of Astra but if you can click here to get Astra Pro from their website and read more about it.
You can install a theme in two ways. You can either upload a theme from your computer or you can install a theme from the WordPress theme repository.
To install a theme from the repository, do the following:
- Go to Appearance > Themes
- In the upper left corner, click on Add New
- Find a theme that you like or search for a theme if you know the name (for example, Astra)
- When you have found a theme, you can click on it to read more about the theme and see a preview. Unfortunately, the preview often doesn’t look how the end result will look. Looking at the preview for Astra and then on bonize.com, there’s not much that is the same. This is because themes can be customized after installation, so don’t judge a theme based on the preview
- When happy with a theme, click on Install and then on Activate, which will change the theme of your website to the one you just installed
If you instead have a theme-file locally on your computer, like if you have purchased a theme or downloaded a theme from a website, you can install it this way:
- Go to Appearance > Themes
- In the upper left corner, click on Add New
- In the upper left corner, click on Upload Theme
- Choose the theme-file on your computer
- Click Install Now and then n Activate
Your website will now look different than it did before. But we can also further customize the theme to our liking.
Customizing Your Theme
To customize the theme and see which options you have, you can use the Customizer. But some themes will also add an extra menu, as Astra does. If you installed Astra, you should now have a menu option named Astra Options under Appearance. Here, you can activate and learn more about extensions for both the free and the paid version of Astra.
The one that I highly recommend, that you can use even for the free version of the theme, is Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg. This will add functions to the editor (which is called Gutenberg) and you will be able to build amazing pages. To activate it, simply scroll down to the bottom of Astra Options and click on Activate next to the name. You’ll want this later when you are building your homepage.
Now, let’s customize the theme the standard way. Click on Customize under Appearance and a new view will open. Here, you can see your changes live when you are doing them. I will not cover everything here but it’s a good idea to go through everything and make a change and see if it makes a difference to your website. A common request is to change the color first, which you can do by going to Global > Colors > Base Colors.
Something I don’t like about Astra is the boxed version that is the default, where the content is in a white box and the background is gray. If you want to see other options, go to Global > Container and play around with the drop-down menu under Layout.
If you have created a logo for your website, you can go to Header > Site Identity and upload it. You will directly see how it will look in the preview.
While in the Customizer, removing some widgets from the sidebar is good. As a default, WordPress is installed with several widgets, like Recent Posts, Recent Comments, Archives and so on. To remove this, go to Widgets > Main Sidebar and then remove the widgets you don’t want.
When happy with all the changes, you click n Publish. If you do not click on Publish, no settings will be saved, and the website will look like it did before.
Installing Essential Plugins
Now it’s time to install plugins. Plugins will enable features that aren’t on WordPress. You see a list and control all your plugins from the Plugins menu in the admin area. If you activated Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg for the Astra theme, you will already have that plugin installed. To install a new plugin, it’s as easy as it was installing a theme.
Click on Add New and search for the plugin that you want to install. I recommend that you install the following list of plugins as I believe they are essential to any WordPress install:
- Rank Math
Rank Math is an SEO plugin that will help you get better ranking in Google. Even if your main traffic will not come from Google Search, having Rank Math installed is a good idea. The plugin is free and can be found by searching for it or you can download it here.
- Antispam Bee
This plugin will remove most of the spam comments that you get if you have comments enabled. The plugin is free and can be found by searching for it or you can download it here.
- ShortPixel Image Optimizer
ShortPixel is a plugin that will help you reduce the size of your image and in doing so, making your website faster. It does 100 images/month for free but if you need more you can get a monthly subscription or buy one-time credits. You can install the plugin by searching for it or download it here. If you want to purchase credits or a subscription, you can click here to do so.
- W3 Total Cache
This plugin will optimize your website and make it faster. Loading times are important to Google and your users and you want it to be as quick as possible. This is the best free option and you can install it by searching for it or you can download it here.
If you are willing to spend $49 on the best optimizer plugin, you should buy WP Rocket. You can read more about it and purchase WP Rocket here.
UpdraftPlus is the best backup plugin you can get. Backing up your website is crucial. If the worst would happen, you can quickly get back up again if you are doing backups. UpdraftPlus has both a free and paid version and the free version can be found by searching for it in the plugin repository or download it here. You can read more and purchase UpdraftPlus Premium here.
Wordfence is a great security plugin that will keep your site secure. It will regularly scan for malicious code and will protect your website from bad behaviors such as brute force attacks. The plugin has both a free and paid version. The free version can be found by searching for it in the plugin repository or download it here. You can read more and purchase Wordfence Premium here.
- Contact Form 7
Contact Form 7 is a small and clean plugin that allows you to create a contact form to place on your website. With it, your visitors can send an email to you without you having to show your email address. The plugin is free and you can install it by searching for it in the plugin repository or download it here.
Building the Home Page & Contact Page
Your new website is starting to shape but we need some content and pages before we are done. To create a page, go to Pages > Add New. Enter the title of the page and then click on Publish to create the page. There are some pages that all websites should have so I’ll recommend that you create the following pages:
- About (Optional)
Creating the Homepage
The homepage is important for people, it’s often how a website is judged. To make sure we have a great website, we are going to install a plugin that helps us with this called Elementor. Elementor is a page builder that allows you to build a page or a blog post using drag and drop.
Start by going to Plugins > Add New and then search for Elementor and install it. Elementor has a free version that is limited and a Pro version with all the bells and whistles. However, for building a homepage, the free version will work well. If you are interested in learning more, you can read more about Elementor Pro here.
After Elementor has been installed, you want to go back to pages and open your Home/homepage. Before we edit the page with Elementor, we want to make sure the page is clean first. On the side, under Astra Options, you want to set the sidebar to No Sidebar and then check No title. This will remove the sidebar on this page as well as removing the title, as we will build our own instead.
In the video below, there is a brief overview of how Elementor works and how you can use it to build your own page. Also, I want to say that I am no expert in Elementor, so if you are interested in learning more, you should watch any of the Elementor tutorials that I have recommended here (they are all free).
If you don’t want to build your own page, you can use templates that come with Elementor. You can use these by clicking on Edit with Elementor while in the Edit page-mode. Elementor will open and you will have your page canvas on the right side and the elements that you can use on the left side.
On the right side, you want to click on the folder, which will open the templates library. Here, you can browse for the template that you prefer. Again, you will be limited in the free version but there are still some that are quite nice, a personal favorite is the agency homepage.
You will need to create an account for using the template which is a bit annoying but at least it’s free.
Once the template has been loaded, you can edit it however you want. You can change the text, images, and colors to make it yours.
A question that comes up when building the homepage is the blog roll, is it possible to show the latest posts? Yes, it is but it requires Elementor Pro. You do not have this in the free version.
Once you are happy with your design, you can click on Update under the elements and go back to the WordPress editor, you click on the little hamburger menu in the top-left corner where you have the option to exit to the dashboard.
The final thing that needs to be done is to set this page as the actual homepage. Go to Settings > Reading and at the top of the page, you can choose to have a static page as the homepage. For the homepage, choose the page that you just build and for the post page, choose the page named Blog.
Save your settings and you are done. The page you built with Elementor is now your actual homepage while the blog roll is on the page named Blog.
Creating a Contact Page
Let’s create the contact form first. If you have installed Contact Form 7 and Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg, you can very easily create a contact page and customize the form to your liking. The WordPress editor is built with blocks and you insert a block type to build the page.
Open your Contact page and click on the + icon under the page title. This will open the menu of blocks that you can add to your content. Either search for Contact Form 7 Styler or browse to it and then click on it to insert the block. You will then get the option to choose which form you want. Since we haven’t done any form, we only have the one that comes with Contact Form 7, which is enough for a contact page. Choose Contact Form 1 and let it load.
If you now click on Publish/Update, you will have a page with a contact form. If you don’t like the look of your contact form, you can change colors, typography and other details to customize the contact form.
If you want to write something above the form, you can hover the mouse at the top of the form and a + icon will appear. To add text, you choose the block named Paragraph and then start typing the text.
I am no lawyer and can’t guarantee that this policy will cover everything, and I cannot give recommendations on legal matters. Different countries may have different regulations and laws as well, so read the guide from WordPress to get a better understanding. With this page, you will at least have something, to begin with.
Setting Up Your Navigation
As you have now created your pages, it’s time to make it easier for your visitors to navigate. To create or edit a menu, goo to Appearance > Menus. To create a menu, enter a name for your menu. I’ll recommend the name Primary, as that is the name of the menu placements.
After you have created the menu, you can check which pages you want to have on the menu and then click on Add to Menu. You can then drag and drop them to change the placements of the menu items. Before saving, make sure to check the Primary Menu box. This will tell WordPress that this menu you just created should be placed in the primary menu spot.
You can also create a footer menu, which will be at the bottom of the page. This is a good placement for legal pages. I usually place the About page there as well. Click on Create a New Menu and repeat the steps as you did before. But this time, check the Footer Menu option instead.
Please note that not all themes have a footer menu and some themes have multiple other placements. If you don’t see the Footer-option, the theme you are using doesn’t support it.
If the Footer Menu is Not Shown with the Astra Theme
Astra doesn’t show the footer menu as default, so that needs to be enabled first. Click on Customize at the top of your website, in the admin bar and then go to Footer > Footer Bar.
Here, you can change the look of your footer but more importantly, in the drop-down menu under Section 2, you can choose Footer Menu and the menu will be shown. Remember to click on Publish before closing the page.
Writing Your First Blog Post
You might have already noticed that you have a post. This post is there when you install WordPress and a post you can delete if you want. To create a new post, you do the same way you did with pages, but you go to Posts > Add New instead.
Here, you have the same editor as for the pages and you can either build a custom post with the blocks or simply paste the text into the editor from a Word or Google document. On the right side, you can set a featured image to accompany the blog post. This image will also be seen on the first page if you are using the Post Grid block.
If you have Rank Math installed, you have some options below as well but what all those settings do and the best way to fill in those is the topic for another blog post. When you feel happy with the blog post, click on Publish.
You can also schedule a blog post by clicking on Immediately in the Status & Visibility section to set a date in the future.
If you have gone through the whole post, you have now learned a lot about WordPress. WordPress is a powerful CMS and it’s understandable that it’s the most popular when you start realizing what can be done with the tool. And the fact that it’s free to use is great.
What does cost money though, is the domain name and hosting. Namecheap is the best place to get domain names as they will protect your private information for free while SiteGround is the best option for hosting. I am using both companies myself and their support is great.
There is of course much more to WordPress than was has been covered in this guide, but the basics have been done. You know how the WordPress editor works and you can navigate through the WordPress admin area. You have also learned how to install a new theme or a plugin to further extend the feature list of WordPress.
Good luck with your new website and don’t forget to check out our other guides to learn more about WordPress and it’s capabilities.