Domains, hosting, WordPress - it all gets our knickers in a twist, am I right? I get emailed a lot about where to start with building your own WordPress website, I know it can be quite daunting, so rather than gorging on all the WordPress articles in the world, you can read this one and receive all the information you need to know to set up your own website and get to grips with right here and now.
First up, did you know there are TWO versions of WordPress.
- WordPress.com is the free version that has limited functionality but it's not good for a professional site.
- WordPress.org where you pay for external hosting and you can make into an all-singing-all-dancing website. Or, you know, one that shows off your photos beautifully and will make your couples want to book!
So, here’s how to start:
Sit down with a cuppa and get your notebook, a pen and your wallet out; you’ll need your card to pay for a couple of things.
Do you own a domain name?
Firstly you need to purchase your domain name.
I like to use Namecheap (although there are a gazillion others out there like 123reg, GoDaddy etc). I like Namecheap because it’s super simple and easy to use, plus they have great live support.
So, to see if your desired domain is available, type your desired domain into the search bar.
If it’s available, there will be a number of options available to purchase it such as .com, .co.uk, and many others. The industry standard for commercial businesses is – .com or .co.uk. There is a debate on whether to choose .com or .co.uk as your main domain name. I would always advocate buying both if they are both available in order to protect your brand.
The domains are cheap to buy per year, but it is a ranking factor (albeit not a major one it would seem any more) if you buy for several years at a time, so if you’ve got the cash upgrade to purchase for 5 years, that is best.
Do you have a host?
Now you've chosen a name for your house, you need to find some land, i.e. your own corner of the internet on which your website will sit: your hosting.
I recommend Siteground – I host my web design clients on Siteground and they're brilliant with customer support. Go for the basic package to begin with as you don’t need anything more. Logging into Siteground you’ll be asked to hook up your domain name with your hosting. They’ll walk you through this but they also have an online tutorial and even better, Namecheap also have live chat now so if you do get stuck you can go back to them and ask for help there.
Now that you have hosting, you need to update your domain provider and add the settings that your hosting provider give you - these are called nameservers. In a new tab, if you're using Siteground, go to My Account, then Manage Account for the domain you're working on and then the nameservers are on the left hand side. Go back to your domain provider in the previous tab and find "Manage DNS". This can be a little tricky the first time you do it, which is why I'm so keen on you choosing providers that have good customer support! This will take up to 24 hours to update and then you're ready for the next stage.
Now it’s time to install WordPress.org
Assuming you’re using Siteground, go to cPanel and under Installers, select WordPress.
Here’s a full guide on how to install WordPress on Siteground – don’t be scared, it’s really not as complicated as it sounds. Like I say, Siteground are very helpful and will walk you through the process.
You'll be asked to note down your username and password provided by Siteground for your WordPress install. Make a note of these details and so you'll be able to access your new website backend via yourwebsite/wp-admin
Do you have a look in mind?
Once WordPress is installed, you need to choose a look. I imagine you may have heard of various themes you can purchase like ProPhoto and more. I would personally start off with something cheaper, ideally free as you’re starting out. I'm a recent convert to Divi by Elegant Themes and now design all client sites on this platform, as they're a drag and drop builder making it easy to build in blocks and they have great customer support.
When you're researching themes, be sure that the theme:
- Is fully responsive (not just mobile friendly, actually look for the word 'responsive')
- Has great reviews
- Is updated regularly
- Has a good support system
- Has a clean design (you can add more in if you want to, but it can be harder to take away depending on the theme)
- Has a flexible layout
- Has great documentation (because, like Ikea, you may not read the instructions until you've tried it once or twice on your own but it's really great to have them in any case because unlike Ikea they should be useful to you!)
My advice to you is, don’t get too hung up on this part. I know plenty of creatives get stuck on how the theme/template looks, but actually further down the line, when you book a Healthcheck with me then I may suggest you change the layout of the pages to convert your readers to customers better, and I want the best for you and what you do for your website.
Once you've bought the theme...
You can download your selected theme, it will be a zip file and you need to install the theme by doing this:
- Log in WordPress admin.
- Select the Appearance panel, then Themes.
- Select Add New.
- Find the theme that you downloaded just now
- Use Upload link in the top links row to upload a zipped copy of the theme.
Next is to choose the pages you need on your website to support your clients to trust you and choose to book you - coming up next week!
For now, let me know if you have any questions in the comments.
P.S. Full disclosure - this post contains affiliate links so I get a little bit of moulah if you make a purchase. I do not, however, endorse products I do not use and trust completely.