If you’re thinking about starting a website, there are various content management systems to choose from. Of all the available options, platforms like WordPress have gained popularity due to their flexibility, scalability and accessibility. WordPress is now one of the world’s best-known content management systems, powering over 75 million websites.
So, if you think WordPress is the right CMS for you and are hoping to learn more about starting on the platform, you’re in the right place. In this guide, I’ll talk you through everything you need to know before getting started with WordPress. Read up on these tips and tricks and before long you’ll be ready to create a standout website that users will love.
WordPress.com and WordPress.org: What’s the difference?
One of the first decisions that needs to be made before building a WordPress website is whether to use WordPress.com or WordPress.org. These options might sound similar, but they offer a very different service.
The differences between the two options lie in the hosting of the site. What does this mean exactly? Well, hosting a website, or ‘Web hosting’ as it is known, is essentially the service that allows webpages to be posted onto the internet.
Hosting is commonly done through a service provider that has the technology (i.e. servers), that can store all of the files from your website. When a visitor wants to access your website on the internet, they simply search for the domain name and will be connected to the server that is hosting all of your website data, allowing the webpages to be viewed through their browser.
In the case of WordPress.org, they offer the opportunity for website owners to host sites themselves using a hosting provider of their choice. With WordPress.com, however, sites are hosted by WordPress (on WordPress’ own servers). Each option comes with its own distinct advantages and disadvantages, so it’s well worth looking into these before you begin.
WordPress.org websites offer far greater flexibility when it comes to design and functionality, for example. On the other hand, WordPress.com sites often suit smaller businesses better as setup can be simpler, and all hosting requirements are managed on a company’s behalf. However, it’s also worth noting that many hosting providers do offer WordPress-specific packages, designed to make life easy for those running WordPress.org websites.
Choosing your package
Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org offer numerous website packages, suitable for a wide range of requirements.
For complete beginners, there are free plans available on WordPress.com. These are great for hobby-bloggers and those just starting out, and include 3GB of space, free backups of website data and access to a selection of free template themes and layouts.
For those looking to unlock more complex functionality and business-ready build options, suitable WordPress.com plans start at £20 per month and come with access to more unique templates, a non-WordPress.com branded domain name, no adverts on webpages and more storage space. Small businesses and e-commerce companies can choose specific plans to suit their needs; these include custom plugins and themes, live chat support and up to 200GB of storage.
WordPress.org offers free downloadable software which can be used to start building a website, and unlike with WordPress.com, users don’t need to decide on plan requirements or choose a package before they begin.
However, there are a range of costs involved with this option which will need to be considered at the build stage. If you’re heading down this route, think about costs relating to domain names, hosting, themes, plugins, security and any fees that may need to be paid to professional developers to help bring that vision to life.
WordPress.org is famed for its quick and easy installation process, which can be beneficial for newer users. The process will vary slightly according to the hosting provider you choose; many hosting providers offer their own automated installation service which is often simple to use. However, users can also opt to install WordPress manually.
One of the advantages of WordPress is the fact that it offers a huge number of ready-made themes, which can be easily adapted to help users create a one of a kind, professional-looking website. Currently there are over 11,000 themes on ThemeForest for users to choose from. These range from free options with limited functionality right up to all-singing, all-dancing paid-for themes.
Browse available themes and use demo modes to see which one best suits your brand. Once you’ve found a theme that works for you, you can start to personalise it by either inserting your own code, or using the options provided via the WordPress dashboard.
Discover WordPress features
WordPress offers many features which can be added to websites to enhance their functionality.
If you’re new to WordPress, it’s worth looking into the various plugins that can help you with setting up and running your website.
For instance, it may be helpful to include a plugin that has a range of useful features in one. For this, you could look into a plugin like Jetpack. Created with beginner website builders in mind, JetPack offers many features in one plugin, for example:
- Ability to add galleries and widgets to pages
- Security features such as downtime alerts and backups
- Website traffic tracking capabilities
Another type of plugin which could help optimise your site is an SEO plugin such as Yoast.
This plugin offers SEO support by analysing content and scoring it against ranking factors and including content improvements. Crucially, it lets users set a focus keyphrase and provides feedback on placement, distribution and density based on the content length. It can also help with more technical factors such as setting canonical URLs to ensure no duplicate content.
Of course, the options don’t end there, there are thousands of helpful plugins available to WordPress users, and many can be easily installed without any prior experience.
Populating your website
Once you’ve got a basic framework set up and your plugins are ready and raring to go, it’s time to think content. Get your site ready for launch by populating it with compelling copy and enticing imagery. Think about user experience and design a series of pages which will help users find everything they need when they come to your site.
If it’s right for your small business, it could be a good idea to add a blog and news page to your website, keeping them up to date with any recent features and editorials that you have written.
If you have social channels, make sure they are linked to your site, your contact page is working smoothly, and everything is in full working order. Then it’s a case of launching your site and spreading the word to build valuable traffic.
Choosing the right CMS for your business is an important decision and although WordPress is often the go-to choice for beginners, it’s crucial to do your research before investing in a CMS for your new website.
When it comes down to it, however, WordPress is often a popular choice for beginners mainly because its creation features are designed to be accessible for new users.
A big selling point for WordPress is ultimately its intuitive interface which means users can build their own website without having to have any pre-existing technical knowledge. By offering a range of plans, the platform also ensures options for beginners as well as providing scalable options for users who started as novices but have been able to grow their knowledge and their website as time has gone on.
Hopefully, this guide has shed light on the fundamentals of getting started on WordPress. However, if you would like to learn more about WordPress features or starting a website, take a look at these resources: