This is one of those topics that seems obvious to those of us who use WordPress regularly, but I think we tend to forget how challenging it can be to someone who isn’t used to working in this medium regularly. So I wanted to just put together a quick tutorial for those looking to start a WordPress website, but who might not be overly confident they can do it.
Quick note…I say ‘quick’ tutorial, but you should know that I’m a bit overly thorough, so it may take you a little time to read. But if you do so, it should make the process of setting up your website quicker in the end.
Objectives of this tutorial
After working through this post, you should:
- Have a fairly firm grasp of the different pieces of the puzzle necessary to start your own WP website.
- Feel comfortable navigating your hosting account and just generally more comfortable with the idea of setting up your website.
- Have the necessary information to successfully set up your own WordPress website (which, incidentally, should take you no more than an hour or so).
Different pieces of the website puzzle.
Okay, so to have your own WordPress website (and by ‘your own’, I mean, a self-hosted website, as opposed to those free options that are available), there are really just 3 main parts you need to be familiar with.
1. Domain Name:
Simple enough - this is the address of your new website. You’ll need to find a domain registrar online (there are many to choose from, but some of the more notable are Godaddy, NameCheap, Gandi…plenty of others), which is just a company that is licensed to register the domain name you want. You pay around $10-$15 per year to do so, and you are given an account at that registrar where your domain name sits, ready for use. We’ll get more into this in a few, but ‘ready for use’ simply means you’ll be associating the domain name with your hosting account (see below).
One quick note. While this is absolutely *not* necessary, I find it simpler to register your domain name at the same company from whom you purchase hosting. Makes some of the set up process easier.
2. Hosting Account:
Your hosting account is simply the place on the web that your new website is going to live. It’s kind of like your computer’s hard drive (where all your programs and files live), except that it’s accessible by anyone with an internet connection. And just to clarify, your website will simply be a bunch of folders and files, organized in a particular way on your hosting account. I know it seems like it should be something way more confusing than that, but at its core, this is all it is.
Just as you did with your domain name registration, you’ll need to find a company online who offers website hosting accounts. As you’d expect, there are plenty to choose from, and some of the more popular include Godaddy, Bluehost, Dreamhost, and many others. Each will typically have a number of different hosting plans, but for most people, the economy (or cheapest) plan will suffice. It’ll run you anywhere from $4 to $8 per month which you will generally want to pay for in yearly increments ($50-$100).
If you decide to take my advice and get your domain name and hosting from the same company, you’ll end up with one account (say, at Godaddy) with your domain name registered within it, and a hosting account as well. And the chances are pretty good that if you buy a year’s worth of hosting, they might even throw in a domain name for free for the first year, which will save you some money.
3. (Free) WordPress Software:
Naturally, if you weren’t making a WordPress website/blog, you wouldn’t need this (you’d need a different kind of software), but since you are, you do. This is simply the software program that runs a WordPress site and gives it the look and functionality that makes it what it is, and makes it so valuable to people like you and me.
This WordPress software will be installed on your hosting account (much like, say, Word or Pages or Photo Shop might be installed on your computer’s hard drive if you wanted to use it) using an automated process that is quick and painless, and done through your hosting account.
To get the software, simply go to WordPress.org. You’ll see a ‘Download WordPress’ button toward the top - click it and then click on the ‘Download WordPress x.xx’ (current version is 3.8.1, but may be different when you get to it). This will get the software into your downloads folder on your computer. You can keep it there or move it…we’ll be using it in a bit.
In the end, the Domain Name will ‘point’ to the hosting account, which is where the WordPress software is installed and, thus, where your website will be displayed for all the world to see.
Getting comfortable with your hosting account
Regardless of the hosting company you choose, they will almost certainly have an admin panel (often called a CPanel) that you can poke around in. It’ll be necessary to do so to get your site up and running. So let’s talk a little bit about what, specifically, you’ll need to do within your hosting account, and give you a few pics to get you a better idea.
Hosting Account Overview:
The general steps involved here are as follows. First, you’re going to need to sign into your hosting account. For the purpose of instruction, I will assume your hosting account is with Godaddy, though even if it isn’t, you should find your situation to be similar.
When you are signed into your CPanel/Admin Panel, you should find that it looks something like this:
I’ve put two arrows in to bring your attention to the things we’ll be dealing with right out of the gates. First, take note of the ‘hosted domains’ icon. That’s where we’ll go first, because it’s necessary to add your newly registered domain to this hosting account. More on that in a minute. The second arrow points to the WordPress icon, and that’s what we’ll be clicking on after we’ve added the domain name to the hosting account, and it will take us through the automated process of installing WordPress. Again, your screen/CPanel may look a little different, but similar enough that this will help guide you.
First, though, click on the ‘hosted domains’ icon, and you’ll get something like this:
Depending on whether this is the one and only domain you’ve associated with this hosting account, this screen may look more complicated than pictured here, but assuming this is your first, the main thing you are looking for is the ‘Add Domain’ button. Click it.
This will get you to another screen where you’ll have the option to input your domain and designate a folder for it to be placed in. Something like this:
Go ahead and input your domain name (just do the name.com, not the http://www… portion). If you have the domain name registered with the same company as your hosting account, it will *probably* autopopulate the field as soon as you start typing. If your domain name is registered somewhere else, still go ahead and follow all these directions, but there is one more step you’ll have to take…and if that’s the case, please holler because this post is going to be long enough as it is, it would be best if I just walked you through it.
For the folder, you can think of it like this. If you were going to install Photoshop on your computer, you wouldn’t just dump all the files into the main C directory on your drive. You’d put it in the Applications folder, and the program itself would be further subdivided into folders of its own. That’s what we’re doing here. Yes, you can just leave that field blank and WordPress will be installed in what is called your ‘root directory’, but it’s good policy to keep your hosting account organized (you may want to add other domains/websites in the future), so I recommend you do designate a folder name. Any name you like is fine, but typically it would be descriptive of the domain name, just to make things easier. By designating a folder name, when we install WordPress, the automated process will install the files in that folder. Very tidy. So you should have something like this:
Once you do, click ‘OK’ (not browse). This will bring you back to the screen from where you initially clicked ‘Add Domain’, only now you should have your new domain listed in a row there, with either a ‘Pending’ status, or a ‘Setup’ status. Like so:
With some hosts, this happens instantly, with others it may take 20 or 30 minutes. Regardless, keep refreshing, or come back and check in a bit, and once it shows ‘Setup’, you’re good to return to your main CPanel (where we were first..remember?).
This time, click on the WordPress icon. You should get a window that looks like this (or close to it):
If your domain name isn’t already filled in, please choose it from the options available. The rest of the options relate specifically to your soon-to-be brand new website. They will serve as your login credentials, so whatever you fill in there for your username, password and email address, be sure to make not of them as you’re going to need them. And, of course, your email should be a working email address that you can access. Once you’ve filled them in, click ‘OK’.
This should initiate the automatic installation of WordPress on your hosting account. Depending on your host company, you may, from your CPanel, have the ability to click on something that says ‘Applications’. In this context, ‘Applications’ are any items (such as WordPress) you’ve installed on your hosting account. If you can find it, click on it, and you’ll likely get something like this:
Notice that it shows ‘Installing’. Again, hosts vary, but after just a few minutes, it’ll be fully installed. If you click back into ‘Applications’, it will, at some point, no longer say ‘installing’. Once that’s the case, WordPress has been successfully installed and you can now (gulp!) open up a web browser and type your domain name into the address bar. Viola! Your new website.
That, there, is the standard, default installation of a WordPress website. True, not too pretty, but as soon as you start adding content, and making it your own, it’ll begin to take shape. Speaking of which, remember those login credentials you took note of a while back? Pull ‘em out, you’ll be needing t hem shortly.
Now, we’re almost done here, but before I finish up, I want to just explain one last thing. The website you now have, the one that looks just like the one pictured above (Hello World!!), has 2 sides to it. The front end, and the back end. The front end is the site that any visitor sees when they visit your site. It’s the public face of your website - the blog posts, contact pages, pictures, etc. But your site also has a back end. The back end, or admin side of your site, is where you, as the administrator of the new site, will login to add new content. New blog posts and pages and whatever else you created a website for in the first place.
So let’s login to the admin panel before I let you go. First, go to the login screen for your new site. How, you ask? I’ glad you did. Every WordPress website has the same login screen (sorta). That is, to sign into the admin side of your website, you go to the link that is your domain name, followed by /wp-admin (example: www.charliedickerson.com/wp-admin). Doing so will get you to a screen like so:
Simply input your username and password and click ‘Log In’. And there you are…sitting at the controls of your brand new WordPress website. Congratulations.
Of course there’s more to it…
But this tutorial has to end somewhere. With any luck, if you’ve read this far, you now have a firm grasp of the different pieces that fit together to make a website, feel somewhat comfortable navigating the CPanel/Admin Panel of your hosting account, and have the information necessary to create your own website…or, if you were doing it as you read, you’ve already created it.
Well looky there…you’re a webmaster.
Yes, this just scratches the surface of ‘having your own website’. It’s a beginning, nothing more. But it’s a good beginning, and one well worth the time, if you ask me. If you’ve made it to this point and come up with some questions, please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my very best to help.
And naturally, if you’ve read all this and thought, “yeah, um, no thanks”, and you’d rather hire someone to set up your website for you, well, hey, you can leave a comment, too, and I’ll gladly assist. Or, reach out some other way and let me know what you need.
Thanks for reading, and best of luck to you. Cheers…