A guest article by Katrina Yeo
Did you know that WordPress now powers 30% of websites? Many people may not know this because website often buy domain names* which removes the .wordpress.com and customize their websites so much so that they look nothing like free WordPress sites.
As a NUS School of Computing student who struggles to learn how to code websites and mobile applications from scratch (I really do mean ground zero), this statistic made me curious.
Why would so many sites choose WordPress for their website? Was it because everyone else was using it? (Hey, following the leader can’t be THAT bad right?), or was it because it was easy to use for even those who are not technically-inclined?
Atlas, getting my hands a little dirty and delving into WordPress itself brought about some answers for me. And my verdict would be: YES! WordPress really IS easy to use and I believe anyone can build their own site with this. Of course this also makes me wonder why I am still learning how to code websites from scratch…
Alright, enough of my ramblings. Let’s get started!
This is your guide to WordPress 101. By yours truly.
Firstly, decide on a WordPress plan that would be best for you
WordPress comes in 2 versions: Free and Paid. The free version is great for personal use and has a few dozen themes provided free by WordPress. However, its’ ability to be customized is very limited (unless you host the website yourself, more info on this later). Thus, if you are an entrepreneur or owner of a small business, the paid version might be better for you.
There are 3 paid WordPress plans that you can choose from: Personal, Premium and Business. A Personal WordPress site starts from $5 a month and is perfect if your site only displays information, ie. there will be no selling of merchandise through your site. Otherwise, the Premium or Business option is for you! What differentiates these 2 are things like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Data Analytics and the ability to upload custom themes. If you go for the paid version, I would suggest starting with the Premium version and upgrading later on should you find yourself needing such functionalities.
Aaaand of course one of the most important reasons for WordPress is that they host the website for you. This means that you save anywhere from $60 – $120 a year then if you were to self host the website instead. Pretty good deal if you were to ask me. But of course self-hosting has its’ benefits as well.
You can find out more information about WordPress’s pricing here.
Secondly, have a vision for your website.
You’ll need to have an idea what kind of design aesthetics you are looking for in your website. Are you going for something funky, feminine or futuristic? Whatever you decide on should be congruent to your other social media sites to ensure a seamless user experience.
With your design in mind, you can either browse these themes provided by WordPress, or if you are looking for more options, check out themeforest. Themeforest is powered by 3rd party developers. One of my personal favourite is the BRIDGE theme. Don’t worry if the theme doesn’t look 100% to what you had in mind. This is where you can have fun and customize your website to make it uniquely yours.
Thirdly, install WordPress and create your very first page
If you had bought the paid version with WordPress, sit back and let WordPress guide you along on what you’ll have to do. No installation is required for the paid versions. You should make full use of their email and live support if you hit a roadblock.
Otherwise if you are hosting the website yourself and using the free version, you’ll need to go to the cPanel of your hosting account dashboard and manually install WordPress. After which, login and you should see your dashboard that looks something like this:
From your Dashboard, you should be able to add Pages, (blog) Posts, edit the Appearance of your site and more.
If you need more detailed information, a great guide to self-hosting using free WordPress can be found here.
Lastly, code away!
Many of these themes come with elements that make your life as a coder easier. Some examples include the ability to include header and footers, tabs, and sliders (Don’t know what these are? Check out this blog post by Denise).
Remember I said earlier on that I had to code everything from scratch? Well, that meant I didn’t have these said elements, so things are 10000 times harder to produce. But WordPress is here to save your day. (Yes, really. The back-end codes, aka the hard parts, are all done for you)
Each theme supports different elements so I won’t be able to exhaustive and extensively cover all of them. Do play around with your chosen theme and figure out what works best. With that said, it would be wise to pick a theme that has great community support so you can ask questions should you get stuck! If you do find your theme missing certain elements that you require, for example if you need to add a table, do search for and install plugins** to do this for you! Most plugins are open source (ie. done by individual/small teams & provided free).
My advice for this section would be to go slow especially if you are new to coding. This part is where you’ll spend the most time so do have fun and enjoy the process!
That’s it from me! I hope this explains how WordPress works and inspires you to get started now! And of course if you do need more help or want to attend a course that can guide you step-by-step, feel free to reach out to Amalina and Denise! Rest assured they’re super experienced in web design and are able to help you in anything you need!
Here’s Katrina signing off, XOXO.
*Domain names are the addresses you key in upon launching your browser, eg www.facebook.com
**Think of plugins as magical elements that extend the functionality of your theme