Whether you need a website for your business or a simple blog - WordPress is one of the best tools to start building a site with.
Released in 2003, WordPress in the world's most popular website building system, allowing anyone to go online without writing a single line of code.
In this WordPress tutorial for beginners, we'll see how you can do it, too. Let's have a look at some of the main things you should know before you get started.
Here's what we'll cover in our five-part WordPress tutorial:
#1 WordPress basics - what is WordPress, and what do you need to use it?
#2 Setting up a WordPress website - installing WordPress software.
#3 Navigating WordPress dashboard - how to understand what's going on there?
#4 Customizing WordPress website - making your website do the things you want it to.
#5 Publishing your first WordPress post - start blogging!
So let's go!
#1 Knowing WordPress Basics
Before going to the real work of this WordPress tutorial, we need to do some initial setups and find out the main definitions. So, let's get up to speed.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is one of the most powerful website building tools around. Actually, it's the most used tool powering 1/3 of all websites.
To be even more specific, WordPress is a content management system (CMS) allowing you to build a website without any coding skills. It's simply like an app which you can install on a hosting account and start from there.
And how does that work?
Instead of writing bare code on one of your computer's text editing tools, you simply use a bunch of visual tools provided by the CMS. WordPress also allows you to edit HTML and CSS once you get more comfortable with the platform.
So before you begin building on WordPress, you should sign up with the host and pick a domain name for the website.
How to choose a hosting provider and domain name?
Every website needs hosting and a domain name to be visible online. Keep in mind that a domain name should be short, memorable, and relevant to your brand, idea, or project.
Most of the hosts provide you with a free domain for at least a year. Otherwise, you can easily buy a domain from one of many domain hosting providers.
And when choosing a host, speed, security, data limitations should all be taken into consideration. There's a bunch of WordPress hosting options you can choose from to get a quality service.
Why's that important?
There are hundreds or even thousands of hosts out there. Choosing the right one can even determine the success of your website.
If the host's servers are slow - your website will be slow. And obviously, that's a bad thing - even financially.
If you'd check Google's Impact Calculator tool, you'd see how much can you save in profits if your website loads faster.
For example, an average sized online shop can earn up to $40,000 more by improving the site's speed by 1.7 seconds.
Also, Google has quite a tough opinion about slow websites. It makes sure that you will not see slow loading pages among the top search engine results.
So overall, good hosting is a crucial part of every WordPress website.
#2 Setting up a WordPress website
First of all, you'll need to install WordPress. However, if you chose one of the WordPress optimized hosting providers, it might have WordPress already installed. So check that out and you may skip this step.
My hosting provider, on the other hand, does not have WordPress installed.
In this case, you should log in to your host control panel and find an 'auto-installer' or a similar app. There, the WordPress icon will be one of the first things you see. Go ahead and press on it.
At this point, you should already know your website name. So just fill in the required installation fields - choose the URL, user name, password, email, website name, and language. Be sure to keep sensitive information secure.
And that's it. Your WordPress website is ready for the next step!
#3 Navigating WordPress dashboard
Knowing the WordPress dashboard is half of the work in learning how to use it. So go ahead and log in to the WordPress admin panel. You can either find it under the yourdomain.com/wp-admin/ or follow a link from your hosting account.
And just like that, you'll be able to start working with the WordPress dashboard.
WordPress has 3 main sections.
1 - is the toolbar where you'll find the most important functions, resources, and notifications.
2 - is the navigation menu with all the tools and other administrative items.
3 - is the main working window.
Go ahead and look around a little. Familiarize yourself with the platform.
For example, under the Appearance menu item, you'll be able to choose, install, and customize themes. Under the Users, you can add new editors, contributors, or publishers. And under the Tools, you'll find installed tools, import/export options, and site health option to check if your website has any issues.
Furthermore, once you log in, WordPress Home section on the dashboard displays a helpful window with several modules.
- Welcome to WordPress! module that advices you on how to get your first site running.
- WPForms plugin is pre-installed if you want to create contact forms, for example.
- Quick Draft module for taking quick notes or when the inspiration strikes.
- At a Glance module summarizing all your posts, pages, and comments. The Activity also shows your most recent posts.
- WordPress Events and News module so you can meet other WP users and find out about the latest updates.
#4 Customizing WordPress website
After you get familiar with the layout of WordPress, you can start building your actual website.
And before any content comes in, you should have an idea of how you want the website to look like: is it going to be visual or text-based, are you going to sell online or is it an informational website?
Depending on that you should decide on the theme you are going to use.
WordPress has plenty of options itself, both free and premium. However, it being an open-source platform allows you to install any theme there's online. So you can choose from the best WordPress themes around. And if you're on a budget, there are loads of free WordPress themes to choose from as well.
How do you install and customize a theme?
To install a theme, go ahead and find the Themes option under the Appearance menu option.
There you'll be able to choose either one of the 7000+ WordPress offered templates or upload a third-party one.
In case you decide to use one of the WordPress themes, hover your mouse over it; Preview and Install buttons will appear. It takes only two clicks for it to be installed. So press Install and once that's done - Activate.
To upload a third-party theme, you'll most probably have it downloaded as a zip file.
So press on Upload Theme button and follow the instructions - select theme file, install, and activate.
Further customization options depend entirely on a theme
Some of the third-party have drag-and-drop editors or eCommerce platforms already integrated. Others have simple live editors.
In my case, I installed one of the WordPress free themes. For such simple themes, the only option to customize is under the Appearance toolbar section under the Customize menu option.
It redirects me to a simple live editor where elements like the color scheme, headers, menus, widgets, etc. can be selected and published.
However it's a free WordPress theme, so customization is rather limited. You can get basically unlimited options with some of the premium ones.
How to add and customize pages?
Head over to the Pages section in the sidebar. There you'll find pre-made pages depending on the theme you installed. Of course, you can keep them as it is, or, by selecting one or a few - edit or delete.
By pressing on a page, you can edit it, write content, change the title, etc.
By default, the pages will be reached via yourwebsite.com/PAGENAME - they are the cornerstones of your website.
How to install plugins?
To add more functionality to the pages you'll need plugins. WordPress has over 59,000 of them including text editors, SEO tools, contact forms, security plugins, and basically anything you can think of.
To install a new one, you'll need to open Plugins menu option and press on the Add New button. In the plugins window, you can search for a specific one, select from one of the categories, or upload your own.
WordPress plugins are installed simply by pressing the Install and Activate buttons.
And that is it, you can start using the plugin.
And in case you find it difficult to use, the majority of plugins have knowledge bases and documentation. Premium plugins will also have customer support to help you out.
Of course, the most popular ones have huge communities as well, so you'll definitely find tutorials and all needed help.
Here are the top WordPress plugins that will make your website powerful and unique:
- Yoast SEO - is the all-time best WordPress plugin for bringing more traffic from the search engines. It lets you easily add meta tags, generate site maps, create 301 redirects and even tools to evaluate your content, metas, etc.
- Sucuri - is a security plugin that monitors your website at all times. It works as a web firewall and protects the site from all kinds of attacks; DDoS, XSS, and malware included.
- WP Super Cache - is a free WordPress caching plugin designed for boosting site performance. It claims to make your website load much faster. And that improves not only the user experience but SEO ratings as well.
You can also find brilliant apps like Elementor that adds drag-and-drop functionality to WordPress or Grammarly to check for mistakes.
How to optimize WordPress performance?
There are probably hundreds of ways to optimize WordPress to work speedily. However, in this WordPress tutorial for beginners, we decided to mention a few you'll definitely need to use:
1. Choose WordPress optimized hosting. If you choose managed WordPress hosting, it will come optimized out-of-the-box. Also, you'll have a team of WordPress experts working probably 24/7 to make your WordPress site as fast as it can be. It's the easiest way as you can always ask the support for help.
2. Install caching plugins. Websites tend to get pretty large. The average size of one page currently is around 2MB and an entire website could be hundreds of times that. And all that needs to be loaded from a server to your visitor. Caching tools keep static website data like images on the visitor's browser so when they repeatedly visit a page, that data can be loaded faster.
3. Optimize images. Let's talk about optimization some more. If you upload a 20MB, 5720x2860px image, your page will load painfully slow. And if your website displays only 720x360px sized image, a huge image won't even look better. Why? The visitor's browser first downloads the large file, then scales it down, and only then displays. You can use plugins like ShortPixel or Autoptimize to automatically optimize images, make them smaller, and your page easier to load.
4. Enable Lazy Loading. You can make a website load faster by making it not load fully. Sounds weird - but it works. Lazy Loading plugins work in a way, that content is not loaded immediately after opening a page, but on demand.
Only when a visitor scrolls to a point where a piece of media is displayed, the page loads it. We do the same for the videos on this post!
5. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN). CDN is a network of worldwide servers that can deliver the content of your website. If your main server is located in the US but your visitors are in Asia, CDN delivers content from a closer server to the visitor. The closer the server is - the faster it can deliver the content.
CDN also helps with the uptime. If one server has a problem, the website can be loaded from a different one without servers ever going down.
How to keep a WordPress website secure?
WordPress is an open-source platform, and it means that unfortunately, you'll have to care for the protection of your website yourself.
Luckily, doing that is actually quite simple. Here's what you should do:
1. Keep WordPress updated at all times. The WordPress security team is pretty good at spotting threats and immediately implementing updates that keep the site secure. The Updates section on the dashboard
2. Installing a security plugin. You can prevent lots of trouble by installing a plugin like Wordfence Security or All In One WP Security & Firewall. What do these plugins do?
They are basically the antivirus programs for your website. Such plugins monitor the website at all times and protect it against various attacks including DDoS, XSS, etc.
3. Backing up the site. By backing up the site you make sure that there's a copy of a perfectly functioning site. So in case anything happens, you don't have to start from scratch - just simply re-upload the functioning version of the website and start from your last checkpoint. How can you do it?
Lots of hosts offer automated daily backups as a service. Also, you can install a plugin like UpdraftPlus.
#5 Publishing your first WordPress post
The WordPress post editor is generally easy to use. However, it will require some skill arranging everything to look nice on your website.
So go ahead, hover the mouse over the Posts menu item and press Add New. You'll be taken to the WordPress post editor.
You can see a quick tutorial on how to write your first post, document settings, and block settings.
In the text, you will notice that each segment is separated by invisible boxes. Each heading, paragraph, image, list, etc. should have its own box.
No empty boxes should be left. Otherwise, you'll see huge gaps in the text.
Remember to use the appropriate heading structure. Headings are short descriptions referring to the text below them. Search engines use them to understand what the text is about. Usually, H2 goes under the title. H3 belongs to H2, H4 belongs to H3, and so on.
You can also add images. That is done by hovering over the content box and pressing on an illustration icon. Then you can upload the photo. On the right sidebar, settings for the image will appear. Don't forget to add Alternative Text for SEO, select image size (I would go for the presets) and choose an alignment option.
Then you can press Preview and see if everything looks fine.
Before publishing though, you should also select a category under which you are going to post. If your blog is about pets and the post is about dogs, don't publish it under the cat category. It will help users to find the post easier.
You can also add tags, excerpts, and a featured image.
And that's it! Your first WordPress post is ready to go!
WordPress Tutorial For Beginners - Wrapping Up
WordPress is one of the most flexible and versatile of CMSs. No wonder why it's the most popular one as well. But with that comes a bunch of skills you need to learn.
However, with a bit of hard work, it's entirely possible to know all the basics of WordPress really quickly. This is exactly what I've covered in this WordPress tutorial for beginners - the complete basics, which should be enough to get started.
Hopefully, that's been enough for you. Good luck with your future website development!