How to: Create Your First Business Website With WordPress
3rd October 2014
If you’re setting up a new business and money is tight, this article is for you. I’m going to go over how to set up a simple brochure style business website using WordPress with only the cost of a domain name and web hosting to fork out for. I’ve chosen WordPress, which is a content management system (CMS), because it is extremely easy to install and use. It’s also open source and completely free, with huge amounts of support available in the documentation and forums.
I’ve assumed some prior knowledge and reasonable IT skills, but you certainly shouldn’t need to be a computer whizz to work through this tutorial.
Step one: hosting and domain registration
This is the only part of the process that requires you to expend any money, but don’t worry because that cost should be negligible. Registering a domain name usually costs around £5 per year for .co.uk, slightly more for .com, and a shared web hosting package can be as little as a few pounds per month.
Since you’re going to be installing WordPress, you’ll need a hosting account with at least one MySQL database included. This is where all of the settings and content will be stored, and WordPress can’t run without it.
It can also be worth finding a package with a one click installation facility because it makes the process of installing WordPress an absolute doddle. All of my hosting packages include this, as do those offered by Heart Internet and 1&1 (to name but a few).
The exact process of registering your domain name and setting up hosting will obviously vary slightly between providers, but the gist should be something like this:
- Pick a domain name which fits your business name and sector. Go to the website of your chosen provider and search to check it’s available. If not, think of a few alternatives until you come across one that is.
- Somewhere near the result which tells you the name you’ve searched is available to register, there should be an option to buy or add to cart. Do either of these.
- Go to pay. At this point you will probably be asked if you want to add web hosting to your order, so select a package with either a MySQL database mentioned or one click installation of WordPress available as a feature.
- Complete the purchase procedure, which should then give you an account to log in to with your domain name and hosting details available to view.
- If you type your new domain name into the browser you should see a holding page come up saying it’s been registered ready for use.
Step two: installing WordPress
Once you’ve got your domain and hosting, the next step is to get the base installation of WordPress up and running. There are two options for doing this, dependant on the features of your web hosting package. As previously mentioned, some accounts will come with a one-click installation of popular open source software.
If yours does, you will simply need to log in to your hosting account, select the one-click installation option and follow the on screen instructions.
If you don’t have a package with a one-click installation option however, you will need to upload the files yourself:
- Go to https://wordpress.org/download/ and hit the blue download button to get the latest version.
- It’ll be downloaded to your computer in a zip file, so your next task is to to locate and unzip it.
- Go to your web hosting control panel and find the FTP details. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and it’s a method of placing the files from your computer onto your web hosting server.
- Download a desktop FTP program, if you don’t already have one. There are plenty of great free options – I use Filezilla.
- Open up your FTP program and connect to your web hosting account using the FTP details given by your supplier, then copy across all of the files into the root directory.
- Once you’ve uploaded the files, you’ll need to set up a database. For exact instructions on doing this, refer to your host’s guide. Chances are though you’ll have a link in your hosting account to MySQL databases.
- Open a new browser window and navigate to your website address. You’ll be prompted to install WordPress, so follow the on screen instructions.
Some quick security tips: when following the WordPress install, change the default table prefix from ‘wp_’ to something different. When asked to create your first user account do not just call it admin, pick something personal to you like your name.
Step three: choosing a theme
Once WordPress is installed you’ll notice that the front end of your website displays with the default WordPress theme, which is bundled with your install. There are two options for installing a different theme – use a free one from the WordPress repository or pay for one from a third party site like Themeforest.
Which you choose will depend on what features you want. You generally get a lot more customisation options with a premium theme as well as support from the developer, but be warned they can be quite complicated due to the volume of different features.
Installing a free theme
To install a free theme, log in to WordPress (your site domain /wp-admin) and from the dashboard menu select Appearance > Themes. You’ll see a list of the themes currently installed to your site. To add new ones, find the ‘Add New’ button in the top left hand corner and click it. This will initially bring you to a list of featured themes, but you’ll also see the ability to filter and search dependant on the features you want.
Once you’ve found a theme you think might be suitable for your website, all you need to do is hit the blue ‘Install’ button and it will be added to your list of available themes.
Installing a premium theme
If you’re going for a premium paid theme, you will need to download it as a zip file and then upload by using the ‘Upload Theme’ button in the top left hand corner of the theme search page.
Activating your theme
Once you’ve installed a theme you like, you can take it live on your website by returning to Appearance > Themes and hitting the ‘Activate’ button.
Configuring your theme
Depending on the theme you’ve chosen there will be a number of options you can configure. These will vary so widely that it’s hard to go over them here, but you should be able to find specific theme documentation online. A good place to start is by hovering over ‘Appearance’ in the left hand dashboard menu and seeing if your new theme has added an options or settings panel.
Step four: content
To create and then edit pages, simply navigate to the ‘Pages’ tab from WP dashboard. When you first install, you’ll get an example called ‘Sample Page’ which you can either delete or edit. I won’t go into too much detail about how to add content to pages because if you’ve come this far you should find it fairly self explanatory. The editor is a lot like in Word or other productivity tools, you just have to remember that it won’t be quite as fully featured. Once you’ve created your page, simply hit the blue ‘Publish’ button to take it live, or ‘Update’ if you’re making changes.
The other place you might want to add content to is a blog, although contrary to what some people believe you don’t have to have a blog to use WordPress. Blog posts can be found under ‘Posts’ from the WP dashboard menu. As with pages, they give you some example content when you first install in the form of a post called ‘Hello World’. Adding content to posts is almost identical to pages, except that you get some categorisation and tagging options to keep things organised and help your visitors navigate around.
Step five: menus
Once you’ve created some content, you’ll need to add it to the menu. Some themes will automatically add every page you create to the main navigation bar and others wont. In any case, setting up the menus yourself will give you more control about what you display and where.
To access menus, navigate to Appearance > Menus and then select the option to create new. You’ll need to give your menu a name and there should be tick boxes at the bottom so you can select where within the layout it should appear (there may be multiple options here dependant on the theme). To add links to your menu, select them in the left hand list of pages and then hit the ‘Add to Menu’ button. They’ll then appear on the right hand side under your menu heading and you can drag/drop them into order. Once you’re happy, hit the blue ‘Save Menu’ button.
Step six: plugins, settings and other recommendations
There are a few other things you really should configure before you’re done:
- Go to Settings > Permalinks, select ‘Post Name’ and hit the blue ‘Save Changes’ button.
- Go to Settings > Reading and decide whether you want your latest posts to show up on the home page or one of the pages you’ve just set up.
There are also a number of plugins (extensions to WordPress) which I would recommend as a good starting place too:
- Akismet – it will help deal with annoying spam comments on your blog posts.
- WordPress SEO – this plugin by Yoast will help you optimise your site for search engines and also generates sitemaps.
- Contact Form 7 – if you want to create a contact or enquiry form on your site this is a great free option.
- Autoptimize – speeds up your page load times.
- Jetpack – adds a whole raft of features including social commenting, related posts, social sharing and more.
Got a question? Leave a comment below or get in touch using the tab above and I’ll do my best to help.
NB: Because this post is more than two years old, and the world of web design and technology moves on so quickly, the information in it may now be out of date