That’s the greatest strength of WordPress and the best reason to use it.
No matter what question you have, someone’s got an answer. Any design you can think of, any feature you can imagine, there’s a theme or plugin just waiting for you.
So are you ready to start?
Follow along and you can join the community of WordPress users today.
Update: we just published a brand new guide to create your first WordPress site. You’ll learn how to get online, choose a theme, and customize your site.
Start your own WordPress site
Making your own WordPress site has never been easier.
In this guide, we’ll cover the three things you need to create a site. Then I’ll give you a couple tips for customizing and running your site after it’s setup.
What you need
To start a WordPress site you need three things:
- Domain name
- Hosting (I recommend Bluehost)
That’s it. Let’s start from the top.
1. Choose a domain name
The first step is to pick your domain name. That’s the URL people visit to find your site. For instance, the domain name for this site is competethemes.com.
We normally refer to the domain and top-level domain in conjunction as the “domain name”.
When looking for a domain name, try to get a .com extension. Internet users are more aware of the .com extension and trust it more than .net, .info, etc.
Find an available domain
Now here’s the problem…
Finding an available domain name is pretty hard these days. Let me prepare you in advance, so it’s less frustrating.
How to avoid squatters
The majority of the domains you check will be taken and not by a real site, but by a squatter. Basically, they own it and want to sell it to you for a few thousand dollars instead of the $10 it would have cost.
The best way to find an available name is to brainstorm as many as you possibly can. Then bulk check them for availability. Don’t get too attached to any name until you know you can get it.
Namecheap.com has my favorite bulk domain availability checker.
Find available names then choose the best
I know that sounds bleak, but it’s not so bad. You just have to change your mindset.
If you come up with the perfect name and then try to get it, you’ll most likely need to shell out some serious cash to get it. Instead, search for a ton right away and then pick the best option available.
If you find an available name, don’t buy it just yet. Your life will be easier if you complete the next step first.
2. Get web hosting
The second thing you need is hosting, but why? What is hosting?
What is hosting?
Websites are made of files. HTML files, CSS files, image files, etc. When you visit a website, your browser makes a request to a server which then returns these files.
In other words, no server = no website.
Now, this doesn’t mean you need to buy your own server and manage the hardware. No, instead you pay someone else to use their server. When you pay for space on someone else’s server we say they are “hosting” your website.
Who should host your site?
In my opinion, the best host to get started with is Bluehost. I launched my first site with them about five years ago and never had any issues.
It costs $5.45/month if you signup for a year, less if you signup for longer. Besides being a decent and affordable hosting company, there are two more reasons I recommend Bluehost.
I use WP Engine for my sites now but it is much more expensive. If you’re launching a business or plan to sell products, your site speed will be more important and might warrant a premium host. In which case, you should consider WP Engine (my full review).
Free domain name
First, you get a free domain name when you signup. That’ll save you about $10, sweet! And there’s one more benefit to this…
When you purchase a domain name, you get it from a domain registrar. Bluehost is both a hosting company and a domain registrar. The benefit for you is that they’ll automatically configure your domain with your hosting.
Configuring a DNS zone yourself isn’t the hardest thing in the world, but it does require some technical skill and waiting around for the DNS propagation.
The second reason to choose Bluehost is the WordPress installer.
Installing WordPress is simple for a developer but can get overwhelming for users who aren’t especially tech savvy. You can skip it entirely and use the auto-installer instead.
Basically, you just fill out a form. No tech experience required.
And that brings us to…
3. Setup WordPress
Yes, finally we made it to WordPress!
As I just mentioned, you can install WordPress automatically with Bluehost’s auto-installer. Once you have WordPress installed, you’ll be able to login to your site anytime at yourdomain.com/wp-admin/.
When you login, you’ll see an interface just like this:
This is the WordPress admin dashboard where you’ll manage your site. You’ll be here every day creating, publishing, and running your site.
Get a new theme
If you visit your site’s front-end (not the admin side), you’ll see a pretty basic design. WordPress uses “themes” to change the look of the site and always defaults to a simple official WP theme.
While the default themes are usually nice, you’ll most likely want to change the design. To do that, you’ll need a new theme.
You can find almost every theme available in one of two places.
Official Theme Repository
First, you can find thousands of free themes in the official theme repository. You can also visit the Appearance menu in your dashboard, click the Add New button, and browse the exact same themes there.
Of course, I have to mention our themes here at Compete Themes. They’re all free and available in your dashboard too.
“Repository” is a fancy term we use to say it’s a place with a bunch of themes.
Secondly, Themeforest has the largest collection of paid WordPress themes.
Most of the themes there tend to include a lot of functionality. This means it takes a little longer to learn how to use them, but they can also get you closer to your vision before adding plugins.
Which leads us to the next way to customize your WordPress site…
Themes change the way your site looks and plugins change what it can do. Plugins are used for all sorts of functionality from adding forums and image galleries to blocking spam and securing your site.
Just like themes, you can browse plugins on the official plugin repository, or visit the Plugins menu in your dashboard, click Add New, and browse the same plugins there.
A quick Google search can always yield some great results too.
Learn how to use WordPress
WordPress isn’t hard to use, but it does take some time to learn just like any software.
If you want to speed up your learning, the best way I know how is with WP101.
They have video tutorials for learning every aspect of WordPress. Also, they’ve been around since 2008, so they really know their stuff and have a polished product.
Summary for making a WordPress site
Launching your first site will introduce you to a lot of new ideas and concepts, so it can feel overwhelming at times. However, there’s nothing stopping you from having a live website running WordPress today.
If you’re ready to take action, here’s a checklist you can follow.
WordPress site setup checklist
- Brainstorm domain name ideas
- Bulk check them and pick your favorite
- Signup for hosting with Bluehost
- Install WordPress using the auto-installer
- Pick a new theme
- Add any plugins you need
- Signup with WP101 if you want help learning WordPress
And finally, announce your site!
Once you’re up and running, you can publish new content as fast as you can create. Whether you’re publishing blog posts, products, artwork, or anything else, you’ll be ready to share it with the world.
If you have any questions at all, please post in the comments below and I’ll be happy to help out.