I have written a summary of why WordPress is the best way to create your own website on the Student Art Guide. If you need convincing, please read this article.
This video tutorial outlines the process. An index has been included beneath the video, in case you wish to jump ahead to certain section at a later stage. I have also provided a detailed written version for those who prefer to follow written guidance below!
View SiteGround hosting plans.
The video above is divided into the following sections (to begin each section, please navigate to the time shown in brackets):
- Select hosting package and website name (1:21)
- Install WordPress using a few simple clicks (4:17)
- Add content (creating pages, posts, images and menus) (7:06)
- Customise the appearance and functionality (‘plugins’, themes) (15:41)
- Set up ‘illdy’ theme (21:54)
- Add content to the sidebar (31:58)
- Add social media buttons (33:50)
- Add a contact form (35:09)
- Add buy now buttons (36:25)
- Back up your site (38:22)
For those of you who don’t wish to follow the video tutorial above, I have produced a written version below. These instructions follow through the entire process of starting a WordPress website and are designed for someone with no prior website experience.
STEP 1: Select hosting package and website name
After clicking the link to SiteGround, choose whether you would like the StartUp or GrowBig hosting package. Both of these are suitable for beginners. (The main difference is that the GrowBig package allows you to create as many websites as you like, whereas the StartUp package allows you to create just one).
Once you have selected the plan that you would like, you click the GET STARTED button.
You then type in the website name that you would like. This is called the website domain. Please bear in mind that domains are snapped up really quickly, so the one that you want may no longer be available.
It then prompts you to enter your contact details and payment information.
Towards the bottom of this page, under ‘Purchase Information‘, there is a section titled ‘Hosting Services‘. Here, you may wish to change the ‘Data Center‘ location to the place that is closest to most of your audience. This means that your website files will be stored closer to most of your audience, which may make your website load a few milliseconds faster for these people. This isn’t too crucial (and don’t worry if there are no locations that are close to your audience, as most websites have a worldwide audience anyway).
At the very bottom of the page there is a section titled ‘Extra Services‘. The first item here, ‘Domain Registration‘ is the website name that you selected earlier. I also strongly recommend also selecting ‘Domain Privacy‘, as this will ensure that your contact details are hidden from public view. (If you entered a business contact address, this may not be necessary).
Once your order has been submitted, and your account successfully created (this can take a minute or two), click the link which says PROCEED TO CUSTOMER AREA.
Now there is one final step to ensure that you are the proud new owner of a new domain: check your email and locate the email from SiteGround with ‘verification required‘ in the subject line. Click the link within this and confirm that your contact details are correct.
Once you have verified your contact details, return to SiteGround and we are ready for the fun to begin!
Step 2: Install WordPress using a few simple clicks
Remember: SiteGround is where the website files are stored; WordPress is what we use to create the website.
In SiteGround, navigate to ‘My Accounts‘ on the top left-hand menu and then click ‘Access cPanel‘.
Once you have opened your cPanel, locate the ‘WordPress‘ icon in the middle of the screen and click this.
Then click the link at the bottom, which says ‘Install Now‘.
On the next screen, you select the settings for your new website. 🙂
The first thing to decide is whether you would like the ‘www‘ to appear in your website address. For example, the Student Art Guide website could appear as http://www.studentartguide.com OR http://studentartguide.com, depending on what I choose. Including the www is more common, however sometimes excluding it looks cleaner. There is no real advantage either way; it is just personal preference (and this is easy to change later, if you change your mind). The third and fourth options here (the ones that begin with https) are for websites that require an extra level of security. Https is recommended for websites which collect a lot of personal data from their visitors, or process credit card payments. If you decide you need this in the future, this can be added later. As this is more complicated, for now, just select from the first or second options.
Other settings on this page:
The ‘Choose Domain‘ option should show the website name that you have just purchased.
Leave the ‘In Directory‘ field empty.
You then need to create a ‘Site Name‘ and ‘Site Description‘. These appear at the top of your website. It is very easy to change these later, so don’t worry about getting the perfect phrase at this stage; just enter something.
Then create some login details for WordPress. Change the default ‘Admin Username‘ and ‘Admin Password‘ to something you are likely to remember. I recommend writing these down, in case you forget them.
IMPORTANT: Ensure that ‘Admin Email‘ is your own email address, rather than the one given by default!
Leave the other settings as they are, scroll to the bottom of this page and click ‘Install‘.
After SiteGround has installed WordPress for you (this may take a minute) a screen containing two important links appears. The first of these is a link to your brand new website! 🙂
The second link (in the format www.yournewdomain.com/wp-admin/) is the link to your ‘WordPress dashboard‘. This is where you edit your site and add content to it. You can access your dashboard anywhere that you can access the internet.
Open each of these links in a new tab and bookmark these (or write them down) so that you don’t forget them. Of course, at this point, your new website looks rather bland and empty, as you haven’t customised it or added any content!
Sign in to your WordPress dashboard using the login details that you just created.
Add content to your brand new website
Note: I recommend adding content to the website before you customise the appearance. This is because: if you attempt to tweak the appearance before you have added any content, it can be difficult to see what affect the changes have. So in this section of the tutorial we create sample content for your new website.
In WordPress, you can create a ‘post‘ or a ‘page‘. These are very similar; the main difference is that posts can be categorised. For example, on the Student Art Guide, most of my articles are posts, which are organised into Painting, Photography and Design categories etc. Published posts can then appear in a list or feed, with their a thumbnail image and a short snippet introducing the article. Many websites show a list of their latest posts on their homepage, for example.
Pages, on the other hand, are stand-alone and cannot be easily categorised. These do not appear in lists/feeds and are typically used for pages such as the ‘About’ page or a ‘Terms and Conditions’ page. You may choose to create your entire website using pages, if you like.
Creating a ‘page’ in WordPress
Begin by creating an About page. In the left-hand menu of your WordPress dashboard, click: Pages > Add New.
In the new page that opens, add a heading, calling the page ‘About Me‘ or something similar. In the main white box, type sample text for your About page. Remember it is very easy to change this or make it more detailed later. You may like to include:
- An overview of your website
- A brief history of your work / past experience
- Business contact details (do not disclose personal contact details online!)
Add headings / subheadings (these help to break up text and make it easier to read) by selecting text and changing ‘paragraph‘ to H1, H2, H3, H4 or H5 heading. (H1 Heading uses the biggest font and is for the most important headings; H5 Heading is for the smallest / least important subheadings etc).
Adding an image to a page in WordPress
Add a sample image to your About page, by clicking ‘Add Media‘ in the top left corner (immediately under the heading).
Click ‘Upload Files‘ and then drag and drop an image from a folder on your computer onto the screen, or click the ‘Select Files‘ button and select your image. To use this image as a ‘Featured’ image, make sure that it is at least 2000 pixels wide (this ensures that the image is large enough to cover most screen sizes).
When you upload an image, you are prompted to add some information about the image:
It is important to add ‘Alt Text‘. This text helps to tell Google what the image is about, and helps to get your image ranked in Google Search Engine. These also help blind and visually impaired people know what the image is about.
An image ‘Title‘ is what appears over an image when you hover over it (or the text that appears if an image doesn’t load for some reason). By default this is the file name. It is good practice to change the title to a descriptive summary of the image. You should also get in the habit of renaming your image files before uploading them to WordPress, as Google uses the name of the file to help work out what the image is of. For example, rather than uploading a photo called xyz.jpg, rename it to amiria-gale-painting.jpg (using dashes between words). You should also avoid calling multiple images the same thing (for example, rather than uploading painting-1.jpg, painting-2.jpg, painting-3.jpg it is better to call them individual descriptive names).
A ‘Caption‘ is (as you would expect) the text that appears on the page, immediately under the image. The exact placement and styling of the caption depends on the WordPress ‘theme’ that you choose (more on choosing a theme soon). Text that appears on the page around the image also helps to tell Google what the image is about.
You then choose the ‘Alignment‘ of the image (I usually select ‘none’); choose where you would like the image to ‘Link To‘ (I usually select ‘none’); choose the image ‘Size‘ (I usually choose ‘full size’); and click ‘Insert into page‘.
Finally, we click ‘Featured Image‘ on the bottom right of the screen and set a featured image for this page. This is the image that appears extra large at the top of the page.
For the sake of convenience, choose the same image that you have just inserted and then click on ‘Set Featured Image‘.
Publishing a page in WordPress
To make the page live on the internet, click ‘Publish‘, on the right of the screen.
Once the page has been published, click on the ‘View Page‘ link at the top of the screen and open this in a new tab.
Remember at this stage that the page will not look especially exciting, as we haven’t customised the appearance yet.
Note: The black bar running across the top of the page is only visible to you, when logged in to WordPress. If you ever want to edit a page, you simply click the ‘Edit Page’ link on this black bar.
Creating user-friendly urls in WordPress
You will notice that, by default, WordPress creates urls with numbers and symbols in it, as shown below:
This isn’t very user-friendly and doesn’t help Google to know what your page is about. To fix this, return to the edit view for this page, and click the ‘Change Permalinks‘ button, as shown below:
This takes you to the WordPress ‘permalink’ settings. Choose the ‘Post Name‘ option, scroll down and then click ‘Save Changes‘.
If you refresh your About page, you should discover that the url now has words instead of random digits. 🙂
Creating a Post in WordPress
Note: Remember a post is very similar to a ‘page’, however it can be categorised and will appear in a list/feed of latest content.
From the left-hand Dashboard menu, click Posts > Add New.
Add a title and sample text to the post, creating content relevant to the topic of your website. You will notice that now (due to changing the permalink settings above) immediately under the main title, you can also edit your url, removing words as desired.
As before, add an image, by clicking ‘Add Media‘, adding appropriate ‘Alt Text‘ and so on. Set this image as the featured image, by clicking ‘Set Featured Image‘ from the bottom left sidebar. Remember that this image needs to be 2000+ pixels wide, so that it is large enough to appear as the featured image on large screen sizes.
Now we select a category for this post.
In the right-hand menu, click ‘Add New Category‘ and create a category that is relevant. For example, if you are creating an artist website, you might create a category called Acrylic Paintings. The ‘Parent Category’ option can be used to create sub-categories. For example, you might have a category called Paintings, and then within this, you might have several other categories, such as Acrylic Paintings, Watercolor Paintings, Mixed Media Paintings and so on.
Then scroll up and publish the post, by clicking the blue ‘Publish‘ button near the top right-hand corner (or below the post if working on mobile).
Creating a menu using WordPress
We have one last task before we start customising the appearance of our website: adding a menu. Websites can have a menu in the header (at the top of the page); a menu in the footer (at the bottom of the page); or even a menu in the sidebar. To begin with, we will create a menu at the top of the page.
From the left-hand menu in the WordPress dashboard, click: Appearance > Menus.
In the space where it says Menu Name, type a name for your menu (this isn’t shown anywhere; it is just so you can keep track of the different menus that you have on your website). Call it something like Main Menu.
Then click ‘Create Menu‘ on the right.
Now add some links to this menu. You will see the About page that you created earlier listed on the left. Tick this and click the ‘Add to Menu‘ button beside it.
Then click the Posts button (under where you selected the About page) and locate the new post that you have created (there is also a sample post created automatically by SiteGround when you install WordPress – you can delete this whenever you have a chance). Tick this and click ‘Add to Menu‘.
Once you have added items to the menu, they will appear in the centre of the screen. Click the downwards arrow beside each item and change the title to something that is appropriate for a menu bar. You might shorten the title and capitalise it, for example.
You can also drag and reorder menu items.
Once you are happy with your menu, click ‘Save Menu‘ (remember you can easily come back and edit this whenever you like).
By default, WordPress adds this menu to the top of your website. If you return to your website and refresh the screen, you will see that you have a menu bar running across the top. 🙂
STEP 4: Customise the appearance of your website and add extra functionality
In this section of the tutorial we customise the appearance of the website and show how easy it is to add extra functionality.
Just as installing an app on your phone gives your phone extra functionality, installing a ‘plugin’ gives your WordPress website extra functionality. There are thousands of free plugins available. These can be used to add contact forms, social media buttons, buy now buttons and so on. Basically, anything you can think of, there will be a plugin for it. Why doesn’t WordPress come with this extra functionality built in? This is because every time you add extra functionality, you make the website more complicated and potentially slower to run. As a general rule of thumb, I aim for no more than 20 plugins per website.
If you click on ‘Plugins‘ in the left-hand menu in the WordPress Dashboard, you will see that, by default, two plugins are installed. We don’t need these, so we select and delete these.
How to add a new WordPress plugin
In the WordPress dashboard menu, click Plugins > Add New (if you are already in the plugins menu, you can click ‘Add New’ at the top).
In the search box, search for a plugin that you would like to install. As an example, search for a highly recommended plugin called ‘Yoast SEO‘, which I use for all of my websites. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Basically this involves creating your website in such a way that search engines (and users) are likely to love it, and thus rank it highly. This plugin (created by Yoast) helps guide you through this process. More on SEO soon!
Look carefully underneath each plugin and you will see that the following information is available:
- A rating out of 5 stars
- How many people have downloaded this plugin
- How recently the plugin has been updated
- Whether it is compatible with the latest version of WordPress
Plugins are created by thousands of different developers and they are of varying standards. Any plugin that appears in the WordPress directory is assumed to be of an acceptable standard. Nonetheless, you should use the rating and information to help evaluate each plugin before you install them. You can see that the Yoast SEO plugin has a 5 star rating; has been downloaded over one million times and was updated only 5 days ago. This is a pretty phenomenal rating – it is one of the most popular WordPress plugins.
Click ‘Install Now‘ and then ‘Activate‘.
You are then taken to the list of plugins on your site and you can see that you now have the Yoast SEO plugin installed.
Other plugins that I recommend include:
- TinyMCE Advanced (gives you more formatting options when writing posts and pages)
- WP User Avatar (allows you to add thumbnail images of authors etc)
- PayPal Buy Now Button (an easy way to sell things through your website – more on this below)
- Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights (allows you to easily connect Google Analytics, so you can track visitors to your website)
- Disable Comments (allows you to easily switch off all comments, or disable them in certain parts of the website)
- Contact Form 7 (so people can email you through your website, without you publicly sharing your email address – more on this below)
- I don’t have a favourite social media button plugin yet – I keep testing new ones!
Now that you see how easy it is to add a new plugin, it is time to add a new theme.
How to add a new WordPress theme
A theme changes the entire appearance of your WordPress website, without changing the content. In other words, your posts and pages will remain, however the appearance of these (everything from your homepage layout, font and menu bar style etc) changes.
In the WordPress dashboard menu, click: Appearance > Themes.
By default, WordPress comes with a few themes pre-installed. To add a new theme, click ‘Add New‘ at the top of the screen.
There are thousands of free WordPress themes available. You can browse through these or search for a keyword, such as ‘photography website’ to help locate a good theme. The Popular tab can be worth looking at, as themes that are popular may be more likely to be updated regularly and perform better.
Some themes I recommend include: Decode; Zerif Lite; and illdy.
Once you have found a theme that you like the look of, click on it to preview the theme. Often the preview looks nothing like the thumbnail promised. This is because sometimes you have to install the theme and set it up, before it looks like the demo version.
When you find a theme that you like, click ‘Install‘ and then ‘Activate‘.
If you return to your website and refresh the screen, you will now see that it looks totally different.
What most people do at this point is change between themes until they find one that they fall in love with. You should be sure to delete themes that you are no longer using, rather than letting them accumulate in your WordPress dashboard.
How to customise a theme and make your own website unique
You can customise a theme by clicking Appearance > Customise in the WordPress dashboard. This is where you upload a logo, header image, change colors, fonts and so on. Different themes have different customisation options. Some are much more flexible than others.
If you are interested in watching the whole process as I customise the illdy theme, please view the last section of the video tutorial (from 21:54) above. The video also shows me adding content to the sidebar, adding a contact form and adding buy now buttons (so you can sell artwork directly from your website, for example).
8) Add content!
Once you have set up your website in a way that your are happy with, it is time to start generating content that will rank well in search engines and be shared widely, drawing in thousands of visitors!