You already know that you need to have a decent website, and you also know that there are seemingly endless ways to make it happen. Maybe all the different options have you so overwhelmed that you’re ready to quit before you’ve even started, right?
Building websites are one of my favorite things to do, and after 20 years of making them, I have a few things to share with you about starting a WordPress website.
How to start a WordPress website
In this guide, I’ll be teaching you how to use WordPress. It’s a free content management system (CMS) that powers 32% (2021 update: it’s 40% now) of all the websites on the Internet. Using extensions called Plugins, you can use WordPress to build any type of website.
First, you’ll need to buy a domain and hosting subscription so you’ll have a good foundation to build on.
I know, this stuff can be confusing.
Think of it this way: regardless of what you use to build the website, it needs a place for the files (html, images, etc) that it’s made up of to live. That’s your website host, and the domain is the address you give your visitors to come visit where your website (files) live.
Registering a domain name
You have tons of options when choosing your domain name, but try to keep it short and as relevant as possible. Avoid using .net and .org extensions, and try to stick with .com. If your audience skews younger, you could even use .co or another new Top-Level-Domain (TLD).
I keep my domain name registrations separate from my hosting subscription. I do that for the same reason I prefer to build an email list rather than a large following on a social platform: I don’t want another company to hold all the eggs in my basket.
Where to buy: Namecheap
Finding a host
There are thousands of hosts out there, so if you find one you’re interested in you’ll need to double check that the server runs on a Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP (LAMP) server configuration.
WordPress is written in the PHP programming language, which requires a LAMP configuration. You don’t want to use a Windows-based host for it, even if you use Windows on your computer.
Where to buy: A few well-respected, WordPress-friendly hosts are SiteGround and Dreamhost. I currently use SiteGround, and I love them. The WordPress dashboard is zippier with them than any other host I’ve ever used.
Hosts to avoid
Stay very far away from hosts like GoDaddy and EIG hosting companies such as Bluehost, Hostgator, Site5, and A Small Orange. The servers they provide are slow and overcrowded, often run outdated technology, and are prone to errors and hacks.
There are better options out there, with more reliable service and better support. Good support is important because things go wrong, technology is weird and being comfortable emailing your host.
It’s not worth it to save a few dollars here, a slow site will only earn you a high bounce rate and a penalty from Google, which means fewer visitors and less revenue.
Why does everyone recommend them if they are so bad?
The affiliate commission payouts are awesome, that’s why. I side-eye everyone (included WordPress itself) that recommends these services because they certainly aren’t using them to host their own websites.
Pointing your domain to your host
Now that you have your domain registered and your hosting ready to go, you need to tell your domain where to find your host. This varies depending on who you’ve purchased your domain and hosting through, but the general process stays the same.
Your host should have provided you with an overwhelming amount of account information, which should include which domain nameservers (DNS) you need to use. There should be a set of at least two different addresses. Once you have those, head on over to where you purchased your domain through
Installing self-hosted WordPress
There are two different versions of WordPress. A hosted version (WordPress.COM) and a self-hosted version (WordPress.ORG). This guide details how to set up WordPress in a self-hosted environment, or wordpress.org.
For anyone who wants full control over the way their sites look and function, I recommend WordPress.org. The initial setup is a little more advanced but to retain complete control over your website is worth the extra steps overall.
Once you get all the pieces together and your website is up and running smoothly, your site will largely run itself leaving you to write, craft, blog, and do what you do. You’ll need to keep it updated to keep things secure so make sure to add any license keys to your plugins.
WordPress.com is a platform that hosts, manages, and has almost complete control over your website. You have no control over the code, but on the flip side, you also don’t have to mess with hosting, domains, databases, and all the other stuff that makes a website work. Plus, it’s totally free. You don’t have to buy a domain name or pay a hosting subscription. This option is good for bloggers with no idea where to start, no help, or no desire to mess with the tech stuff.
WordPress.org offers a downloadable copy of the software that you can build into anything you want. Most hosts also offer 1-Click Installations of WordPress, these configure the MySQL database that your website content will live in.
Use the control panel your host provides and create your blog with their 1-Click Installation app. This feature comes standard with most hosts but can lead to compatibility issues with Multisite or third-party plugins (BuddyPress in particular). For the majority of users, this is a safe option to take.
Create a new user and database in MySQL (via an app from within your host control panel usually called PHPMyAdmin), and make sure the user has ‘all privileges’ access granted to the database.
You want to make this super secure, and since you should only have to grant access once, I always let it generate a password. You can write it down, or if all else fails you can always create another user and grant it the same privileges.
Upload WordPress files to public_html or www folder via FTP
Edit wp-config-sample.php with your MySQL info (usually the server is “localhost”, but this is host-specific so if you can’t get the database to connect, email your host and ask them what their “database server” is) Now, rename that file to wp-config.php.
Finishing the installation
Go to yourdomain.com and enter and it will ask the basic questions about the name of your site, your login, and email address, and then you’re all set! You should now have a brand-spanking-new WordPress website!
That’s it! You’re ready to start a WordPress website!
Did this guide for creating a new WordPress website help you start your website journey? Do you have any questions about choosing a domain or host?