If you are just starting out as a blogger or small business owner, I’m sure you realize that getting a website up and running is a big priority. In the world in which we live, if you don’t have an online presence, you are basically way behind the curve.
These days there are a million ways to build a website… Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, GoDaddy’s Website Builder… but if you want the best, easiest way to set up a website quickly and on a platform that will serve you well for the lifetime of your website, your best option is WordPress.
But what is WordPress?
If you google it, you’ll see this:
WordPress is a free and open-source content management system (CMS) based on PHP and MySQL.
Super helpful, right?
Yeah, that was sarcasm.
I’ll break it down for you. WordPress is a free content management system that anyone can use. The coding language it uses to operate is PHP and a thing called MySQL manages and stores the database – all on hosting that you have to provide.
Hosting? What’s that? A host, or server is where your website actually lives. You can have a private local machine that is connected to the internet that houses it (unlikely) or you can pay a company like GoDaddy, BlueHost or WPengine to do it for you.
If you are asking, I 100% recommend WPengine. It’s a little more expensive, but their security and customer service are worth the cost, especially if you don’t know what you are doing.
Back to WordPress.
It first appeared on the web scene around 2003, and was initially used as blogging platform. It’s still great for that, but today many people use it to manage their whole website AND ecommerce options.
(eCommerce is selling stuff onlife, just FYI.)
So, basically, what you have to do is get your domain (that’s the http:// address of your website), get hosting and follow the directions of your host to connect the two.
(If you buy a domain with GoDaddy and you host with GoDaddy, this will already be taken care of.)
You then install WordPress, either with software the host has set up (Fantastico or Softaculous), or by following the directions here.
Okay, so you’ve got that done. Now what?
The basis of WordPress is built on PHP – that’s the coding language we talked about earlier. You don’t need to know or understand PHP to work with WordPress.
All you need to understand is this stuff:
The theme is the way the website looks. There are 1 billion and 5 themes out there. Some are customizable by nature; some are not. Some are mobile ready, some are not. Some are free, some will charge you up the wazoo to use them.
Either way, once you install a theme, the good news is, you aren’t stuck with it. And if you buy one that you like, make sure it has good customer service reviews before you buy.
A plugin is a third-party bit of code that you add to your website to make it do something special. Like an Event Calendar, or a storefront. Again, when you are looking for one, check reviews and make sure it’s compatible with the version of WordPress that you have installed.
Oh, and so you know there is another kind of WordPress.
As if you weren’t confused enough…yeah, there really is.
WordPress.com is a WordPress platform that runs the same kind of content management system, but it’s all set up for you already. You don’t have to do the hosting bit, and you don’t have to worry about installing the platform itself.
That sounds great, but this is not what you are looking for.
This kind of WP doesn’t allow you to use any themes except the ones they offer. They aren’t very customizable, and you can’t do whatever you want with the code (should you decide you want to alter the way things work – I know, that doesn’t seem like something to worry about, but it might be someday.
After all of this, you still may be thinking that one of those easy do-it-all-for-you options like Wix is the better choice.
I promise, it’s not.
Your website will grow. You will need to make things bigger and better – and when you do, if you’ve started on one of those other places, you will probably need to move to a self-hosted place. It’s generally better to just start yourself off in a place that will allow you to grow indefinitely.
Got questions? I’m happy to answer anything you’ve got!