WordPress is very easy to use but is definitely confusing when first getting started. I struggled with a lot of the WordPress terminology when launching my first websites and wish I had a helpful guide to walk me through some of the basics. Luckily for you, I’ve condensed most of the information I wish I knew into this helpful WordPress Beginner Guide!
There have been significant advancements in WordPress over the years, and it is now easier than ever to launch and maintain a great looking website! Custom page builders give you even more flexibility to build a site exactly how you like it without needing to hire a developer or learn to code. In this part of my Getting Started Series, I will walk you through why I recommend WordPress, the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, what to look for in a WordPress theme, and more. Let’s get started!
Before diving into theme choices I want to quickly touch on why I recommend WordPress. WordPress is a Content Management System (or CMS) which means it is an all in one package for managing your website. WordPress offers much more flexibility and customization over very basic website page builders like Squarespace. With page builders like Squarespace, you are locked into the Squarespace universe and if you ever want to expand your site to something beyond Squarespace’s capabilities you are in trouble.
WordPress has been around for years and is used by everyone from tiny blogs just getting started to massive websites like TechCrunch, Variety, and Etsy. WordPress can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, and you can easily change themes and add plugins if you are looking to add new functionality to your website. Simply put, WordPress will make your life a heck of a lot easier for managing your website with everything from publishing new posts, optimizing images and SEO, and designing your site.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org
The main thing that confuses people with WordPress are the two versions floating around the internet: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. WordPress.com is a page builder site similar to Squarespace that locks you into using WordPress.com as your hosting provider and does not give all the great functionality I just talked about. Sufficient to say, you do NOT want to accidentally sign up on WordPress.com!
Instead, you want to start with WordPress.org, which means you can use the WordPress framework with any hosting provider. All major hosts make this very easy and will install WordPress for you. I always recommend Siteground for my preferred WordPress host, and be sure to read my post on choosing a hosting provider for more information. As long as you are installing WordPress from your hosting provider you will be good to go and can choose any theme or plugins you want to use with your new site.
WordPress, Themes, and Plugins, Oh My!
All this talk of WordPress, themes and plugins might be a little confusing, so I’ll break it down with a car analogy. Think of the WordPress software itself as a car’s engine: this is what makes the car (or website) run and function. Around the engine you have the car body: this is the theme in WordPress. The theme gives the colour, fonts and styles to your website. Finally, you have various car options like leather vs cloth seats, Bluetooth, etc. These are the functionalities provided by the plugins, and unlike a car you can easily swap these in and out on a WordPress website! There are more details to each of these, but thinking of WordPress as a car engine, the theme as the car body, and the plugins as the car options give you a working high-level overview.
What To Look For In A WordPress Theme
Now that you understand what a WordPress theme is, the next decision is picking a good theme and installing it. After you have installed WordPress on your website through your host, you will login at yourwebsite.com/wp-admin with the username and password you choose during the WordPress installation. By default, WordPress will install a very basic free theme called Twenty Nineteen. In car analogy terms, these free themes are bicycles: they will get you from point A to point B, but they are not flashy. For our website, we want a Ferrari and not a bicycle so let’s look at some good theme options!
There are hundreds of different themes, both paid and free, and the best one will depend on the goal of your website. Spend some time looking at the top-selling themes on Themeforest.com and CreativeMarket.com as these have likely been around a long time and will have good support. Most top-quality themes will have working demos of the themes online so you can see what the website will look like. Keep in mind you can always change the fonts, colours and layouts of the themes, but starting with a theme that looks as close as possible to your ideal site will make customizing it that much easier.
Specific Theme Recommendations
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Again, you can’t really go wrong by picking one of the top themes on Themeforest or CreativeMarket. Picking a theme is a very personal choice that will depend on the design and goal of your website. For example, a fashion blog probably wouldn’t look for the same design or functionality as a barbershop. I personally use 17th Avenue Designs on my blog posts, but here are a couple of other popular themes.
- 17th Avenue Designs
- Lovely Confetti
- Theme Directory: Themeforest.net
- Theme Directory: CreativeMarket.com
I also like using the Elementor page builder with any theme, as it makes it much easier to build custom pages without needing to code. Elementor is a free plugin with an optional paid pro version upgrade, but using the free version is plenty to get you started.
Installing Your WordPress Theme and Child Theme
Once you have selected your theme, the next step is to install it on your website. This will vary based on what theme you bought and where your purchased it, but generally you will be given a link to download a .zip file containing the theme after purchasing it. Once you have downloaded the zip file, go into your WordPress Dashboard – Appearance – Themes – Add New – Upload Theme. Then you can upload your new theme and activate it.
Install Your Child Theme
One important step many people forget when setting up their theme is to install a child theme. Without getting too technical, a child theme is a copy of your main (“parent”) theme that you can make changes and edits to without breaking the main theme. When a theme update is released for your theme, you can safely update without overwriting any changes or customizations you’ve made in your child theme. All major themes these days include a child theme and instructions on installing it. It’s not important to understand the intricacies of the child theme, just know that you want to use one so you don’t accidentally overwrite any of your changes when a theme update is released!
Import Demo Content
Depending what theme you bought it will likely include access to demo content, which you can directly import into your site to get you started with some sample content. This is a great way to jump-start your website by using demo content and changing it to match your brand instead of starting a new website from scratch. Each theme is different in how they import demo content, so be sure to read the instructions on your particular theme’s website.
At this point you should have a WordPress theme downloaded, a child theme installed, and some nice looking demo content on your site. Spend some time reading the theme documentation and getting familiar with what your theme can do. The options with WordPress are nearly limitless, so it can be a little intimidating but remember Google is your friend. Install some plugins, make some great content, and you will start to gain a following in no time! If you are looking to streamline the process with everything you need to know in one place of getting your blog up and running, be sure to sign up for The Blog Elevation Program!
Thanks for reading! I hope this article helped you understand what WordPress is all about and how to get started with your blog. If you have any questions please leave them in the comments below.
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