I recently wrote a post about how to use WordPress.com to create a website or a blog (or a website with a blog) for yourself. Using WordPress.com is a great way to build a basic website, but if you want to build a really great website with lots of room for customization, you should use the WordPress.org blogging software. It’s more technically complicated, in that you need to have your own domain name and hosting, but it offers much more freedom and customizable features than WordPress.com. The software is free–all it will cost you is the price of buying a domain name and hosting.
Using the WordPress blogging software offers a lot of advantages:
- There are almost countless themes to choose from
- There are almost countless widgets to choose from
- The site address will be whatever your domain name is, with no “WordPress” in the address
- With a bit of technical knowledge, you can customize the page to your heart’s content
Here’s what you need to get started:
- Register your domain name
- Make sure that your internet service provider, or wherever you park your website, is SQL enabled. I buy my domains from Doteasy, and included in the price of my domain, is free hosting. It costs me an extra $7 a month to have my site be SQL enabled.
- Go to WordPress.org and download the latest version of the blogging software and unzip the file.
- The next part is a bit tricky, because it depends upon who your hosting provider is. Basically, you have to FTP the files to your server. There art lots of free FTP clients out there–I use Cyberduck for Mac. Click here for the WordPress tutorial. If you get lost on this step, phone your hosting service–mine actually installed it for me.
- You should now be able to go to http://yourdomainname.com/wp-admin and log into your site using the username (probably admin) and password which you created.
You’ll notice that the dashboard looks pretty much the same as the WordPress.com dashboard.
Your default theme will be plain, with a blue header. You’ll want to change it to another theme, and customize it. You have a few options:
- Do a Google search for “wordpress free themes” and you’ll get dozens of hits. Browse through and find a few that you like and download. I like this one. After you download and unzip it, you need to FTP the theme to the wp-content/themes/folder. Finally, in your dashboard, go into Appearance–>Themes and activate your theme.
- Purchase a theme like Thesis (which is universally thought to be the most customizable of all the WP themes, and is used by all the heavy-hitters).
- Hire a designer to create a custom theme for you. Check out the Babz Chula Lifeline for Artists Society site, or the Presentation House Theatre site, both custom designs. Or, hire a designer to modify an already-existing theme, like I am planning on doing this summer.
Now that you have your site up and running, you can start to populate it.
- Create pages and add copy and graphics. For example, on my website, I have Services, Clients, About, Testimonials, and Resources. Don’t forget to put your contact information on there, as well, in the footer, the sidebar, or create a Contact page.
- Create a header using a program like Photoshop, or Gimp or Paint.net. It needs to be 780X200 pixels. You can upload it under Appearance–>Custom Header.
- Don’t forget to put your social media contact information in the sidebar. You can even import your Twitter feed into the sidebar. Simply go to Plugins–>Add new and do a search for “Twitter.” This will walk you through the process to install a widget which will import your Twitter feed into your sidebar.
Certainly, some of this can be very technically overwhelming, but the joy of WordPress is that the interface is so simple to use. If you get really lost, or you feel like it’s technically over your head, then think about hiring someone to build the site for you in WordPress, and all you have to do is write the copy and post it.