For Dummies by Dummies: Making a simple website using WordPress: Part I

 
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WordPress WordPress is a free and open-source tool and a content management system (CMS) based on PHP and MySQL.— Wikipedia —Hello there, Prodigy Rabbit here! Want to make a website but don’t know where to start? I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt (it was lousy, by the way), and I’m here to teach you people the basics of making a website, using WordPress, to make life easier for the rest of you (and shouldn’t you be grateful). If you already know this, feel free to skip it (or don’t, humour me).

Word being Pressed

Making a website can be a daunting task for someone who’s never done any serious techy things. However, it isn’t particularly difficult to do, as long as you’re diligent and have a vision of what you want to create. This post is going to focus greatly on WordPress, because although there are other options, this is by far the simplest way to make a decent website.

The main steps to making a website are as follows (greater detail coming soon):

  1. Finding a host for the website
  2. Making and registering a domain name (yourname.com)
  3. Making and customising the website itself

Prerequisites

Hare thumb up:Any other prerequisites have been met if you read this post.

Making a website using WordPress isn’t very difficult. However, there are still some general requirements to make one:

  • An idea of the content you’re going to make
  • Optional: Enough money for the hosting (around 5 Dollars per month for the initial purchase, or your regional equivalent)
  • That’s pretty much it; any other prerequisites have been met if you read this post via the internet.

Blog or Website?

Now you need to choose whether you want to make it feel more like a blog or a website, as this will affect the way you present the content you create. They are on opposite ends of a spectrum, and you can be on any part of said spectrum. WordPress is technically a blogging platform, but can create static websites with a little tweaking. The focus will be, for now, on creating a blog, but many of the same things here also apply to websites.

  • Website – A more formal form of presentation, with very little or no interactivity. The content is more static, with updates happening only as needed.
  • Blog – A less formal, more personal way to present content. If the blog is active, then content is generally updated rather regularly (e.g. every week or two). Comments are in focus here as the interaction method.

Basic, Dummy Definitions (skip if you already know these)

Threatening hare:As much as we all hate them, they’re needed in order to understand the internet.
First, unfortunately we need to get a few definitions sorted out. As much as we all hate them, they’re needed in order to understand the internet as a content creator, rather than just as a user.

  • DNS (Domain Name System): The system which names services, computers or anything else connected to the internet by a hierarchical system. It translates Domain Names like example.com (which we humans read) into the numerical IP address (which the computers read).
  • IP (Internet Protocol): The system by which everything on the internet communicates. The IP address is the unique identifier for any entity on the internet. A web hosting service buys and provides IP addresses for servers, which then are applied to websites as needed. (Example of an IP address: 127.0.0.1)
  • Internet Hosting Service: A service that runs internet servers, which allows individuals and organisations to add content to the internet. A common type is a web hosting service, which allows a website accessible via the internet, which is vital if you want your website to be seen by other people. (Example: GoDaddy)
  • CMS (Content Management System): Used to, well, manage the content of a website, providing an interface with which the creator can do so. For the most part, CMS-based websites are easier to deal with than plain-HTML or even worse, scripted websites. (Example: WordPress)
  • WordPress: The most popular CMS around, being open-source and free. WordPress software from WordPress.org shouldn’t be confused with the hosting service provided by WordPress.com.

WordPress

If you have the option to use WordPress for your first website, you definitely should, as it is:

Hare thumb up:The world is your oyster!
  1. Free – Don’t need to spend any money on it, and there are a lot of themes available for free as well, to further customise the site as you want it.
  2. Beginner-Friendly – Don’t need to know any programming to be able to use it.
  3. Versatile – With many plugins and themes available, you can make any kind of site. The world is your oyster!
  4. Mobile-Friendly – The site you make will work and look good on mobile devices and tablets.
  5. Well Supported – There’s a huge community, willing and able to support you when needed.

Side note: the site you’re on, ithare.com, is itself based on WordPress.

Why not Blogspot?

Blogspot (also known as Blogger) is a potential alternative to WordPress, very common among bloggers. So why not Blogspot? It offers little in terms of customisability and flexibility, especially if you’re not willing to be restricted to exclusively using HTML and CSS (without server-side scripts such as PHP, which are much easier to deal with for all but the simplest of tasks). Avoid Blogspot unless your plan is limited to making plain posts on a blog.

WordPress, on the other hand, gives you a great deal of options, including a multitude of themes to customise the look and a boatload of plugins to customise the functionality of the website. However, there is a disadvantage to WordPress compared to Blogspot; if you’re doing a simple blog, WordPress is somewhat more difficult to learn, being somewhat more complex than Blogspot. I, however, find it generally worth the additional effort to learn, to make life easier later on.

Finding a host for the website

First, you should decide on what the host will be. There are many options for hosting, with different ones suited for different people. The main ones I’ll discuss are WordPress.com and GoDaddy.

WordPress.com

SEO Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's unpaid results - often referred to as natural, organic, or earned results.— Wikipedia —

A potentially free hosting service (read: there is a free, but limited, option), providing you a reasonable starting platform from which to have a personal website or blog site. There is somewhat limited control over what you can do, but that is to be expected given that it’s free. There will also be ads run on the site, to at least partially cover the cost of hosting the site for them.

There is another major potential caveat, however; if you just use the free service, you don’t get your own domain name, but instead get something looking like “yourname.wordpress.com”. If that isn’t an issue for you, then I suggest this hosting method. You can upgrade this option to a more traditional website with your own domain name (at a rate of $8.25/month), but the longer you keep the free service, the more potential it has to be a pain in the behind to change, including losing progress with SEO.

Other hosting options

Sites like GoDaddy and WPengine don’t offer free hosting, but they allow you to have your own domain name, with more complete control over the way you run your website. There are several good options for this kind of hosting, the major differences being the price, and what extra features you get for the extra money spent. GoDaddy is one of the cheapest, but it also offers a relatively little in its cheapest option (“Basic”), whereas WPengine is a far more expensive venture, but allows you to do more fancy things. Google “WordPress Managed Hosting”, and shop around for the deal that suits you. For the sake of the rest of this series, I’ll use GoDaddy “Basic” plan, as it is sufficient to make the fully-fledged tutorial I’m making.

Domain Name

Once you have decided on the particular host, they will ask you to choose a domain name. Keep in mind that if you use the free service offered by WordPress.com, your site address will look like “yourname.wordpress.com”, but if you pay for you domain, it will look like “yourname.com”.  Choose one with these things in mind:

  • A domain name should describe the content that you’re going to display, or should be your (company) name. If, for a personal site, your name is taken, you can make/use a nickname (your twitter handle, perhaps).
  • It shouldn’t be too long or complicated (e.g. why-on-earth-am-i-doing-one-this-long-and-convoluted.com)
  • It, in general, should have a reasonable “extension” (formally known as Top-Level-Domain). Reasonable ones include .com, .net, or .org. Avoid using more obscure ones (.pizza, .bike, etc), unless you have a specific purpose in mind
  • Most importantly, choose one that you like!
  • And even more importantly than that, it needs to be available. If it isn’t, the host will tell you and you’ll need to pick another one. Repeat until you find one that’s unique.

 

To Be Continued…

Now you have have chosen your domain name, and thought about the hosting service you’re going to use, as well as the platform you’re going to make it on.

Next time, we will discuss the exact details of actually constructing the website (which buttons to press, etc.).

Prodigy Rabbit, Signing out, for now!

Additional Reading

For additional (and I should add, much more detailed) reading about your first web site or blog, you may want to refer to an excellent site with lots of useful resources: firstsiteguide (and BTW, no – I am not paid for linking to them and it is not even a reciprocal link – I just happen to think that they’re doing a good job with educating first-time bloggers).

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Acknowledgement

Cartoons by Sergey GordeevIRL from Gordeev Animation Graphics, Prague.

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Comments

  1. says

    Good info but what if I already have a crude version on WordPress where I simply blogged.
    How to “fix” it, how to know anyone is reading as unlike blogspot no hit stats.

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