Want to start a blog? Still running a business without a website? Making do with something a friend set up years ago, that you don’t even know how to update?
If you’re putting off getting started because you don’t know where to begin, I can show you exactly how to get started right now with this quick and easy guide. There are other how-to’s out there, but hey– you’re already here! (Besides, I do have an affiliate relationship with my favorite hosting company and will get a small commission if you order through my link. Thank you!)
For a good balance between simplicity and flexibility, I recommend a self-hosted WordPress site. Even if you don’t plan to write blog posts, this platform provides a quick onboarding process, and a modular approach that most people get comfortable with quickly. What you build will be 100% yours, and you can customize it exactly as you wish. There are free blogging platforms out there too, but apart from their limited features and options, you don’t actually own it and it could go away at any time. (This has happened before.)
WordPress is a primarily a blogging platform, though it can be used to build other types of websites as well. Personal sites could be set up totally free on wordpress.com using a whole different process, but as I said there are good reasons not to go that route. Instead, I recommend buying your own domain name and hosting service, which doesn’t have to cost much, and running WP there instead. This opens up a lot of potentially important options you don’t get with the free option and gives you much greater control over your site.
For hosting, I recommend Web Hosting Hub. They offer a full range of services, good pricing, and an excellent reputation for customer satisfaction. Your account includes a free domain name, 24/7 US-based support, and a super easy 1-click WordPress installer!
WordPress is powerful and flexible. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the available settings and options. However, you really only need to deal with a few to get started. In most cases, the defaults will work just fine, and you can always change settings later. Here are a few things you might want to do right off the bat:
Choose a theme. Themes are a fun and convenient way to stylize the look and feel of your site. There are many to choose from, some with specialized functions, but I suggest starting with something simple and free (maybe even a default like “2017”) and you can always change it later without affecting content that you’ve written. Once you’ve picked a theme, you can also choose your colors and such.
Unless you have a specific need for registering users, I suggest just turning off the “anyone can register” checkbox, at least to start with. It adds a layer of complexity and site security issues, and if you just want to collect user data I think there are better ways to do that through plug-ins.
Speaking of security, be sure you choose a new username and strong password for your admin account. Don’t accept the default “admin” as every hacker in the world knows to try that first. Even some version of your name would be better. Something unique and unexpected is best.
The obvious or default settings will get most people started just fine. Here are two possible exceptions: If your new site is not a blog (or even mostly not a blog) select “static page” rather than the default “your latest posts.” Also, under “permalinks” I suggest choosing “post name” rather than one of the date options it usually auto-fills. This will help people find your old posts later.
Plug-ins are optional modules that add features to your WordPress site. Some are quite useful, and most are free. Generally, however, try to follow the “less is more” rule. Little by little, their processing requirements add up and can slow down your site. Your specific needs will vary, so I’d hold off on adding a bunch right at the start until a definite need arises. There are two that deserve special mention:
Many people like to start with Jetpack, which includes many of the most popular functions. Some say this convenience comes at a performance and security cost though. For this reason, I recommend trying it as an easy on-ramp for beginners, but keeping an eye open to more specific plug-in solutions once you better understand your own needs.
If you’re going to allow comments on your posts, you’ll need protection from spammers. Akismet Anti-Spam is one of the (if not the) most popular plug-ins for that task, and I recommend using it unless or until you find something that you prefer. Or, you could just opt to turn off the comment feature on your blog and rely on social media like Facebook for feedback and further discussion from your readers.
Both Jetpack and Akismet are often included automatically, or offered up-front as check off items when you create your site. When you’re ready to replace or expand, there are several good lists of recommended WordPress plugins on the web.
I hope this guide helps you to take the action you’ve been thinking about. Feel free to share it with a friend in the same situation, and contact me if you have any questions about the process!