My recommendation for anyone looking to build a website that is not an ecommerce site is to use WordPress. While it may be a little more complicated at first ‘easy’ website builders such as Wix or Squarespace, with a little time and effort you can build a beautiful website. Just as an example of how good WordPress is, Graff Diamonds use it for their website!
I have been building WordPress sites since 2015 and have built ecommerce, business, portfolio and personal blog sites so I do have a bit of experience when it comes to the software. This website and my jewellery business website are both built on wordpress.
In this article I am going to show you how you can set up a simple wordpress site, which you can then customise to your personal tastes. Now I do want to add here that we are going to be looking at wordpress.org which is for self hosted websites, not wordpress.com which is a where your site is hosted on the wordpress servers. With that out of the way, lets get started….
Step 1: Domain Name
Your domain name is the address on the world wide web where people can visit you. There are lots of domain registrars out there but one of my personal favourites is names.co.uk
If you haven’t already got yourself a domain name then our article on How to Choose the Perfect Domain Name will be worth a read.
Step 2: Web hosting
Now you have your address, you need the foundations to build a website and web hosts give you these foundations, as with domain registrars, there are lots to choose from but I highly recommend krystal.co.uk, who I host all my WordPress sites with. What I like about krystal is that they allow you to install a free let’s encrypt SSL certificate.
When you chosen your host, there are two things you want to do before installing WordPress.
Number 1: Install an SSL certificate
Once you have access to your Cpanel account, which will be available through your hosting accounts admin panel or at your domainname.com/cpanel. Once you log into your Cpanel, you want to install your free SSL certificate before installing WordPress as it just makes life easier in the long run.
Click on the Let’s Encrypt SSL link in the security section of your Cpanel and install the SSL certificate on your domain name. Once you have installed your SSL certificate, you can then install WordPress on the https prefix, which search engines prefer as it means your site is more secure. Now you can buy a premium SSL certificate from the likes of Comodo, if you do purchase an SSL certificate, then asking the nice people at your hosting company if they will or can help you install it, will mean that it is installed properly.
Number 2: Change your PHP version
This might sound a bit scary but it will massively improve your websites performance. Your PHP version will probably be set at 5.6, which was fine a few years ago but as with all technology it has improved over the years. At minimum you want your site to be running 7.0 but 7.2 is the best from my experience and your WordPress site will work properly. 7.3 is an option but not everything works with it and you want things to run as smoothly as possible.
Changing your PHP is really easy, simply click the Select PHP Version link in the software section of your Cpanel. It will tell you which version you are currently running at the moment and a drop down menu below with the other PHP versions available, select the one you want and it click set it as current. It will then automatically update it for you.
Step 3: Install WordPress
You are now at a point where you can install WordPress and it is relatively easy to do. At the bottom of your Cpanel page, you will see a Web Application section, click on the view more section. This will take you to the Installatron section of Cpanel, which allows you to install a variety of different web applications on your website but for this guide we are just looking at installing WordPress. Scroll down until you see the Content Management and look for the WordPress application, click on it then click the install the application.
You will then be taken to the WordPress install page, first you need to select the domain name you want to install WordPress on, if you have installed your SSL certificate then choose the https prefix.
Then you need to choose a Admin username, password, admin email, website title and website tagline. Make sure that your username and password are strong as you want to make life difficult for not so nice people. I would recommend before clicking install at the bottom of the page is to click the advanced settings and set a schedule for site back-ups, you can select weekly or monthly.
WordPress will then be installed on your website and you will be able to access your admin area at yourdomian.com/wp-admin. Before you get to the fun bit of customising and adding content to your website, there are some plugins that add functionality that are worth installing to make wordpress easier to use.
On the WordPress platform, in order to add functionality to the site you need to install what are called plugins. Whenever I create a new website, there are a few plugins that are my go to’s to improve my site and they are:
- Jetpack – adds so many different things to your site including site stats (if you have a wordpress.com account) and share functionality for you posts and products
- All in One WP Security – WordPress is a pretty secure platform out of the gate but it can always be improved and my favourite security plugin
- Classic Editor – WordPress made a few changes to their platform last year but their classic editor makes working on blog posts so much easier
- Autoptimize – You want your website to be as quick as possible and that means that you need to get an optimization plugin, there are lots of them out there but for beginners, it is hard to beat Autoptimize for simplicity.
- Smush – smush is a plugin that compresses images so that they do not take up so much space on the server and don’t take so long to load. Even images that have been optimised in software such as Photoshop can be still be optimized.
- Yoast – WordPress is pretty good out of the box when it comes to SEO (search engine optimization) but as with everything, it can be improved and Yoast is not only the most popular SEO plugin but also one of the easiest to use.
The best thing about all these plugins is that they free to use and many offer premium plugins which add even more functionality to the plugins. Now there are thousands of free plugins available for WordPress but you don’t want to install too many plugins as the can bloat your website. This can cause issues such as slow page loading speeds and in some circumstances conflicts between plugins or the plugin and theme. Only install plugins that add the functionality that you need, before installing any plugin, check the rating and generally avoid poorly rated ones. You also want the plugin to be compatible with the latest version of WordPress to help prevent any conflicts or issues that could result in the site not working.
Customising The Look of Your New Website
Now I am only going to touch on this briefly as much of the design comes down to personal preference but there are a few things that I would like to mention. The first is using themes on your website, this is what we call the templates that change the look and appearance of your website.
Choosing a Theme
When it comes to choosing a theme, there are two options which are paid or free themes. Paid themes are bought directly from the developers or from developer marketplaces such as themeforest.com. The benefits of paid themes are that you usually get better support and features than you would with a free theme. The downsides are that they aren’t free and unlike with the free themes you don’t get to try them before you buy them.
While free themes offer less support and features, you do get to try out as many different themes as you want before committing to one that you like. As with the plugins on wordpress, many themes have a rating review and if they have poor reviews, then they are best left alone. Two of my personal favourite developers are Siteorigin and Themeisle as their free themes that come lots of really useful features and will offer some level of support if you have any issues.
Whether you choose a paid or free theme, you always want to create a child theme. This allows you to edit and change the theme without the risk of losing the changes when the theme gets updated. It just makes life easier in the long run. Also don’t have lots of themes installed as they will slow your site down, delete any that you are not using and just have the parent and child theme of the one you are.
Once you get a little more used to using WordPress you may find that you want to build a custom home or about me page and the standard wordpress functionality just won’t allow you to do what you want. This is where plugins like Siteorigin Page Builder with the Widgets Bundle come in really useful and with some playing around, you can create really beautiful pages.
WordPress, like all software has its own names and terminology for things so here is a mini glossary for you:
- Page – this is a fixed page on your website and you use these to create things such as about me or contact pages.
- Post – these are what you use to create blog posts and articles (like this one).
- Menu – This is the navigation bar you see at the top and you set it up to contain links to pages, categories or blog posts
- Widget – A module that adds a specific functionality to your site, can be used in sidebars and footers.
- Footer – The section at the bottom of a web page
- Sidebar – The section that runs down the side of a web page
- Media – This is all the images you upload to your website
Creating a Portfolio
If you are creating a jewellery website then you probably want to show off some of your previous work. The best way to do this is to create a portfolio.
To create a portfolio, you first need to have the Jetpack plugin installed. Once installed go to the setting section of the plugin and click on the writing section.
Once you have done this, scroll down until you reach the custom content types section and click the slider so that it moves from the left (grey colour) to the right (blue colour), you will then see that a new portfolio section has been added to the admin sidebar below pages.
You can now add projects to your portfolio, which can then be added to pages on your website. To add the portfolio to a page, consult your themes documentation as it varies between developers.
As with any new technology there is a learning curve but what I like about WordPress is that there are guides out there on pretty much everything. And if you have a problem, a quick google search will usually provide the answer. It may take you some time to get your head around things but I think that having a WordPress site is a better option that having a Wix or Squarespace site as you have far more control and if it does get a bit too much for you, there are plenty of web developers and designers out there who can easily build you the site you want and it shouldn’t break the bank.