Now, we’re actually going to start cooking. Well… more like we’re going to prepare the ingredients for making our website.
The last time I said that I choose WordPress as my platform for building websites. Today, I’m going to show you how I add an instance of WordPress to my host.
If you are using SiteGround
First, log into SiteGround. Go to www.siteground.com, and then login. Put in your credentials, and you’re on your way.
- In the top nav, choose “Websites.”
- Then choose “New Website” in the top right of the screen.
- Since we already have an existing domain, if you pointed it here already with your nameservers, you can choose “existing domain.” If not, you can choose “temporary domain” – we can change that later very easily by changing the primary domain.Since I already pointed my nameservers for our domain to SiteGround, we’ll just go with that.
- Click Continue.
- On the next page, click “Start a New Website.”
- Then, choose your builder. In our case, we’re going to use WordPress. However, if you are planning on making this a store, you can choose WooCommerce, which will install WordPress PLUS some WooCommerce plugins… we can do that later.
- Set up your credentials by entering your email address and creating a password.
- Click Continue.
- I highly recommend adding SG Site Scanner to your site. It’s worth $19.80 per year for the peace of mind that you can be notified if you have been hacked.
- Click Finish.
In about 2 minutes, you’ll have a brand new installation of WordPress on your site.
If you are using Bluehost
First, we’ll log into Bluehost. Go to www.bluehost.com, and then login. Put in your credentials, and away you go.
After it load the instance of your hosting CPanel (control panel), look for the section for Domains. We’ve seen this before. We want to be sure that we make our domain either a Primary domain (if this is your first site, and if the site is going to be in the main directory) or an Addon domain. If we make it an Addon domain, we want to create a new subdirectory. This basically created a new folder in the root section of my public folder (the folder with content showing live to the public).
Then, I’m going to go to the WordPress section of CPanel. There, I’m going to do a new installation of WordPress, and I’m going to choose to install it in that directory/folder to which we just pointed our domain.
Let’s give it a name, and we’ll use a username and a password that are hard to guess using at least 8 characters of numbers and letters with at least one special character.
Then, after you click the button, WordPress will be installed, all of the proper file folders will be created, and a new database will be created. When I first started building, you used to have to unpackage WordPress and manually install it and create a new database. Not anymore… just about every hosting solution has a wizard to set these things up.
Now that was pretty easy, wasn’t’ it?
Set up WordPress in the Dashboard
Now, I’m going to login to my website with those credentials I just created by going to www.mydomain.com/wp-admin (substitute “mydomain.com” with your own domain). Now you’ll see that we’re in the Dashboard.
The first thing I like to do is to go to Settings and set up my time zone, set my tagline, and make sure that I have the right work-week type setup.
Then, I usually like to go to Settings>Discussion and disable “trackbacks and pingbacks.” This prevents a lot of spammy people trying to put links on your blog back to their website.
Now, WordPress “ships” with it’s own theme. Likely, you have the Twenty-twenty Theme now installed. The theme is the HTML and CSS that make your site look and feel that way that it does. But, I prefer to use Divi by Elegant Themes. So, there are two things I’m going to do:
- I’m going to upload the Divi Theme which I purchased.
- I’m going to upload the “child theme” which I created. A child theme is a theme that inherits all of the properties of the main theme, but it allows you to make customizations to the code. If you were to change any code in the main theme, you will likely lose that code when the theme is updated. That’s no fun, because you basically have to redo all of those customizations every time.I’m not going to get into building a child theme now, but there are plenty of resources out there to learn how to do that. But, I actually did it once, and I just reuse it over and over again. It uses a minimal amount of coding, but it’s really a powerfully flexible thing to add to your website.
Now that the theme is installed, let’s add some plugins to allow the site to do some cool stuff.
Header, Footer, Branding & Styling
The Divi theme allows you to style your site according to your brand colors and your logo. You want to create your logo so it’s about 100px high. You should also have a square version of your logo or icon or avatar that is about 512 X 512 px.
In the right column of the WordPress dashboard, you’ll see Divi toward the bottom. On the home page of Divi, you’ll see a place where you can upload your 100 px-tall header logo. After you add your logo, you can adjust those color dots on that page to match your site’s colors. Here you can also control the global fonts for your site. Feel free to explore this area and make some changes. You can reset everything to default if you need to start over.
After you’ve made your changes, be sure to save them.
Now, click on the Theme Customizer link. This will take you to the main page of your site. Here, you’ll see options for your header, footer, etc, including the placement of your navigation bar and logo, etc. Most of this will really come down to personal preference.
Here’s a list of the plugins I normally add to a website:
- Akismet – this is an anti-spam plugin that usually comes with WordPress. You have to setup a WordPress.org account, and you will likely want to pay for it, though you really don’t have to.
- Google Analytics by MonsterInsights – again, this often comes with your WordPress installation. I like this a lot. It helps you to integrate Google Analytics to your website in a couple of steps.
- Yoast SEO – the free version of this SEO plugin is awesome, but the paid version is way WAY cool. It allows you to add meta data to any page, index your site for faster loading, and the paid version lets you create 301 redirects, which come in handy for a variety of things.
- Simple 301 Redirects – I use this when I use the free version of Yoast SEO. Redirection is another good alternative.
- Really Simple SSL – this lets you apply the free SSL certificate you receive with your host. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a must-have add-on for your website. It’s used to have browsers and servers secure credit card transactions, data transfer, and logins. SSL is required for eCommerce, and it’s highly recommended for any site. In fact, it’s now a ranking factor for SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
- WP Mail SMTP – this allows you to better send emails via forms to you and/or the people filling your online forms.
- Classic Editor – I’m going to get a lot of flack for this, but I don’t use the Block Editor for WordPress. I still prefer the old editor for pages that don’t use Divi. One day, I’m sure, they will get rid of this plugin, but I dig it.
- CMS Tree Page View – this plugin lets you order your pages with a drag-and-drop interface. It’ not really all that necessary anymore, however.
- Contact Form 7, WP Forms, or Gravity Forms – you need a form builder, and any of these three are great Contact Form 7 and WP Forms have free options and paid upgrades. Gravity is by far the best of the three, but it comes with a price.
- Smush – this little gem of a plugin is great! It makes your image file sizes smaller by compressing them and getting rid of information you don’t need that takes up space. This helps images to load faster and, therefore, makes your site in general load better.
- An email plugin like Constant Contact or MailChimp – we’ll get into this later.
- UpdraftPlus – a great little back-up plugin.
- A caching plugin – now, this get a little hairy. WP Total Cache and Super Cache were my go-to options. However, I had some compatibility issues. First, some hosts have WordPress caching built into their offering already, so more caching can cause conflcts. But, worse, Total Cache complete conflicted with the Divi Theme… that was a bit of a mess. We might try WP Rocket this time around.
- A security plugin – there are a few options here, and we’ll see where we land with this. Securi is a great option, but it comes with a cost. I also have had good luck with Wordfence, which I think is what we’ll try using this time.
- WooCommerce – later on, I may be adding eCommerce to this site. If that’s the case, this will definitely be my choice. WooCommerce has loads of great features out of the box, but it’s highly customizable with affordable plugins.
- SG Optimizer – If you have SiteGround, this plugin is one the best I’ve seen. It will replace your caching plugin, Smush, and backups. It will also take care of some other code-related items to keep your site running very light. I’m very impressed so far!
To add a plugin to go your Dashboard>Plugins>Add New. You can either search for plugins that you can get for free (you can upgrade to paid version later, if you’d like). Or, if you have the zip files, you can upload your plugin. Once you’ve installed the plugin, you need to activate it.
Finally, I’m going to eventually use CloudFlare as a Content Delivery Network (CDN). This will replicate a mirror image of my site in different parts of the world for easier loading in regions. In addition to site speed, there are other reasons to use a CDN. For now, we’re just going to set up the account. We’ll start using it after the launch the site.
Okay, everything is ready now to start receiving content. Let’s plan that out, and we’ll get cracking on building this thing finally!