WordPress makes building a new website easy and inexpensive. Granted, it doesn't make our guide to the best website builders for beginners, even though it is a well-known brand. If you're looking for a business website, we'd recommend Shopify first, for its sales and reporting tools as well as top-notch integrations.
WordPress makes a great blog or resume website, however, since it has a good commenting system and easy-to-understand website themes. Getting started just involves starting an account, picking a plan, and setting up your website pages, among a few other steps.
Read on for all the steps to know, as well as extra tips and our handy quiz to help you find the best website builder for your needs – WordPress or otherwise.
In this guide:
Like a lot of website builders, WordPress makes website creation a series of easy tasks. Here's where to start.
- Select a WordPress plan
- Pick a Theme
- Customize Your Theme
- Create Pages
- Set Up Comments
- Consider Adding Plugins
- Review Your Website
WordPress.com offers six different plans: Free, Personal ($4 per month), Premium ($8 per month), Business($25 per month), Commerce($45 per month), and Enterprise (custom quote). You can start with the Free plan to test out the interface if you want, but the Personal, Premium, or Business plans are likely best for most users.
Don't mistake the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com when starting your website. Starting a site using WordPress.org is a do-it-yourself process that includes getting a third-party hosting service. In contrast, WordPress.com includes hosting in its service, allowing users to get a website up and running with little technical know-how. This guide is designed for WordPress.com plans, which we recommend for most personal or business needs.
The basic WordPress dashboard.
You'll stand out for all the wrong reasons if you keep the standard theme that WordPress gives all new users: Instead, opt for a free or paid custom theme by selecting “Appearance” on the left-hand column in your main dashboard, and then selecting “Themes.”
Premium themes are available starting with the Premium plan, and they're a good way to establish your website's visual appearance. Just click “Install” once you know which you want. Be sure to test out what the theme looks like on a mobile device.
The standard WordPress website editor.
Installing your theme isn't everything: You also need to customize it. Click the “Customize” section in the Appearance navigation bar to launch the editor that allows you to change your theme settings. A live preview of the website is available, which we found helpful for getting an idea of what the changes will look like.
Don't spend forever on the process, since most users won't need anything special. If you aren't a design agency or an upscale restaurant, your visitors aren't going to notice a fancy theme.
Looking for enhanced customization? Check out our WordPress vs Webflow guide here.
Everything on a WordPress website is either a page or a post. What's the difference? A page is static, while posts are designed to be featured in a series, with the newest ones first. This means that posts are best for a blog or a frequently updated resume-style site. But pages are the basic building blocks of a website, and all websites will need at least a small handful.
Typical pages on a website might include a main homepage, an “About Us” page, and a “Contact” page, as well as more specialized pages, like a restaurant menu or a blog page to store your posts. Just three or four pages is common for many simple websites.
To create a new page, select “Page” from your dashboard navigation bar, and then click “Add New.” Add the text and images you need, and then click “Publish” or “Save Draft.”
Setting up comments within the WordPress settings page.
If you open up a comments section on a page, visitors will have a chance to drop in and say hi. If your website has regularly updated posts, a comments section makes even more sense, because the same commenters can return to hold a relevant conversation under every news update you deliver. Every WordPress website could have comments, but none has to.
To set them up, visit Settings, then “Discussion.” You'll have the option to toggle comments on or off, to make sure you have a chance to review all comments before they appear on your site, and more.
All WordPress.com sites have the Akismet comment spam filter, so overt spam should already be kept from showing up in your comments. However, if you aren't getting the results you want from comment, hop into the settings again and turn them off.
A WordPress plugin refers to an application from a third-party web developer that's designed to “plug in” to your WordPress website. Once installed, it will add a new feature to your website, and you'll be able to edit it from within your WordPress account, just as you would with any built-in feature.
While in your main dashboard, click the “Plugins” button visible on the left-hand side navigation bar. You can then search by keywords to pull up possible plugins to add.
Some of the most useful types of plugins are:
- Lead generation
- Contact form builder
Don't worry about adding any right now if you can't think of any that you need. You'll be able to update your plugins as needed in the future.
Once you're ready to go, take a trip through your website as if you were a new visitor. If anything seems unclear, change it. You can visit similar websites to see how they're set up as well. Some final tweaks might include integrating your social media platforms, or experimenting with new plugins that are fun rather than completely essential.
The WordPress dashboard includes a lot of little elements worth covering. Here's a look at the most important tips and tricks to know:
- Comb through your “Settings” section for small tweaks
- You can add a Site Title and a tagline in Settings
- The “Reading” section of Settings lets you change your homepage from a static page to a collection of posts.
- Create a navigation bar on your website by clicking “Menus” in the “Appearance” section
- Add a caching plugin: This will save your website data after a vistor's first sees your site, making it load faster for that visitor every time they show up after that.
- Add a data backup plugin: This will save a copy of your website, so you can recover your information if you ever lose access. “Jetpack” is a popular option for this.
- Separate the words in every URL or image file with dashes (website.com/it-looks-like-this). If you instead use underscores or no separation, search engines won't be able to understand as well.
- Add alt text to your images. A short, simple description of the image is best. This helps screen readers understand what the image is, and it help search engines as well.
- Update often. Checking your plugins and pages regularly ensures that nothing has broken.
WordPress is a great website builder for dipping your toe into the blogging world. It emphasizes blog posts, has a great commenting functionality, and doesn't break the bank. However, our researchers found that it wasn't the best overall.
Squarespace is better than WordPress in our direct comparison, since Squarespace is easier to use, offers unlimited storage (WordPress caps even its most costly plan at 200GB), and offers 24/7 live chat support across all plans (WordPress limits live chat support to Premium or higher plans).
When it comes to ecommerce, we rank two other website builders above Squarespace: Shopify is the best ecommerce website builder, for its stellar sales and reporting tools, while Wix takes second place for its design features.
Our impartial research and testing team broke website builders down into six core metrics in order to accurately compare them with each other. Those six categories are: website features, design functionality, value for cost, help and support, customer satisfaction, and general ease of use. We assigned each brand a value for each of these categories, before compiling them all into a single per-brand score.
Verdict: Start Comparing Website Builders
Your WordPress website will be inexpensive and great for writing. But if you're looking to develop an ecommerce operation, our researchers found it won't offer the marketing, sales, or reporting tools that you'll need. For that, we recommend comparing other website builders, starting with Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace.
To get the value you need, take a minute to use Tech.co's free website comparison tool today.
Yes, WordPress offers a simple service, and anyone can build their own website in a day or two using the platform. However, you'll need to know the steps involved, from picking the right plan to customizing a theme or adding a domain name.
Yes, WordPress offers a free plan for those who want to get a cheap website started. However, we don't recommend using one for long: Free WordPress websites come with annoying advertisements, fewer online security tools, and limited support options.
WordPress is a fine website builder, particularly for bloggers. However, our researchers recommend going with other website builders if you're trying to launch a business or ecommerce website: Shopify is the best, followed by Wix and Squarespace.
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