WordPress is the most popular content management system around the globe. As of 2020, over 455 million websites use WordPress, representing 35% of all the websites in the world.
There is a reason why WordPress is such a powerful and widely used platform. WordPress is an open-source platform, making it adaptable and accessible to a wide range of programmers. Since so many programmers contribute themes and plugins to WordPress, it’s possible for novice website owners to create thriving websites without having to learn one line of code.
WordPress is also extremely versatile and anyone can use the platform to build whatever kind of website they want. Seriously, WordPress is for everyone from your grandma who wants to write a simple blog about knitting (or skydiving if your grandma is super cool) to the huge Walt Disney Company that needs a more robust website.
If you’re thinking about starting a website, WordPress is the perfect platform for you. This post will cover every step you need to take to launch a WordPress site, including the following:
You can also watch this handy video we put together on building your first WordPress site.
Read on for details of how to complete each step of launching a new WordPress website!
1. Select your domain name
The first step in getting a new WordPress website up and running is choosing a domain name. Your domain name is what a searcher would type directly into a URL box to find your website, like hostgator.com.
When choosing your domain, it’s best to pick something that is short, sweet, easy to spell, and that represents your brand well.
For example, if your brand is a company or organization, then choose the company name as the domain name. If you are your brand, then it’s always a good idea to pick your own name as the domain name.
SInce there are millions of websites, sometimes you will have to get creative when picking a domain name that is 100% unique.
For example, when I first started out, I wanted my domain name to be my name followed by dot com. My name was already taken (I guess it’s kind of common), so I ended up adding my middle initial to my domain name.
Additionally, if the .com version of your preferred domain name has been chosen by someone else, and you’re set on the name, you can always opt for the same name with a different top level domain. As a quick review, a top level domain is what comes after the dot. Top level domains include .com, .co, .inc, .biz, and more. As the internet grows, so does the popularity of using a top level domain.
To select a domain name with HostGator, navigate to the website, hover your cursor over the word “Domains,” and then either enter your preferred domain name in the search box. Alternatively, you can click on “Register Domains.”
Both methods will take you to a page where you can see which domain names are available and which are already taken.
While you can purchase a domain name from several hosting companies, it’s best to purchase your domain with the company that will be hosting your website. This makes it easier to manage all the details of your website from one platform. Plus, most website hosting companies, including HostGator, will offer free domain registration for a year with most hosting packages.
If you plan on hosting your website with HostGator, you can use the search “Domains” feature to see if your desired domain is available, but wait until you purchase hosting before you buy a domain.
2. Choose your web hosting service
After you’ve found a suitable domain name and made sure that the domain name is available, it’s time to find a trusted hosting company.
Web hosting is a service that every new website owner needs if they plan on building a robust WordPress website. In short, web hosting companies allow you to rent a space on their large server, making it possible for internet searchers to quickly find your website. Web hosting companies ensure your website stays up, even during traffic surges, add a measure of security to your hosting experience, and provide round-the-clock customer service in case you run into problems.
When looking for a web hosting company, opt for a service that provides:
- Affordable shared hosting
- WordPress hosting options
- Easy WordPress installation
- Free domain registration for at least a year
- Free site transfers
- Unmetered bandwidth
- Free SSL certificate
- 24/7 customer support
HostGator is the perfect place to host your new WordPress website, and getting started is as easy as picking a package, setting up your account, and installing WordPress with one click.
3. Install WordPress
As soon as you purchase web hosting and select your domain name, you’re officially ready to install WordPress to your HostGator account.
Here’s a quick video that shows you how to do it.
Note: HostGator has a super easy “one-click install” for WordPress when you create your first account.
Don’t have time to watch? Here are the steps for installing WordPress:
- Log in to the control panel (CPanel) of your HostGator account with your login credentials (HostGator will email you your username and password as soon as you sign up)
- Scroll down to the “Software” section of the CPanel
- Click on “QuickInstall”
- HostGator will direct you to a new page and you’ll see “WordPress” in the middle
- Click on “WordPress”
- On the next page, select your new domain name for registration and click “Next”
- Enter your basic website information as prompted
- Click “Install”
The next page will tell you that your installation has been successful. From here, you can press “Login,” and HostGator will direct you to your new WordPress account.
You’ll see a login page that asks you to enter your username and password.
Enter your username and password and press “Log in.” This will take you to your new WordPress dashboard for your new website.
4. Choose your WordPress theme
Now that you have installed WordPress and know how to login to your dashboard, it’s time to pick and activate a theme you like.
WordPress offers several free themes that are gorgeous and easy to install and customize. If you would like to pay for a premium or third-party theme, you have that option as well.
How to choose a theme in WordPress:
- Find “Appearance” on the left WordPress dashboard, hover your cursor over the word, and click on “Themes”
- From here, you can activate one of the themes that is already listed in your account or you can add a new theme.
- To add a new theme, click on “Add New,” and you can browse or search themes
- When you have one that you like, you can hover your cursor over the theme and press “Activate”
- When you activate a particular theme, you’ll notice the look of your website changes to match that theme
You’ll also notice when you hover your cursor over the theme, you also have the option to press “Live Preview.” If you select this button, WordPress will show you what your website would look like dressed up in this theme.
This live preview feature gives you an idea of all your many options and allows you to try on different themes before activating the one you end up choosing.
Best practices for choosing a theme:
- Remember: there’s no such thing as a “best” theme. Only the best for YOUR needs.
- Make a “wishlist” of features you want on your site. Look for themes that have these features. Pay special attention to the widgets that come with that theme.
- Review your competitors’ sites. Do they have features you want on your site? If so, add those to your wishlist.
- Choose a mobile responsive theme. That means the theme will automatically adjust to fit the browser or device size of the visitor. i.e. if someone visits your site using a tablet, the browser automatically resizes for the best display experience on a tablet.
- Read this article for more ideas about how to choose a theme for your type of business.
Want to customize your theme? Watch this video:
5. Install WordPress plugins
As a quick review, WordPress is an open-source platform. This means developers can create themes and plugins that will enhance a website’s design and allow a website to perform specific functions.
For example, let’s say you want to add your social media links to your website, but you don’t want to touch a line of code. No problem. All you need to do is find a plugin that is pre-coded for WordPress and that will allow you to add your social buttons without having to do any coding.
No matter what you want to do on your website, there is probably a plugin that will help you accomplish your goal. Here’s how to find and activate plugins on your WordPress site:
- On the left dashboard, click on “Plugins,” which will take you to the Plugins page
- From here, click on “Add New,” which takes you to the Add Plugins page
- Once you’re on this page, you can search for the plugin you want in the search box
- When you find the plugin, click “Install Now” and then “Activate”
As soon as the plugin is activated, WordPress will guide you through the process of setting up and configuring your plugin for your website.
For example, if you installed and activated a plugin to set up social media links on your website, the plugin would ask you to add your unique social media handles in the respective box and save the information. When you finished the process, you would then see your social media links on your website.
Again, there are thousands of WordPress plugins and the plugins you activate will depend on what you want your website to do.
Additionally, you can purchase or download plugins from third-party websites. Installing these plugins follows a similar process with a slight difference. When you get to the “Add Plugins” page, you’ll notice an option that says “Upload Plugin.”
If you click on this box, WordPress will ask you to drag and drop or select the .zip file of the plugin you just downloaded. Once you do this, the process for installing and activating is the same as if you picked a plugin from within WordPress.
6. Customize and publish your WordPress website
The final steps to launching your WordPress site include customizing your website and publishing it when it’s ready.
Customizing your website can include making additional changes to the theme, writing your first series of blog posts, and adding pages to your website, including:
- And more!
If you are not sure how to create new pages, check out this tutorial on how to add new pages to WordPress.
How you customize your website is 100% up to you and what you want your website to look like, what information you want to include, and what you want it to do.
As soon as you are pleased with your website, the last step is to press “Publish” and share your website with your friends, family, and customers.
Start hosting your new WordPress site with HostGator today
WordPress is the perfect content management system for any new website owner to launch a site. WordPress is open-source, easy to navigate, and the wide range of themes and plugins available makes it possible for website owners to build a functioning website without having to learn how to code.
Remember, as you build a website, you need an excellent web hosting company that will keep your site up and running, keep your site secure, and provide help when you need it.
HostGator is one of the most trusted web hosting companies and even has specific hosting plans for WordPress websites. Don’t delay in getting your new website up and running. Check HostGator out today!
Ashley R. Cummings is a professional freelance writer specializing in SaaS, tech, and advertising/marketing. In a previous life, she was a Russian teacher at Brigham Young University, a corporate trainer, and a grad student—all at the same time. When she’s not writing, you can find her traveling the world with her 2 kids and husband, reading poetry or taking a deep dive into the fabulous world of comedy. Connect with her on Twitter at @ashleyrcummings.