Start your own WordPress web site

Get your very own e-commerce site online for free, or for very little cost by using one of the web’s most powerful platforms.

If you are looking to expand your web presence, but have little or no knowledge of HTML then getting set up can be costly and time consuming. If you want the ability to update content yourself, or sell through your site, you will generally need a specialist web designer. However, there is a option that is completely free and very easy to use and you’ve probably heard of it: WordPress

You may be asking two questions: what is WordPress? And if you know the answer to the first questions, that might lead to the second: why WordPress, isn’t it just a blog?

Many people know WordPress as a blogging site, similar to Blogger, Tumblr and many others. If you’ve recently visited WordPress.com than that is a fair understanding. However, there is so much more you can do with this particular software, and a visit to WordPress.org will give you some indication.

WordPress.com offers you the chance to sign up and get your own blog. You can get a custom domain name, and choose from many different themes to make it look less like a blog and more like a portfolio. However, it will always be a blog first and foremost.

WordPress.org allows you to download the system that runs the blog, upload it to your hosting server, and then do with it what you will. Once you have a self hosted version of WordPress you have much more opportunity to customise it and make it do what you want. You will be able to create the site you want, and then add content or new pages the same way you would update a blog.

In addition to ease of updates, you can also install a variety of plug-ins and amongst these are some very powerful e-commerce tools such as WooCommerce. Having your own easy-to-manage online shop is the key objective for many designer makers, and WordPress will offer you this for absolutely no cost.

So, how do you get your WordPress web site up and running?

There are two routes, but both require you buy some hosting space and a domain name. I would recommend you buy these from the same seller as it can take a while (and some messing around) to link them up if they are bought from different companies.

For a .co.uk address you’ll be looking at under £10 per year. A .com will cost a little bit more (but these are largely intended for use in the States). I would avoid .org (they are for charities), .net (these were set up for tech companies), and other formats, even if they do make funny URLs. Anyway, we all type in .com when we don’t know otherwise.

In terms of hosting there are a few key things to look for. You will need some storage space and somewhere between 200mb and 1GB should be enough for most people unless you are photoblogging every day or intend to host video.

The most important thing to look for is bandwidth. Every time a user views your site a portion of the bandwidth will be used. If your website is busy you can easily go through a few gigabytes per month. I would recommend checking your hosting account offers around 4 or 5GB per month. Any good seller should let you know if you are running out and offer you an option to upgrade.

One more thing to look for is a function normally titled something like ‘one-click WordPress install’ or similar.

Once you’ve bought your new hosting package with domain name and you are ready to install WordPress there are two options. If you have the option to employ a ‘one-click install‘ this is the quickest and easiest option. You will just need to log into your control panel, tick a box and choose a name for the database and site. If this is not an option, then you can follow the ‘famous 5 minute WordPress install‘ – it is the more technical of the two routes and it will mean accessing mySQL to create the database, but there are numerous YouTube videos to guide you through the process (or perhaps call on your techie friends).

Once you have installed WordPress you will want to choose your own theme. There are many great themes that are completely free, but if you spend a bit of money on one it is more likely that you will be able to customise and make it fit your brand.

Themes have got a really bad name due to products like Powerpoint, but there are a large amount of quality WordPress themes out there that you can make your own. Some examples of good source are:

http://bluchic.com/shop/wordpres-themes
http://elmastudio.de/en/
http://wpshower.com/
http://thethemefoundry.com/
https://creativemarket.com/
http://themesupply.co/
http://okaythemes.com/wordpress-themes/
http://www.dessign.net/premium-themes/

When looking for a theme the most basic thing you should check it includes is a custom header/logo option. Beyond this, a good theme will offer ‘theme options’ and this normally allows you to alter background colours and images, choose a typeface and sometimes pick from several different layouts.

One thing to always check for is the term ‘responsive’ as this means the theme will adjust the content to fit perfectly on a mobile of tablet device.

If the theme does not include a contact form or e-commerce do not panic. With any WordPress site you can install plug-ins that will offer these services and many more, normally for free. Some good resources can be found here:

Contact Form 7 (saves you having to put your email address on your site and risk spam – you can also add a capatcha).
WooCommerce (get your own easy-to-manage online shop for free!)
Nivo Slider, Portfolio Slideshow and Meteor slider (create great slideshows with links)

There are a few types of plug-ins that you will come across, many will offer extra functionality and the ability to add new types of content such as Google Maps and contact forms. Others will offer functionality behind the scenes, an example of this would be Google Analytics, or Yoast (this measures the SEO quality of your content). Additionally there are also widgets, and these normally add content to your footer or sidebars.

So, to re-cap, the step by step process for getting your online shop:

1. Buy your hosting and domain name
2. install or turn on WordPress
3. Choose your theme
4. Find the plug-ins you need to give the desired functionality
5. Add your content!

The last few tips are the most important. Once WordPress is installed you will need to keep on track with updates. Mostly the updates are issued to solve functionality and security issues; web sites only get hacked if they are not up-to-date.

Lastly, make sure it is active – nothing turns a client off more than a poorly tended to web page. Try and add new content or blog posts every few weeks, and considering linking it to your active social media profiles.