If you’re planning to start a new website then you’ve likely heard about the most popular Content Management System on the web, WordPress. If you’ve been following along the previous guides in this series, then you’ve got your domain and web hosting picked out, and you’ve connected the two. Now it’s time to start planning content, and that starts with what system you plan to use to manage your content. This guide will go over some of the pro’s (and con’s) of using WordPress, and how to install it on your new web host.
What is WordPress
A quick google will produce an abundance of articles talking about WordPress, so this guide won’t get too deep into the history and technology of WordPress, but more of a brief overview. WordPress is software installed on your website host that allows you to create, edit, and manage the content, architecture, and layout of your website through a (sometimes) easy to use interface.
While WordPress was originally designed as a tool to create blogs, it’s moved way beyond that functionality, and as of 2020, powers 35% of the internet, and accounts for 60% of sites built using a content management system. Add-ons and functionality have been created to extend WordPress use to all sorts of web functionality and applications, including business and e-commerce sites.
Why I use WordPress
Personally, I use WordPress to manage all the websites I have created in the past, and for many different reasons. Let’s look at some of the pro’s to managing your website using WordPress.
Keeping your site organized
WordPress allows you to keep all of the content of your website organized and structured. When creating a website manually, it can be hard to track all of your media, content, and scripting files and store them on your web host in easy to find places. WordPress does this all for you, keeping to posts, pages, media and plug-ins all separate. That’s not to say that your WordPress website can’t still get unruly over time when you add more and more content, but it makes it much easier to manage it all.
A straightforward interface with no coding
While having a grounding in HTML, CSS, and PHP can be helpful when creating a website in WordPress, WordPress allows someone to build the basics of their website with no coding experience.
With themes, no design experience necessary
With a pre-made themes that you can install onto your WordPress site, you can find a website design that suits your content and the user experience that you hope to provide to your users. That’s not to say that every theme out there is great (see downsides below) but there are enough well-made fast designs out there to suit your needs. As someone who loves making content, but doesn’t enjoy the design process as much, WordPress themes are great for me.
WordPress Plug-ins provide a shortcut to functionality
Easy to install plug-ins help you extend the functionality of you website, and push it beyond just a static web page. Plug-ins can help provide email forms, help track your users, secure your website, extend SEO capabilities, and so much more. Why try to re-invent the wheel when someone else has already done it, and you’re able to install that person’s plug-in on your site. But beware, plug-ins aren’t always good (again, see downsides below).
SEO friendly frameworks make them friendly to Google and other search engines
With the right framework installed, you can create a Search Engine Optimized website that Google and other search engines can crawl easier, and help you rise in the search ranks. What is a framework? You can read more about frameworks and the one I recommend here, but essentially, a framework determines how WordPress is going to generate the code for your site, and how the theme built on top of it interacts with the content that you upload into WordPress. A framework plays a very integral role in SEO and determines how fast your website will be, and how data (and metadata) are going to be presented to web crawlers and search engines.
What are the downsides of WordPress
While WordPress provides a lot of benefits, there are also some downsides to using WordPress. To me, the benefits vastly outweigh the downsides, but it’s good to be aware of the downsides as you move forward.
WordPress speed and resource requirements
No matter how well designed and lightweight you create your WordPress website, having the WordPress layer on top is always going to cost some resources when loading your website (as opposed to a purely static website file). Time and time again, I can’t stress how important it is to have as fast loading website as possible, which means speeding up your site wherever you can. But this shouldn’t come at the cost of the quality of the rest of your site, and the minimal amount of time that WordPress adds to your site is well worth it.
I spoke above about how great it is to have pre-made themes. But there is a downside to this, in that there are tons, and I mean TONS, of themes out there, and so many of them are built poorly, not kept up-to-date, bloated with unnecessary plug-ins and generally just a bad fit for a fast, lightweight website.
You may find a theme that has fancy visuals, or functionality that you think might be helpful that you never end up using. This all comes at a cost, which is page load speed. Users don’t like slow loading websites, and Google doesn’t like slow loading websites.
When a theme comes with a bunch of pre-installed plug-ins from a bunch of different developers, they often become out of date and incompatible as your website ages. Simple is the key when looking for WordPress themes, especially a theme that integrates well with your framework. That is why I use and recommend either GeneratePress, or StudioPress themes that run on the Genesis framework.
For every good, well-designed and useful plug-in for WordPress, there’s probably 10 bad ones. Anyone can design and release a WordPress plug-in which means there are a lot out there that can slow down your site, make it vulnerable to security attacks, or not be maintained by the developer. Sometimes plug-ins don’t play well with each other, and you can’t tell until your site starts loading with errors and crashing for your users. I recommend thoroughly researching every plug-in you use, and keep your plug-in use to a minimum. Every plug-in you install loads and takes resources on every page of your site, even if it’s not specifically in use.
Constant state of update
WordPress is in a constant state of update (which is a good thing)! Plug-ins, frameworks, themes, and the WordPress software itself are constantly being updated with new features, bug fixes and security updates. While this is a good thing, this also means updates that you need to manage. It is important to keep everything up-to-date, which might mean testing your site after updates, and making sure updates don’t crash your site, mess with the layout, or disable features on your site.
Why I Use WordPress
As you can see above, there are many pro’s and con’s to using WordPress. Overall for me, the pro’s much outweigh the con’s, and most of the downsides of WordPress can be managed with a little bit of work and research. I use it on every site that I build, and I enjoy working with the software and figuring out all that it is capable of doing.
How to Install WordPress on your Web Host
If you’ve decided to move forward managing your website with WordPress, it’s time to look at how to install it on your web host, step by step. This guide assumes that you’ve already followed my previous guides by picking a domain, choosing a web host, and that you’ve connected the web host to your domain. While this guide should work for most cPanel installs, it was created specifically with a cPanel install on shared hosting with Veerotech, the web hosting company that I use for this site.
Start by logging in to the cPanel account for your web host (should generally be at yoursite.com/cpanel).
Once logged in, select the WordPress script from the Softaculous Apps Installer section
This screen will give you a little information about WordPress and some of it’s features. Press the ‘install now’ button to continue with installing WordPress on your web host:
You’ll now need to input some of the install settings that you would like for WordPress. Some things to note:
- Use the https:// protocol (if you’ve followed the previous guides, using Veerotech as your web host will include an SSL certificate for your site).
- Leave the ‘in Directory’ field empty if you want WordPress to be at the top level of your site, which you likely do if WordPress is going to be the main content of your site.
- Name your site and give it a description. These will be able to be changed later, so don’t get too caught up here. Leave ‘Enable Multisite (WPMU)’ unchecked unless you are an advanced user and know what this setting means.
- Pick a strong username and password. I can’t emphasize this enough, USE STRONG PASSWORDS. I use a password manager to make sure all of my logins are strong and unique. You don’t want a malicious user to have easy access to your site admin.
- You can enable “Limit Login Attempts” for security, as it will only allow a user so many attempts to login to your WordPress back-end before it locks them out. I plan to use a different security plug-in so I did not enable it.
- Leave the other two options unchecked.
- You can leave the Database Name and Table Prefix as the default values, as these are only used in the back-end of your WordPress install.
- I recommend not to enable auto upgrades. You should manage upgrades and updates yourself to make sure that any updates don’t mess with your site. You’ll still get notifications when updates are available.
Now click the ‘install’ button:
WordPress will now start installing on your web host, and should only take a few minutes before it is ready:
Once that finishes, you should receive a “Success” message, which will include what domain WordPress has been installed to, as well as a link to the admin login page for you to be able to access the back-end of your WordPress site.
Follow that link and login with the details you filled-in in the previous setup steps. You should now see your fresh, new, blank, WordPress install:
At this point, you won’t have any content, frameworks, or themes installed, so when you visit your domain you should see something like this:
WordPress Successfully Installed
You have now successfully installed WordPress onto your web host and you are ready to actually start creating the look and content of your new website! For your next steps, the next guide will go over WordPress frameworks, which one I recommend, and how to install it!
This page may contain affiliate links to products talked about. I only recommend products and tools that I use myself.