The free guide to getting started with WordPress in 2017.

Free WordPress Guide 2017

So you want to get into WordPress? You've come to the right place: This is the 2017 free WordPress guide from Fermin Creative! In 2017, WordPress is still a fantastic platform with a lot of potential. Whether it is a personal website, an online store or something completely different, WordPress can help you get where you want to be. I wrote this article specifically for those with no knowledge at all about WordPress, and I hope it will be useful to get started.

Last Updated: 25 February 2017.

Don't want to read everything? Check out my WordPress for Beginners course on YouTube. I have created a video for every single part of this article. It touches upon everything mentioned, and a link to the relevant video can be found at the end of every part. You can also excess the playlist here.

 

Table of Contents

  1. Why WordPress?
  2. Finding a Webhost
  3. Installing WordPress
  4. Essential Plugins
  5. What the Theme?
  6. Expanding WordPress
  7. Final Remarks

Why WordPress?

WordPress has been around since 2003, which by internet standards, is a looooong time. This has its benefits, and millions of people rely on WordPress for providing a solid system in which you can easily add, edit and remove content. If I would have to choose in 2017 which platform to learn , it would still be WordPress. But besides easily editing content, there's more::

  • It's an application platform. Though WordPress really started as a blogging platform, you can nowadays use it to drive stores, and even as a way to manage the content of mobile apps.
  • There are many plugins and themes available, some of which I will cover in this article. If you want to run something that's not overly crazy, chances are that somebody has already done a big chunk of the things that you would normally pay a developer thousands of dollars for to develop it.
  • It's Open Source. WordPress has a very active community that supports the product with passion. Furthermore, anybody can see what goes on inside of WordPress, and report vulnerabilities when they arise. This makes it a very safe platform too.

Watch my video

Finding a webhost

If you want to learn WordPress, you don't need a webhost. You can install it on your computer too with for example AMPSS or Local by Flywheel. If you want to share your beautiful creation with the world though, you will need to put it with a webhost somewhere.

The landscape can be a bit confusing at times, especially as a newbie. The moment I google webhosting I find anything from shared plans, to much more extensive managed and VPS plans. Shared hosting means that you are sharing a server with dozens, possibly hundreds or thousands of websites. This may not make your website the fastest in the world, but it makes hosting really cheap.

 

Shared Webhosting

Here are some providers for shared webhosting:

  • GoDaddy has been around for a while since the early days of the web , and their hosting is really affordable too. It used to be far from the best in the business, but as of late the company has been forced to step up its game thanks to new competitors. At this point in time, I would recommend it.
  • SiteGround is a relatively new kid on the block, but the provider has been gaining popularity quickly. I have seen Siteground succeed in one particular area and that's providing value for money. Their speed and performance has been excellent given the price that they ask for their hosting.
  • DreamHost has been around for even longer than GoDaddy. Their price point is also a little higher compared to the others mentioned here. With hosting though, to a great extent you really get what you pay for. Dreamhost has performed very well in my experience, and that's why I gladly recommend them.

Managed Webhosting

Next up are the managed plans. So managed plans differ from the standard plans because in this case the webhosting provider will take of WordPress for you and make sure that it's up to date. In addition these plans usually provide a better quality webhosting and higher quality support to go along with their plans.

  • FlyWheel is a solution that enjoys high popularity in the WordPress arena, and it's for a good reason too. My contact with their support has been nothing short of fantastic and their webhosting has been blazing fast. Hosting with FlyWheel carries a higher price tag though, with their cheapest plan starting at 15 bucks a month.
  • WPEngine goes even one level higher than FlyWheel, with prices starting at 29 a month. Why the price difference? That's because FlyWheel offers a lower tier plan for smaller websites that WPEngine. WPEngine starts to become really attractive when you have multiple sites and you want one simple point where you can manage all of them. WPEngine's support and speed is right up there with FlyWheel, it's just that their pricing structures differ a little bit, making them more suitable for the one or the other.
  • Savvii is a Dutch webhosting provider, that offers some excellent plans. They are located in the Netherlands, which can be helpful especially for us European citizens. Servers located in Netherlands will likely be much faster compared to say, servers on the West Coast of the US.

 

So, what does Fermin Creative use?

None of the above for our own site. I use Digital Ocean - Digital Ocean is not a provider for the faint hearted, and you should have some technical experience before hosting here. That doesn't mean though that it can provide awesome WordPress webhosting. This website you're reading from is powered by Digital Ocean. That loaded pretty fast, didn't it? If you're curious to know how our current web hosting is set up, let us know and we'll probably write up a blog post about it at some point.

Watch my video

 

How to install WordPress

Installing WordPress

The way of installing WordPress can vary a little bit depending on the webhosting provider selected. Most of them provide a single click installation to get you going. In any case, the webhosting provider provides instructions on how to proceed with installing WordPress. Here are for example SiteGround's and GoDaddy's installation guide for WordPress.

I've shot a video featuring the install using the Installatron 1-click installer and DirectAdmin, as well as how the famous 5-minute install works on DirectAdmin.

When installing WordPress, I want to stress 2 things: Pick a strong username and password. Never use the username 'admin' and never use an easy to guess password. The measures sound so simple, yet I see way to many people come by with something that I could guess in a few minutes.

Watch the video

Essential Plugins for WordPress

Essential Plugins

The plugins I install vary of course depending on what I'm going to use the website for. Here are some plugins that ALWAYS find the way into my WordPress installation regardless of what I'm going to do.

Security Plugins

  • Limit Login Attempts is a nice little basic plugin that enables you to... you guessed it: limit login attempts. It's just a tiny measure making the chance that the 'bad guys' get in that much smaller.
  • WordFence is the favorite security plugin in the WordPress world. With everything from a Web Application Firewall to actively tracking login attempts, WordFence gives you a good look at what's going on on your site and makes it possible for you to take action when it is needed.

Marketing Plugins

  • Google Analytics Dashboard for WP makes it super easy to set up Google Analytics. Set up a Google Analytics account, connect to it with the plugin and you're good to go. In my opinion, it really couldn't be easier.
  • Yoast SEO takes care of some necessary stuff to improve your search engine ranking. More than 80% of the web's traffic starts with searching, so it's very important to make sure that you rank well. Yoast makes it possible to analyze how a page does for a certain keyword.

Other Plugins

  • WP Maintenance Mode is a plugin that allows you to block all visitors from seeing your site. With one click, you can protect everything you're building from the outside world.
  • WP Super Cache is the caching plugin developed by Automattic, the developer of WordPress. It makes your website just a little bit faster, at no cost.
  • Backup & Restore Dropbox. Making sure that you have your WordPress install backed up somewhere is essential. I recommend you consider something like BackupBuddy or Vaultpress later on, but this plugin allows you to get started, with no cost.

Watch the video

So many WordPress themes to choose from...

What the Theme?

Basic Recommendations

Themes are a little more challenging to recommend. It after all is also a matter of taste whether you would go with one theme or the other. I cannot decide that for you, but I can give you a few guidelines though that I would keep in mind when choosing a theme

  • Is the theme updated regularly?
  • How's the support provided by the developer?
  • Does the included page builder lock me in to the theme?

The last one is a tricky one, especially when looking at paid themes. Almost all of them include some kind of builder these days, and I'm usually not a fan of that. I usually prefer using a builder such a Elementor that comes entirely seperately from the theme. Now, I'm not saying that you need to avoid these page builders, but you need to be aware that once you settle for one of these themes, that you will have a hard time switching away from it.

 Free Themes

Without further ado, here are some themes that I recommend from the WordPress repository:

  • ColorMag is a great theme if you want to run a newspaper style website on WordPress. It's free of charge and has a great amount of features. Used by more than 70,000 people as of February 2017, this theme won't make your website look truly unique, but that said it offers plenty of options to make it fit with your own style preferences.
  • Sydney is a wonderful business theme that can help you quite a way with setting up a website for your own business. It works together with the SiteOrigin Page builder to create a good looking page in a quick amount of time. We will do a landing page tutorial featuring the Sydney WordPress theme in action later on.
  • Illdy is a relatively new theme in the WordPress theme directory, having made its first appearance in September 2016. It's definitely a cool theme to get started with if you want to have a creative website.

 Commercial Themes

Of course there are also plenty of paid theme options, and they are almost to extensive for me to cover here. I've just listed a few, but I want you to be aware and encourage you to go out there and explore the many options out there. Just keep mind the basic guidelines that I have given earlier.

  • BeTheme is a theme that is notable for the many templates they provide. I'm always impressed when I visit the BeTheme website and see how many options they provide. They nowadays utilize their own Muffin builder for building pages, which I consider pretty alright to use, but if you want to you can also use Visual Composer. That's nice because it enables me to change to another theme should it ever be necessary. The
  • X has been one of my favorite themes for a while. My experience with their support has been excellent, and they have always been quick with responding to my questions. I also want to point out that the page builder that X uses is Cornerstone, which is not only a brilliant editor, but is available seperately from the theme as well. I can therefore switch to another theme without much hassle in comparison with the others if I would want to.
  • Divi is a theme that has been around for a while now as well. It provides countless options, and I enjoy working with it as long I don't want something to complicated that requires customization. My advice on Divi: If you're alright with settling for the options provided by theme go for it.
  • Avada is one of the older WordPress themes around and provides many options. Its fusion builder provides a lot of options, but similarly to Divi, you're locked into the use of the theme. I have worked with it, and I can tell you it's one of the more intuitive page builders out there. Nonetheless, for the price you really can't go wrong and if you want to setup a website quickly, I can recommend it.

Watch the video on this part.

Expanding beyond a WordPress blog

Expanding beyond WordPress

Of course, chances are that you want to do something more on WordPress. Here are some plugins that I recommend to get started with certain things. I cannot remotely know what are you planning on doing, so if you need some personal recommendations, feel free to get in touch.

  • Are you planning on selling E-books or other digital stuff? Check out Easy Digital Downloads. I love the simplicity of the plugin, and it can help you get going really quickly.
  • More into commercial prodoucts? WooCommerce is the king of the hill. I work daily with WooCommerce, and it provides many options, without being overwhelming. It's by far the most complete and expandable plugin, and it's the only one I would recommend if you're selling non-digital things.
  • Are you an organization that organizes a lot of events? Check out the Events Calendar. It's in my view the most easy to use calendar plugin. Note that some themes provide similar functionality, which I'm not really a fan of. When you use the Events Calendar, you're free to use any theme you like.

You're on your way!

I have just given you an overview how to get started with WordPress. Now of course, you still need to build a website after having selected the theme and the first plugins, but nonetheless congratulations on getting this far! I recommend that you take a look at the WordPress for beginners course that's also on this website, that is completely free of charge.

I hope it's useful for you, and would love to hear if you've built something based on the advice written here. May you build great things, and I'd love to hear what you've built!

Need Help?

If you're a little overwhelmed by all the things out there, I completely understand. Feel free to reach out, and perhaps I can help you further. I'm always happy to give you some recommendations, with no strings attached.

I also build websites for many clients, so if you want me to take care of building the website altogether, you can find more information here.

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