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Xanthi S

WordPress guide

For beginners

In this guide, I will try and answer the most common questions asked by beginners, such as:

What is WordPress?

What type of websites can I create with WordPress?

How can I start using WordPress?

What is self-hosted WordPress?

What is the WordPress.com blogging platform?

What are the most common WordPress mistakes beginners make?

When to choose self-hosted WordPress vs WordPress.com

What is WordPress

WordPress is a tool to help you build websites. This is the most simplified explanation and some might argue that it’s probably not 100% accurate 🙂

In reality, WordPress is a CMS, which stands for Content Management System.

That means that it is a System, that allows you to Manage Content.

Like your blog posts, or your pages. These are the content of your website that you need to manage.

However, WordPress is much more than that. With WordPress you can create from a simple one-page website to an advanced and complicated news portal, so let’s talk about that.

What types of websites can you create with WordPress?

You can create a blog, a corporate business website, also called a Brochure website, or even an e-commerce website, with the help of extra plugins.

 

A blog:

This can be from a simple journal-style website to a recipe website, to anything that has articles presented in categories or lists.

 

A Corporate business website or Brochure website is your typical business website, where it has:

  • a start page with some info, a Click To Action (the section where they encourage you to Click here for something),
  • an About us page, where it usually has information about the company, or some history,
  • a Contact page where you can see telephone information, an address and often a map where the offices of said company are,
  • and some page or pages, where they present what they are selling, but there is no Buy option. It’s only for presentation and information. That’s why it’s called a Brochure website.

 

An e-commerce or webshop website:

This is your typical e-shop, a site where you can go and purchase items, like clothes, gadgets, shoes, anything.

How can I start using WordPress?

There are two main ways one can use WordPress.

  1. on a Self-Hosted Website, with a domain name like: something.com
  2. on the blogging platform WordPress.com
 

Please note: Options 1 and 2 are not the same.

 
The only thing that is the same, is the actual software that is used in both cases, however, on option 1 you need to download it and install it yourself. On option 2, you don’t need to download it. It’s already there.
 
Let’s analyze them.

What is a self-hosted WordPress website?

This is where you install and setup everything yourself, or maybe you have hired someone to do it for you. Regardless who is doing it, the whole process means that you or someone else need to do the following:

  1. Purchase a hosting package
  2. Often they include domain name registration so get both, domain name and hosting, in one go
  3. Install WordPress
    • this might be done either by clicking somewhere on the hosting provider control panel, where it will install it for you automatically
    • or you might need to go to WordPress.org and download the files manually to then upload them to your server and install the software.

After that, you will have a brand new, self-hosted WordPress website that you can start adding content to it.

Keep in mind that this is the option where you are responsible for managing the domain name, the hosting package and you need to remember to do the updates to your WordPress website. 

You are also able to customize the design and functions of the website, whether you can do it yourself or hire someone else to do it for you.

Regardless, the result is the same.

In short, this is a very flexible option, highly customizable, but it also comes with the responsibility of maintaining it.

What is WordPress.com blogging platform

This is a free (to begin with) and relatively easy option, where you don’t need to purchase anything from the start.

You can go to WordPress.com website and create an account. While you are creating the account, the platform will guide you step-by-step into creating a new website. It will ask you if you want to purchase a domain name, but you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.

You can continue creating a website that will have a domain name like the following: something.wordpress.com.

Within minutes, after the registration is complete, you will have a new website ready for you to start adding your content.

Keep in mind that WordPress.com offers upgrades where it will let you use your own domain name. It has some limitations in customizing the site, which the self-hosted doesn’t have, but let’s say that these limitations get “unlocked” in each paid plan.

The above differences are let’s say the advantages and disadvantages you need to consider before committing to one or the other.

Many choose to pay for the upgraded WordPress on the WordPress.com platform because by doing so, they don’t have to worry about upgrades or maintaining the server. Everything is taken care of by WordPress.com.

In both case, the software is the same, so many things on the dashboard will look identical. Please note, that I mean the dashboard, not necessarily the WordPress.com login dashboard.

Most common WordPress mistake

This is probably the most common mistake and I want to help you make the right choice from the start.

The most common mistake is choosing Option 1 when you want to go for Option 2 and vice versa.

So when should you use the Self Hosted WordPress and when the ready-made blogging platform?

Great question

There are many factors to consider and a lot depends on how you answer.

Besides studying the differences and similarities that I mentioned above, here are some additional things to consider:

  1. What are your long-term goals?
  2. Do you want to use the website professionally or not?
  3. How technical you are (it’s ok if you are not, you can learn or hire someone to do it for you)
  4. Do you tend to start new projects and abandon them after a while? I know this one seems harsh but there is a reason why I ask this, and consider giving you some tough love.

So let's answer them:

What are your long-term goals?

This can be different things to many of you.

What I want to do here is to help you write down, or realize in some way, how serious you are with your future website. So here you should answer to yourself, is this project just a hobby, which is fine, or do you want to blog regularly and grow your blog into a profitable business?

In that case, that requires some serious commitment, in terms of, have you decided which subject or niche as it’s called, your blog will be about? If not, do not purchase anything yet, and maybe start experimenting with the blogging platform over at WordPress.com until you figure out what it is you want to write about. 

If you have clear goals, as to the subject, the amount of work hours you are going to commit to writing, and researching, because researching is a big part of blogging in certain niches for creating trustworthy content, then go ahead and purchase a hosting package, and a domain name. You know what you want 🙂

If you are still uncertain then ask yourself, why do you want to start a blog? 

Remember, there is no right or wrong answer here. It’s only a matter of understanding your goals and moving forward once you have a clear idea.

Whether it’s a travel blog, a journal type of blob, a mommy blog, a recipes blog, or whatever your heart desires, then write down what it is you want to achieve. If you have clear goals and hopes, then it also makes it way easier to create and structure your website.

 

Do you want to use the website professionally or not?

This one is more straightforward as it’s simple. It’s ok if you don’t know and the beauty of the wordpress.com which has a free version, is that you can start building something, which could be your current hobby, but if you see that it’s growing you have the option of moving over to a self hosted WordPress or upgrade your existing WordPress.com

I would always suggest starting with the free blogging platform because it has zero financial risks, in case you realize that this is not for you.

Others might disagree but I can’t advise you to spend money on something that you are not 100% certain about. 

Additionally, you will learn to use the administration panel of WordPress which is a huge bonus if you decide to go to the self-hosted solution.

 

How technical are you?

If you are tech-savvy, then the self-hosted WordPress might not be a problem for you to set up.

However, if you haven’t done this before, I would highly recommend to watch some tutorials on YouTube where they show you from the start how to purchase a hosting package, a domain name and how to set up WordPress. 

There are many YouTubers that offer these types of tutorials so a simple search will return many of these videos.

Keep in mind that some of them might be affiliated with certain Hosting providers, which is fine, you don’t have to purchase from them, but they will show you the process according to this hosting provider.

The principles are the same as others, but the interface and the steps might look different.

If you are already overwhelmed, I suggest asking a developer or someone who has an extended experience with WordPress for advice, or even for help.

If you have the budget to hire someone, I say go for it.

Or if you have the time, start watching tutorials or even going to WordPress.Org and read their documentation. If you don’t like videos, there numerous of written guides that offer the same information, so if you want to commit into learning it yourself, I say go for it and start googling 🙂

However, if you are not tech-savvy and don’t want to be, and have the budget and you are serious about it, then there is nothing wrong in going with WordPress.com

I know many advise you to go with the self-hosted option, me included, as it offers great flexibility.

However, at this point I want you to ask yourself, if you are willing to live without certain functions that are not important for the growth of your website, for the convenience of not maintaining your own server.

Do you tend to start new projects and abandon them after a while?

I know, this has a harsh tone, but I know from personal experience in certain projects but also from others online, that it’s not uncommon for us to get enthusiastic about something, and want to do it all at once right now, only to realize after couple of weeks that we don’t have the same enthusiasm any more.

That’s also completely ok. If you find yourself in this situation, I say go for the free version of WordPress.com to test the waters and see if you will stick with it or not.

 

Conclusion

I hope I have given you some good pointers and things to research.

I want you to succeed and to find the project of your dreams.

My hope with this guide is for you to understand the differences and similarities of WordPress.com with the self-hosted WordPress, and to help you decide whether you should go with one or the other.

If you have any questions you can always contact me at xanthi -at- xsyrakou.com