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How to make a website with WordPress

laptop open on WordPress CMS
(Image credit: Unsplash)

A huge proportion of websites on the internet run on WordPress, and it's an incredibly popular blogging and content management system (CMS). It’s both free and open-source, and has a huge number of themes and plugins available that allow you to customize your site.

It started out as a blogging service that's installed on your own hosting platform, and while that's still how you can get the most of it, WordPress now rivals the best website builders available, via the wide range of available website builders for WordPress

In this step-by-step guide, we walk you through and show you how to make a website with WordPress.

How to make a website with WordPress: Your options

There are several ways to get started with WordPress. 

First, understand that WordPress is free, open-source software that you can download from WordPress.org and install on your own web hosting. This is what we’ll do in this guide. But many of the best web hosting companies have a one-click installer, so all you need to do is click a button and WordPress will be installed on your web hosting.

Another option is third-party hosting from the best WordPress hosting providers. When you buy WordPress hosting, you get an optimized WordPress site, ready to go. If your WordPress hosting is managed, many of the day-to-day duties - such as software upgrades and backups - are taken care of for you by the web host. 

Enterprise WordPress meanwhile is WordPress on a grander scale, which we explore in more detail in our feature asking whether WordPress is the way forward for enterprise content management

Finally, you can use the website builder on WordPress.com. Installation of WordPress here is immediate, and you can get started creating your site in no time. You can host your WordPress website here for free, and as your needs grow, you can upgrade to one of four paid plans.

In this guide, we’ll install WordPress on our own hosting. It’s the most complex installation procedure, but offers you the highest level of customization over your WordPress site.

Step 1: Choose a web hosting provider

WordPress's recommended hosting providers

WordPress officially recommends DreamHost, SiteGround, and Bluehost, but you can use any host that supports WordPress (Image credit: WordPress)

Your WordPress website needs to be hosted somewhere. There are thousands of web hosts vying for your business, so make sure to refer to our guides to the best web hosting services and the best WordPress hosting to help you choose.

Almost all web hosts will support WordPress, but you do need a host that supports scripting languages and protocols including PHP 7.4 (or greater), HTTPS, and either MySQL or MariaDB database management systems. You’ll probably want to upload files to the server, so FTP (file transfer protocol) support is also useful.

Step 2: Download WordPress from WordPress.org

WordPress.org's download page

You can download WordPress for free from WordPress.org (Image credit: WordPress)

To install WordPress on your web hosting manually, you’ll first need to download it to your own computer. Head to WordPress.org and click on "Get WordPress". You’ll be presented with the latest version of WordPress to download in a zip file. Download this file and extract it on your computer.

Step 3: Upload the WordPress files to your web hosting

FileZilla in use

You can use a free FTP client like FileZilla to upload your WordPress files to the remote server (Image credit: WordPress)

Next, you need to get your WordPress files onto your web hosting. Your web host may have a web-based file manager that you can use for this purpose.

A quick way to upload all the files is to use an FTP client like FileZilla. Enter your web hosting provider’s FTP details (host, username, and password) into your client, and upload all the WordPress files to your web hosting space.

Step 4: Create a database for WordPress

a window displaying how to create a new database

Each web host has its own user interface for creating and managing databases (Image credit: WordPress)

WordPress requires a MySQL or MariaDB database. Log into your web hosting provider’s administration panel, and find the section for databases. Every hosting provider’s interface is different, but you will typically need to set a database name, username, and password. Note these details for the next step.

Step 5: Enter your database details into the WordPress wizard

WordPress' installation wizard

The WordPress installation wizard requires you to specify the details of the database that you’ll use (Image credit: WordPress)

Now that the files are uploaded to your web host and an empty database has been created, it’s time to visit your website’s URL. If this is the first time you’ve run WordPress, you will be taken through the setup wizard. First, you’re asked for the language of the site, and then you’re asked for the database details. Enter the details for the database that you created earlier, and click "Submit".

Step 6: Continue through the WordPress installer

the final stage of the WordPress creation process

The last stage of the wizard asks you to create a username and password (Image credit: WordPress)

After WordPress confirms your database is accessible, you’re asked for a few more details about your site. Enter a site title, administrator username, password, and email. Hit "Install WordPress" to install the program. It should only take a few minutes. 

Step 7: Basic site setup

the WordPress dashboard

Give your website a title in "Settings" (Image credit: WordPress)

Now the WordPress installation is complete. Start setting up your site by heading to the "General" menu in the settings. You can set your website’s title, subtitle, time zone, and date format. Click "Save" when you are finished.

Step 8: Choose a theme

WordPress's themes selections

Set the theme for your WordPress website in the Appearance menu (Image credit: WordPress)

In the "Appearance" menu on the left, you’ll find "Themes". Here, you can choose from a range of templates that shape how your website looks. Click on "Add New Theme" to search hundreds of pre-made themes. When you’re happy with your selection, choose "Customize".

Step 9: Edit the site blog posts

WordPress's blogging wizard in use

You can insert rich media into your blog posts by clicking the plus sign (Image credit: WordPress)

By default, your WordPress website will have several posts. Posts are blog content displayed in reverse chronological order. To get used to the interface, click on "Posts" and edit one of the examples. 

You’re not just restricted to text. By clicking on the plus sign, you can add rich media elements like galleries, videos, music, and social media widgets.

Step 10: Add pages

WordPress' dashboard showing the Pages menu

Add, remove, and edit pages in the "Pages" menu (Image credit: WordPress)

Pages are different from posts. They’re static one-off content, such as your about us page or privacy policy. To add WordPress pages, click on "Pages" in the left-hand menu and choose "Add New". Once again, you can add rich media, such as images and videos, to your content.

Step 11: Browse and add site plugins

WordPress' plugins library

WordPress has over 50,000 plugins (Image credit: WordPress)

To unlock the full potential of your WordPress website, choose "Add New" in the "Plugins" menu. Here, you’ll find thousands of plugins that add features to your site. Some plugins can drastically change how your website works, such as by adding forums, contact forms, online stores, or additional administration features.

How to make a website with WordPress: Summary

WordPress is a powerful content management system with a versatile website builder. There’s so much you can do with your site to perfect it now that you know your way around the user interface. We’ve introduced the different ways that you can use WordPress and shown you its most important features. Now it’s up to you to make the best WordPress website that you possibly can.

Further reading on website builders

Learn more about WordPress in our WordPress review, our comparison of web hosting vs WordPress vs website builders, and our feature exploring the most common WordPress website mistakes and how to fix them.

Richard Sutherland

Richard brings over 20 years of website development, SEO, and marketing to the table. A graduate in Computer Science, Richard has lectured in Java programming and has built software for companies including Samsung and ASDA. Now, he writes for TechRadar, Tom's Guide, PC Gamer, and Creative Bloq.