The CMS WordPress started out as a popular tool for blogs. Since then, it has developed into the world’s most prominent content management system. Due to its high profile as market leader, the demands on WordPress’ functionality are great. Is the CMS up to the task? Find out in our comprehensive WordPress review.
In today’s world, no entrepreneur can afford not to maintain an online presence. But what should you do if you lack the necessary programming skills to create one? A Content Management System (CMS) can fix everything. Once installed, you can use this system to create, design and manage a website without needing in-depth HTML knowledge. One of the most popular CMS systems is WordPress. In this article, we will explain how to make a website using WordPress so that you can benefit from the advantages of the CMS.
- What is WordPress?
- Installing WordPress
- Building a WordPress website: step by step guide
- Creating appropriate content
- The Following Steps: Operating WordPress
- Creating a website with WordPress:
What is WordPress?
WordPress is currently the most popular content management system on the Internet. CMS consists of frontend and backend: in the backend, the administrator and users who have the necessary access credentials can set and modify the websites’ contents with the help of a user interface. The frontend on the other hand, is the website generated by the CMS in the visitors’ browser.
WordPress is particularly popular because the page templates can be adapted quickly and easily without needing advanced programming skills. WordPress can sometimes be confusing because there are two WordPress websites: WordPress.org and WordPress.com. Here are the differences:
- WordPress.org: The CMS in WordPress.org is basically free open source software, which anyone can download. The website contains the necessary data to download for free, as well as a comprehensive information guide. However, the site only offers the software, which means the user will have to host the website himself.
- WordPress.com: You can create your own website using this version of WordPress, and they will host it for you. In the free version, the website is hosted under the WordPress.com domain. If you want to use your own domain, then you will have to opt for a paid version.
Range of functions
Since its release in 2003, WordPress has gained a lot of new features - many as a result of continuous development by the community. It is open source software, which means that the source code is open to the public, so developers around the world can contribute their own ideas to the project. This is also the reason why there are now over 50,000 plug-ins, and countless themes for the standard version which you can use to extend WordPress.
- Content can be input via a WYSIWYG editor
- Sort content using tags and categories
- Schedule the publication of your content
- Content can be managed in a media library (photo, video and audio files).
- Different user roles can be assigned different abilities (administrator, editor, employee, author, subscriber).
- An RSS feed can be set up
- Static pages can be created
- Web design with templates is possible
What is WordPress suitable for?
WordPress was originally designed for blogs, so that bloggers could publish articles online with minimal effort (not needing to manually paste them into the websites HTML or PHP code). However, there is a range of plugins for different tasks so you can easily use WordPress to create a variety of different website types. Using the appropriate add-ons, e-shops, online community networks and forums can be developed. WordPress can be adapted to almost any requirement.
- Blog: Whether you want to create a private or professional webblog, WordPress can offer you the right tools. The editor allows you to put content online in no time – perfect to keep your customers and followers up-to-date.
- Company website: Thanks to WordPress’s themes, you can create appealing, modern homepages for your company without needing to know the ins and outs of web design. Just a few clicks and you can integrate photos, videos and company information, or contact forms and directions.
- Campaign landing pages: It is worthwhile to create separate landing pages for marketing campaigns. With WordPress, you can also create single pages with up to date features like parallax scrolling, cinemagraphs and responsive designs.
- E-Commerce Shop: Regardless of whether you have a physical store, or just sell online, you can always acquire additional customers via the internet. With WordPress, you can create fully functional online shops (we recommend the plugin WooCommerce in particular when using WordPress for this purpose).
- Event Website: Are you trying to raise awareness about a certain event using the Internet? You can easily make a WordPress website to do this; you can even integrate a ticketing system if you wish to sell tickets for the event directly on the page.
- Portfolio: As an artist, you want the best platform to showcase your work. You can use the open source CMS to create galleries, slideshows and CV’s and update them when necessary.
- Online Magazine: Many magazines use WordPress as their chosen platform, thanks to the fact that they can give users different editing rights – this allows you to create a real editorial system using the CMS. You can determine remotely who can create and edit texts in which categories.
- News portals: Using CMS means you can publish content in mere moments. This makes the software perfect for creating new pages which is essential for a site trying to publish and disseminate news as quickly as possible.
- Online Community: WordPress can even be used as a community platform with the appropriate adjustments provided by plugins. They allow you to network and communicate with others, just like other mainstream social media networks.
- Wikis: A Wiki contains articles that convey knowledge about a specific topic. Contributions to these articles are usually written by several authors, or often even by the users themselves (the most popular example of this is the online encyclopedia Wikipedia). These knowledge databases rely on so-called swarm intelligence. In most cases, the website operators are accessing a Wikiengine, however, with WordPress you can create your own online dictionary.
Many host providers pre-install their CMS. You can order WordPress packages that already have the correct files on the server. You can then start designing your website immediately, without having to install the CMS.
This is also possible with 1&1 IONOS. With Managed WordPress Hosting WordPress is already installed for you. The 1&1 IONOS wizard can also guide you step-by-step through setting up your guide.
If you decide not to choose a package with WordPress pre-installed, you will need the following:
- Webspace: When choosing the hosting provider, you need to make sure that the PHP supports 7 or higher, MySQL 5.6 or higher and HTTPS.
- FTP Access: The File Transfer Protocol allows you to upload files from your PC to a server. In order to do this, you need to install an FTP-Client and provide the required server data before being able to transfer files to the server, such as the WordPress installation files.
- Domain: Your WordPress address can be added to most hosting services webspaces. Keep an eye out for your target group when choosing the URL. It is useful to have the brand name, or other relevant SEO information appear in the domain.
Using IONOS’s domain check you can check if your chosen domain is available.
- WordPress: Download the latest version of WordPress free of charge on WordPress.org. The files provided are compressed and have to be unpacked before uploading.
- Content: You can create the most visually appealing WordPress page possible, but without good content, it has little chances of success. Before you start setting up the website, think about which texts and pictures you want to upload. The design of your website must fit with the theme of the content.
Now, you just have to upload the relevant files to WordPress using an FTP and create a database. This may be new territory for many IT amateurs, but should not take long to master with the proper guidance.
WordPress is known for its 5 minute installation time. Granted, this is a guideline but it is unlikely you will need a very long time to install it. When you are finished, the only thing left to do is supply your domain name. The installation script will begin, leading you through the steps mentioned below until you are on the dashboard with access to all WordPress features.
Building a WordPress website: step by step guide
It is now a case of creating a WordPress website to suit your needs. The dashboard can be accessed under yourdomain.com/wp-admin. It is then possible to access various WordPress functions using the sidebar to the left.
You should first adjust the general settings for your WordPress homepage. To begin, you can enter the “Website Title” (if you have no already done so during the installation process), as well as the “Subtitle”. These are basically the billboards for your website: browsers and search engines access this data to lead users to your site. You should therefore spent a little extra time choosing your name, but don’t worry, you can always change these fields again and again.
Additionally, you can alter the country settings too – time zone, language, date and time format. It is also possible to change the reading and writing settings. The first is usually only important if you already have a detailed plan for your workflow. The reading settings however, do determine how your posts are displayed and read by visitors to your site. Make sure you have thoroughly considered what kind of design you want before changing the default settings – for example, whether you want a static page or a start page, or whether the latest posts should always be shown first instead (like a blog).
Once you have a bit more experience with CMS, you will notice that there is not always just one way to achieve what you want. Different settings can end up creating the same effect, which can sometimes be confusing. When you are creating your WordPress website, always try and think about what settings will lead to which consequences and cause the least amount of complications.
Using the “Discussion” tab, you can set whether or not users can comment on your posts, and whether these comments need to be approved or not. This can be helpful in managing inappropriate comments, and also spam posts from machine bots. You can also specify here whether pings and pingbacks can be activated when posting comments, so that other websites will be informed when you link them in a post or not, and vice versa if they mention you.
Before you leave the Settings section, you should also deal with permalinks. A permalink is characterised by the fact that the same URL is always the same article (which is usually not the case with dynamic URLs. Using permalinks has two advantages: on the one hand, they guarantee that your content will be accessible at this address and that links from other websites will not get lost. On the other hand, you practically standardise the links to your articles. You can also use “speaking URLs” which make the name of the article then part of the Internet address. This makes it easier for human users, as well as search engines find the relevant web page.
As a website operator, you may want to involve other people in creating and publishing content, and create your own team. If you do this, then it makes sense to create different user profiles and grant them different usage rights. WordPress can even be used as an editorial system. You retain the position of administrator by default after an installation. As an administrator, you have the option to add new users and manage privileges.
New users can be created in the “Users” section of Settings. If you click on “Add New”, you will be brought to the corresponding input mask. Then you specify the username and e-mail addresses. In addition, you can also add the corresponding users’ real name. You can select from 5 different roles:
- Subscriber: This is the role with the fewest rights. A subscriber can log into the backend, edit their profile, and read other users posts but cannot be active on the site.
- Workers: If you give a user this role, they have the ability to create and edit posts, however, they cannot publish them independently.
- Author: The author role can also publish articles and their own contributions.
- Editor: This role has rights on all posts. Editors can also write their own articles, however, they also have the option (and responsibility) to edit other user’s posts.
- Administrator: The administrator has not just the same rights as all other users, but they are also responsible for managing the sites. Only administrators have the right to install themes and plugins, add users or edit at the backend.
By using plugins, you can assign and create other roles in the backend of the website. The WooCommerce plugin makes it possible to assign “Shop Manager” and “Customer” roles to different users.
The larger your team, the more important it is to think about which roles to assign. The role of administrator should really only be given to users who are sure that the changes they make to the design and structure of the website are in your style. Somebody without previous knowledge of WordPress can weaken your whole homepage with just a few modest changes.
If you select Design in the menu, you can add and edit themes on your website. Using templates, you can alter the layout and design of the site. A theme affects the front-end display of content. WordPress itself provides you with a new theme free of charge every year.
In addition to the themes provided by WordPress, there are countless other themes available from other vendors. The easiest way to find and install new design templates is to select “Add New Theme” in the menu. This will provide access to the WordPress.org database, and you can filter the available themes by function or colour design, or search directly for a specific theme. When you choose a suitable theme, you can then preview it. If it is to your liking, simply add the themes to your site by clicking “Install”, and then activating them.
There are also other sources for design templates other than WordPress. Many other internet platforms offer themes available to download. Good sources of “premium themes” include Themeforest, TemplateMonster and many others. These themes do require payment, but usually offer a more elaborate design and extra customization options than the free themes. Many developers of paid themes also offer help with setting up and support. To install one of these premium themes, you need to first purchase it on the vendor’s website and then download it. You can manually install your theme in the dashboard in the “Add New Theme” section, and then clicking “Upload Theme.” This allows the file package to be selected on the hard drive and then installed.
You now have the opportunity to check what the theme looks like with the content of your site. Once you’ve decided on a theme, there are still options to customise it by activating the customiser.
What exactly the customiser can change always depends on the selected theme, because different themes offer different customisation options. In principal, however, it is a frontend editor. What this means, is that you can check all your changes directly during the preview, as well as being able to change the website information. Although the title and subtitle of your WordPress website have already been selected in the general settings, you can also use the customiser to add a logo, website icon or favicon – a step not to be underestimated. Furthermore, the general colour scheme, background images, menus and widgets can be customised using the customiser. There is a very handy feature that is somewhat hidden: the left side of the customiser has three icons at the bottom. These are for testing the design of your site on tablets and smartphones. Click on “Save and Publish” to close the changes. They are now visible online for all other website visitors.
The customisation options depend largely on the theme. It can sometimes be difficult to make all the changes you want using the customiser, and you will have to look for other options. It is therefore worth spending time to look through the available themes before selecting, just to ensure that you can actually use all elements of it.
Widgets are functional blocks that can be filled with content. This content can consist of simple text fields, or dynamic content blocks, such as calendars, a tag cloud, or the latest comments. Forms such as search fields or log-in masks can be integrated as widgets into your website. Under the “Widgets” section in the “Design” tab, you will be able to find all available objects that can be assigned to specific locations (sidebar, footer, etc) using drag and drop.
If you want to build a specific menu structure for your WordPress website, you can do this using “Menus” in the dashboard, rather than via the customiser. You can use a menu to help visitors navigate your site, allowing you to link to static pages or display post categories.
Some themes will require additional plugins to work, however you will be informed of this during the theme installation.
Plugins add extra features to your WordPress website. Under the menu option “Plugins” you should be able to find a variety of extensions. Askimet Anti-Spam comes pre-installed. This plugin helps you keep the comment area of your posts free of unwanted advertising. Other modules can be installed just like themes. Under “Install” you can add plugins from the official database, as well as manually install downloaded files. Popular extensions include Contact Form 7 (which helps with creating contact forms), WooCommerce (a comprehensive e-shop solution) or BuddyPress (extends your website with community features).
Do not just randomly add plugins during your WordPress installation, as this can lead to software conflicts. Additionally, the pages’ performance may suffer from too many plugins being installed.
Just like themes, plugins are not automatically put into use after installation. This can be changed quickly by clicking on “Activate.” The impact of the plugins is as varied as the range of plugins themselves. Some run silently in the system background, while others expand design possibilities and other create their own menu items. If for example, you are interested in a particular online shop, WooCommerce allows you to manage orders and products using the dashboard.
Some plugins (like themes) are paid for. You should always make sure there are no free alternative plugins that perform the same function before paying for one.
WordPress differentiates between posts and pages, although both are based on content. While posts are arranged chronologically, pages behave statically. Typical examples of pages in a blog are the “About”, the contact and the imprint pages. Conventional WordPress blogs usually contain much more posts than pages. However, as previously mentioned, you can create static web pages using WordPress too. These pages then have a much higher priority.
Under the “Create” tab, you will find the editor. Here, you can give the page a page title and insert your desired content. You can either work using HTML codes (via the “Text” tab) or use a mask similar to familiar text editors. You can separate the headings from the flow text, make fatigues, curses and strokes, insert lists as well as quotes or change the text colour. The corresponding button can be used to add multimedia files to the text. You can also insert a read-only tag. This is especially interesting when uploading posts: if you do not want to display the entire text on the homepage, you can provide just a snippet of it, with the option to make it completely visible by clicking on “Continue Reading.”
WordPress is also sometimes inconsistent with the behavior of its images when separating pages and posts. A contribution image is usually assigned to a blog post and used as an image for the article. However, the image can sometimes be missing from the pages themselves. This can still be an interesting aspect, however – some themes fit the header image to the current page, while others show it uniformly in the title. This allows you to enhance the graphics of your website.
Before you create your WordPress page and click “publish”, you should take a look at the page attributes. Use this area to determine the page hierarchy. With the term “parent”, WordPress refers to the parent pages. You can also define the hierarchy of the subordinate pages in detail. The layout of these pages can be changed in the “Design” section of the menu.
Now, you can finally publish your page. However, it is worth first checking whether or not your site is displaying the way you want. If you do not want to bring the page online immediately, set the status either to “draft” or “pending review.” Selecting the latter will alert your team members that you want their opinion. As previously mentioned, some user groups do not have the ability to publish content independently, nevertheless, it may be useful to ask for feedback before publishing. If you decide to go ahead and publish anyway, you can queue the publication for a specific time, since it can sometimes be useful to publish specific posts and pages at a certain time or date.
You can also restrict access to the page by setting up a password, or just granting access to members of your team.
Publishing your posts
Writing a post is more or less the same as creating a page, and you can use the same editor. However, the differences are shown in the right-hand sidebar: the publishing settings are viewable in the “maintain posting on the start page” option. If you put a checkmark here, the post will remain fixed at on your homepage, even if a new article is published.
Using categories and keywords, users can find posts that will interest them. It makes navigating easier for readers and, depending on your theme, they can be visible or invisible. In the latter case, only the search function and internal system are affected. Both organisation methods can be managed through separate methods: you can create categories, delete them, give them category titles (which are required for speaking URLs), set hierarchies of categories and write descriptions for each category. However, the latter is not visible to users in every theme. You can also select the appropriate keywords for each individual article – however, keywords cannot be hierarchically classified into categories.
If you delete a category, you are not also automatically deleting the posts associated with it. Instead, they join the “Uncategorised” section.
Making use of the media library
You can save pictures, videos and audio files that you may use in your posts and pages in the media library. You can then upload the multimedia files to your server. Drag and drop to upload multiple files at the same time. These media files can then be edited later. Add titles, labels or descriptions to them as desired. When adding pictures, you should also include a textbox which briefly describes what is being shown in the picture.
You should not neglect the texbox or photo description for the following reasons:
- Some browsers may not display images correctly. Instead, they will show the photo description.
- People who are visually impaired and use a language output mechanism when surfing the net can have the image reproduced with the voice output or a braille display if there is a photo description. For more information on how to ensure your website is accessible, go to our WCAG guidelines for accessibility on the web.
- The photo description is also important for SEO: the search engine bots do not recognise images and are subsequently dependent on exact descriptions.
Images can be edited from the backend of the site: create image slices and resize the image to fit perfectly into your post.
Only files which have previously been saved to the media library can be integrated into your website. However, this also means that if you delete a file from the media library, it will also be removed from the pages and posts that it appears in.
Creating appropriate content
What content is right for your WordPress website depends heavily on your target group and the effect you want to achieve. Does your audience want more information on a particular topic? Or are you trying to share specific information about your company? Try and put yourself in your visitors’ shoes, or ask friends and acquaintances for their opinions. However, regardless of what you write about, some rules apply equally to all website texts.
Few Internet users just mindlessly surf the web, most are looking for information. If you want these readers to find your material compelling, and for them to visit your site regularly, then write informative content and provide reliable facts. Try to provide a good, concise explanation of complicated topics. If in doubt, take a look at other articles – the most important thing is that visitors to your website feel like they are getting useful information from it. If possible, add explanatory graphics: visually, you can explain things much easier than through a cumbersome text.
Design the structure of your website!
Providing information itself is not enough – you also need to make sure it is accessible to your readers. Therefore, it is crucial to provide a decent structure for your texts, and also your website as a whole. The easier the information you provide is to access, the longer visitors will spend on your website. You can use headings, markers and lists to draw readers’ attention to important information within the text. Additionally, you can use the F pattern as well as the inverted pyramid principle. Take the typical reading behavior of readers into consideration, and structure the information accordingly.
As far as the actual website structure is concerned, users should be able to understand the information easily. When you create your website using WordPress, the CMS already provides you with the means for a clear structure:
- Creating menus
- Using Categories
- Maintaining keywords and keyword clouds
Make sure you also keep your website straightforward in terms of design and page layout. Exaggerated graphic gimmicks can lead to visitors being distracted from the essentials. Similarly, users will leave a site early if navigation is too cumbersome.
It is not always easy to write something informative and entertaining, but your readers will thank you for it. Reading a purely informative article can be a struggle if there is nothing light included to break it up. Be sure to present your content in a reader-friendly tone – however, this does not mean that you must include an obligatory joke as an ice breaker at the beginning of every post. Finding the right tone means knowing your target audience precisely. Is correct etiquette the most important aspect, or are you willing to loosen up and crack a joke? Are you just kidding around with your readers, or are you above that? To answer these questions, you should familiarise yourself with content on your subject area that is already out there, and base yours off whatever you yourself find to be readable.
Images, videos or graphics can liven up a post: more complex facts are often better explained using visual aids, as well as being a pleasant change for the brain. You can pick your photos to influence your readers’ moods. Including images is no problem when you create a website using WordPress. The WYSIWYG editor lets you add and align files easily, similar to other popular word processing tools such as Word. If you are planning to use multimedia material from third parties for your posts, be sure to respect copyright regulations: Only use works with a Creative Commons license that grants you rights to use.
The Following Steps: Operating WordPress
Now that you have learned how to create a website with WordPress, it is time to learn about maintaining and backing up your website.
If you have created a website with the purpose of providing information about your company for example, you need to ensure that all the information you provide is up to date and current. If your company changes location, you expand your service spectrum or your prices change, you need to immediately make the changes to your website. It is the first point of contact for many consumers to receive information about companies.
Being consistent is also very important if you maintain a blog, or another type of frequently updated website. Visitors will only continue visiting your page if you regularly provide interesting content. In order to keep producing regular material on a long-term basis, it might be useful to create an editorial plan. This is especially relevant when you have a team working together on content creation.
To ensure the accessibility and security of your website, you should take the following precautions:
- Install Updates: WordPress is constantly evolving, with new updates for plugins and themes becoming available all the time. In the Dashboard, all updates are highlighted in the “Updates” menu. It is a good idea to install them regularly, as security holes can often be closed by these updates.
- Perform regular backups: Never underestimate the importance of backups! A structural error can cause a website to crash, resulting in a lot of unnecessary work and your website being down for a prolonged time without a backup. Your backup copy needs to contain the MySQL database, WordPress files, and all media files you have uploaded as well as plugins and themes. You can do this manually, or using plugins. You can find both freeware and paid programs to do this.
- Guaranteed password protection: WordPress is the most widely used CMS in the world, making it a common target for hackers. To avoid risks, you should take the appropriate steps to choose a secure username and password. Brute force attacks, which use their computing power to guess all possible password combinations, often target those with usernames such as “admin”, “test” or “wordpress.” In general, it is best practice to choose a long password with letters, numbers and special characters that doesn’t have a specific meaning to you – not just for WordPress, but for all your web pages. You can also add plugins like Limit Login Attempts or Wordfence Security to help block cyber-attacks. These block the users’ IP address after a certain number of unsuccessful login attempts.
- Check your extensions: The vast majority of Wordpress plugins and themes are provided by independent developers. You should be aware of this when choosing an extension, because poor or incorrect programming can lead to serious security gaps. You can avoid the danger by using reliable extensions from well-known manufacturers. In WordPress’s plug-in database, it always shows how often the additional software is already used and how satisfied users are with it.
One of the most active manufacturers of extensions is Automatic. The company offers such plugins as Askimet, WooCommerce and Jetpack, and also operates WordPress.com. The company was founded by Matt Mullenweg, who is also one of the first developers of the WordPress application.
To get the most out of your site, you should keep track of performance and visitor statistics. This will allow you to react quickly to bad results and adapt your strategy and programs accordingly. Use Google Analytics to get visitor statistics. Just remember, even web masters must adhere to data protection regulations. We therefore recommend these alternatives. Most website operators use the open source Piwik solution. To integrate the analysis tool in WordPress, there is another plugin: WP-Piwik. However, there are many other plugins that measure visitor statistics to choose from.
Not all visitor statistic plugins comply with European data protection laws. Be sure to read the plugin user guide before you install it.
To attract as many visitors as possible, you should make sure that your website appears far up in the search results of the most well-known search engines, especially Google. Google will notice your website by itself, thanks to its many crawlers, but that may take some time. You can shorten this wait by entering your homepage URL in the Google Search Console. To do this, you will just need a Google user account. Even though Google is the most popular search engine, it is also worth adding your website to other search engines too.
You can also increase your range by activating your page on other channels, bringing it into the most relevant areas of social networks and trying to get backlinks from other websites. Make sure when building links however, that they are coming from reputable and respected websites. The following again applies: quality over quantity.
Creating a website with WordPress:
WordPress is an easy tool to use, only taking a short familiarisation phase. If you are running a website with regularly updated content, it is always advisable to make use of CMS. You can use the backend to create, manage and publish your content, and thanks to numerous themes and plugins, your website does not have to look like an ordinary blog. Beginners however, will reach a limit in their ability to alter the design and individual adjustments. But anyone with a small amount of programming knowledge can customise WordPress to make it even more versatile. Both themes and plugins can also be modified in the source code using the backend editor. If you have never worked with CSS or PHP code before, we do not recommend tinkering with it. By ending the source text, you risk endangering your entire WordPress website.
WordPress is not necessarily the right option for everyone. The 1&1 IONOS MyWebsite Editor also provides many design templates, and setting up your own homepage is faster than you think.