How to Make a WordPress Website 2019 (Step by Step)

Building a Wordpress website from scratch can seem daunting, so I've done all the hard work so you can now follow these steps to get your website up an running within no time.

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Wordpress Website

So you have decided to go down the WordPress website route. You have chosen… wisely. But the path ahead will not be easy, it will be fraught with danger, pitfalls, and doubts.

Jokes aside, on more than one occasion I thought to myself about turning around and going with Squarespace or Format when I hit a stumbling block. But I persevered! And in the end I now have a website I am very happy with. A website that I could not have achieved without a WordPress platform.

Building a website is a process of figuring out solutions to issues. But with perseverance the result is a website that should function and perform better than what you could achieve with any website builder.

This is going to be one of my longer articles so I’ll outline some hyperlinks for you to jump and skip to, should you need to. But I do suggest going through each step thoroughly:

1. Choose and Get Your Domain Name
2. Set Up Your Hosting with Siteground

3. CDN
4. Install WordPress
5. Picking a Theme
6. Essential Plugins to Install
7. WP-Rocket
8. SEO – Optimize Your Site
9. Create Your Pages
11. Change HTTP to HTTPS
11. Final Thoughts

Before we plough on, let me go over quickly why creating a website with WordPress is the right decision.

I have previously discussed which website is best for creating a photography website. And put forward two great alternatives to a WordPress website.

However, even though you can build some great looking websites with website builders, you will not have the same level of control over everything or as wide a choice over design.

WordPress gives you unlimited control. But be careful, you have to keep on top of maintenance.    

So let’s get started!

1. Choose and Get Your WordPress Website Domain Name

There are quite a few good Domain Registrars to choose from. I have been with 123-reg for many years without any complaints.

123-reg have good prices and good support. They keep on top of renewals so I have never lost a domain to negligence.

When it comes to picking out a domain name, choose wisely. Are you one person or a company/brand? Which do you want to be?

Your domain needs to be clear about what it is.

If it’s your full name like mine is, it is clear the website is about you, your work, your opinions or what is relevant to you. But remember it’s not clear from a personal name what it is you do.

Consider adding a prefix or suffix. I personally did not consider this as I wanted my name to be a brand, but if I wanted to be clearer I could have gone with maybe:

Clearest:

www.justinpuniophotography.com

www.justinpuniostudio.com

www.puniophotography.com

Less clear, but still specific to the field:

www.studiopunio.com

www.justinpuniomedia.com

www.justinpuniovisuals.com

These domains are clear about what you are clicking to before the home page even opens up, because of the prefix and suffix. This is good for reinforcing in your client’s mind what it is you are – a photographer.

.COM .CO.UK

Lastly choose wisely which domain you go for. It can say a lot about you while also possibly restricting you.

.com is obviously the most popular and can be the costliest. If someone is searching for your website armed only with limited information like your name, and want to go try their luck to go straight to your website without googling you, the first domain they will try in the search bar will obviously be .com.

If that doesn’t take them to your website, and they are still eager to find you online they will then try google – or they may not at all; sometimes you will get only the slimmest of chances to convert, even before they find your website. The less steps a potential client needs to get to your website, the more conversions you will get.

This is an important mindset to have in how you design your business – how to make it easier for your clients to get to you.

Clients don’t want to work to get to you, so make your website work to get to them.

Why is this important? Obviously the quicker and easier it is to get to your website the better. If you type in Nike, which do you try first? .net? .org. .co.uk? Or .com.

What about .photography? If you have a common name, and want to use it, you may need to use an alternative domain. The benefits of using .photography is obvious, as it is both your name and what you do. But it also comes with downsides.

Also consider a country domain if you want clients and to know where you are based. They are usually cheaper than a .com domain.

2. Set Up Your WordPress Website Hosting with Siteground

Next step is to get your hosting for your wordpress website. After a bit of research I found the best two were Siteground and Bluehost.

Siteground edged it by having consistently good reviews for speed optimised websites. Always prioritise performance as much as your budget will allow. Slow websites lose clients.

1. Choose a Plan

Check out their 3 plans here and grab your hosting. Click here to purchase one of their plans.

Siteground Plans for your WordPress Website

I would personally go for the GrowBig plan. For an extra £2 you get more speed related options and more support.

Siteground hosting also comes packed with Cloudflare CDN for free. You can always pay to upgrade the features, but what you get for free is brilliant.

Once you have paid you will be directed to the Customer Area. You will get a prompt to set up your website by yourself which you select.

Once you complete setup you will be directed to your Siteground user page where you can manage your accounts and change your account details or talk to support.

Siteground hosting also comes packed with Cloudflare CDN for free. You can always pay to upgrade the features, but what you get for free is brilliant.

2. Choose Domain

You can either register a domain with Siteground or if you have followed Step 1 and already have a domain you can select that option.

Choose Domain for your WordPress Website

Enter in your details and for the Purchase Information under Data Center, select the location closest to you and your clients.

Choose Location for your WordPress Website

Pick the location closest to your client base. Siteground will host your website in the location you choose. The closer the servers are to your client base the faster it will load. If you want your website to load faster everywhere too you will employ CDNs which will be covered next.

You will then need to go to the domain registrar later to confirm you are using Siteground to host and your domain will be redirected to the Siteground hosting.

Under Extra Services, you can select Domain Privacy which will hide your personal data from the whois directory which publically displays domain name owner information.

Domain Privacy

You can also select SG Site Scanner which lets Siteground notify you if your website is hacked or injected with malicious code. This is an extra layer of security but you can use WordPress plugins alternatively.

Once you have paid you will be directed to the Customer Area. You will get a prompt to set up your website by yourself which you select.

Set up your WordPress Website

Once you complete setup you will be directed to your Siteground user page where you can manage your accounts and change your account details or talk to support.

3. Cloudflare CDN Setup

A CDN is a Content Delivery Network. This is a network of your website caches stored around the world.

When someone accesses your website, it is retrieved from the local server; as opposed to retrieving it from your local server which may be half way across the world.

Siteground comes with free Cloudflare CDN. You don’t need to install it. But you do need to activate it.

Cloudflare

Click on My Accounts in your Siteground user area and then go to the Information & Settings tab.

At the bottom is the Cloudflare CDN, click on Access. Select Activate and you’re done.

4. Install WordPress

Once you have picked your Siteground plan, it will take you to your user page. You will then go to your cPanel, and select the WordPress Autoinstaller, click on install.

wordpress autoinstaller

For Choose Protocol, select http://. Later you can enable and set up your SSL certificates so that you can select https://.

protocol

Https:// is more secure and will rank better in Google, so it is advisable to do this later, especially if you plan to set up a shop with Woocommerce later.

Under Site Settings, add your website descriptions which you feel is appropriate. These can all be changed later if you need to correct anything.

Then complete the Admin Account settings as appropriate; making sure to use the same email address you have set up your account with.

Deselect Easy Setup so that you can follow the next steps installing WordPress.

Click on Install.

You will be congratulated on your install and your domain name link will be displayed to go to.

Clicking on it will direct you to your website which will have a default wordpress theme.

In the search bar add /wp-admin to your domain name to log in to your wordpress user page. This should look something like this: http://www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin

Log in.

5. Picking a WordPress Website Theme

If one of the reasons you’ve gone for WordPress is to keep your costs down. Then there are plenty of free themes to choose from.

If you need a few suggestions check out my blog post on The 5 Best WordPress Themes for Photographers.  

If you have the budget for it, then I do suggest getting a paid for theme. In general they come with more functionality and more dedicated support.

The Setup

Once you’ve decided on your theme go to your wp-admin panel and select Appearance and then in the submenu, Themes:

Add Theme

Select ‘Add New’ and install the chosen Theme.

You can now go to customise and change various settings. Depending on the theme you have chosen you can change quite a few things in the Customiser.

In other themes you might get extra sections like a Theme Panel where you can change settings separately to the Customiser.

6. Essential WordPress Plugins to Install

The power of WordPress is largely due in part to the sheer number of Plugins you can install to further customise your website.

Remember not all plugins are equal. Check the reviews and make a note of how often the Plugin is updated.

You want to use Plugins that are regularly updated. If it’s not updated often it may not be compatible with your website’s version of WordPress and leave you open to security issues.

The most important plugin I suggest is WP-Rocket which will be covered in the next step. Here I will list (not in order of importance) the other plugins I suggest you get:

  • Akismet Anti-Spam – If you are going to use a comment system or a contact form you want to prevent spam from wasting your time.
  • Autoptimize – This Plugin will optimize your HTML, Javascript and CSS. This can be done by WP-Rocket, but Autoptimize has been developed to work with WP-Rocket so they work well in conjunction.
Autoptimize
  • Contact Form 7 – You will almost certainly want a contact form on your website. And if the Theme you pick doesn’t come with a Contact Form section, then download this Plugin. Once you have selected the fields you want in your Contact Form, you can then select the shortcode at the top of the form and paste this into your Contact Page, which I will outline in the Create Pages section.
Contact Form 7
  • UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore – It goes without saying, you should be backing up your entire website at regular intervals. Especially when you decide to make changes.
  • Woocommerce – If you intend to sell digital products or physical products like Prints then you need an eCommerce Plugin. Woocommerce will set everything up for you, and even create the Pages you need. A Shop page, Cart Page, Checkout Page etc. Depending on which Payment options you want, you will also want to look at Woocommerce Paypal and Stripe Plugins.
  • YeostSEO – SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is important. And not something to be overlooked.

Try to keep the number of plugins to under 20. The more plugins you have, the more bloated your website will be. This will affect performance. I have found 20 to be ideal.

7. WP-Rocket (Important WordPress Website Plugin)

All those suggested Plugins are free, but some of them do offer Premium plans for more functions and support.

The only paid for Plugin I highly suggest you purchase is WP-Rocket. WP- Rocket is a caching Plugin

Use this link to get the plug in.

Initially I wanted to keep costs down to just hosting and the domain, but I soon found out there’s only so much performance you can achieve with free Plugins.

Before I purchased WP-Rocket I employed all the optimisation techniques Google could find for me. But my results in GTMetrix and Pingdom were average.

It was around 4-9 seconds, but in my opinion that’s not good enough. That’s over 3 seconds to load from my local server. Remember your website will load at different speeds in different regions around the world.

No matter how well designed your website is, if it takes more than 3 seconds to load, 40% of visitors will leave the website. That’s 40% lost business, despite you having a well designed and ergonomic website.

WP-Rocket boosted my website performance speed to loading in under half a second, or to be precise, 302 Milliseconds on non busy days. Your results will differ depending on location, time of day etc.

These are the settings I customised, with the other options left on default:

1. Cache

I enable caching for mobile devices. If you are setting up a membership for your website, then select caching for logged in WordPress users too.

2. File Optimization

Some of these settings are already covered in the Autoptimize plugin like minify CSS.

CSS

I have also found that by Combining JSS Images do not load correctly on certain browsers.

JSS

As of this date this is till the case, but it may be due to my theme. Test this out with your theme and if it works keep this setting activated as your performance will be further accelerated.

3. Media

Lazyload is a setting to not load all images at once, but as you scroll down the page.

iFrame will place a thumbnail picture instead of an actual Youtube or Vimeo video, for faster loading pages.

wp-rocket media

4. CDN

If you have enabled Cloudflare CDN it will say here that it is already enabled.

8. SEO – Optimise Your WordPress Website

You’ve now installed a CDN, website optimising plugins and WP-Rocket to optimise the performance. Now you can take some extra steps to add more optimisation. For further information, see this blog article.

Permalinks

In your WordPress user page go to your Settings and Permalink Settings. Here you can change your page structure.

Select Post Name. This type of page and post structure will rank your site better in Google than the other options.

Image Optimisation

In the next section you will be creating your portfolio and uploading content. And before you do I wanted to give you some important tips for uploading photos.

If you are you using Photoshop, for images for the web you can use Save for Web to optimise your exported photos.

Another option or can be used in conjunction are some online image optimisers. I like to use ImageCompressor which is a free resource.

9. Create WordPress Website Pages

This is pretty straight forward but I wanted to add this section as a bit of checklist for you when you create your pages.

In your WordPress Admin page, you simply need to go to the Add Pages section to create your pages.

Front Page

I know there are a few amazing photographers who employ a front splash page, but I would personally advise you against doing this.

A front splash page is essentially one extra redundant step a client has to make before getting to your portfolio/website.

As I have tried to impress upon you, the quicker a potential client can access your website and product the more likelihood of converting a visitor to customer.

If your website for some reason takes long to load, which always frustrates the user, and they see they are still not in your website proper, they will go elsewhere.

WordPress Website Pages

You’ll be creating pages relevant to your business, but every website needs these main pages:

  1. Home/Portfolio Page
  2. Contact Page
  3. About Page

1. Home/Portfolio Page

I would highly suggest, unless you intend on creating a blog, to make sure the first thing you client sees on your website is your work.

As I’ve reiterated, the sooner a client sees your work, the sooner they can decide if they want to use your services. Many potential clients will make up their minds in under a few seconds.

2. Contact Page

The next most important page to increase conversion is how to contact you.

A page with a Contact Form Plugin is the best way to get clients to contact you.

If you add an visible email link, spam sites can and will scan your website and will be able to pick up email addresses to use. Having said this, the trade off is clients who like to click on email addresses will not have this option. So this is up to you.

I personally would highly suggest that all pages on your website have a footer with your contact form in. It has been shown that having a contact form/email address on every page will increase client conversion.

3. About Page

The about page, while also providing some personal information, is a great way to highlight your experience and credentials as a photographer.

If you have some notable clients you have worked for, putting their logos here has been shown to create great conversion.

Youtuber Chris Hau highlighted how listing Mercedes Benz as a long time client on his website increased his client base. He attributed this down to clients factoring in Mercedes Benz into their decision, ‘If Chris Hau is good enough for Mercedes Benz, then he should be good enough for my business’.

10. Change HTTP to HTTPS (WordPress Website security)

Google encourage you to change your site from HTTP to HTTPS. As an incentive Google ranks HTTPS sites higher than HTTP in search results.

It is also advisable to do this if you intend to open an online store, which you are most likely to do if you are a business.

Adding SSL certificate to your site will display a padlock symbol next to your site address in the search bar. Customers will look to this for assurance. If you don’t have it, your site will not be secure and will deter potential customers.

As I’ve said before if you choose Siteground which I recommend you do it comes with FREE LetsEncrypt service. You may be required to purchase this separately if you are not with Siteground.

Setup

Log in to your cPanel and in the security section click on the LetsEncrypt tool.

LetsEncrypt

Select a domain name and the type of certificate you wish to install and click install.

LetsEncrypt

In the Action pull down menu select HTTPS Settings. You will be shown a HTTPS Enforce window which you can select.

LetsEncrypt

This will enforce that if anyone types in HTTP will be redirected to HTTPS.

LetsEncrypt

WordPress Website Final Thoughts

Congratulations for getting here! I hope these steps have helped. The process of developing a WordPress website was a huge endeavour for me and I hit many stumbling blocks as I said that made me question my decision.

But I googled and meticulously searched forums to the solutions to all the issues. And if you’ve followed the steps outlined here you will have avoided the issues I had to overcome.

But because of the nature of a WordPress website, each one is different, so you will no doubt encounter your own stumbling blocks. All of which will have solutions if you search for it.

The great thing about WordPress websites are that because it’s so widely used, there will be multiple solutions to each problem. You just need to figure out which one is suitable for you.

There are two affiliate links to Siteground and WP-Rocket in this blog article. These are two services I use myself and would recommend even if I didn’t have affiliate programs with each respectively.

Purchasing through these affiliate links will have no bearing on your cost. It’s exactly the same price. This website just takes a small percentage which goes toward supporting the website running costs. Your support is much appreciated and will help me keep this website running.



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