illustration of a house under construction being built but without flaws.

Starting with WordPress: The Essential Guide for Novice Web Designers

Sometimes, the budget doesn’t permit you to hire a designer to create your WordPress website, or maybe you want to know what’s involved before getting started. Armed with the right information, you can have the know-how to be an asset to your designer or get you on your merry way to having your first business website or blog.

While WordPress itself is free (as in open-source), having a website for your business will have you spending some cash and incurring costs that may be annual fees or one-time purchases.

Keep in mind, you’re running a business, and with that comes fees because if you’re not going to invest in your business, why should I or anyone else?

But enough with the business 101 bits of advice, we’re here to gain you an online presence that is crucial to getting the word out on the problems you are about to solve.

Here’s a short list of what you will need (should you choose not to read the whole article):

  1. Find and register a domain name.
  2. Choose a quality web host.
  3. Install WordPress on the said host.
  4. Create a structure for your website pages and posts.
  5. Install a template for your site’s design.
  6. Customize WordPress with plugins and add-ons.
  7. Create pages that will make up your website.
  8. Learn WordPress and how to maintain your site.
  9. Market and grow your website.

While this article is not a complete how-to, it’s written to give the knowledge to make decisions for each step along the way.

Find and Register a Domain Name

Without a domain name, no one will be able to find your site. A domain name is your website’s address that people type in to find you on the internet. You want to keep it simple and easy to type. A little while back, you wanted to find a .com extension (or .org for larger companies, .edu for schools, and so on), but that has changed with the introduction of new (and way cooler) extensions.

Depending on the basis of your website content, you can find a more appropriate extension than .com. For example, if you’re running a video-based learning site, you can try .tv or .training, or even .school. Small businesses can try .com, .co, or .biz. Or take it one step further and go with industry-specific like .consulting, .health, or .tours.

With the multitude of extensions, you can get rather creative in choosing a domain name, but always remember the bottom line, keep it short, simple, and to the point.

You’ll need to register your domain, and the cost varies by the registrar (if they are running a promotion), extension, and if you’re choosing add-ons like domain privacy. We love Namecheap as our registrar of choice because they are affordable, user-friendly, and have excellent customer support.

Some hosts offer free domain registration, but we think it’s a smart business practice to keep your domain and hosting account separate because you never know when you might need to jump ship with a host or have a problem with a server.

Choose a Quality Web Host

Your host is the place you will keep your website files, and since we are using (self-hosted WordPress), you’ll have your core files too. There are several types of hosting accounts, including:

  • Shared is the most popular hosting choice for beginner and smaller based businesses. The advantage is the lower costs, but a trade-off is you are on a server with many other parties.
  • Reseller hosting is hosting where the account owner has the ability to use the allotted hard drive space and bandwidth to host websites on behalf of their clients. Many designers and developers who offer to host do so through reseller programs.
  • Cloud-Based is a whole network of computers in which the computers work together to run the applications. Cloud-based servers are scalable, and you only pay for what you need.
  • Managed WordPress is like a concierge service where the hosting company takes care of all the technical pieces of the server and WordPress, like security, speed, updates, and backups. It’s more costly than shared, but if you aren’t tech-savvy at all, this may be the best option for you.
  • Virtual Private Server, also known as VPS, is still a type of shared hosting, but there are separate virtual machines, so it’s one step down from dedicated. While it’s nice to have the power and flexibility, it comes with a bigger price tag and more configuration responsibility.
  • Dedicate Web Server is for the big league websites because you have a server all to yourself. For most reading this article, you won’t need this hosting yet.

Regardless of who you choose to host your website, be sure they have a good reputation and even better customer support. Remember that if your designer or developer is using a reseller account, you need to know the hosting company they choose.

Install WordPress on Said Host

This step has become easier through the years since most hosting companies have one-click installation or Managed WordPress; they do the work for you.

Depending on your host of choice, the process may be slightly different than another host, but essentially, the process to create a WordPress site is as follows:

  • Set up a hosting account: Create an account with your chosen hosting provider and configure the settings according to your preferences.
  • One-click install: Locate the one-click WordPress installation option in your hosting control panel, and follow the prompts to set up your new WordPress site.
  • Choose a username and password: Select a secure username and password for your WordPress administrator account during installation.
  • Configure site settings: After the installation is complete, you’ll need to configure your site’s title, tagline, language, and other general settings from the WordPress dashboard.
  • Select a theme: Choose a WordPress theme that matches your website’s aesthetic and functional requirements. You can either use a free theme from the WordPress repository or purchase a premium one.
  • Install plugins: Identify and install the essential plugins for your website, such as security, SEO, performance, and content management plugins.
  • Clean up defaults: clean up extra themes, plugins and default content added by the host.

In the past, manually installing WordPress had its advantages. But nowadays, one-click installs have improved and include features that were once exclusive to manual installs.

For example, you can now change the prefix on database tables and choose a unique database name with one-click installs. Managed WordPress hosting makes it even simpler to install WordPress files, often taking care of it during onboarding.

Create Structure for Your Website

Now that WordPress is installed, many people think adding the theme is time. But not so fast! How can you pick a theme if you don’t have your content and assets assembled? The reality for a site to be user-friendly is to create the content, funnels, pathways, or whatever you want to call it, and then choose a theme that reflects the flow of the information.

Ideally, you would:

  1. Define your message and brand
  2. Define your ideal client and their problems
  3. Figure out at what stage they will come to you
  4. Design products and services to address those needs
  5. Create content (words, sales pages, opt-in offers, calls to action) based on the journey of the visitor
  6. Outline your sitemap and hierarchy (navigation)
  7. Choose a theme that supports the above

Many of my clients come to me thinking the HOME page is the starting point, but it’s secondary to planning since it’s the one page that pulls all your information together.

Install a Template For Your Site’s Design

Armed with the information above and the chosen theme, it’s time to get designing or developing your site. At this stage, you’ll add your visual brand: logo, favicon (don’t forget this piece), colors, fonts, and other elements.

But before you start making changes, you’ll want to create a child theme, which most premium themes supply for you now.

The child theme will protect all your changes. The way it works is your child theme is a sub-theme that inherits features and functionality from the parent. Child themes are a safe way to modify your theme without making any actual changes to the parent.

We use the Astra or Kadence theme and block editor for our site design and development. We’ve found that this combination of tools gives us the most flexibility and integrates easily with other functionality (like WooCommerce), and the developers are always making improvements and updates.

Customize WordPress With Plugins and Add-ons

A simple site may be able to skip this step, but there is always something to add, like a social sharing plugin, SEO plugins, and security add-ons. Some sites will have as few as five plugins, while others will have 20 plus.

A good rule of thumb is that you may want to forgo adding it if it doesn’t enhance the user experience. Each plugin can slow the site down or conflict with another, so be sure to use quality plugins that are maintained and updated.

Some themes come with plugins built into the theme and are required to give you all the bells and whistles the theme provides. It’s a good idea to install them if they are requested or required. This way, you. Will know that things are running as they are designed. The only problem with all-in-one themes is that they may include pieces you don’t need, like portfolios or teams.

Create the Pages That Will Make Up Your Website

You’re in the home stretch as you create a user-friendly, functioning website. It’s time to add content to the pages or posts. There are different types of pages and layouts, but this should have happened before you picked your theme.

With that said, a good theme or builder plugin will allow you to add different layouts or custom page layouts. Some of the more popular page layouts are Contact, About, sales, opt-in with a thank-you, blog, and more. Your pages will be based on your content and user journey, and some can get away with a few pages, while others will need hundreds.

Only you know what you need to convey and how much information your user will need to digest to decide to work with you, so base your site on that, not on your competition or the “guru” of your industry. Your site will grow with you, which is why you need a content and marketing plan.

Learn WordPress and How To Maintain Your Site

There are tons of resources on the interwebs to learn to use WordPress and your website. Search YouTube to find answers to just about anything WordPress, or check out free tutorials like WP101 and WPBeginner. You can also find tons of learning on paid sites like Udemy and (fun fact, if you have a library card, you may be able to access it for free).

Once you learn the basics, check out WordPress TV, where there are sessions for Wordcamps worldwide and more.

You’ll also want to research maintaining your WordPress site, including updating, backup, and monitoring. Or you can have help doing these tasks for you. While we offer maintenance for our design clients, other options like ManageWP (for the DIY route) exist.

Market and Grow Your Website

Your website doesn’t stop with design and launch. You need to keep marketing and growing your presence. WordPress makes it easy because it’s SEO-friendly, and the easiest way to help gain traction is by continuing to create amazing content. Fresh content is step one to SEO optimization because, without something to keep your readers and visitors coming back, you’ll lose any traction you have gained.

Social sharing is another way to help new people find your stuff. Adding a social sharing plugin is one way you can help others share your content. And a good SEO plugin can help with that, too, by allowing you to be sure to tailor status updates to the media.


Wow, that’s a lot of information for a beginner or someone who wants to improve the site they have. So let’s recap the main points.

  • Invest in a quality web hosting company
  • Know your customer journey and your primary call to action
  • Think content before design
  • Add functionality only if it benefits the user and experience
  • Continue to learn WordPress, design, and marketing
  • Get help and consulting when you get stuck

Are you ready to tackle your WordPress website design?

PS: This post contains affiliate links for the services we use and recommend. You aren’t obligated to purchase through the link, but we’d be tickled if you did.