I hope you’re feeling pretty good right now.
You’ve ventured into the jungle of building an author website. As a newbie, you’ve had to take it step-by-step, trying to avoid getting sucked into the quicksand of domain name possibilities.
You’ve confronted your fear of getting lost and committed to a building your website yourself.
You untangled yourself from the vines of web hosting services and selected one to use.
Give yourself a pat on the back. You’re doing a great job.
But get ready, because now we are about to head into the deepest part of the jungle.
How to Install WordPress
WordPress is the foundation of your website. It’s what you use to take it from a blank page into an attractive, functional site.
It’s not exactly difficult, but it can be easy to get confused.
Luckily, most web hosts make it easy to install WordPress. I’m going to use Siteground as an example, but the process is pretty similar no matter which hosting company you use.
Installing WordPress With Siteground
After you sign up, you’ll be asked to log in for the first time. You will then be greeted by a window that looks something like this:
Under “Please choose software to install” just select WordPress.
You will then be walked through the next steps, which includes setting up an admin email, username, and password. Make sure you write this down, because you will need it to log in whenever you work on your website.
Some hosts will also offer the use of a setup wizard. They hold your hand and do as much of the work for you as possible.
No matter which web host you use, if you run into trouble, you can usually find instructions by searching “How to install WordPress on [name of web host].”
After installing WordPress, you can look up your website by typing in your domain name. In this example, the domain name is childrensauthor.ckimwrite.com. (I know it’s a weirdly long name, but with my hosting plan, I can create subdomains without having to purchase anything. So I just tack it onto my main domain, which is CKimWrite.com).
You may see something like this:
Choosing a Theme
The theme is what determines how your website looks.
This step can be fun and exciting—it’s like starting a decorating project.
What color should the walls be? Should you use curtains or blinds? Do you prefer minimalism or shabby chic?
You can also quickly become completely overwhelmed.
Try not to be like me and spend two days scrolling through themes and trying out each one before finally settling on something.
Just pick something simple and clean, and do it quickly.
Don’t worry about picking the “wrong” theme. The nice thing about WordPress is you can change themes at any time.
Many people wonder if they should use a paid theme, or if it’s okay to use one that’s free.
Paid themes can look more professional, have more features, and often come with support.
But there are plenty of free themes that work just as well, look great, and are easy to use.
One word of caution: If you want to try a free theme, it’s best to stick to those included in the WordPress.org theme directory. All themes must be officially approved before they can be found here, and the process is somewhat rigorous.
My advice? Start with a free theme. You can always upgrade to paid later.
Install Your New Theme
Once you (finally) decide on a theme, you need to install it on your site.
To do this, you’ll need to get to your website’s dashboard. This is the behind-the-scenes control area, where you are able to make changes and add content.
To access your dashboard, simply type in your domain name, followed by /wp-admin.
For example, Authorwebsite.com/wp-admin. This will bring you to the dashboard, which will look something like this:
Under Appearance (column on left), select Themes, and a few theme suggestions will be shown. From here you can select Add New for a selection of free WordPress themes.
If you know the name of the theme you want, you can enter it in the search bar. Or, if you have a theme you downloaded from elsewhere (such as a paid theme), select Upload Theme, and add it that way.
When you’re ready to try a theme, simply select “Install.” After it loads, it will be part of your theme library. Then click “Activate” to load it on your site.
For example, let’s try loading Spacious theme by ThemeGrill.
After you activate, your site will look like this:
This doesn’t look ANYTHING like the nice image from the example!
Don’t worry, you didn’t do anything wrong.
But installing the theme just gives you the framework. The example shown is after a web designer has added images, selected a layout, that kind of thing.
But then, how do you get your website to look like the example?
Use Demo Templates
With my first website, I found it incredibly confusing and frustrating that I couldn’t make anything look like the examples.
Then I discovered demo templates.
Some themes will give you access to a template that you can upload into your site. It will look EXACTLY like the example shown. Then you can go in and make changes to the framework they have given you.
Not every theme offers this. The only way to find out if they do is to research different themes and see if the descriptions mentions demos. ThemeGrill offers a few themes with demos, including Neve (which I use) , OceanWP, Astra, and Hestia.
Some only provide a few free demos. Most offer more if you upgrade to the Pro version of their theme.
Okay, we’re getting close to the fun part. But first, we need to take care of a couple more things.
Here is what your dashboard looks like after activating the Spacious theme. After activating, you may get a message suggesting some plugins that will work with the theme.
What’s a plugin, you ask?
They are pieces of software you can add to your website that will add a particular function. They do things like protect your website from spam, or perform a back up your website.
Plugins are a great feature of WordPress—they are like apps. It seems like there’s one for everything. And they are usually free!
It’s usually a good idea to follow the theme’s suggestion and install their recommended plugins. You can always remove them later if necessary.
I also recommend you install a page builder. This is a plugin that makes creating and changing the look of your website easier. They are pretty intuitive to use, and allow you to make changes on the page, rather than having to go through the dashboard.
(If none of that makes sense, don’t worry about it! Just install the page builder.)
I like Elementor, and highly recommend it. WordPress now comes with Gutenberg, which also works well. There are others, but these are two I’ve actually used.
To add Elementor, click on Plugins from the left side menu. Then click Add New. You’ll see a menu of suggested plugins. Use the search function at the top right corner and type in “Elementor.”
Elementor Page Builder should show up. Select “Install Now” and then “Activate.”
A Welcome to Elementor window will pop up. It’s worth watching the “Getting Started” video to get a quick introduction to how it all works.
Creating a Home Page
Most WordPress themes will start out with showing blog posts as the first page of your website. Every time you add a new post, it will show up at the top.
But a better strategy is to create a home page that doesn’t change. This is called a static home page.
It’s easy to do. On the dashboard menu, go to “Pages” and then “Add New.” On the page that pops up, you can type in a title. Let’s just call it “Home.”
Then click “Publish” on the upper right corner.
Do the same thing again, and add a new page titled “Blog.”
Okay, almost there. . .
Click on Dashboard, and under “Welcome to WordPress” click on “Customize Your Site.”
On the left side menu, click on “Homepage Settings.”
Under “Your homepage displays” select “A static page.”
Under Homepage, click the menu for “Select” and choose “Home.” Under Posts page, select “Blog.”
How to Make Your Website Look Like the Example
Okay, you are finally ready to choose a demo! On the dashboard, click on Appearance and Demo Importer. You will see a screen with several options. Anything not marked “Pro” is free. You can click “Preview” to see what it looks like on your site.
Let’s try Spacious Blog. Click “Import.”
After importing, you can simply click “Live Preview.”
Ta da! Your site, AuthorWebsite.com, now looks exactly like the example.
One final bit of instruction: there are two elements of your website that can be customized. To make changes to the theme you use the “customize” option on the top menu. This is where you make changes to the header, the menu, and colors.
The best way to learn is to play around with the different options. If you make a change, see what it looks like. This is how you figure out how to change the different parts of your theme. If you want to save any changes, click “Publish.”
To make changes to the individual pages, you use “Edit with Elementor.” Here you can make changes to the text and images, to the individual blocks of content on the page. Moving your mouse around the page will reveal what elements can be changed with Elementor.
You should be proud of yourself for sticking with this process. You now have the structure of your website, and you can customize it to your liking.
Now that you have put up your website, you can start exploring the next big step–thinking about your author platform.
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered there as well. Check out my post here to get started.