Where Your WordPress Website Dream Becomes a Reality
In an ocean of website hosting and building platforms, one can become lost in the endless advertisements of website features that boast high speeds, no downtimes, and secure servers. Do you really think that every one of these companies offers the same product at a different price? Sadly, this is not how it works and there are severe differences among a variety of platforms. It is best to go with an open source platform and opt for a WordPress website. However, before you can start building you have other groundwork to lay.
Over the years, WordPress has grown in popularity and remains an industry go-to, due to its reliability, customization through open source editing, and overall user experience. While it may not be as simple some other platforms that feature a drag-and-drop feature, similar to Wix.
The intentions behind this WordPress website guide is to provide a WordPress learning place for those either starting a WordPress website for the first time or from those who already know their way around a WordPress website. We will go over everything from domains, installation of WordPress, content management, and even which plugins are best to use, along with selecting responsive themes and informing you on WordPress security options too. By the time you are done, your WordPress website will feel like a well-oiled machine.
Do not run away once you hit a few code-intense sections. It is not too hard to swallow. It is just a butt load of information to take in. So let’s take a look at the first aspect of developing our WordPress website.
Your Domain Name Should Reflect your Brand Name
Choosing the right domain name is critical when it comes to entering the first stages of website development. Think about every domain name you can think of. Do not worry, I’ll wait…
Okay, now that you have had a second, I am sure you realize that almost every .com you thought of had a brand name that came just before that. The domain is a critical element that identifies your website and brand to users. Think about Reston Tech Wiz for a moment.
Our domain is: restontechwiz.com
Do not mistake a domain name for a URL. Domain names are contained within URLs. Not sure what a URL is?
The term URL is short for Universal Resource Locator. In order to fully comprehend the definition and parts of a URL we will look at a URL that consists of all the main elements:
- The first area is the HTTP:// protocol that directs the browser to retrieve information. Commonly known protocols are http, https, and ftp.
- reference. Is considered a subdomain that segments your website into sections of information and data. Alternatively, you could also use mywordpresswebsite.com/reference/, depending on your desired goals.
- mywordpresswebsite.com is as we discussed earlier a domain name, which also consists of different parts. The www. is optional depending on what you decide. Ending the domain is an extension in the form of a .com that is referred to as the TLD or top-level domain (.net, .org, and other country specific TLDs like .co.uk, .ca, .au, there are also other extensions like .xyz and .hub)
- 443 is known as the port number and is a component of the URL used to acquire access to data on a server. 443 is held for HTTPS and port 80 is for HTTP. These are typically disregarded in most URLs, as ports are most commonly observed in environments of local development.
- /blog/WordpressDesign.php is the instructional path that navigates to certain resources on a server. According to our sample address, there is more than likely a blog folder with an entry file labeled WordPressDesign.php, even though the path does not indicate an exact file on the server.
- ?edit=false&view=true are considered parameters. Two parameters are indicated in the structure. The content that follows the question mark is considered one and ends at the ampersand where the next one begins. These server-side codes are used to set values that can modify views or even save data, just to name a couple of examples.
- #entry-4 is used as an anchor that whisks a user to a certain part of the website immediately. By clicking on the link, it will thrust the user down to the indicated point on the page. In this case, clicking on the link would send a user down to the 4th place in the entry section. Not commonly used in navigation.
Most individuals do not understand all of these aspects of a URL and there is nothing wrong with that. A basic understanding is helpful, especially when designing a brand and potentially moving on to develop a WordPress website. Now let’s move on to the fun stuff.
You are choosing more than a name: It’s a Brand
Depending on the person making the site and selecting the domain, difficulty can range from an easy task to a hair pulling, teeth clenching, and agonizing project. It may not seems too bad at first but consider the top two tips on selecting a domain:
- Keep it Short
- Make it Easy to Type
If you have already developed a brand, using real words that are similar to keywords, like “WordPress Consultant”—chances are it will have already been gobbled up, regardless of if there is a website associated with it. The main reason for considering short and easy to remember domains is to make sure your traffic is funnelled to your site and none is lost due to similar domains.
Reston Tech Wiz is a rather long domain name, but it is highly improbable that a lot of traffic is lost as a result. Perhaps traffic could increase if we went with restontech.com since it is a shorter and easy to remember domain name. It all boils down to branding. That is the most important factor when deciding on a domain name. Is your brand unique? Does your brand or domain name consist of high volume keywords? A simplified, easy to remember name is always great, but when it is all said and done; in the end, it will come down to what name best represents your brand.
Obtain Your Domain
After you have found the perfect name, and you have made sure no one else has snagged it from you, it is time to purchase your domain name. For security reasons, it is best to separate your domain from your shared or managed hosting service.
Often times it is easier to keep them both linked, but in these instances, when someone breaks into your host, they now have access to not only steal your data and files, but they could potentially transfer your domain, taking everything.
If you are starting this WordPress website as your first project, it is best recommended purchasing a domain through a hosting provider for sake of ease and later moving the domain to a different company if it is required.
Nowadays, most hosts are equipped with an ‘ease-of-use’ interface that provides a simple display for purchasing domain names, complete with step-by-step on-screen prompts. If you are branding a company or product and it is your domain, a common practice for serious builders, funds permitting, is to purchase a great number of the TLDs to make sure no traffic is lost.
By default, your registration length will be set to one-year. This is another aspect of funding, but if funds permit, it is best to purchase at least 5 years or the max 10 years if able for convenience.
Coming soon…Differentiating Between Hosting and Domain
07/24/2017 Update Alert!
Differentiating Between Hosting and Domain
We are going to go into much more detail on building a WordPress website, but I would like to take a moment to clearly identify the difference in the domain and hosting registration. Contrary to what many believe, there are actually not on in the same—even though a lot of companies do offer them in a package as a special service. We want to learn why we should keep our domain and hosting services separate from one another.
Let’s use an analogy, some may love because it is about retiring. But let us pretend for a moment that we are a retired couple, looking for a new RV to purchase. You visit a few different dealerships, eyeballing subtle differences in pricing for the same make and model that you are looking to buy.
These RV dealerships are where the domain marketplace lies. You can think of your RV as your domain. Something that is yours to keep. After you have purchased your RV (domain name), as a couple you set off looking for the perfect place to retire.
Think of your retirement utopia as a hosting service. This is the place you want to park your RV and live out the rest of your days in total bliss; well that is the idea behind it anyway. This is the big difference between domain and hosting services. A domain is your property to take anywhere you choose, just as your RV is used to drive wherever you want. Your hosting service is where you will be parking your RV and setting up shop.
It is not necessarily a final destination, but rather somewhere to call home for as long as you wish. Another way to look at domains and hosts are people and houses. We are domains. We own ourselves, but buy, rent, or stay in houses either permanently or temporarily always in search of a better rate, which can be viewed as a hosting service. See it wasn’t that bad, right?
Clearing the Air About WordPress.com and WordPress.org Once and For All
This is a commonly mistaken ideation that the .com and .org versions of WordPress are one in the same.
That is the sound of reason knocking at your door. Let’s not fall victim as one of those previously mentioned stereotypes. You found this post, and thankfully enough I am going to let you in on what the real deal is between the two.
WordPress itself is an open-source platform that is FREE to anyone in the world, who has access to it. WordPress.org is the responsible party for the WordPress website developing platform. You are able to download it, view its documentation, and participate in the community forum along with some other functions.
They widely known WordPress.com website service that many of us are aware of is exactly that. It is a service that offers websites using the WordPress platform. Once again, this is a FREE service to sign up for and build a fully functional web page on WordPress; however, your web address will have the WordPress extension attached like mywordpresswebsite.wordpress.com. For a first-timer, this is more than sufficient, even with the small number of restrictions.
Essentially you are not paying for the WordPress software, but more so the WordPress.com subdomain, file hosting, and management services of the WordPress program and subscribers to the WordPress.com service do not have to worry about manual updates.
While the free membership allows you access to the basics you need to operate a WordPress website. There are loads more power options for those who are ready to experience the raw customization of personal domain names, custom themes, layouts, and designs. Not to mention premium level hosting services offered with more intricate plans, but you do not have to use their host. Remember hosting services are like RV parks. You do not have to stay put if you don’t want to.
For more on the difference between the .com and .org versions of WordPress visit:
Considering Different Hosting Packages
This can be challenging when building a WordPress website, especially, if you are planning to venture away from the offered hosting service that comes with purchasing a premium package with WordPress.com. For the sake of simplicity, we will dance away from hosting options that are for larger websites and those that come with intensive customizing needs. Either way, changing hosts is not that tough and can be done at any time.
There are 3 typical go-to options when looking for an optimal package for your needs:
- Shared hosting services
- Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting services
- Managed WordPress hosting services
Each comes with their own advantages and disadvantages. The one you select will ultimately be decided on what your WordPress website’s needs and funding ability are. While we are here, we mind as well take a look at their positives and negatives of the three hosting options.
Shared Hosting Service
For the sake of budgets, shared hosting services are always an attractive option. Just one server can handle hundreds of websites, which in layman’s terms equals hundreds of users!
The best part about it is, that one server is really not that expensive to operate and the costs can also be divvied up between all users on the server.
It is generally, why you can find several different shared hosting plans the land near the $5/month mark. At a glance, this sounds like a great value, but maybe you should hear a few of the negatives before jumping on your next shared hosting plan. The most notable downside of shared hosting services is commonly referred to as the “Bad Neighbor Effect”
Your Neighbor Ate the Traffic to Your WordPress Website
The biggest issue with shared hosting plans does not necessarily have to come from your site. Heck, your site can be perfectly coded, optimized, and in tip top shape, but if someone on the same server as your shared host has a coding glitch that ends up occupying 86% of the server’s memory…GUESS WHAT! The traffic to not just your WordPress website, but the other hundreds of sites on the server will come to a screeching halt.
That scenario is completely out of your control and you had no idea something like that would happen. Strike one shared hosting service. Another sometimes rather inevitable downfall are security breaches. There are several cases where a cyber attack aimed at a certain website, ends up harming or affecting multiples sites across the server, which ushers in another strike against shared hosting plans.
Are Shared Hosting Services for You?
Pretty much the only logical reason one could have for choosing a shared hosting service would be due to budget restrictions, in instances where dollars make a difference. Do not get me wrong, they are viable options and will work just fine for most individuals and down times shouldn’t hours and days (although this is a HUGE potential). If you do happen to travel down this path, then start by assessing a few of the top shared hosting services:
Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting Services
This next option is similar to shared hosting, without some of the ugly downsides. While there are still multiple clients sharing a server, the partitioning of space if generally even and the number of clients on a VPS host is also limited.
This means that one client (even if they experience a bad coding glitch) using the same shared hosting server, cannot consume large batches of resources. For instances, if there are five clients sharing a single VPS server, each is allotted to use up to 20% of resources of the server. This takes care of the first “Bad Neighbor” effect of your site going down due to a shared client hogging extra resources.
Secondly, to address the other issue for “Bad Neighbors,” the security is tightened and since VPSs are particularly partitioned, attackers will have difficulty gaining access to multiple accounts within the same server. In other words, it is not likely that a person robbing your neighbor will be able to hop the fence and head over to your house too. It can happen, but those incidents are far and few.
Since you are basically paying for a personal section of a server, you have a little more freedom to customize your account and server options in greater detail. Some of these can include extra admin options, beings able to install new tools, adding SSH access and tons more.
If you shop around, you can find some VPS plans for as little as five bucks a month, but more than likely you will wind up paying typically somewhere between $15 to $20 a month. If you have already decided that a shared hosting plan was not for you then you have already gone a step in the right direction. If you can spare the extra dough, looking into managed WordPress hosting or a VPS is definitely the way to go.
Choosing a virtual private server hosting service, you will have a lot more power over your plan and overall CMS (Content Management Service), like Drupal, Joomla, or Laravel, but that would eliminate the option for a managed WordPress hosting service since it operates only on the WordPress platform.
It boils down to whether or not you would like the ability to tinker with your server options, install different packages and brush up on your server knowledge. If this is the case, then hop on board the VPS wagon. In the sea of VPS powerhouses, the options are unlimited, so we did you a favor and listed some of our favorite VPS Hosting services:
Managed WordPress Hosting Services
For those who do not know what managed WordPress hosting is, then start HERE. It is not that managed WordPress hosting is a different kind of hosting plan, it is more like a different approach to utilizing server-side technology. A managed WordPress hosting service can be compared to purchasing a premium WordPress website from WordPress.com, which can technically be labeled a managed WordPress host.
In this sense, your managed WordPress hosting plan is centered solely on working the most effective and efficient way as possible with the WordPress platform. From memory to server-side caching, every aspect is honed and optimized toward one software platform: WordPress.
What this means is your WordPress website will be a whole heck of a lot faster and more secure than other hosting options, especially when looking to build a WordPress website. Your server is automatically updated, fine-tuned expert WordPress support, and normally equipped with UNBREACHABLE security features, built right into the framework of every page. Ah, the beauty of managed WordPress hosting.
While there is a slight decrease in flexibility, in terms of not being able to install other platforms onto these servers and some plugins can experience limited functionality or not work on the chosen host, but this is normally caused by security or optimization reasons.
Basically, you have less freedom than you would on a VPS, but you will still have the padded security, and for those starting out and are new to making WordPress websites, or websites in general, these are the go-to option for any business starting out.
If you aren’t looking to crash your server by having a bad itch to tinker with unknown settings, then this is where your heart will lie, especially if all you are looking for is a smooth running WordPress website that is virtually maintained for you, then this where you belong.
There is no need to bother with the hassle of installing WordPress and ensuring its security is up to par, along with the speed and all other aspects of your website; it’s all built in. All you need to do is either outsource your content or crack down and get to the creation of some awesome content.
Managed WordPress Hosting Services are becoming an industry crutch, mainly for the AIO factor. Some of our favorite choices for managed WordPress hosting for out WordPress websites are:
Stay tuned for our next Update… Getting Past Domain Setup
07/26/2017 Update Alert!
Making Your Domain Work with You Not Against You
If you have made it this far, then chances are you already have some type of current set up with a purchased domain name and more than likely a hosting package. If your domain and hosting plan is through the same provider, then this step can be overlooked and you can proceed further down because typically a service plan like that will have already implemented these steps automatically for you.
For this step, it is important to have the domain directed toward the hosting service (provider), this is for when someone goes to access the site from their browser, so they can be properly pushed to the correct server. This is handled through state commonly referred to as nameservers.
Now, this part will require you to log into the website where you purchased and registered your domain with in order to make it to the nameservers portion. Some domain/hosting services make this step as easy as they can by providing an easy-to-fill form.
When making alterations to your nameservers, there is a waiting period associated with it that can last up to 72 hours. It is correlated with your geographical location relative to the server location. Updated a site in the U.S. for a European server can take some time to get across seas, however, in the inverse situations, time seems to be relatively fast when updating to a US server.
Domains and Website Linking
With how easy managed WordPress hosting has become, it is easy to see how someone can become confused on adding a website to their host. Chances are you may never see the “What domain do you want?” screen, no matter how many WordPress installations you do.
Since it can happen in several ways, we should take moment to understand differences that websites and domains have.
Assuming you have a new managed WordPress account, you could likely add more than one website and never be prompted for more than the name of the WordPress installation and basic your user information.
After this, the website can typically be visited through a subdomain extension similar to mywordpresswebsite.wordpress.com. This will permit you to run a full website without actually purchasing a domain.
However, you are looking to have your very own domain that has been branded to your business, like mywordpresswebsite.com, rather than the unsightly subdomain version, then you will have to assign a domain to your website.
The last step of this section is to double check to make sure your nameservers of your domain is pointed to your hosting nameservers, so incoming traffic will be directed to the right website when entering your domain.
Putting Your WordPress Website on a VPS or Managed Hosting Plan
This particular step can be rocket science or a pleasant experience, depending on whether or not you have a managed WordPress host and their integration process. Professional hosting services will make this step a breeze, usually with a short form to fill out. You may be able to activate multiple WordPress installations on your new account depending on your account type. Some places provide short responsive pop-up to take a few details and then you’re set:
And depending on your chosen platform, your shared or VPS host may have a one or two-step process. Several of these offer tools for WordPress installation in order to reduce work needed during this step.
In the instance where you need to go the manual route, stay calm: It’s easier than you think! Just download WordPress, upload any or all files you want or need to your domain’s folder, establish a database, direct your browser to the domain, then proceed with any remaining on-screen instructions. If you run into an issue or wall when establishing your database, take a look at the WordPress Codex. It is a full installation guide. One glance and you will be over that roadblock in no time.
Stay tuned for our next segment: The Right Way to Select Themes & Plugins for Your WordPress Website