A well-designed website is your best way to organize and present your professional self to the world. Let’s look at the steps necessary to set up a basic website using WordPress, either as a premium (paid) site or free. First, familiarize yourself with some basic terminology.

Overview of the Steps for a Premium Website:

  1. Buy a domain.
  2. Buy a hosting plan.  
  3. Install WordPress.
  4. Pick a WordPress theme.
  5. Start to design your site.

Overview of the Steps for a Free Website:

  1. Visit https://wordpress.com/free/ and follow the instructions. 
  2. Pick a WordPress theme. 
  3. Start to design your site.

Basic Terminology

Here are four basic terms you’ll need to understand to follow the steps outlined above. These are presented in the order you’ll need them as you work through this process.

  • Domain: A domain is your URL, the actual thing you’ll type into your web browser to visit your website. My main site has the domain aaronalon.com. This is analogous to buying a plot of land; you own that land, but there’s nothing on it.
  • Hosting Plan: A hosting plan is storage for the contents of your site. When someone visits your domain, they’ll be directed to the contents of your site on the Internet servers from whatever company you chose for your hosting plan. This is analogous to adding a house on the land you own.  Now you put stuff inside of it and have things to show people. 
  • Theme: A theme is a basic program that creates the basic template/design of your site that you can then customize. 
  • Plugin: A basic program that adds certain functionality to your site, like the ability to create a searchable calendar of upcoming performances, for instance.

How to Buy a Domain

Think about what domain you’d like to buy. Here are some recommendations:

  • Stick to .com domains. If you’re an organization, you can use .org too (or, better still, buy both the .com and .org version), but avoid other options, like .net or .info.
  • Stick to something easy to remember and share.
  • If possible, get the domain FirstnameLastname.com (like aaronalon.com).
  • If that’s not available, try adding an additional word, like “music” or what you do (e.g.: aaronalonmusic.com, aaronalontenor.com, etc.).

Visit a domain seller and search for your domain. Pro tip: do not search for your domain until you’re ready to buy it. Sometimes, bots will scoop up domains after someone’s searched for them and then you’d have to buy it back from them, probably for a much higher price.

When you’re ready to buy it, search for the domain on a domain seller. Here are some popular ones: godaddy.com and namecheap.com. Complete the purchase to buy the domain you find that’s available and suits your needs. Store a credit card on file and set up auto-renewals every year to avoid losing your domain.

How to Choose a Hosting Plan

Once you own your domain, you’ll need to select a hosting plan. A hosting plan is where all your website content will be stored. For most people, a low-cost shared hosting plan will work well, such as the least expensive option you’ll find here. (As of this post, that plan is going for about $26 for the first year and $50/year after the first year).

If you want to invest more than this, there are a number of options that may have more robust support, larger storage, multiple websites on the same plan, etc. You can find a number of articles online that talk about the different options (here’s one such article from 2017).

Once you have your hosting plan, you’ll need to connect it to your site and set up your password and basic options. You’ll likely find written and video tutorials on this from whatever site you choose for your hosting plan. If you go with namecheap, here’s their article on these steps.

Installing WordPress

Go through whoever you use for your hosting plan to install WordPress on your site. Search their site for instructions on installing WordPress, but here they are for the two sites I mentioned earlier:

Once you have WordPress installed on your site, you can sign in through your site’s WordPress panel. Just add /wp-login.php to the end of your domain (e.g.: aaronalon.com/wp-login.php).

Pick a WordPress Theme

Once in WordPress, you’ll want to pick a theme that you like and then you can use it to start building your website.  There are a ton of free options.  A theme will give you a basic look/template that you can customize and tools designed to work well in that theme.

If you want to go to a paid option, one of the most robust and popular WordPress themes online is Divi. As of this post, that’s going for $89/year or $249 for a lifetime license.

This website uses a free theme. Most of my sites (including aaronalon.com) use Divi.

Start to Design Your Site

Your basic site is set up now, so you’ll need to gain some familiarity with WordPress, explore add-ons (called Plug-Ins) to give you additional functionality you might want on your site, and start to build your website. There are a lot of good resources online that take you through WordPress step-by-step. Here are some from a quick Google search:

Want to know what to include on your website? Check out Elements and Content for an Artist Web Site by Tom Hutchison.

Additional Resources

Visit the resources page and click on “Web Presence” for additional articles and resources. Also, Google and YouTube are your best friends when building a website. Search for an answer to your question on either site for myriad websites and videos with helpful instructions.