[box type=”info”]Use the Coupon Code “ChurchWebsite” when you sign up for website hosting through HostGator and you will get a 25% discount from HostGator. That also makes sure I get credited for referring you. Thanks! Find out more about HostGator.[/box]
[NOTE: If you are absolutely a complete novice to websites or self-hosted platforms, the information below might not be enough to get you started, but I didn’t want to bog people down writing a 5,000 word post explaining every detail of creating a site. If you are interested in doing this and would like some help, drop a comment and I will get in contact with you.]
If you are self-hosting a church website through BlueHost.com, the next question you have to ask yourself is how you are actually going to “build” the site. For the most part, the old ways of writing HTML code by hand are long-gone (thankfully!). There are quite a few free ways to build a site on BlueHost, but the best choice for the amateur, in my opinion, is WordPress. WordPress was meant to be a blog software, but some recent developments have made it a great way to host a fairly simple website. WordPress is a great choice for a variety of reasons:
- Free. Which, obviously is always a plus. There are really good detailed instructions on how to use the site on WordPress.org.
- Huge Community of Users. WordPress probably powers literally millions of websites, from personal blogs (like mine) to professional sub-sites with Ford or CNN. If you are having an issue you can Google “wordpress [your problem]” and probably figure out what you need to do.
- Simple to Publish Content. If you know how to use a word processor, you can probably figure out how to publish content using WordPress. If you are wary of going the self-hosting route because you aren’t sure if you can handle operating a WordPress website, go to WordPress.com and create an account. You can see what it is like to publish a website using WordPress. The back-end interface is essentially exactly the same as a self-hosted WordPress site.
- Why shouldn’t I just use a WordPress.com site? WordPress.com offers a good way for some people to publish content on the web, but I found it too restrictive for some of the things I wanted to do. Many of the custom tweaks I will outline in the next few posts will be impossible on WordPress.com because of the restrictions they place on their websites. If you self-host a website, you can do whatever you want to customize it. If you are confused about the WordPress.com vs WordPress.org differences, read this page.
- Tons of Free Themes. WordPress is a web software for managing content: pages, posts, advertisements, widgets, etc. “Themes” provide the style for all of your content. If I want my blog to look different, I can just install a new theme and it gets a whole new face lift without messing up all of the posts and pages I’ve already made but integrates them into the new theme’s style. There are literally hundreds, probably thousands of free themes out there that you can use to give your site a custom look. If you want something really unique, you can pay for a professional theme, and they are usually under $100.
- Automatic Upgrades. Web publishing software is simply just a collection of files that “talk” to each other in order to manage your content, and WordPress is no different. The problem is that when there is a bug in the software or developers want to add new features, you have to re-install those files, which can be difficult and complex. When WordPress released version 2.7, you now have the ability to automatically upgrade WordPress. When you login to the back-end of your website, you will see a notice to upgrade your version of WordPress, and a few clicks later you’re finished with the upgrade. Super easy.
- Plugins! Plugins are one of the best things about WordPress. The normal WordPress software can only do so much, and if you want to do something fancy without writing your own code (who wants to do that?), then chances are someone else has written a plugin for WordPress that will do it. Want to make a contact form for your website? There’s a plugin for that. Want to show an automatically updating list of coming events from a Google calendar? There’s a plugin for that. Want your Twitter stream to automatically tell the world when you make a new post? There’s a plugin for that. There’s a plugin for pretty much everything. And now you can search for plugins within the back-end of your website and install them in a few easy clicks. Amazing.
There are probably tons more reasons to use WordPress to manage the content of your church website, but those are a good start.
So, you’ve got an account with BlueHost.com and want to install WordPress. How do you do it? It’s pretty simple.
Find WordPress in your cPanel. When you login to your BlueHost account, you see a bunch of confusing stuff, 75% of which you may never use. For now, scroll down to the “Software/Services” section and click on the WordPress icon.
Fill in all the important information:
- For where you want WordPress installed, just type in “wordpress” (lowercase–just like in the picture). All of the WordPress documentation you will find on the internet assumes you install the files in a directory named “wordpress” and will make your life easier.
- Fill in the title of your site, although you can change this later. Don’t spend too much time on this.
- Make sure the four boxes towards the bottom are checked and you are set.
- Click the green “Complete” button.
You will be taken to a page with all of the information for your newly installed WordPress website. I would suggest you immediately do the following:
- Login to your site using the link provided. It should be http://www.yourdomainname.com/wordpress/wp-admin
- Login using the credentials and password given to you.
- This takes you to the back-end of your site. This is where you will control, manage, and publish almost 100% of your website. Right now, find the “Users” link in the left-hand column. Click on it.
- Then click on the “Your Profile” link that appears in the drop down below the “Users” menu.
- This takes you to your profile. At the bottom of that page you can change your password. Do that now.
- Don’t forget to hit “Update Profile” when you are done to save your new password.
Now you have a new WordPress site installed on your domain name. However, when you go to www.yourdomainname.com, your website will not come up because the website is actually located at www.yourdomainname.com/wordpress. I would suggest you follow these instructions so that your site comes up when people type in www.yourdomainname.com.
One you do that, you’re ready to publish to the world. Unfortunately, the site is pretty ugly right now, and we can’t have that. The next post will tell you how to make that church website a lot more pretty for no (or minimal) cost.