Many new WordPress users begin exploring the platform because they’ve read or been told that WordPress is easy to use and you don’t need to know how to program to set up a new website. Indeed, the ease of use is a part of what WordPress is all about — what co-founder Matt Mullenweg refers to as “democratizing the internet.” Imagine the web where everyone has a space to talk about the world from their perspective!

While it can be easier to launch a site using WordPress then, say,  building a CMS using Ruby, it can still seem daunting for new users who do not have programming experience. With so many variables like themes, plugins, and hosting providers it can be hard to know where to get started.

I’ve found a very targeted approach can be helpful. Think about learning WordPress just like any other learning experience. When you learn to play piano, there are simple songs and scales you practice before you begin playing Shubert, right? WordPress is the same way. It’s best to start simple, then work your way to more complex.

In other words, you don’t dive into theming with the first site you build (unless you really want to). You can start simply, working your way up by using an approach that will scaffold your learning.

For the Beginner

1.) Set up a basic site in a local environment using a tool like Local by Flywheel with the current WordPress theme and add plugins with broad functionality that are from highly respected developers. Set up the entire site, from pages and posts to footers and widgets to really understand all the parts of WordPress.  You can follow these steps that I co-wrote with Kim Coleman for the Reading WordPress Meetup Build a Site session.

2.) Add in plugins that are more specific to your needs. If you are looking to get away from the current look of the pages of your site, try a drag and drop editor like BeaverBuilder. Install plugins. Uninstall plugins. Play with the functionality of two similar plugins and see which one meets your needs the best. This is a great way to get comfortable with the WordPress dashboard and get over the feeling that you aren’t going to break something.

3.) If you are ready to move your site to the web, start looking at hosting options and move a site from the local environment to production. Don’t worry about fancy tools, keep it simple for your first attempt, then try something more complex the next time.

Once your site is live with a host, keep testing and learning about the WordPress ecosystem. If everything looks good to you and your site is meeting the goals you have, that’s great! But if you want things to be a little more customized on the frontend, you can begin looking at tweaking the CSS or building custom themes. At this point, you will have a good foundation to move onto the next level.