These simple step-by-step instructions will guide you through the process of setting up a free personal website on WordPress.com.

Getting Started with WordPress.com

  1. Go to WordPress.com.
  2. If you already have an account, login. If you don't have an account, sign up.
  3. Navigate to the site-creation form. (If using the site you created when you signed up for your account, skip ahead to "Setting Up Your Site" below; you may want to go to Settings > Reading first and set your site to private while it's under construction.) Finding this form can be a little tricky. Currently this form may be accessed by clicking "My Sites" in the upper left corner. You may need to choose "Switch Site" if you have multiple sites established. Eventually you should see something that says "Add New WordPress." Follow that link. You might be able to access the form directly at signup.wordpress.com/signup/
  4. Fill out the form. You'll notice it refers to blogs a lot. That's because WordPress began as a blogging tool. It has evolved to become very flexible. You can use WordPress for a website with or without a blog attached. For your site address (blog address), you may wish to use the yourname.wordpress.com. For your site title (blog name) you may wish to simply use your name. For privacy, choose private. This will allow you to get everything ready before you go public.
  5. When you've got the form filled out, click the "Create Blog" button under WordPress.com Beginner to create a free site. You are welcome to choose one of the pay options if you like.

Setting Up Your Site

  1. Navigate to the dashboard for your site. Since you can have multiple sites on WordPress.com, take care that you are actually looking at the dashboard for the site you created above. From the global WordPress.com interface, your site dashboard may be labelled as "WP Admin." It should be at yoursite.wordpress.com/wp-admin/ but you'll have to replace yoursite with the actual address for your site. You have to be on the dashboard for your site for the next steps to work.
  2. Navigate to Settings > General. Here you can specify a tagline for your site. This is like a subtitle, so you could put your personal motto or something else that describes you or even just "My Personal Website." This may not even be visible with some themes (see below) so don't sweat it. You'll also want to specify your timezone. Hint: New Orleans is in the same zone as Chicago. Make sure to "Save Changes" using the button at the very bottom. (Optional: You can also upload a "blavatar," an image to represent your site. For a personal site, a headshot might be a good choice.)
  3. Navigate to Settings > Reading. A big concept to understand with WordPress is the distinction between posts and pages. While posts are situated in the chronological flow of a blog, pages are more static in nature. For the purposes of this tutorial we will focus on static pages. Under "Front page displays" set your front page to display a static page. This will enable two more options. For front page, choose "About." If you don't want to blog, there is no need to set a posts page; you can leave this blank. Make sure to "Save Changes" using the button at the very bottom.
  4. Navigate to Settings > Discussion. Here you can disable comments, unless you don't want to. Under "Default article settings" uncheck the box that says "Allow people to post comments on new articles." Make sure to "Save Changes" using the button at the very bottom.

Your Front Page

  1. Navigate to Pages > All Pages. You should see the default "About" page, which we specified as your static front page above. By default, this page has comments enabled. Turn this off by doing a "Quick Edit" (this option appears when mousing over the page title. Uncheck "Allow Comments" and then hit the "Update" button. Important: Don't change this page's "slug" as you could run afoul of a bug which will drive you crazy.
  2. Now let's do a serious edit of this page. Use the "Edit" link which appears when mousing over the page title. This brings up the editing interface. Use this to write whatever you want to appear on your site's front page. While you're at it, change the page title from "About" to your name. It's a good idea to upload a headshot here: use the "Add Media" button to upload files and insert into page. When you're done, hit the "Update" button.
  3. Check your work with the "Preview Changes" button. You can also navigate to My Sites > View Site.

More Pages

  1. Add pages to your site in accordance with the key areas of your life and work that you want visitors to know about. Navigate to Pages > Add New. Write and add appropriate images. When done, click the "Publish" button.
  2. Repeat as needed. You can come back to this, but it's helpful to have at least one additional page, besides your front page, before proceeding to the next steps.

Themes, Navigation & Customization

Themes govern the appearance of your site. At the time of this writing, the default theme for WordPress is called Twenty Fifteen, and the instructions below apply to this theme specifically.
  1. The most important customization for your theme is navigation. Without it, visitors will not be able to get from one page to another. The Twenty Fifteen theme supports two menu locations: a "Primary Menu" and a "Social Links Menu." In your site dashboard, navigate to Appearance > Menus. Since this is your first time here, you should be prompted to create a new menu; if not, you may need to choose to "create a new menu." Give it a name and click the "Create Menu" button. Note that the menu name is for your eyes only.
  2. Now you need to add items to your menu. You'll need to select your pages from the column on the left and click the "Add to Menu" button. It's also a good idea to "auto add pages" by checking the box marked "Automatically add new top-level pages to this menu." This means any future pages you create will be added to your site's menu automatically. Alternatively, you can add pages manually, but this will require you to revisit the menu any time you add a new page. Whatever you choose, make sure to also check the box under "Theme locations" marked "Primary Menu," then click the "Save Menu" button.
  3. For more fun, navigate to Appearance > Customize. You'll get a new interface that allows you to change colors, select fonts, set a header image, and make other choices governing the appearance of your site. Some key options aren't available on the free plan.
There are a host of other themes available (free or fee) which you may use to give your site a different appearance; see Appearance > Themes. However, be aware that the instructions above may or may not apply.

Going Public

  1. Got everything just the way you want it? Great. When you're ready to go public, navigate back to Settings > Reading.
  2. Under "Site Visibility," check the box marked "Allow search engines to index this site."
  3. Make sure to "Save Changes" using the button at the very bottom.

That's it. You're done. Congratulations. You now have a personal website.

Oh, there is one last thing. Don't forget to share the address of your new website anywhere and everywhere. You may especially want to make sure it is linked from your departmental web page. Incoming links help people (and search engines) find your site.