Getting Started With A WordPress Website
Today, WordPress is one of the most commonly used CMS platforms to date taking over 58% of all websites whose CMS platform is known, according to W3Techs. It is not only easily accessible and free to use as a software, but it has a lot of enhancements that come with it such as quick installations of various plugins and thousands of templates to choose from that make it easy for the user to edit right through the admin panel. WordPress has a strong community and is open source, making it also great for tech savvy users.
From my perspective, there are a few steps to creating a successful website with WordPress in which I would like to share with you.
Choose a Domain Name
The first step after choosing WordPress as your CMS platform is to choose the right domain. This will identify your website to your users. Your domain should be very brandable to your business. Keeping your domain name to your brand will make it easy for your targeted audience to search for you or go directly to your url, and can improve your search presence.
Choose a Hosting Package
Second, you will need to choose a hosting package. There are a few things to look at when choosing the right hosting package. Does the hosting package support WordPress? Can you host multiple domains? Are upgrades available? How much storage are you given? All of these questions are very important when choosing because a hosting package should never bring you too many limitations. When using WordPress, I highly recommend researching a WordPress specific provider. The three WP hosting providers I recommend looking into would be:
WP Engine – WP Engine is the leader in the WordPress hosting market, serving millions of users all over the world.
Pantheon – Pantheon has an outstanding cloud WordPress hosting platform that helps developers work extremely fast on websites.
Liquid Web – Liquid Web has an unmatched service and can handle large complex sites at a fair price.
Third, you will need to install WordPress. You can either use WordPress.org or WordPress.com.
WordPress.org is where you can install your own copy of WordPress for free.If you download this version you will have to find your own hosting package and own domain name (steps above). By installing this version you will have full control over your WordPress site.
WordPress.com is free for all users. However, they do have two other options, Premium for $99 a year and Business for $299 a year. The Free option is more common for beginners but you will need to use a WordPress subdomain (yourwebsite.wordpress.com). For Premium, you get to use your own domain, have a wider variety of customization options, and a good amount of space for audio and video. With the Business plan, you get everything that comes with the Premium plan as well as live chat support and unlimited access to all themes. If you decided to choose this option you do not need to apply the first steps.
Choose a Theme
Once you have installed and configured your WordPress site it is time to pick out a theme. This is one of the most crucial parts of having a successful website. Finding the perfect theme for your website needs has a few requirements. Make sure the design is tailored to your business. This should focus more on what your target audience will be like and respond to more than what you personally like.
Recommended WP Theme Websites:
For more information on whether you should go with a prebuilt theme versus a custom theme, you can read our article here:
After installing your theme, you should go through and add any useful plugins. A few of my favorite plugins that most users should install are Yoast SEO, Wordfence Security, and Akismet. The Yoast SEO plugin includes XML sitemap support, Google accelerated mobile pages support, Google Analytics support, support for SEO on custom post types, and many more features. Wordfence security helps protect your site from hackers and brute force attacks. As for Askimet, some of the top features include checking for all comments and filtering out the ones that look like spam, URLs are shown in the comment body to reveal hidden or misleading links, and a discard feature that completely blocks out the worst spam, saving you disk space and will speed up your site.
Be careful with the plugins you choose, the more plugins you have the riskier your site becomes because they all need to be updated to stay secure! They can also cause conflicts and bugs with your website.
Configure Your WordPress Site
After everything is secure, it is time to start creating the appearance of your website.
First, you want to add menu items to your site. This is a very important step because your menu is how you navigate around your site. Your menu can be found in the Appearance => Menu section of WordPress. One of the cool things about WordPress is that you can easily create multiple menus.
You want to keep this as simple as possible so it is easy for your user to find your most important content.
After creating your menu, you want to now create the pages for these menu items. You can create templates for specific pages that are similar to each other or create pages that tailor to specific requirements. WordPress is one of the best software for managing pages, and its easy to create drafts, publish pages, edit pages, and manipulate pages without being a developer.
Widgets are bits of code that are already created for you and can add functionality to your site without actually having to code that functionality. Widgets can be included in your header, footer, blog, sidebars etc.
You don’t have to use widgets but they can make it easier to add special content and update content on certain pages and parts of your website.
Blog & Posts
You can setup your blog by going to the Settings => Reading Page and making the posts page either a blog page or even the homepage if your entire site is a blog.
You can add and manage posts in the posts section of WordPress at the top left right below the Dashboard. Posts operate just like pages but the difference is that you are only using one post template, whereas pages you can choose from different templates and create multiple templates.
If you want different post types you have to create custom post types, which some may come with your prebuilt theme, or you can custom build them.
Forms & Contact Submissions
You will want to use forms for contact submissions in most cases. You can easily leverage a plugin like Contact Form 7 or Gravity Forms to create easy to use forms you can embed in pages or other parts of your website.
Once you have created the appearance for your site and added content to all of your pages, you now want to optimize for search engines. SEO is very important to your site because this is what will drive a targeted audience to your site. There are many plugins you can use to help you with your website’s SEO.
Plugins like Yoast SEO can help you optimize Page Titles, Meta Descriptions, submit the proper sitemap to Google Web Masters and much more. You can also easily tag your images in WordPress and do many SEO friendly things in the admin panel. For more information on On Page SEO, please read our blog here.
Prepare for Launch!
Back Up Your Site
Finally, after your website is looking fresh and ready to go, you want to make sure that you back it up before launching in case anything goes wrong. Many things can go wrong while building a website. If you have not set up a backup system and something does go wrong you could lose everything. To make sure you are safe from this you want to both backup your database and your files.
Update Your Settings
Update your WordPress settings URL to the live address in the Settings => General section of the WordPress admin panel.
Don’t forget to QA your website on all major browsers. We also created a WordPress launch checklist to help you think through everything you need to do before launch.
You want to make sure you 301 redirect all old URLs to the new page URLs if you have an existing website and the new page URLs will be different from the old ones. There are Plugins that can help you do this, or you can do this in the htaccess file. 301 redirects are incredibly important for preserving SEO value of your old website.
Point Your DNS
Once your site is ready to go, point your domain via DNS services to the new WordPress server. Once you point your domain to the new host, it will take several hours if not more for it to propagate and your new website will be live!
Development Operations & Enhancements
Once your site is up and running you will want a process for improving your website. The first thing you need to do is setup a development site. Often times you will use a subdomain to host your development site and test changes.
You may also want to use a version control software like Github or Bitbucket to manage new code versions and updates to your WordPress software. You will then have to manage pushing those code updates to the staging site and then the live site once the changes are deemed functional.
Having a good development operations and site enhancements process is critical to improving and managing your WordPress website.
With WordPress being the most popular platform on the Internet, it also means that it is one of the most popular targets for hackers. No matter what type of traffic your website brings in, low or high, hackers want in. Most hackers are not there for your data or files but are there to use your server to send out their spam emails. To keep your website safe, you want to keep your WordPress up to date.
Most WordPress updates come with security fixes so not keeping it up to date will leave your site vulnerable to old abuses. Another best practice to keep your website safe is to have strong login information. Having weak login information gives easy access to hackers by simply using a brute force automated script. Therefore, you should change your password frequently to something that would be extremely difficult for a hacker to guess.
For more security tips read our blog on WordPress security here.