The reality is that for the most part, websites are similar to each other and the hard work is adding the custom parts around the edges.
Who’s This For?
It’s for someone who’s installed WordPress, played around, started making some pages, and then gotten stuck in one way or another. It’s for someone who wants to make their own website, but doesn’t see themselves making more than another 1 – 10 in their lifetime. If you make websites for a living, this isn’t for you. It’s for someone who’s not really interested in learning about how to code. If you want to make websites efficiently and you want to make lots of them, this isn’t for you either.
What will you learn here?
You’ll learn an efficient process to follow when creating a website. You’ll also learn about some tools that will be very helpful along the way. These two things are important when making a WordPress website by yourself because it can take a long time to sift through the bad plugins and bad techniques before you realise that there could have been a better way.
Things you won’t learn here, but should learn
I’m not going into detail for a lot of the points here because I feel that there are lots of resources online about specific tasks but not as many that will guide you away from the big mistakes that cost the most time to fix. For example, if I say “Install EWWW Image Optimiser”, you can easily search google for how to do the installation, but it’s not as easy to know that it should be installed in the first place.
There are some technical tasks that you simply MUST learn in order to make a functional and nice looking website. If you don’t learn them, then you can’t get a top notch website without some help or you’ll need to compromise on quality in some areas.
- CSS – No matter how good a theme is at style customisation, there will always be small things that you want to change, but can’t be done in the theme. So a good understanding of CSS is essential.
- Good Website Page Structure – It’s important to get the page structure correct from the beginning because restructuring a website is a nightmare!
- Hosting Setup – You need to be able to set up a web hosting account and domain name and you should be comfortable installing WordPress.
- WordPress – You should know your way around WordPress. There are millions of introduction to WordPress tutorials that are pretty simple, just take your pick on Youtube.
- DNS and Mail Delivery – This is probably the most neglected, the hardest to learn conceptually, and the easiest to get wrong, but its really as simple as a few single line instructions and doesn’t take too much time. Get your web host to help with this. You don’t want to have a website live for 6 months and then find out that your inquiry form only works 50% of the time!
- HTML – Well…. it always helps, but if you don’t want to learn it and won’t be making websites often, just become good at finding plugins that do the job you need.
Okay… Lets get started
1 – Hosting Setup Recommendations
- Get a web hosting account that uses Cpanel (Documentation and popularity is important for trouble shooting and Cpanel is damn popular)
- Use Installatron to install wordpress (it’s quicker than making the database and doing the setup yourself)
- Be sure that you’ve got the domain name set up from the start (you should be able to go to the live website by typing the domain name into the browser address bar) and don’t move the website from one host to another. (it will be more complex than it seems and it’s easily avoided)
- Don’t use the cheapest web host in the world! You may get a billion GB of space on their server, but you often get the processing power of a 1995 pocket calculator.
2 – Configuring Wordpress
- Change permalinks to “Post Name” in the wordpress settings (this is better for SEO)
- In “Media” in the WP settings, untick “Organize my uploads into month- and year-based folders”. (this makes it easier to find images and links since all media will now be in one directory)
- Change Thumbnail Size (Optional) – I find the default option of 150px by 150px to be too small to be practical since most websites have 3 or 4 images across their width. So 250px to 350px is more useful for me.
3 – Choosing a Theme
Themes are very different from each other and they don’t follow the same structure. So when you install a theme, you’ll be sticking with it for the whole website. It’s easy to choose a bad theme too, and you’ll only realise at the end of the process. I’d use themes from themeforest.net.
- Don’t use a free one! There’s a high chance that it will have problems, and usually the problems are hidden away fairly well.
- Be sure to check the theme thoroughly before making the purchase because lots of the paid themes will have stroke inducing problems too!
- Only buy a theme with lots of downloads and a very good rating
- Check the support forum to see whether there are any show stopping problems
- Take your time with this step! It’s easy to get wrong
- The 7 – You don’t need any coding knowledge to customise the theme. It comes with Visual Composer, (which I highly recommend) and it’s fairly intuitive.
4 – Configuring Theme Settings
Like I said, there’s not much consistency between themes, some themes have almost no configurable options (at least through the wordpress dashboard), and others go way over the top and allow you to configure everything, but some good things to set up at this point are:
- Change the wordpress home page to a static page
- Add your logo
- Change the font and font sizes
Some plugins make the design or development process much easier and faster. It can take a long time to find those plugins though.
- Use the wordpress plugin page in your website.
- Some plugins slow your website right down. So before and after installing and activating, do two quick checks on Google Page Speed to find out if there’s a difference.
- Always deactivate the plugins you aren’t using to improve website loading time.
- Duplicate Post (by Enrico Battocchi) – It’s much easier to make a page (like “about us”) and then clone it, than it is to make a new page and check to be sure each setting is the same)
- Yoast SEO (by Team Yoast) – If you are going to get to the top of the search engines, this is a good starting point.
- Disable Comments (by Samir Shah) – WordPress puts comments everywhere by default and you don’t normally need them for your business website)
- EWWW Image Optimizer (by Shane Bishop) – It decreases the size of the images without decreasing the quality which improves page load time.
- Easing Slider (by Matthew Ruddy) – If you choose the wrong slider, it will make your website as slow as continental shift! Easing slider is set up from the start, it’s light weight and works well.
- Ninja forms (by The WP Ninjas) – I choose this over Gravity forms or Contact form 7 because it’s more completely set up from the start which means you don’t need to spend as much time fiddling with settings that are the same for most websites anyway.
Set up the home page and one secondary page
Now that we’ve got essential plugins installed and a good theme, we need to create a page. Maybe “About Us”. We also need to make a home page since it probably looks a little different to the other pages on the website.
- Be sure to click “Backend Editor” if you have Visual Composer installed. If you don’t have it installed… INSTALL IT!
- Fill out all the information on the About Us page and all the settings so that the position of each element on the page is finalised.
- Don’t worry about the style at all right now. So don’t try to change text colours, backgrounds etc.
- Use Widgets to add sections to the footer and sidebar (maybe a contact form or testimonials)
Time to check a few things!
Just go through this list one by one and if anything needs fixing, be sure to fix it because these are important!
- Go to Google PageSpeed and then tools.pingdom.com to check how fast your website loads. If it’s slow, turn off all plugins. If it’s still slow, use a different hosting provider.
- Check that the alt tag is shown in website images. Lots of plugins forget all about that for some reason!
Fill out the rest of the website
So now that we’ve checked for problems and we have an informative but ugly page. We need to make the rest of the pages as required.
Create the pages
Static pages such as the Home page, About Us, Contact Us etc. should be pages, but Blog articles such as Recent News or Testimonials should be posts.
Create the post categories
Go to posts -> categories from WordPress to create some categories as required. This would be things like “Recent News” or “Testimonials”. The individual posts are then assigned to the category so that they can be listed.