Are you DIYing your WordPress Website?

Beginners Guide To Designing A WordPress Website

Better Website

Sometimes the budget doesn't permit you to hire a designer to create your WordPress website or maybe you want to know what's involved before getting started. Armed with the right information you can have the know-how to be an asset to your designer or get you on your merry way to having your first business website or blog.

While WordPress itself is free (as in open-source), having a website for your business will have you spending some cash and incurring costs that may be annual fees or one-time purchases.

Keep in mind, you're running a business and with that comes fees because if you're not going to invest in your business why should I or anyone else.

But enough with the business 101 bits of advice, we're here to gain you an online presence that is crucial to getting the word out on the problems you are about to solve.

Here's a shortlist of what you will need (should you choose not to read the whole article):

  1. Find and register a domain name.
  2. Choose a quality web host.
  3. Install WordPress on the said host.
  4. Create a structure for your website pages and posts.
  5. Install a template for your site's design.
  6. Customize WordPress with plugins and add-ons.
  7. Create pages that will make up your website.
  8. Learn WordPress and how to maintain your site.
  9. Market and grow your website.

While this article is not a complete how-to, it's written to give the knowledge to make decisions for each step along the way.

Find and Register a Domain Name

Without a domain name, no one will be able to find your site. A domain name is your website's address that people type in to find you on the internet. You want to keep it simple and easy to type. A little while back you wanted to find a .com extension (or .org for larger companies, .edu for schools and so on) but that has changed with the introduction of new (and way cooler) extensions.

Depending on the basis of your website content, you can find a more appropriate extension than .com. For example, if you're running a video-based learning site you can try .tv or .training or even .school. Small business can try .com, .co or .biz. Or take it one step further and go with industry-specific like .consulting, .health or .tours.

With the multitude of extensions you can get rather creative in choosing a domain name but always remember the bottom line, keep it short simple and to the point.

You'll need to register your domain and the cost varies by a registrar (if they are running a promotion), extension and if you're choosing add-ons like domain privacy. We love Namecheap as our registrar of choice because they are affordable, user-friendly and have excellent customer support.

Some hosts offer free domain registration, but we think it's smart business practice to keep your domain and hosting account separate because you never know when you might need to jump ship with a host or have a problem with a server.

Choose a Quality Web Host

Your host is the place you will keep your website files and since we are using WordPress.org (self-hosted WordPress), you'll have your core files too. There are several types of hosting accounts including:

  • Shared is the most popular hosting choice for beginner and smaller based businesses. The advantage is the lower costs but a trade-off is your on a server with many other parties.
  • Reseller hosting is hosting where the account owner has the ability to use allotted hard drive space and bandwidth to host websites on behalf of their clients. Many designers and developers who offer hosting, do so through reseller programs.
  • Cloud-Based is a whole network of computers in which the computers work together to run the applications. Cloud-based servers are scalable, and you only pay for what you need.
  • Managed WordPress is like a concierge service where the hosting company takes care of all the technical pieces of the server and WordPress like security, speed, updates, and backups. It's more costly than shared but if you aren't tech-savvy at all this may be the best option for you.
  • Virtual Private Server also is known as VPS is still a type of shared hosting, but there are separate virtual machines, so it's one step down from dedicated. While it's nice to have the power and flexibility, it comes with a bigger price tag and more configuration responsibility.
  • Dedicate Web Server is for the big league websites because you have a server all to yourself. For most reading this article, you won't need this type of hosting yet.

There are a few great hosting companies that we recommend but none as much as Siteground. We use Siteground as our preferred option because the have tiered options that are economical to even starter businesses and freelancers.

Regardless of who you choose to host your website, be sure they have a good reputation and even better customer support. And keep in mind that if your designer or developer is using a reseller account, you need to know the hosting company they choose.

Install WordPress on Said Host

This step has become easier through the years since most hosting companies have one-click installation or for Managed WordPress they do the work for you.

Depending on your host of choice the process may be slightly different than another host but essentially the process to create a WordPress site is as follows:

  • Select the directory where you want installation
  • Add site name and description
  • Create ADMIN user credentials
  • Select WordPress starter options
  • Select install and wait for the site to be created

It used to be more beneficial to install WordPress manually, but one-click installs have gotten better over the years and incorporate some of the changes a manual install would allow like changing the prefix on the database tables and selecting a unique database name. As a professional designer/developer I make this part of my routine with each new site I create, but you no longer need to be extra tech-savvy to do this.

Create Structure for Your Website

Now that WordPress is installed many people think it's time to add the theme. But not so fast! How can you pick a theme if you don't have your content and assets assembled? The reality for a site to be user-friendly is to create the content, funnels, pathways or whatever you want to call it and then choose a theme that reflects the flow of the information.

Ideally, you would:

  1. Define your message and brand
  2. Define your ideal client and their problems
  3. Figure out at what stage they will come to you
  4. Design products and services to address those needs
  5. Create content (words, sales pages, opt-in offers, calls to action) based on the journey of the visitor
  6. Outline your sitemap and hierarchy (navigation)
  7. Choose a theme that supports the above

Many of my clients come to me thinking the HOME page is the starting point but it's really the end piece since it is the part that pulls everything together.

Install a Template For Your Site's Design

Armed with the information above and the chosen theme it's time to get designing or developing your site. It's at this stage that you'll add your visual brand: logo, favicon (don't forget this piece), colors, fonts, and other elements.

But before you start making changes you'll want to create a child theme, which most premium themes supply this for you now.

The child theme will protect all your changes. The way it works is your child theme is a sub-theme that inherits features and functionality from the parent. Child themes are a safe way to modify your theme without making any actual changes to the parent.

We use the Astra theme along with the Astra Pro plugin and BeaverBuilder for our site design and development. We've found that this combination of tools gives us the most flexibility, integrates easily with other functionality (like WooCommerce) and the developers are always making improvements and updates.

Customize WordPress With Plugins and Add-ons

A simple site may be able to skip this step, but there is always something to add like social sharing plugin, SEO plugins, and security add-ons. Some sites will have as few as five plugins, while others will have 20 plus.

A good rule of thumb is that if it doesn't enhance the user experience, you may want to forgo adding it in. Each plugin has the potential to slow the site down or conflict with another so be sure to use quality plugins that are maintained and updated.

Some themes come with plugins that are built into the theme and required to give you all the bells and whistles the theme provides. It's a good idea to install them if they are requested or required. This way you . will know that things are running as they are designed. The only problem with all-in-one themes is that they may include pieces that you don't need like portfolios or teams.

Create the Pages That Will Make Up Your Website

You're in the home stretch now as you create a user-friendly, functioning website. It's time to add in the content on the pages or posts. There are different types of pages and layouts, but this should have happened before you picked your theme.

With that said, a good theme or builder plugin will allow you to add different layouts or custom page layouts. Some of the more popular page layouts are Contact, About, sales, opt-in with a thank-you, blog, and more. Your pages will be based on your content, and user journey and some can get away with a few pages and others will need hundreds.

Only you know what you need to convey how much information your user will need to digest to decide to work with you so base your site on that, not on your competition or “guru” of your industry. Your site will grow with you, which is why you need a content and marketing plan.

Learn WordPress and How To Maintain Your Site

There are tons of resources on the interwebs to learn to use WordPress and your website. Search YouTube, and you can find answers to just about anything WordPress or check out free tutorials like WP101 and WPBeginner. You can also find tons of learning on paid sites like Udemy and Lynda.com (fun fact, if you have a library card you may be able to access for free).

Once you learn the basics be sure to check out WordPress TV where there are sessions for Wordcamps across the world and more.

You'll also want to research maintaining your WordPress site including updating, backup, and monitoring (link post). Or you can have help doing these tasks for you. While we offer maintenance for our design clients there are other options like ManageWP (for the DIY route) and WPBuffs (for the done for you people).

Market and Grow Your Website

Your website doesn't stop with design and launch. You need to keep marketing and growing your presence. WordPress makes it easy because it's SEO friendly, and the easiest way to help gain traction is by continuing to create amazing content. Fresh content is step one to SEO optimization because without something to keep your readers and visitors coming back you'll lose any traction you have gained.

Social sharing is another way to help new people find your stuff. Adding in a social sharing plugin is one way you can help others share your content. And a good SEO plugin can help with that too by allowing you to be sure tailor status updates to the media.

Recap

Wow, that's a lot of information for a beginner or someone who wants to improve the site they have. So let's recap the main points.

  • Invest in a quality web hosting company
  • Know your customer journey and your primary call to action
  • Think content before design
  • Add functionality only if it benefits the user and experience
  • Continue to learn WordPress, design, and marketing
  • Get help and consulting when you get stuck

Are you ready to tackle your WordPress website design?

PS: This post contains affiliate links for the services we use and recommend. You aren't obligated to purchase through the link but we'd be tickled if you did.

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