Creating your own website may seem daunting, especially for beginners, but software such as WordPress can help make the process easier. WordPress is straightforward to use and offers an impressive amount of customisation so you can create a website suited to your specific needs. Before you begin, you’ll want to know some of the basics, so let’s chat about how to get started with WordPress.
An Introduction to WordPress
WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that allows users to organise the process of creating, storing, and showcasing web content in an optimal way. It’s a simple and popular tool for website building, powering over 43.3% of all websites on the internet according to W3Techs.
What kind of websites can WordPress make?
Founded back in 2003, WordPress used to be a platform for creating blogs. Since then, it’s come a long way and allows you to create any kind of website including:
- Business websites
- eCommerce stores
- Social networks
- Membership sites
The short answer is that WordPress can make almost any kind of website you can think of! Once you’ve settled on the type of website you want to create, it’s time for the fun part – setting up the site itself.
How to set up a WordPress site
Set up your domain name and hosting provider
Your domain name is like your home address and will be how visitors locate your website on the internet. It will look similar to this: www.example.com. Meanwhile, your hosting provider is like your house and is where your website files are stored.
WordPress.org requires you to create your own domain and find a third-party hosting provider for your site while WordPress.com handles the hosting for you and lets you choose whether or not you want a custom domain depending on the plan you choose.
Choose your theme
Once you’ve installed WordPress, it’s time to choose your theme. WordPress offers a wide variety of themes and templates, each with many options for layout, formatting styles, colours and fonts. Although WordPress offers a default theme, it won’t be as engaging or appealing as a custom theme.
There are hundreds of themes and templates to choose from which are suitable for all types of businesses.
Add posts and pages to your website
The next step to setting up a WordPress site is adding posts and pages to your website. Posts are usually used for blogs and portfolios as they place your newest content at the top of your featured content. The pages are static and the content stays in the same place. Adding a new post is simple, just go to the admin dashboard, click ‘Posts’ and then ‘Add New’.
You can add a title, place photos, change the format, and insert page elements via blocks and shortcodes. Don’t forget to click ‘Save Draft’ to save your changes or ‘Publish’ if you’re ready for your post to go live.
There are plenty of plugins that make setting up pages and posts much easier than the default, which we’ll discuss further on!
Optimise your website
Increasing your website’s loading speed is a key part of optimising your website as visitors are likely to become frustrated and switch to other websites if yours is too slow. One way to improve your website’s performance is to enable browser caching which will temporarily store your website’s data on visitors’ browsers.
This eliminates the need for your content to be sent from the webserver to appear in the browser, increasing the website speed. To enable caching, all you have to do is install and activate a caching plugin.
There are a multitude of reasons why your site may be slow to load, including image size and page content. If you’re having trouble with your site speed, it might be a good idea to get in touch with an expert who can optimise your site on your behalf.
Customising WordPress with plugins
WordPress plugins are packages of code that extend the functionality of your site. They are designed for a wide variety of purposes and created by different developers around the world. With over 50,000 free plugins and many premium options, there’s plenty to choose from. However, while plugins are helpful, it’s important to avoid overloading your site with too many plugins, especially ones that can accomplish the same thing. Using too many plugins is one of the most common reasons your site may be slow to load.
What to consider when choosing WordPress plugins
With so many plugins available on WordPress, you’ll want to choose one that’s right for the job and doesn’t cause issues for your site. Consider the following questions when you’re making your decision:
Are they secure?
Security is one of the most important considerations when choosing a WordPress plugin. Make sure that the plugin is well-tested and secure to reduce the risk of it harming your site.
What support do they offer?
You’ll want to know what kind of support a plugin offers in case you run into a problem. Check whether the plugin has an active support forum and pay particular attention to responses from the plugin’s creator. This will give you a good idea of whether the developer still supports the plugin.
Do they have a positive reputation?
If a plugin has plenty of positive reviews, that’s a good sign that it’s good quality. However, that doesn’t mean that a plugin is bad if it has a few one-star reviews – paying attention to what the majority of people are saying about a plugin will give you a better idea of its quality.
Should I use plugins on my site?
Despite the fact that it might seem daunting to choose the right plugins, you can reduce risks to your site by choosing a plugin that is reputable and testing it on a staging site. Utilising a staging site will allow you to check if the plugin works as you expected and check if there are any compatibility issues with your existing plugins.
Best practices for WordPress web development
Once you’re familiar with the basics of WordPress, you can learn how to make your site user-friendly and what you can do to help it stand out from the crowd. Although every website is unique, here are some helpful tips that apply to all types of sites.
Opt to make site updates in a test environment if possible
Making changes directly to your site live can be risky, especially if your site is heavy with traffic or the changes you’re making affect site-wide elements. It’s critical to avoid downtime, especially if your website is connected to your business as this may cause you to lose sales. Using a test environment such as a staging site will eliminate this risk. While this isn’t entirely necessary, it’s definitely encouraged for larger sites.
Make sure your themes and plugins are up-to-date
Going through your themes and plugins and making sure they’re all up to date is important to ensure your site is secure and running up to speed. Outdated versions may have vulnerabilities that can put your site at risk.
Make sure your sites are mobile-friendly
While you’re checking your themes and plugins, double-check that your site is mobile-friendly. If you’re using up-to-date themes and plugins, your site should perform well on smaller screens. However, if you’re using a custom web design, you may need to check more carefully whether your site is mobile-friendly.
Ensure your site is easily accessible
The more accessible your site is, the longer users are likely to stay. Make sure your site has a clear layout, high-quality content, and search options. Everything should be labelled clearly and your site should be easy to navigate.
Utilise WordPress’ online support
If you’re having issues with creating your website, chances are that someone else has had the same issue. Check out WordPress forums or get in contact with the WordPress team for help.