How to Design a WordPress Website
I know what you’re thinking – is it really possible to build a WordPress website myself? A few years ago, I would have said maybe you can build it yourself. Now in 2019, I’ll say yes you can build a website yourself (and you can do it without having to write code).
Why are businesses paying thousands of dollars? There are a lot of reasons why customers buy a WordPress site. The most common answer is that they just don’t have the time or expertise to build it themselves.
Website design clients want to focus on their own business then try to spend their time building websites. Luckily you won’t need a degree to build your website. You should be able to design a WordPress website within a week or two.
As for expertise – you don’t need to be a website design expert to know how to build a simple WordPress site. If you’re planning on building a run of the mill straight forward business website, then the process is simple.
Why Choose WordPress?
I remember when I started using WordPress and I thought “Great another web design software that I’ll learn and then forget once everyone stops using it”. I was wrong, to say the least.
I found WordPress was very easy to use. Since then the WordPress open source team and contributors have made the software even more user-friendly and WordPress plugins count has skyrocketed. That’s why in 2016 we started designing almost all our websites in WordPress.
If you’re a business owner, then a WordPress website is the way to go.
Let’s Select a Website .com/.net Domain Name
Most website hosting companies now offer a free .com or .net domain with your hosting plan. You can go with other hosting providers such as Hostgator or Bluehost but I’m going to use Godaddy in this blog post.
I’ve worked with almost a dozen hosting providers over the course of my 12+ years of being in the web page design business. Over the past few years though Godaddy has really started separating itself from the pack by offering good customer service on chat and phone, user-friendly control panel, a package that includes Sitelock security with malware scan, website backup, and cloud hosting for larger websites. Some WordPress hosting companies offer one or the other but Godaddy includes these for a reasonable price.
As of November 2019, they have a basic WordPress hosting package starting at $6.99 which should be more than enough for a small business website. If you haven’t selected a hosting plan then go ahead and select this one to get started. If you have a Linux hosting plan then that will work too. Note that adding Sitelock and Website Backup is a bit extra but it’s worth the cost because it’s seamless, provides added security from malware and very useful if you don’t want to manage backups yourself.
For the .com or .net name I would recommend using your brand name but at the same time try to keep it short and easy to remember.
Let’s Install WordPress
You can see the full WordPress installation steps on this Godaddy help section but here’s a brief overview of the steps below.
Log into your Godaddy Account and then head over to “Web Hosting” then select “Manage” and under “Options & Settings” in the Popular Apps section select WordPress. Click the install button and you’ll be asked where you want to install it. Since we want our main website to be WordPress we will leave the directory field empty.
Note: You can also find a lot of WordPress tutorials for installing on Youtube.
Then enter the admin name, admin password, and email address and your blog title. If you’re not sure of the blog title then that’s fine you can change it later in the WordPress dashboard under Settings. That’s it. Once WordPress has been installed you’ll receive a confirmation email.
If you’re not using Godaddy then just ask your hosting company about a guide to installing WordPress on their platform and they should be able to provide you with one. If you’re not sure then you can also open a support ticket with the hosting company and ask them to install WordPress for you.
Installing Your First WordPress Theme
Now that you have WordPress let’s head over to your dashboard. You can visit your dashboard from the link in your email that should resemble http://www.your-website-name.com/wp-admin/. The /wp-admin/ is what you have to include at the end of your website name to navigate to your WordPress login page.
Once you see the login page then sign in using your WordPress username and password that you created earlier and log in. In the dashboard, you’ll see a lot of links. Don’t be overwhelmed, its actually very easy to use and navigate.
Finding A WordPress Theme
On the left-hand sidebar, you’ll see all of the main links starting with Dashboard. Scroll down until you see “Appearance” and click on it. On the Appearance page, you’ll see that there are several default themes showing. You can see which theme your WordPress is currently using where it shows “Active: Theme Name“. These default themes are ok but let’s see if we can find a few WordPress themes specifically for your business.
On top of the page, you’ll notice there’s a button that says “Add New” which will allow us to search for and add new themes. Click on that button. Now you’ll see the page which shows Featured, Popular, Latest, and Favorites themes. There’s also a search box on the right side that says “Search themes…” which allows you to search through all of the themes. I usually scroll through the popular themes area or type in my business category in the search area to find the theme that I’m looking for.
In the results page, you’ll see tons of great themes. There’s an option to preview a theme but I’ve found it’s not accurate. Sometimes you have to import data so that it matches the image shown. If you like a theme then go ahead and click the blue “Install” button over it. There are no limits to how many themes you can have but only one theme can be active at a time. You can also find professionally built themes for sale at ThemeForest ranging from $50 to $100 or request a custom WordPress website quote from a local web design firm that can range between $1,600 to $7,500 depending on which features you need.
Note: When searching for a theme make sure you look for keywords like responsive, mobile-friendly and fast. This will ensure that the theme designer also considered mobile users and ensuring that the website loads fast.
Customize Your Theme
Once you’ve installed your theme, then click on the “Activate” button. This will replace the old theme with the new theme. Don’t worry about your old theme — it will be automatically deactivated. if you ever need to use revert back to your original theme by activating it.
In the dashboard’s sidebar click on “Appearance” and then click on “Customize” in the sub-menu. Customizing a WordPress theme will vary vastly based on what type of theme you have. A lot of the free themes will offer the basic customization that’s supported by WordPress such as adding your logo, your navigation menu, sidebar items, font, widgets, blog settings and more. If you purchase a premium WordPress theme then they’ll go into more detail such as theme colors, different types of pages, image slideshows, contact form, different pages to name just a few.
If you’re not sure how to customize a specific part of the theme then find the tutorial that the WordPress developer has created. Most themes that are purchased have a guide on how to customize the theme to fit your business. If you’re not comfortable making those customizations then you can always find a WordPress programmer for an hourly basis.
Setting Up Your Plugins
WordPress plugins allow you to extend the functionalities of WordPress. For example, you can enhance security, setup WordPress backup, increase your website speed, allow visitors to make transactions, multiple language support, contact forms, email sign up forms, enhance SEO, set up a store with a shopping cart, members area, create image slideshow to name just a few. You can also use a plugin to tie the website into 3rd party websites such as aWeber, DHL, UPS, Stripe Payment, Authorize.net credit card processing. A majority of these plugins are free and they offer additional features if you purchase the advanced version.
To install a plugin just look for “Plugins” in the WordPress dashboard sidebar. It will show you a list of the plugins you have. You’ll see an option to activate a plugin if it’s not already active. If you don’t want a plugin then you can deactivate it or delete it completely.
Usually, the very first plugin I install is UpdraftPlus which allows me to backup the WordPress files and database. I’ll select backup for just backing up the database since the website we’re building is new and no files have been changed.
Note: Before you make changes to your WordPress web site or install a plugin make sure you backup using a plugin such as Updraft so that you can easily restore if a plugin malfunctions. It’s rare but it does happen.
Here’s a list of the plugins that I use often
- UpdraftPlus – for maintaining backups
- WPBakery Visual Composer – for editing pages and adding more functionality to them
- Yoast SEO – for measure and optimizing your web pages so that they can rank higher on Google
- WooCommerce – for setting up a shopping cart, checkout and accepting payments
- WPForms – if you need to easily create contact forms, request a quote form, donation form, billing form, newsletter sign up form
- Duplicate Page – which allows me to easily duplicate a post or page
If a plugin does malfunction which prevents you from entering the WordPress administration area then use your hosting control panel to go to “File Manager”. Find your root directory which in most cases will be “public_html” and then click on “wp-content” then “plugins” and then just delete the plugin that was the cause of your issue. This will allow you access to your WordPress dashboard again.
WordPress Pages and Blog Posts
A blog post is different in that you can assign a category to it. They’re usually posted in chronological order so the most recent posts show up first. Blog posts are the ones that you’ll be sharing via social media since they’ll have a social media sharing option.
If you’ve purchased a theme then they’ll include a lot of sample pages that are custom designed so you can use those. If you need to create a new page then click on “Pages” and then “Add New” which will allow you to create a new webpage. If you want to create a new post then click on “Posts” and then “Add New” which will allow you to create a new blog post. Before you save the blog post you can select a category from the right-hand side and also assign it a featured image to use.
The navigation bar that’s displayed at the top of your website is located in “Appearance” and then “Menus”. You can add additional pages by checking the correct box and then clicking the “Add to Menu”. Once a web page has been added to the menu, it’s displayed at the bottom. You can use your mouse to drag the location up or move it to the right or left if you want to display it in the sub-menu. Once you’ve finished then click “Save Menu” and your navigation bar is ready!
WordPress Users, Tools & Settings
The users’ panel allows you to manage users that can access the website. There’s usually only one administrator but you can give others role-based access such as author, editor and so on. They won’t have full access to the administration area, only the ability to manage areas that you’ve given them permission for.
For example, an editor will only have access to manage the website content such as posts, media, pages, and comments. They will not have access to more advanced WordPress features. An author, on the other hand, will only have access to their own posts, media, and comments. They will not have access to your web pages.
The tools section allows you to import your blog posts from other popular blogging platforms such as Blogger, Blogroll, and others. You can also export your WordPress posts, pages, products, variations, orders, and comments into an XML file to save on your computer. The site health tool will show you your website’s health stats such as critical issues and recommendations.
One of the last links on the sidebar will be the “Settings” section. The settings page will allow you to manage the website title, address, your main email address, timezone, date format, and a few other settings.
Another feature that’s commonly used are WordPress Widgets. Think of them as small blocks of code that add functionality to your website. Common examples of widgets are footer social icons, facebook like boxes, adding galleries, quotes. They can found by logging into your WordPress dashboard then clicking on Appearance –> Widgets. You’ll see lots of different widgets. Remember to backup your WordPress website since there’s no rollback or undo feature here.
The best way to use is a widget is to drag any of the widgets that you need from the left-hand side and drop it in the area on the right. You can click on the expand button on the widget to see more details and customize it as needed.
Setup Sitelock Malware Scanner
If you’ve purchased the Sitelock security subscription, which starts at $67/yearly through Godaddy, then you should see it in your Godaddy Dashboard. There’s also a step by step article on how to enable Sitelock Malware Removal for your website. The way Sitelock works is that it scans your web site for vulnerabilities, malware, and other security-related issues on a day to day basis. If it finds something then it will notify you so that you can resolve it. If you log into Sitelock dashboard then in some instances it will also show you how to resolve issues.
Website Backup is one of the newer features by Godaddy and surprisingly easy to use and cost-effective (starting at $2.99/monthly). Before Website Backup if wanted to backup a website then you’d have to download the entire website which would be time-consuming, requiring lots of bandwidth and hard drive space to save the backup. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised by their incremental backup. What this means is that it only creates a full backup the first time around. Each backup afterward only downloads new and modified files. This means there’s no need to create large website backups every time so it’s able to run more backups and retain them longer because it takes less space to store them.
If you ever need to restore a backup then you just click on the date you want to restore from and it’ll restore it easily. If you’re not sure then contact Godaddy support.
Install an SSL
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It’s a method used by web browsers to communicate securely with the website server. This is extremely important when transmitting sensitive data such as credit card information, patient records, and various other data that are private. A few years ago we would have only installed SSL on websites that required it. Now though we try to install SSL on all of the new WordPress and non-Wordpress websites because web sites with SSL build trust and credibility (not to mention Google’s search algorithm place importance on sites having SSL).
There are a lot of small things you can do to improve your WordPress website but if you follow these above steps then you’ll have enough knowledge to install and create your own WordPress website. Let me know how your experience was with this tutorial.