WordPress is a very powerful tool, but claims of ‘one-click’ installation should be taken with a pinch of salt. From choosing the right template to picking the right plugins, there are many decisions which need to be made. I launched my business website on WordPress three months ago, and came across some interesting twists and turns along the way. For anyone looking to use WordPress to launch a website (rather than a blog), here are my tips on how to launch your WordPress site without it turning into one big headache.
Content comes first
The first place everyone wants to start with a website is design and it is very easy to get sidetracked by this. My advice is to start by listing all of the content you want to include on the site and then to look for a design which supports your requirement. If you start with the design first, you will find yourself trying to fill gaps and plug holes, which can be hard to do. It is true that if you are going to purchase an off-the-shelf WordPress theme, then you are at the mercy of what’s available, but most templates are customisable so you should be able find a pretty close fit.
Choosing a WordPress theme
The hardest part of launch a website using WordPress is choosing a theme, also known as a template. Typing WordPress themes into Google delivers 128,000 results. The sites I found the most consistent in terms of quality and price were Theme Forest, StudioPress and Viva Themes. My recommendation is to try not to be dazzled by the designs and focus on designs that fit your needs. Also, a WordPress theme site will should provide you with a detailed run down of everything that is included with the theme. Be sure to check:
- Browser compatibility, has it been tested again all major browsers
- Which files are included e.g. Images, CSS style sheets etc.
- If it is widget-ready and can be customised using WordPress widgets
- Whether technical support is provided
- Comments and rating left by users.
Test before you buy
One of the biggest stumbling blocks I faced when launching my business site was how well the themes I installed performed in different browsers – even when it stated the templates has been tested in all major browsers. The issue I found was a slight ‘stall’ that would occur when the sites loaded up. This was only half a second, but long enough to annoy a visitor to the site. Most sites will provide a ‘live preview’ version of the template. My advice is open the preview in all of the major browsers to make sure you are happy with how quickly the site loads.
Plug in SEO
I am convinced that SEO involves some kind of black magic at times, but there are plenty of plugins out there to get you started. After trialing a few, I chose SEO1. It’s nice and simple to configure and works well. Once your site has been up and running for few weeks I’d advise downloading a trial of SEO MOZ, which will run through your site and point out where you can improve on your on-page optimisation and give you a clear idea of how your site is ranking and performing compared to your competitors.
A good resource: 8 Excellent WordPress SEO Plugins
Utilise one-click hosting
If you are at ease with configuring servers and have your own FTP software, then you probably don’t need help setting up hosting for your website. If you’re new to WordPress and want an easy way to get your site live, then there are web hosting companies offering ‘one-click’ WordPress installation and hosting packages. I chose Oz Hosting, and for $10 a month, it does what it says on the tin. The only disadvantage is that you might not have access to the server itself and will need to rely on WordPress to configure your site.
Integrate social media
If you want to integrate social media into your website, and allow people to share, tweet and like pages and posts, there are dozens of plugins to choose from. However, if you don’t want ‘share’ and ‘like’ buttons to appear on every page, and just your posts, make sure this option is available. I have installed the ‘Really simple Facebook and Twitter share buttons’ and this works well.
Use the WordPress community
The WordPress community is huge, so make sure you tap into user forums for advice and tips if you experience any issues along the way. The official WordPress site has excellent user and technical support forums and should be any WordPress users first port of call.