It’s completely acceptable to see a beautiful, fully optimized WordPress website and drool a little. It takes more than just making the decision to build on WordPress and flipping the switch. Great WordPress website take a few good decisions and time to optimize.
The greatest feature of WordPress is how flexible it is. Our agency builds our client’s sites on WordPress for that reason. The same platform is applicable for any business, the customization is what makes it the right fit for each of our clients.
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Here is it… The formula required to build an effective WordPress website.
Due to the flexibility of WordPress, this formula is designed to be a general rule of thumb. For more specific examples, check out the WordPress archive of tools and tips.
Domain + hosting + theme + plugins + content
Pick a Name: Your Domain
Choose a name that relates to you and what your website will be about.
With so many websites out there, it’s harder to find yourcompany.com and easier to add a qualifier. Yourcompanyservices.com is much preferred over yourcompanyltd.com or yourcompanyinc.com. If people know you’re a company, help them understand what you do.
Stick with traditional extensions like .com or .ca or .net where possible. Although there could be something very specific like .realtor or .marketing, people are more likely to click on traditional extensions and the word entry won’t autocorrect .com or .ca – some haven’t caught up to the new extensions. Make it easy for people to connect.
Picking Hosting for Your Website
The necessary place for your website to live has to suit your needs. Hosting packages differ in two main ways:
Choose a Hosting Package Based on Your Level of Expertise
Like many products and services, by comparison, the more you do yourself, the better deal it usually is. Hosting is no different, you’re paying for the service of expertise. Even with the expertise, many pros are opting to have someone else handle it.
The best place I’d recommend for anyone to get started would be BlueHost. They have a very simple turnkey approach to getting your WordPress website up and running.
Choose a Hosting Package That Matches the Volume of Traffic on Your Website
Every website on the internet is hosted somewhere physically, typically in a data center. These data centers do have finite amounts of storage, so the high web traffic your site receives, the more resources it will take to keep it online. Thus, higher traffic sites will require features to accommodate the traffic and that will bump up the price.
Once you get into the big traffic club, and you want to move from roads to highways, you may consider a dedicated hosting package. WP Engine has a great setup for high traffic sites that know their audience.
Hosting is something that you can easily compare to see where you fit in. Prices can be accommodated for every budget, it just matters what your level of expertise and site performance are.
Choosing a WordPress Theme
WordPress theme options have exploded in recent years. What used to be a few themes that all looked “WordPress-ish” to now beautiful options that suit almost every need. Full custom frameworks are also available to build something specialized with less coding required.
We have the great privilege to work with numerous themes while working on client projects, and here’s some advice on how to pick a good theme:
- No matter how customizable the theme may be, pick a theme that closely resembles what you want your site to look like. We ran into one problem with a theme that wouldn’t change the blog title color through its customization panel (due to a glitch) and we needed to program it ourselves or waste the $50 – $200 we spent. Without the tech experience, most users would either settle for something that doesn’t look right or get extremely frustrated and waste a bunch of time.
- Read the support comments first to see how active the theme developer is with the purchasers. See if the responses tell you about the customer support and how good these developers really are. The good ones are actively responding to questions and making changes to fix the problems across the entire theme purchases. Also, having a setup walkthrough is very handy. Being able to look something up before contacting the developer is great. Plus, it’s your reference manual if you change things in the future.
- Check compatibility with plugins and software that you already use or foresee a need for. The biggest issue we see is with themes that clients love that doesn’t support something essential to their business, like Woo Commerce. Sometimes the integration is easy… But if it is easy, usually the theme developer will make it clear on the purchase page.
- Don’t overbuy features and services. Ok, this one is from personal experience. I fell hard for a beautiful theme as something that I could use here. Turns out that the theme had so many features I didn’t need, it just didn’t feel the same after it was set up.
- Really dig through the demo content on the theme preview. See if there is a particular type of formatting you would like. I know some design features are beyond my abilities to create and really liked the way it was laid out. Find the themes I’m sure there will be customizations as this site grows, but for now, it’s been great as delivered.
Essential WordPress Plugins for Simple Website Functionality
Building a WordPress website to look and perform how you would like is driven by the plugins you select. Plugins do small tasks, like integrate with other software, without comprising the user experience.
A few of must-have WP Plugins that we install on all our sites first are:
- Yoast SEO
- Contact Form 7 or Gravity Forms
- Smush Image Compression
- Schema Rich Snippets
- A3 Lazy Load
- Accelerated Mobile Pages
There are literally endless plugins are available for WordPress sites so you can usually find something that fits your needs quite easily. Just like shopping for themes, shop the same way for plugins.
- Check the plugin has approved version compatibility with the current version of WordPress
- Look at the last time that the Plugin was updated
- See how many active downloads are listed
- See if there any reviews that may help you further understand if the functionality you desire will work
- Look at the screenshots to see if the look will work with your site – not all plugins have the ability to quickly or easily change the design and could look odd on your site.
- Look for any troubleshooting that is related to compatibility with specific themes or other plugins. Your website needs to have all parts working harmoniously.
Start Creating Great Content
Great content is the true reason you started this adventure in the first place. Getting the other steps out of the way so you can focus on content is very important. If there is one priority over any others, it’s content. Without content, you really don’t have a website worth coming to or that will get activity on your site. Google is constantly improving its search algorithm to reward good user experience and that is a blend of technical functionality (that these steps for WordPress include) and great content.
Here are a couple of tips for creating awesome website content:
- Plan your content ahead of time. I use Evernote to draft most of my posts because I usually get my ideas when I’m not at my desk and Evernote syncs instantly with my desktop, laptop, iPad, and phone. It’s been my tool since college to take awesome notes. I’m really comfortable with it and haven’t found something that beats it.
- Draft in multiple stages. If you just have an idea, get it down on paper (or in Evernote). This is where I start. Then come back to it and build on the idea, at least to have a better idea of what message you’re trying to get across and some headings to include. Then research a bit. I look for an expert on the topic to see if I’m heading in the right direction, how much info is out there and if the topic is big enough or has enough depth to stand alone. Refine as needed, then move it into WordPress and edit to get a Yoast SEO green light (advanced users should use SEM Rush’s awesome Content Grading Editor).
- Create a rabbit hole: content that leads to further reading or introduces the post you just read. To me, this is the novice vs professional test. How much does my reader know? If this too basic, too specific or just right? It will take some time to figure it out, so make some surface-level content (novice) and some very specific or technical content (professional).
Start Building Your Website for The Future
Start building now. Regardless of what your idea is, or why you decided to build a website, getting started can’t hurt. There are people like us available if you get stuck, want some advice or need a little help. Welcome to the WP community, now go build an amazing website!