A Cheat Sheet for WordPress

October 20, 2015

3:00 pm

You would be hard-pressed to find a website owner/designer who does not like WordPress. Why? Ease, reliability, and security. In fact web developers have now built millions of sites on the very strong back of WordPress, a platform that just keeps getting better. So let’s agree that WordPress is the way to go and get on with the business at hand – you building a “killer” website.

Manual or One-Click Install

Given that you already have your domain, subdomains, and optional subfolders, you are at the point of installing WordPress by selecting a hosting package. If you want to manually install WordPress, there are plenty of great hosts to use. In that case, you will need to do a bit of homework:

  • Does the host support WordPress
  • How many domains can you host? You may only want one now, but the future may be very different.
  • How long has the company been in business?
  • What support do you get?

On the other hand, you can have a one-click install by using a WordPress managed host – GoDaddy, BlueHost, etc. They, of course, install and configure WordPress and provide you lots of support. A purist may want to manually install using a different host, but the vast majority of designers and developers prefer the one-click.

Another note here. If you have a non-WordPress specific host, and you choose to move to a WordPress-specific one, you may face some technical issues. Be aware, as well, that you have to change your nameservers to the new WP host, and be certain to check blacklisted plug-ins of your new host. Some have found it easier to start from scratch when they make this transition.

Choosing Your Theme

Getting the right theme is pretty critical in order to portray yourself correctly. Remember, your company/organization must have a persona that “fits” the product or service you are marketing, your brand, who your target audience is, and who you are. Everything must be consistent. Fortunately, there are thousands of themes from which to choose, and new ones are published continuously. Many are totally free, premium ones come at a cost, and custom-designed ones are certainly pricier. Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg, for example, paid $20,000 for his site design and theme. But there are all sort of price ranges, so do some really solid research until you find what really fits. If you are a re-seller of fine jewelry, for example, your site will use blacks, whites, grays, and feature highly sophisticated people doing highly sophisticated things. If you are selling toys, things will be very different. But, most important, think of the image of your brand and what your potential market wants to see, not what you want to see.

Note: Don’t forget a logo. There are some very cool sites that feature logo designs at extremely reasonable prices; if you have an artistic, creative bent, design our own for free.

Basic Configurations

You are now ready to do a few things that will really improve your site:

  • Akismet: This is the best tool for detecting spam. It is built into WP, but you do have to activate it and generate an API key. If you plan to allow comment on your blog posts or articles, then you must have this.
  • Comments: Allowing comments comes standard, so if you don’t want that, then navigate to the settings → Discussion, and uncheck the “Allow comments…” You can change this setting for each post
  • Permalinks: WP has default URL’s, but you can customize your own, and they will be much friendlier to RSS readers and search engines. You can customize the URL of each post once you enable the “customize function
  • Gravatar Widget: This will allow an image and text to appear anywhere you want basically. Great for a sidebar on your blog posts, email, social media, etc. Got to “Appearance →widgets and follow instructions. Problems? Go to support  for help.
  • Essential Page Creation

    Ease. Reliability. Speed. Mobile Friendly. The most stunning design theme won’t make up for these things. It’s a good thing to remember the KISS principle her (keep it simple, stupid).

    Home Page: You do have some choices to make. Do you want a “static” page with just a few links – tell a little about your company, link to the products or services you offer? When you use a WP site design, the default is to give you a “dynamic” home page that also lists you latest posts from your blog. Once your Home page is created, then just navigate to the settings and enable the static page if that is what you prefer.

    About Page: If you don’t use the static home page design, then you will need a separate page to tell your story. Try to be a bit compelling here. If you’re not good at content writing, then get someone who is. This is too important.

    Contact Us: This should be really simple. You can use a form plugin or just display your contact information. Make it “dead” simple.

    Products/Services: This is the most important page for the final conversion of a customer. Here is where the money is made. Everything must be simple. If you have multiple products or categories of products, have drop down lists or a side rail, and a search bar. If you have package options (standard, premium, platinum), put the buttons to those details prominently in the middle of the page. Again, stop thinking about how great you want your displays to be and start thinking about how fast the user wants to get to what s/he wants.

    SEO

    Most themes come with built-in SEO features now, but if you have multiple websites or really want maximum optimization, then get a plug-in – something like WP SEO by Yoast. Here are the features you want:

    • An XML site map that is search-engine friendly. Don’t use any plug-in that doesn’t have this.
    • Control of meta data throughout the site and your blog. Title and meta description of each page must be consistent to optimize for search engines
    • Control of which pages search engines index (“noindex” and “nofollow”) – keeps the wrong pages from popping up on searches

    If you are not a “mater” of SEO strategies, find someone who is.

    Analytics Set Up

    The best right now is Google Analytics, and the amount of information you can get is truly remarkable, and it is free. Easy to install as well. Just create your account, get your assigned JavaScript code, and put it right before the “˂/body˃” tag in the theme’s footer file. Google Analytics takes a while to master, but you will be grateful, given the amount of data you can get.

    Caching Setup

    If you want an easy method of increasing speed, then use something like “W3 Total Cache.” Your server won’t have to process title and database content for each person visiting the same page. “W3 Total Cache” is a WP-developed plugin that works seamlessly with your server, and has other features, such as minification – making your files smaller, thus doubling or even tripling the speed of server load.

    Takeaway

    There are obviously many decisions to make as you build a website – selecting a domain and host, getting WordPress installed, choosing a theme, optimizing the site for search engines, ensuring security and backup, and installing analytics. If you can think of anything that was left out, please add your comments below.

    Image: mkhmarketing 

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Nicole Boyer is web and graphic designer from Boston. Also she is contributing blogger for several websites and is extremely passionate about writing and travelling. Connect with Nicole at Google+ Google+ or via her blog.

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