New to WordPress? You’ve decided that your business or venture needs a website and you have chosen WordPress to run it.
WordPress is a popular choice for building a website, whether it’s a simple ‘brochureware’ type site, to a fully blown e-commerce store or perhaps something a bit more bespoke.
WordPress website checklist
Here is my list of actions that need to be carried out when setting up a new WordPress website. If you are going it alone, you’ll need to carry out most of them, if you decide to use my services then most of them I will handle for you. If you are new to WordPress this checklist will help you get up and running as quick as possible.
1. Get a password manager
Whichever route you choose this has to be the most important tip. A password manager is a program that you install onto your computer and it allows you to store passwords in a secure manner.
You’ll need a password manager because you are going to end up with lots of passwords to remember. Taking a look at the average website you’ll have numerous logins:
- Domain name login (123-reg, GoDaddy etc)
- Web hosting login
- Email login(s)
- WordPress Login
- Social Network logins (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin etc)
- Google Analytics
Already we’ve got 7 or more passwords to remember. Please don’t use the same password for everything. Whilst convenient it opens up all your logins if someone finds out just one password.
2. Take some decent photos
Quite often when building websites for clients I get supplied small sized images that have bad lighting or look blurry. You may have opted to hire a professional photographer to take shots of your products/services which is great as they’ll produce decent images that can be used for printed literature and websites. Use a service like WeTransfer to send these large images to me.
Most modern smart phones have quite capable cameras built into them that output images of sufficient resolution for use on websites. Just remember to keep your thumb off the camera lens when taking the photos and take them in daylight. You’ll be wanting images that are at least 2,000 pixels wide.
3. Get your content written
Writing content for websites can take time to do but if you are passionate about your new venture, this shouldn’t present much of a problem for you. Ensure that your content has ideally between 1,000 to 2,000 words per page and use your site structure to hep you write. It makes sense to write your content using Word so you can spell check or even Notepad – having it electronically makes importing the content into WordPress easier.
Google likes long content and you’ll achieve higher search engine rankings if you have pages that show you as a credible source of information. Ignore your proposed home page content for the moment as generally speaking home pages on websites are basically a summary of the rest of the website and this summary can be built dynamically.
4. Think of a website structure
Most websites that are used to provide information to potential customers about your particular product or services have a structure that allows a visitor to navigate around the site easily. A common navigation structure could be:
- Home page
- Product 1
- Product 2
- Product 3
- Product 4
- Service 1
- Service 2
- Service 3
Use this as a starting point for your website and it will differ depending on what your venture is. Your initial WordPress website structure will help you in writing your content. Remember a website isn’t like a printed brochure – It’s not set in stone and it can always be changed later on.
5. Register a domain name
Most of my clients come to me having already registered a website domain name, whether it’s a .com or .co.uk. We’ll need the login for where you registered the domain name to update what’s called name servers. This will allow us to ‘point’ the domain name to whatever web hosting you have or proposed to use.
Make sure that the information you use when registering the domain name, or if you already have a name, is up-to-date and accurate. I quite often come across scenarios where people already have a domain name but the registration information is usually the person that built their website initially or the information is out-of-date.
Consider extending the period of your domain name registration to the maximum 10 years. Names are relatively cheap and this will cost between £70 and £120. There is an SEO benefit to doing this and whilst the evidence of this benefit is small, Google changes it’s search algorithm about 800 times a year, so it may become a ranking factor in the future.
6. Decide on Self-hosted WordPress or WordPress.com
These are the two different versions of WordPress to choose from and in almost all circumstances you will want to self-host WordPress for maximum flexibility and to do this you’ll need some web hosting. This will mean however that responsibility for routine management tasks like backups and updates will fall down to you (or your chosen web developer).
WordPress.com takes care of the hosting for you for a monthly fee but there is less flexibility in the customisations that can be made to a WordPress.com website. Consider what your technical needs and features are for your website as this will determine how much customisation you’ll need to do to your WordPress website.
7. Get some web hosting
If you are self-hosting WordPress then you need some web hosting. Web hosting is a physical machine (called a server) that you install WordPress on so that visitors can find your website. Web hosting varies greatly in price, with cheap hosting providing a broad set of features and support, to more expensive hosting catering for specific requirements.
If you are just starting out with your new WordPress website and you don’t expect to receive more than 5,000 visitors / month, then cheap shared hosting will be suitable. You’ll want hosting that is Linux based, not Windows based. Whilst WordPress can be installed on Windows, it has been designed to run on Linux servers.
Shared hosting means your website ‘shares’ the same server with lots of other websites allowing for lower prices. Shared hosting prices start from as little as £5/month but there are some points to consider when choosing a hosting provider:
- Is support included in the price?
- What are the support channels? Phone, email etc
- How crowded are their servers? Are there 1,000s of other websites sharing the same servers?*
- Where are the servers physically located? America, Europe or in the UK?
- Are email accounts included?
* This is probably the most important point to consider. If a shared hosting account has lots of other websites hosted that you have no control over, then if one of those other websites gets infected by malware or hackers it can damage your SEO efforts and/or your email deliverability. Websites on shared hosting occupy the same IP address. IP addresses can become blacklisted if malware is found and this will have a negative impact on your SEO and could potentially disrupt your business email communications. This is called a ‘bad neighbourhood’
You’ll want to also get what’s called an SSL certificate. This have a proven SEO benefit so will increase your rankings for little effort. They’ll also make your website secure by encrypting the information people send to you via your contact forms.
8. WordPress templates & themes
There are literally thousands of pre-built templates (or themes) available for WordPress making it easy to instantly change the look and feel of a WordPress website. This is the easiest and quickest way to get up and running with WordPress.
However, many of my clients require a bit more customisation from a theme, either they already have a layout provided by a graphic designer they would like converting, they would like their current website template converted into WordPress or they have found an existing HTML template they would like converting.
How to buy a WordPress theme
Most theme marketplaces offer themes for around $60 to $100 so they are a relatively easy way to get started. There are pro’s and con’s of using a pre-made theme so do some research into any theme that you are proposing to use, below is a list of some points to consider:
- When was it last updated?
- Is it mobile friendly?
- How many other people have bought this theme?
- How many ratings has the theme got?
- What aesthetic are you aiming for?
- Is it compatible with the latest version of WordPress?
- Are there any premium plug-ins included with the theme?
- Does the theme support any specialist plug-ins you are planning to use?
- Does the theme fulfil your requirements in terms of functionality?
- Does the theme author provide after sales support?
- What web browsers do you need to support (or, is the theme compatible with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari etc)
9. WordPress plug-ins
WordPress plug-ins extend the basic functionality of WordPress expanding it’s capabilities far past a simple website and blog. There are literally thousands of plug-ins that can change WordPress into things like listings directories, event management, e-commerce. Some plug-ins are free but offer limited to no support, whilst others cost but do provide support.
Look at what sort of functionality you want to provide to your website visitors to determine the plug-ins you’ll need, and whether a plug-in can fulfil all your technical requirements or if it will need a combination of plug-ins to get the required level of functionality.
Use the list of points to consider when choosing a theme above to help you in determining if a plug-in is suitable, most importantly though with plug-ins is when it was last updated. An out-of-date plug-in can open up your website to vulnerabilities potentially allowing hackers access.
Below is a list of some of the common plug-ins I install:
- Advanced Custom Fields (ACF)
- Anti-spam – stop comment spam
- Contact Form 7 – for your contact page forms
- Contact Form 7 Honeypot – stop contact form spam
- W3 Total Cache – performance enhancements
- WP Smush – compresses images to speed up your website
- Yoast SEO – for managing the WordPress SEO aspects of your site
10. What to do immediately after your website is launched
After your website is launched the work doesn’t stop. Here is a run down of some of the tasks you should do immediately after website launch
- Install Google Analytics
- Set-up Google Webmaster Tools and submit your sitemap
- If you have an email list of subscribers, tell them about your new WordPress website
- Promote your website on your social network accounts, Twitter, Facebook & Linkedin
- If you are using the blog features in WordPress, then your first post will be your launch post
Most importantly though, if when installing WordPress you checked the option to discourage search engines whilst you were building your site make sure you un-check this option as Google won’t index your new website.
11. Long term tasks
After a few months of being live and the dust has settled a bit you’ll want to monitor your new WordPress website to make sure it’s all running smoothly.
- Keep WordPress and any plug-ins or themes updated – I can’t tell you the number of times I have had to deal with out-dated WordPress sites
- Check your website rankings in Google. There are programs that can automate this for you.
- Check your blog comments queue, if there are any respond to them
- Keep your blog updated with new and interesting posts
- Make sure the information on pages is up-to-date and accurate