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Main Street in Little Falls, NY | Mohawk Valley Web Design

SELF HELP: WORDPRESS WIZARDRY

I love what I do. Even more, I love sharing what I know to help others with their websites. Here are questions that came out of a little Q&A about WordPress and why I use it for a lot of my sites.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF USING WORDPRESS?

There are so many advantages to creating a site with WordPress. It’s very popular, well supported in a huge online community, and it’s open source. All of this to say, there are a ton of resources available to make the most out of WordPress. This includes themes that give your site a unique look and feel and plugins that expand, secure, and enhance features on your website. In addition to what WordPress offers, it can be installed on the server of your choice. This last bit is important because many website builders have to stay where they’re built. With WordPress, you can install or move it to any server. I’ve talked about some of this before here and here.

BUT PEOPLE SAY THERE IS A STEEP LEARNING CURVE WITH WORDPRESS. IS THAT TRUE?

I really don’t think so. I’ve created sites for clients that have never worked on a website before and after giving them a bit of training they take it over. In fact, I build websites so that my clients can make changes themselves to keep their site more relevant for their website visitors. There are themes out there that make creating custom pages, galleries and more, super easy with drag-and-drop page layouts. I’ve found that if you can get around on something like Facebook, you can use WordPress. Again, the right theme can do wonders.

CAN I CREATE A WORDPRESS SITE MYSELF??

Main Street in Little Falls, NY | Mohawk Valley Web Design

Yes, absolutely. When it comes to setting up WordPress, a lot of web hosting services offer a one-click type of installation. From there, it’s a question of choosing a theme, and installing a few plugins that will expand your website’s functionality. Also, some themes offer demo content that will layout some of the pages for you so that all you need to do is replace the demo content with your website content.


WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE EASY THEME WITH A DEMO LAYOUT?

A theme gives WordPress websites the look and feel, the framework, for the site. Some themes have additional features like built-in forms, portfolios, galleries, maps, and more. Now with WordPress 5.0 and its latest releases, you can do a lot with the Twenty Nineteen theme that comes with the install. It’s very flexible and you can vary the page layout with blocks.

My favorite easy-to-use theme is Enfold. It’s a premium theme so there’s a cost, but it’s well worth it. It allows you to create unique page layouts for pages, posts or portfolio items. It also has a number of demos that you can import and replace with your content. You can create and move sections around by pointing and clicking. And the newest version is optimized for better performance and faster page loading.

WHAT PLUGINS SHOULD I INSTALL?

The plugins I install on every site I work on are Wordfence and Yoast SEO.

Wordfence is an outstanding security plugin that protects websites. It scans your site to let you know if you have any security issues, blocks malicious traffic, and lets you know when you need to update plugins to keep your site safe. The free version of Wordfence also includes a spam filter for comments.

Yoast SEO is a search engine optimization plugin that helps you to optimize your site for  search engines like Google. It has a stepped setup process to help configure it for individual websites. Yoast SEO has so many features. You can set custom titles and descriptions for each page (these titles and descriptions are what come up in search engine results). This plugin also lets you check your web pages to see how they’re ranking for keyword terms. There’s so much more to the plugins I’ve listed, but they are the must installs for me.

Plugin for forms like Contact Form 7 or Formidable Forms. Both of these plugins allow you to set up forms easily on your website. Both also have recaptcha integration to protect your forms from spam and web bots. Having said that, Contact Form 7 uses shortcodes and while powerful, is more down to earth. Formidable Forms has drag and drop form creation that some folks find easier. Both plugins also have the ability to save form submissions in tables. Formidable Forms has a paid version with condition fields and a lot more bells and whistles. Either way, they’re both updated frequently and are reliable. I use them both on different sites.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WORDPRESS?

City Hall in Little Falls, NY | Mohawk Valley Web Design

Hmm. There’s so much, really. I guess the main thing is that WordPress give you tons of flexibility and control. You can install it wherever you want and be able to expand it in whatever way you want. While website builders have come a long way, the one thing that keeps me working with WordPress is that it’s on the server of my choice and I am not limited in how it looks, or what I add on. And if I outgrow my web hosting server, I can move it or upgrade. I’m not limited or boxed into anything.

This article first appeared on ginnyrogers.com.

Il Caffe Espresso Bar Little Falls NY | Mohawk Valley Web Design

Thinking about a new business website?

If you’re thinking about investing in a new or redesigned business website, here’s a list to help you with your planning process.

Do you have a current business website?

If you do, you should take a look at what’s working and what doesn’t.

  • How often has your current business website been updated?
  • Do you make changes to the website yourself? Would you like to?
  • Where is your website hosted? How is the hosting company working for you? Do you find their support is available and helpful? (Five Web Hosting Points to Ponder and Hosting server options)
  • Is your current site mobile friendly and responsive?
  • What do you like about your current site? And, what would you like to change?

What kind of website are you thinking of?

Are you thinking of an informational site, portfolio, blog or news site, or a commerce site? Take a look at this article that describes the different types of websites.

Is there a site that you’ve come across that you like?

Get online and take a look at some websites. Maybe, look at your top competitors’ websites. Notice what you like and what you don’t like. Do you prefer a particular layout? Are there some features or functionality that might work well for your business? Make some notes and refer to them when considering your website project.

Are there any particular features or functionality that you will need?

When you’re looking at other websites, it’s easy to get ideas for new or different features. A lot of features are easy to include on websites. If you need some custom coding for special features or functionality, you need to be aware that this can add to the cost of your website project. The best approach is to have list for “must have” features and “nice to have” features. Then, when it comes to planning out your website, be flexible. Chances are you may not be able to get everything you want, exactly as you want it, but you can probably get pretty close.

How many pages do you think your business website will have?

This is important to have figured out because it will give you an idea of the scope of your website. Also, if you’re enlisting the help of a web designer, it will help to have your page number for a website project quote. I have had clients that wanted to limit their website to five pages to save money. However, when it came to building out the site, it grew to more than 20 pages. This of course had a big effect on the scope, cost, and timeline for completion.

Do you have a logo?

If you have a logo, the website should be designed in a way that not only considers the logo, but makes it stand out. Logo elements like color, fonts and style are important for any website design. If you’re working with a web designer, they should ask you about your logo early on during your conversations.

Do you have photos or will you need to use stock photography?

Sometimes, the use of photos isn’t something that’s thought of right away. It needs to be. Some people provide their own photos. Keep in mind that any photos used on a website will need to be optimized so they’re the right size for where they’ll be used.

You may decide that you want to use stock photography. This is fine and can be a good choice for some websites. I would recommend that if you choose to use stock photography, include some of your own photos. For example, include photos of your business location, inside and out.  Stock photography can be great, but keep in mind that other websites may also have the same photos. Whenever possible, use photos that highlight the uniqueness of your business.

What’s the anticipated timeline for completion?

You may want to have a website done in two weeks. If you have all of the page’s content and images for a smaller business website, two weeks may be doable. If you’re looking to create a commerce site with multiple products and a full checkout process, you’ll need more time.

A new website or site redesign can seem a bit daunting but with some thoughtful planning, you can make the job easier for yourself and whoever you decide to ask for help. Also, thinking through your website goals can make your website work harder for you in the long run.