Are you excited about creating your first website? You should be!
With all the great website building tools out there, you may be tempted to jump in with both feet. Please don’t.
Take the time to make some important decisions first, so you don’t get in over your head.
Be specific about things like:
- Who is your target market?
- Why would they visit your website?
- What do you need your new website to achieve?
When you’re really clear about this, you’ll have a much better shot at success.
In other words, picking a WordPress theme should never be your first step.
Choosing a WordPress Theme
First, write your content and plan the information flow for your site. Your website design should highlight your message, not the other way around. Figure out the best way to present your content so potential clients will want to connect with you.
You can then choose a theme that’s as close to your vision as possible and that lets you easily change colours, fonts, and other design elements. Otherwise, you won’t have much flexibility unless you know how to write or edit code.
There are thousands of free themes to choose from on the WordPress theme repository, but don’t despair if you can’t find a free one that meets your needs. Many free themes also have paid or premium versions which include more features.
Premium themes usually require you to renew your license every year. This allows the developers to earn an income so they can keep your theme up-to-date. Whether you’re using a free theme or premium, make sure the one you choose:
- is responsive (mobile-friendly)
- is compatible with any plugins you’ll be using for key functions like eCommerce, eLearning, etc.
- offers good documentation and support
- has recently been updated and is compatible with the current version of WordPress
- has good ratings and reviews
Matching your personal brand and vision to a WordPress theme can be overwhelming, for sure. Partnering with a web designer who can select and customize your theme might be just what you need to get from confused to confident.
Choosing WordPress Plugins
As you dip your toe into WordPress, you may wonder which plugins you need.
Some add features to the front end of your site. For lead generation, you’ll want a form plugin. For social media engagement, you may need social media sharing buttons and/or icons linking to your social media profiles. Only use plugins that will help you reach your website goals.
Other plugins add functionality to the back end. Although they’re not as fun to think about as the others, they’re even more important. The worst can sometimes happen, so it’s best to be prepared.
One essential plugin will create backups of your website on a set schedule and allow you to easily restore a backup should anything go wrong. Make sure your backups are saved in a different location than your website. Otherwise, if the server crashes, you have nothing to restore.
You also need a plugin to protect your site from hackers and malicious bots. A good security plugin will block unwanted visitors and regularly scan your site for vulnerabilities.
Other plugins help you improve your loading speed, optimize your content for search engines, or integrate forms with your email marketing service.
Most free plugins offer paid upgrades to access premium features and support, which you’ll need to renew every year.
But why get your feet wet? Sign up for my Website Care Plan for access to premium plugins that would cost you hundreds of dollars per year if you were to purchase them directly.
DIY or Hire a Pro?
When you’re just starting out and have time but not money to spare, creating your own website might seem like a practical solution. And for many people, it is.
If you’re comfortable with technology and have lots of time available, dive right in!
If you’re comfortable with technology but working on the website will take you away from other important projects, hire a professional.
If you’re easily frustrated by technology, hire a professional.
It’s really not about the money. It’s about having a website that makes your business shine, and not giving yourself a nervous breakdown in the process.
Web design prices range from under $100 for a freelancer on Fiverr to tens of thousands for a web design agency, where a team of specialists work on your site.
As a solo entrepreneur, you’re probably looking at an investment of $2000 or so for a basic site, more if you need special features such as eCommerce or eLearning.
To keep your costs down, make sure you understand what is and is not included in your price, and be as specific as possible when communicating with your web designer. Explain what you’re looking for in clear terms like “a brighter shade of blue” or “larger titles.” Avoid using phrases like “I want it to really pop” which can mean different things to different people.
For more ways to ensure your web design project is completed on time and within your budget, read How to Communicate Effectively with Your Web Designer.
Did I miss anything?
Is there something you need to know before moving forward with your website? Leave a comment and I’ll answer it here! (Send me a message if you prefer.)