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How to Build a Website for a Small Business

How to Build a Website for a Small Business

A visual step-by-step guide to creating your own website. Do-it-yourself (DIY) style.

Website is a direct extension of your small local business online.

It is a place to build customer relations, showcase your service or products and reach your other business goals. In other words, imitate what you do at your storefront or service location – now online.

There are various ways to create a site: highly technical or basic, complex or simple, big or small. This resource is a step-by-step guide to build a simple and basic WordPress website for your small local business to reach your business objectives online.

 

 

Realistic Expectations

What Is This?
Step-by-step guide with screenshots.
This resource is a walk-through guide with screenshots for every necessary step. One tiny step at a time.
Technical skills
Minimal.
The guide should be straightforward if you have basic computer skills (checking email, working with files). Basic site = basic skills. Be reasonable. Don’t expect top of the line website – that requires top of the line skills & practice (or hiring someone with these skills).
Timing
1-3 hours for initial setup.
Initial setup might take you one to three hours to complete.  Time it takes afterwards depends on what exactly you want to build upon that “foundation.” If you commit to spend 1 hour/day effectively for 1 week – it is reasonable to have a good site at the end of such time commitment.
Budget
Around $250 for 1 website.
Every reliable website (with you having full control) requires maintenance fees. It’s a cost of running the business. This includes domain & hosting fees (up to $200 for 3 years of services ahead) and modern, professional website template/theme price ($40-60 one time fee).
Process
To help you understand, process of creating the website can be compared to opening a storefront for walk-in customers. Here’s a quick summary of that process:
Storefront Business Address - Domain Name

Get Website Domain
i.e. “my business address”

Getting Website Hosting Service - Business Building

Get Website Hosting
i.e. “my business or store/office building”

Website Back-End Setup

Website Back-end Setup
i.e. “employees only area”

WebsiteTheme Customization - Design Inside

Theme & Website Customization
i.e. “room design, furniture, etc.”

That last part will take most of your time in this guide. Just like it’s relatively easy to get a business rental space but its design takes some time & maintenance.

Ready? Let’s start…

 

 

 

 

 

Website Domain – “Your Business Address”

To start, every website has its own address – website domain – and you need one for yours. I’ll spare you the details of what domain name is and how it all works. Put simply, you can think of website domain as your business/office/store address online.

Domain name – where your business can be found on the internet.

Storefront Business Address - Domain Name

 

It is relatively easy to come up with a domain name for your business. For simplicity – keep it short and as exact as your business name as possible:

  • businessname.com (example for fictional “Red Sun Roofing” roof installation company – redsunroofing.com)
  • businessnamecity.com (example for fictional “Amy’s Bakery” in Seattle – amysbakeryseattle.com)
  • businessnameservice.com (example for fictional “Urban Power” home remodeling company – urbanpowerremodeling.com)
  • businessname.net or something like businessnameinc.com (redsunroofing.net or redsunroofinginc.com – if want to keep it short and don’t like above options)
Preliminary step: Write down domain name ideas

Come up with a few choices and write them down. You will need them in a minute.

 

Side note:
You can buy a website domain separately – there are plenty of services that resell them – but for the sake of making things super simple, convenient and straight-forward for you in these “uncharted waters” I recommend that you get the domain from the same service provider as hosting service (see below).

Having a reliable service with great customer support is not a big deal for domain management but critical for your hosting service. Example – GoDaddy (you probably heard of them) might be a good domain management service (slightly better pricing when you start) but their hosting service is awful.

For starters, I recommend getting a great hosting service and buying domain there. Read on…

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Website Hosting – “Your Business Building”

Address is a good thing. But it’s the location itself (“physical space”) that matters.

Website hosting is a location/space where your website content is stored online.

Getting Website Hosting Service - Business Building

 

Just like your business has a building/store or (home) office space to help you offer your service or display your products for your customers – you need space online to store your website and all files to offer products, services or information about your business and services you provide. That’s what hosting service is – storage; reliable service to keep website and all your files on the internet.

Here are a few things to consider when looking for a good hosting service:

  • reliable service with uninterrupted up time
  • no random outages – so your website is always online
  • great customer service (phone, chat, email)
  • going-extra-mile technical support
  • up-to-date hosting tech tools available

Feel free to do your thorough research.

 

The service I use and recommend to my clients at the moment (recommending it to you as well) for domain and hosting services is http://www.hostgator.com:

 

 

Disclaimer: Referral link. I make commission for every  new hosting sign up. However, after years of hands-on experience (I experienced good, bad and ugly hosting services over years), this is one of the best, affordable and reliable services you can get today.

 

Hosting Service Plans

 

I’ll now walk you through the process of getting the hosting service and explain all your options. If you choose to go with another hosting service, process might be different but the idea is the same – getting “office space” for your business online.

 

 

Step 1: Select hosting plan

If you decide to go with HostGator Hosting, you will come to this page:

 

Choose Hosting Plan

 

Which plan do you go with?

Most businesses just need one website – choose Hatchling hosting plan.

Hatchling Plan: 1 website
Includes everything most small local businesses need to create 1 website for their business.
Baby Plan: multiple websites
Only if you need to host multiple websites or if you’re creating an online store.
Business Plan: extra features
Only if need to host multiple website + extra.

Again, if you’re here to build your first website – Hatchling plan has everything you need. Extra features in other plans aren’t worth your money.

 

 

Step 2: Choose Domain Name

You wrote down some ideas for your website domain name. Now it’s time to see which domain names/ideas are available.

 

Choose Domain Name

 

Start with your best option and see if it’s available:

 

Domain Name Not Available

 

Not available?

Try other variations and options (as short as possible). Think how it will look on your business cards and if it’ll be easy for your customers to remember. Please see Website Domain – “Your Business Address” section above.

Be considerate. Choose wisely.

 

Domain Name Available and Added

 

Once you pick your domain name and it is available – it will be added as your primary domain.

 

 

Step 3: Choose a Hosting Package

Now scroll down to choose your package type, billing cycle, username and security PIN:

 

Choose Hosting Plan and Username

 

Hosting package – will be the same as your choice in “Step 1.” No need to change it.

Billing cycle – you will save more if you choose to pay for 1-3 years in advance now.

Username – it can be 2 characters but I suggest you make it longer (8-12).

Security PIN – pick your numbers. Save/write down your PIN and username.

 

 

Step 4: Enter Your Billing Info

This is straightforward. Enter your billing information. If you are a business – you can write this off as a business expense on your tax reporting.

 

Billing Information

 

Fill out your billing details and scroll down.

 

 

Step 5: Optional Hosting Services

Important to note: these services are OPTIONAL. Many people automatically add them, pay for them and never take time to actually set them up. Uncheck to remove these services from your cart or, if you think you need them, make sure you make a note to yourself right now (you will forget) to later set them up or to call HostGator to set them up for you.

 

Additional Hosting Services

 

SiteLock – this service will not protect you from serious hacking attempts but provides a very basic layer of protection. Is it worth it? Maybe. It’s not a bad idea. But, again, if you do get this service, make sure you set it up later – after you get your hosting.

Google Apps/Email – I suggest you skip this for now. If anything – you can get their service later (just Google 😉 for it).
Get this if you really like Google ecosystem and you really want your website emails (service@businessname.com) to be with Google vs. creating them with HostGator (free) or another service (much cheaper than $5 per month per email).

CodeGuard – read what the description says. Keep in mind – you can do site backups for free on your website yourself with a simple plugin. However, if you want a piece of mind now – get this service. But, again, make sure you remember to set it up later. Otherwise, you’ll pay for nothing.

SSL Certificate – if you are creating a small business website to share information about your services – don’t bother. If you plan to sell something on your website (eStore) or will need your customers to type sensitive information on your website – get this service. And remember to set it up later.
SSL Certificate will help protect customer information. Your website address will be https://businessname.com (added ‘s’) rather than typical http://businessname.com address. Confused? Don’t need this.

 

Self-test:
Have any doubts about these optional services?
Not sure if you need them?

-> remove them from your cart (uncheck). You can get them later, if needed.

 

 

Step 6: Order Review and Checkout

Review your order, agree to terms of service and checkout.

Hostgator will have their discount coupon code there added automatically.

 

Order Review and Check Out

 

Click “Checkout Now!”

Congratulations!

You now have a domain name (online address) and website hosting (online space) for your business.

You will receive an email with an important login information (save it!!!).

 

 

 

 

 

Website Back-End Setup – “Employees Only Area”

Now that you have an address and location/space for your business online – it’s time for website setup.

i.e. setting everything needed for smooth operation behind the scenes.

Website Back-End Setup

 

To create the website, we’ll use the most popular, common and customizable platform today – WordPress. WordPress is free and open-source, meaning a lot of people contribute to its development and expansion.

 

 

Step 7: Login To Hosting Service CPanel

Open “HostGator.com :: Your Account Info” email that you just received and find the following:

  • Your Control Panel
  • Username
  • Password

It is critically important that you save this email for your future reference. Make sure you can find it in a few years.

 

New Account Login Information

 

Open the link for “Your Control Panel” that has this form
https://gatorXXXX.hostgator.com:XXXX
in a new browser tab.

Login to hosting service Control Panel (CPanel) using username and password from your email:

 

Login To CPanel

 

Welcome to hosting Control Panel (CPanel)!

Here you will find many technical tools to help create, run and maintain your website and profile. Feel free to look around and get a bit familiar with it.

Remember that you can call or chat with HostGator support 24/7 if you have any questions in the future.

Password that you used to login was automatically generated for you and is comparatively secure. I suggest you don’t try to memorize it – just save email for future reference. But if you do want to change it still – use “Change Password” option under “Preferences” to do so.

 

Control Panel - CPanel

 

 

 

Step 8: Find QuickInstall

Scroll down and find “QuickInstall” icon under “Software and Services.”

 

Find QuickInstall in CPanel

 

QuickInstall is an easy and non-technical way to quickly install WordPress (or other platforms).

Select “WordPress:”

 

Select WordPress QuickInstall

 

Choose “Free Option” to install WordPress for free:

 

Install WordPress Free Option

 

 

Step 9: Install WordPress

Fill out the form to install WordPress on your website:

  • Select your new domain from drop down menu.
  • Leave “install/path/here” field empty.
  • Fill in your email.
  • Use your business name for “Blog Title.”
  • Create “Admin User.” Don’t make it too short.
  • Fill in your first and last name.

 

Install WordPress

 

Click “Install WordPress.”

Wait 10 seconds or until you receive an email.

Once installed, ignore all ads and pop-ups.

You don’t need to do anything else inside QuickInstall (even though they ask you to).

Close that tab/window.

Check your email.

You will receive an “Install Complete” email with WordPress login information. Make sure you save this email:

 

WordPress Install Complete

 

You can now go online to your website domain address/name to see website’s current state.

Open the link/URL for your website in a new browser tab.

It looks awful and there’s nothing on it yet but it’s now online (sometimes need to wait a little for it to go live) and has WordPress platform installed on it.

 

 

Step 10: Login To WordPress Dashboard

There is “Admin URL” in the email you just received that has this form:
http://businessname.com/wp-admin

Go to that link and use username and password from the email to login:

 

Login To WordPress

 

You will see this WordPress Dashboard:

 

WordPress Dashboard

 

QuickInstall was a good tool – it helped you install WordPress without any technical steps. But it also added some unnecessary tools inside WordPress.

On top of that, WordPress itself has some extras that you don’t need (when you install it first).

Let’s clean this up to give you a clean slate.

Step 11: Cleanup WordPress Plugins

First, delete additional plugins/tools that were added by QuickInstall.

WordPress Plugins – extra tools and features.

Navigate to “Plugins” -> “Installed Plugins:”

 

Plugins - Installed Plugins

 

Select (check box) all plugins except Akismet (we will keep it):

 

Select Plugins

 

Select “Deactivate” from drop down menu and click “Apply:”

 

Deactivate Plugins

 

Plugins deactivated.

Now select (check box) them again – all plugins except Akismet:

 

Plugins Deactivated

 

Select “Delete” from drop down menu and click “Apply:”

 

Delete Plugins

 

Confirm to delete plugin files and data – “Yes, delete these files and data:”

 

Yes Delete Plugins

 

You now have deleted unnecessary plugins.

 

Plugins Deleted

 

Leave Akismet plugin there.

You will come back to plugins later and add a few more that you actually need…

 

 

Step 12: Delete Dummy Content

The next step is to delete all dummy content that WordPress (and QuickInstall-related plugins) has on your website right now.

Start with Posts.

Hover over “Posts” on top left and select “All Posts:”

 

Posts - All Posts

 

Hover over “Hello world!” post and click “Trash” to move it to trash:

 

Move Post To Trash

 

Post deleted.

It’s in your trash and not permanently deleted though – similar to “Recycle Bin” on your desktop.

Side note:
There was also 1 dummy/sample comment on that post. It was deleted together with that post.

 

Next, navigate to Pages:

 

Pages - All Pages

 

Trash all pages except “Sample Page.”

Hover over page title and select “Trash:”

 

Delete Page

 

Again, when you move page to trash – it’s not permanently deleted yet.  You can click “Trash” to restore or permanently delete them. And just like with “Recycle Bin” on desktop – try to keep the number of items in “Trash” to the minimum.

 

Pages Trash

 

Now edit “Sample Page.” Click on its title or hover over it and click “Edit:”

 

Sample Page Edit

 

We will edit this page to be our main website page – homepage:

 

Sample Page Example

 

Change the title to “Homepage” or (better option) to the name of your business:

 

Homepage Title

 

Next, click “Edit” for Permalink and change “sample-page” to what you put in your page title.

Click “OK:”

 

Homepage Permalink

 

Now delete dummy text:

 

Delete Original Dummy Text

 

Once deleted, you can write a little bit about your business or “Website Coming Soon” or leave it blank.

Don’t worry too much about it now. You can improve it later – when you create/setup other pages (near the end of this guide).

 

Page Content

 

Remember to always save your edits and changes:

 

Update WordPress Page

 

You took care of all dummy/sample content.

Now you have a clean slate WordPress website – foundation to build on.

Step 13: Configure WordPress Settings

Next, configure settings for your WordPress website.

Navigate to “Settings” -> “General:”

 

General Settings

 

Check and edit first 4 fields:

  • Site Title – your business name.
  • Tagline – your business description or (better) value proposition:
    If I am your ideal prospect, why should I buy from you rather than any of your competitors?
  • WordPress Address (URL) – your website domain address.
  • Site Address (URL) – your website domain address.

 

WordPress Settings - General Settings

 

You have two options for URL:

  • You can keep your website domain without “www” in it:
    http://businessname.com
  • Or use it with “www:”
    http://www.businessname.com

Critical Note:
It does not make a difference and does not matter which version you use. But it’s best that you pick it right now, never change it and be 100% consistent with its usage in the future – on your business cards, in your emails, with all links to your website, etc. If you change the version later or don’t use it consistently – it will cause various issues and you’ll need to know how to avoid or fix them. Pick your version now and stick with it.

 

If you want to have “www” – edit both WordPress Address and Site Address:

 

How To Change WordPress Website To www

 

You’ll be asked to login to WordPress again if you change to “www.” Find your “Install Complete” email again for login username and password.

 

If you also want to change site language and date/time format – you can do all that on the bottom of the page.

Scroll down and save changes:

 

Save Settings Changes

 

Now go to Reading settings:

 

Settings - Reading

 

Select “A static page (select below)” option.

For “Front page:” select Homepage (or other name that you used):

 

Reading Settings for Front Page

 

Remember to “Save Changes.”

 

Finally, change the format/structure of website links.

Go to “Permalinks” settings:

 

Settings - Permalinks

 

Select “Post name” as permalink type and “Save Changes:”

 

Permalink Format - Post Name

 

 

Step 14: Check For Updates

I might as well mention this now…

WordPress is a dynamic website platform and gets updates (just like your smartphone apps).

 

Go To WordPress Updates

 

There are no urgent updates at the moment.

But you should know where to look:

 

WordPress Updates

 

You are now done with website back-end setup.

Step 15: WordPress Overview

Let’s do a quick WordPress overview so you can navigate better. Go through each one and check available options:

  • Dashboard – administration panel and updates for your site.
  • Posts – entries for a blog (if you need one; otherwise, ignore posts). Similar to pages but slightly different.
  • Media – media library: images, video, audio and other files you add to your website.
  • Pages – website pages you create for your website.
  • Comments – comments people leave on your website. You can turn them all off or manage them.
  • Appearance – changing the look of your website.
  • Plugins – extra tools for your website.
  • Users – place to give other people specific access to your site.
  • Tools – place mainly used for special tools and import/export of data.
  • Settings – your website settings.

 

WordPress Overview

 

This is all behind the scenes.

To check what the actual website (what other people see) looks like, hover over your website name on the top, right-click “Visit Site” and click to open link in a new browser tab:

 

Open Website in New Tab

 

It’s convenient to have WordPress behind the scenes open in one tab and live website in the another one: make changes/edits in admin area and refresh website tab to see them live.

Your website should now look like this:

 

Website Look After Setup

 

This is a good time to take a break.

Next, you’ll move on to the final part that will take most of your time – visual website setup: getting WordPress theme for your site, creating pages and website tuning.

 

 

 

 

 

Theme & Website Customization – “Room Design & Furniture”

Time to design your walls, bring in the equipment, setup furniture, etc. In other words, give your website a better look and organize it. Professional web design requires experience, creativity and technical skills. You’ll be taking the easiest route possible – getting a theme/template as close as possible to your liking and customize it a little.

WordPress Theme – website template and a way to structure and visually customize a site.

WebsiteTheme Customization - Design Inside

 

Theme can be changed under “Appearance” -> “Themes.”

You have options here. You can

  • keep default “Twenty Sixteen” theme
  • get a free theme from WordPress Theme Directory
  • get a professional theme

This guide will go with the latter to allow better design and customization.

Step 16: Get a ThemeForest Theme

There are various places to get a professional theme. I suggest ThemeForest for your first website – the largest selection of themes online today. Go to ThemeForest WordPress Themes (referral link; I get themes for my clients here too) selection and start looking:

 

ThemeForest Themes

 

Typical theme costs around $40-60.

Big selection is good but it’s also a burden – too many choices.

You can search for a specific industry or keyword (example – “restaurant”). This approach is not always effective but it’s worth a try – maybe you’ll find something you’ll instantly like:

 

Search for themes

 

In most cases, a better way is to sort through thousands of available themes using various filters.

The easiest way to start, in my opinion, is to sort using “Sort by” above (example – “Best rated”) and “Tags” filter on the left side (example – “Portfolio” or “Clean”).

Go back to to ThemeForest WordPress Themes (all WordPress themes) and start filtering:

 

Sort ThemeForest Themes By

 

Once you sorted themes a little, you can use these criteria to look further:

  • minimum number of sales (at least 150-200, I’d say)
  • but not thousands of sales (unless you want your website to be “site similar to thousands of others”)
  • good rating (4.5 is very good)
  • number of ratings (to check that it’s not 5.0-star rating because only 4 people rated it)

 

Number of sales and ratings

 

If you think this theme might be a good fit – hover over theme image and right-click “Live Preview.” Then open it in the new browser tab. Open multiple themes for live previews to narrow down your choices.

 

Theme Live Preview

 

IMPORTANT:
Themes you’re looking at show off EVERY SINGLE FEATURE they have. You’re looking at a very cluttered version of that theme – with all possibilities and options present. Once you buy it – you’ll be able to remove/customize/modify many of its areas to keep your site simple and focused on your message.

For now, only look for the general style and setup you prefer:

  • full screen photo vs. narrow slider area
  • text font (style, size, etc)
  • do you like “Contact” or “Portfolio” or “Services” page setup?
  • and so on.

Take your time.

Find the style you like.

Don’t bother with small details until you have 2-3 final choices and need to choose which one to buy.

 

Don’t like what you found so far? Go back to  ThemeForest WordPress Themes and search/filter/sort again using other tags or keywords.

 

 

Again, take your time!

Once you figure out what you want, really like one of the themes and think it will work well for your website – it’s time to buy it.

Go to theme sale page and click “Buy Now:”

 

Buy a Theme

 

Next, create an account, fill out billing details and select your payment method:

 

Create a ThemeForest Account

 

Once you pay for it, check your email. Follow the instructions there.

Next, go to your ThemeForest account downloads and click “Download” -> “All files & documentation:”

 

ThemeForest download all files and documentation

 

Download theme files and documentation to your computer.

Find that zipped/compressed file and unzip/decompress it.

 

 

Step 17: Add New Theme

Each theme developer creates their own documentation. Hence, it’s important to follow instructions in theme documentation folder or file. Find and use it!

To install your theme, go to businessname.com/wp-admin (WordPress Dashboard) -> “Appearance” -> “Themes:”

 

Appearance Themes

 

Click “Add New” at the top:

 

Themes Add New

 

Next, click “Upload Theme:”

 

Add Themes Upload Theme

 

You’ll get a message to upload your theme in .zip format:

 

Upload Theme

 

Click “Choose File,” go to theme’s unzipped/decompressed folder and find a .zip file for your theme.

That .zip file will have a name of your theme. Again, follow theme documentation.

P.S.

If there’s no theme .zip file inside (some developers unzip all files) – open a new browser tab and go to ThemeForest downloads -> “Download” -> “Installable WordPress file only.” Download theme .zip file (without any documentations files):

 

Installable WordPress file only

 

Upload theme .zip file and click “Install Now:”

 

Theme Install Now

 

WordPress will start installing the theme for you and will do so successfully (if you uploaded the right .zip file):

 

Theme Installed successfully

 

Click “Activate.”

You will get a “New theme activated” message.

Step 18: Customize Theme

Go back to theme documentation and follow steps there carefully (each theme is different).

Theme documentation should show you how to setup the site and upload demo content – so that it looks more like what you saw in “Live Preview” before you bought your theme. It’s easier to customize and modify theme that way. Again, follow theme documentation instructions closely.

 

Customize Theme

 

P.S.

Ideally, you want to setup your website using a Child Theme so that future updates don’t effect your theme customization. But this requires a bit more technical knowledge. If your theme documentation has step-by-step instructions for it – follow them.

If not – don’t worry about it. While it’s a good practice – it’s not critical. Just don’t update theme if you don’t have child theme setup.

Step 19: Create & Design Website Pages

Need “Services” or “Contact” page on your website?

If you uploaded theme dummy/sample content (following theme documentation) – go to “Pages” and “Edit” respective page.

Otherwise, go to “Pages” -> “Add New:”

 

Pages-Add New

 

Add/edit title and “Add Media” (images, for example) or edit text for your page:

 

Page Content Editing Tools

 

If you copy-paste text from outside (like Microsoft Word) – make sure you don’t grab extra, invisible code with it.
Use CTRL + C to copy and CTRL+SHIFT+V to paste without extra code.

You can see code/text version by clicking “Text” tab:

 

Page Text Code Version

 

One more important thing you need to know about – “Screen Options” at the top.

This panel allows you to show or hide extra options. Number of options there will depend on the theme you’re using. Selecting an option will add it to your page edit.

For example, checking “Discussion” in “Screen Options:”

 

Screen Options

 

Will add options area below – to allow or disable comments on this page:

 

Discussion Allow Comments

 

There are other options for page editing and you can find them here.

Add and organize content on the page.

 

Next, click “Publish” (or save page as private draft or select date to publish in the future):

 

Page Publish

 

Right-click page’s permalink to open it in a new tab for convenience:

 

See Page in New Tab

 

Published page:

 

Public Page

 

If you need to add or change something – edit the page and save changes.

 

Remember, your main page – Homepage? It’s the first page most visitors will see – make sure it reflects what your business is about. Edit and update it.

Next, create other pages you need.

Some ideas:

  • Services – page describing services you offer and your work process.
  • Portfolio – collection of your work, emphasizing your work process.
  • Blog – where all posts will go if you want a blog. Make sure to select this page at Settings -> Reading -> Posts page.
  • About Us – history of your business or information about who you are.
  • Contact – your contact information and contact form.

Again, theme documentation might have guides to setup pages and can be helpful.

Step 20: Create Menus

Next step is to organize your pages using “Appearance” -> “Menus.”

Menu – organized list of pages or links.

Create a navigation menu so your customers can easily find your most important pages.

Go to “Appearance” -> “Menus,” give your new menu a name and click “Create Menu:”

 

Create Menu

 

Select “Primary Menu” or “Main Menu” to set this new menu as your main website navigation:

 

Menu Settings Primary Menu

 

Add your most important pages to the menu:

 

Add Pages to Menu

 

Now rearrange menu items using click-and-drag. Put most important pages to the top:

 

Rearrange page menu items

 

Change menu item labels to their shorter versions. Example – “Home” is a conventional label for the homepage.

 

Change Menu Item Name

 

Now save menu changes:

 

Save Menu

 

Check your live website to see your new menu. Main navigation menu location varies from theme to theme.

 

Menu Website Display

 

You can create other menus/lists for various purposes. But you now will need special blocks, called “widgets,” to place them to other locations on website.

Step 21: Organize Widgets

You can use widgets to display various features (menus, text, images, calendar, etc) on the page.

Widgets – blocks that let you add specific content to specific areas on website.

Each theme has its own widgets, options and locations – check theme documentation.

Go to “Appearance” -> “Widgets:”

 

WordPress Widgets

 

Similar to menu items, widgets items can be dragged to specific areas.

For example, here’s what moving “Text” widget to “Regular Page Sidebar” (available in my particular theme – see your own theme documentation) looks like:

 

Dragging Widgets

 

You can now edit the widget (each one has different features and options) and “Save:”

 

Edit Widget

 

Sidebar is a block on the side of the main page content.

It all depends on the theme you’re using but you’ll now have an option on your page to show/hide sidebar or choose its position.

Go to “Pages” -> particular page to choose what you want to do regarding sidebar:

 

Show Sidebar on the Page

 

You don’t have to have a sidebar block on your site. It’s just an option. You can also choose to show a sidebar on one page but not the other. For example, show a sidebar block on all pages, except homepage.

Here’s what adding a sidebar widget does to the page:

 

Adding a widget

 

Adding a widget(s) = adding a block or a set of blocks.

Again, locations where you can add widgets/blocks depends on your particular theme. Sidebar and footer (bottom of website) are pretty standard for most themes. But, while you have a choice to show/hide sidebar for different pages, adding widgets to footer will display them on every single page.

Here’s an example of adding various widgets to page sidebar and footer:

 

Adding More Widgets

 

This involved adding an image to “Media Library” and basic HTML image code.

The result:

 

Page Widgets Added

 

To summarize, widget blocks let you add content to various areas on the site.

Step 22: Install Important Plugins

To add extra features to your website you’ll use plugins.

WordPress Plugins – extra website tools and features

Some plugins were recommended by your theme – for added theme features. Your theme documentation should have instructions to set them up.

 

Here are some extra recommended plugins:

  • All In One SEO Pack (by Michael Torbert) – helps with search engine (Google, etc) optimization.
  • Contact Form 7 (by Takayuki Miyoshi) – useful for “Contact” page and to create contact forms.
  • WP Super Cache (by Automattic) – helps speed up your site.
  • Google XML Sitemaps (by Arne Brachhold)- creates structured list of all your website pages.

In general, keep the number of plugins to the minimum. Don’t add everything possible – it’ll slow down your site.

Go to “Plugins” -> “Add New:”

 

Plugins Add New

 

Now search for 4 plugins I just listed above one at a time (exact words):

 

Search for a plugin

 

They should come up first (but that may change). Double check the name of the plugin and its creator.

Click “Install Now:”

 

Plugin Install Now

 

Then “Activate Plugin:”

 

Activate Plugin

 

You’ll get “Plugin activated” message:

 

Plugin Activated

 

Do the same for the other 3 plugins:

 

Plugins Installed

 

Now let’s configure/tune your plugins…

Step 23: Configure Plugins

All In One SEO Pack needs to be configured by adding descriptive information about your website and individual pages.

Click “All in One SEO” that was added below “Dashboard:”

 

All-in-One-SEO Settings

 

Next, scroll down to “Home Page Settings” and fill in 2 fields:

  1. Home Title – name of your business or your website.
  2. Home Description – your business/website description. Try to keep it somewhere between 140 and 160 characters.

 

Home Page Settings

 

Why is this important?

Google (and other search engines) can use home title and home description you specify in its results:

 

Google Search Result

 

Google doesn’t always use what you provide here (it can use more relevant excerpts from your page) but it’s a good practice to feed this information to search engines. They’ll use title and description you provide most of the time.

Scroll down and click “Update Options:”

 

Update Options

 

Now let’s optimize each page (do this for all new pages and posts).

Go to “Pages,” hover over the page and click “Edit:”

 

Pages

 

Scroll down and give this page an optimized title and description:

 

Optimize pages

 

Always remember to save changes – scroll up and click “Update:”

 

Update Page

 

Do the same for all existing and future pages and posts.

 

Now go back to “Plugins.”

Note:
If your theme documentation has instructions for setting up a “Contact” page (so customers can contact you through your website) – use their instructions and skip this section.

 


* * * * * * * * * *

Find Contact Form 7 plugin (plugin used to create contact forms) and click “Settings:”

 

Contact Form7 Settings

 

Click on “Mail” tab to configure contact settings:

 

Contact Form 7 Mail

 

Double check to make sure both “To” and “From” have email that you regularly check:

 

Contact Form To and From

 

Always remember to save changes:

 

Contact Form Save Changes

 

Now, copy contact form shortcode:

 

Contact Form Copy Shortcode

 

Go to “Pages” -> “Contact” page -> Edit.

Optionally, write why you want customers to email you.

Then paste contact shortcode and click “Update” to save changes:

 

Paste Contact Form Shortcode

 

For other options and to customize your contact form see Contact Form 7 documentation.

Here’s a possible Contact page:

 

Contact Page

 

* * * * * * * * * *


 

Next, configure WP Super Cache plugin. It creates “copies” of the site to load it faster for your website visitors.

Go to “Settings” -> WP Super Cache:

 

WP Super Cache

 

Select “Caching On” and click “Update Status” to turn it ON:

 

Turn Caching On

 

Dismiss the message on top.

 

 

Check all “Recommended” options

AND

Clear all cache files when a post or page is published or updated” option

as you scroll down:

 

WP Super Cache Settings

 

Then click “Update Status” to save changes.

Done with this plugin.

 


 

Now configure XML Sitemap plugin.

This plugin lists all your pages and posts. Sitemap (organized list of website pages) can be submitted to Google and Bing webmaster tools.

Go to “Settings” -> XML Sitemap and open the top link (ending in …/sitemap.xml) in a new tab:

 

XML Sitemap

 

Check each and every link there and make sure there’s no junk – pages or posts that you don’t want public to see or pages that are empty or dummy/sample pages (came with your theme) that are irrelevant to your website.

If you find such page/post, go to “Pages” or “Posts,” find that page/post and click “Edit.” Then click “Move to Trash” – next to “Update” button. Doing so will remove it from your sitemap.

Submitting your site to Google and Bing helps search engines better understand your website and give you website monitoring and diagnostics tools.

 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to submit your website to Google Search Console.

And here’s a similar guide to submit it to Bing Webmaster Tools.

 


 

Remember how we didn’t delete Akismet plugin in the beginning of this guide?

You can configure it too. If you will have comments turned on and want this plugin to fight spam – activate it:

 

Akismet Plugin

 

Click “Activate your Akismet account:”

 

Activate Akismet Plugin

 

Then follow instructions to get your API key.

You’ll need to create a free WordPress account. You can then choose to pay for Akismet service (donation-based) or get it for free:

 

Get Akismet For Free

 

All plugins are configured.

 

 

Summary

Done!

You’re done with this simple website setup.

There’s definitely a lot more to web design, technical optimization, graphic design, content & copywriting, marketing, etc.  – where professionals dwell.

There’s no limit to perfection…

 

But you accomplished a lot – you created your own website!

  • got domain and hosting
  • installed and configured WordPress
  • got a theme and designed your site a little
  • created and organized website pages to communicate with your existing and potential customers

Congratulations!

 

 

Now your turn!

 

What Say You

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