Building a WordPress website is kind of a big deal. There are themes, images, colors, fonts, and lions and tigers and bears, oh my! So with all sorts of content and design thoughts whirring around in your head, where do you start? Is there a path to follow? Yes! There sure is, and I have broken the process into a 10-Step WordPress website checklist.
Plan Your Website Content and Desired Actions
This is the time to actually write down not only what you offer but why you offer it. In other words, write down what problem you are solving for others. Are you creating a community? If so, what purpose does that community serve? Are you selling a product or service? Great! Why does that product or service exist? Write all of this down.
Who are you doing this for? A female audience? A male audience? A certain age group? A certain world view? What is appealing to them and why would they be attracted to you? Not sure? Why are they attracted to other places and services they use and frequent? Write all of this down.
Lastly, what are you selling and what can you give them before they buy anything to help them? What do you want them to do on your website?
Write For Your Audience and Your Goals
If you could walk someone through your site in the order of your choosing, what order would that be? Write out what that would look like and then name those steps. The names you give those steps are the names of your pages. Remember, most people don’t appreciate being sold to unless they already know and trust you, so when you think about how you would walk someone through your site, think about how a conversation would go with someone if you met them for the first time at a party and you could tell them about your business. Would you start with your business? Probably not. You’d start with you, why you do what you do, who you like working with, and then you’d get into your services and support resources. That’s how you’ll want to structure your website.
Now that you’ve named your pages, write what goes on each page. A tip to help you stay moving along is to just create an outline of main points that you’d like to cover on each page and if you want images, videos, PDFs, forms, etc., on each page. After the quick outline, return to each page and ask yourself to just write a sentence or two for each bullet point and then move to the next page. Eventually, you’ll find you have fleshed out content for each page.
Now that you have your pages named, text written, and have identified what content you’d like on each page, go get it. This means taking or buying all of your images, making your videos, making your PDFs, and writing down what you would like for your forms.
Put in Content
Log into your site and create blank pages for each of your pages except your home page. Name them what you named them in the Writing for your Audience and Goals step.
Once you’ve created each blank page, go ahead and add in your text, your images, your PDFs, your videos and anything else that goes on each page of your site. This isn’t the time to worry about appearances. Just get all the content for each page on their respective pages.
Navigation Bar Creation
Take a moment and look at all of your pages. If you have what feels like a lot for a navigation bar, see if you can group some of your pages. If you can, what’s the name of that group? The name of that group can be your top-level item in your navigation bar; the pages can go into drop-down menus for the top-level navigation items.
Theme and Home Page Setup
Now that you have a really, really good idea about what your site is all about and the content it contains, you can go check out themes. When you find one, you are ready to buy it, install it, and set up your home page.
Customize Your Website’s Colors and Fonts
Your theme should have ways for you to install custom fonts and change the colors; this information will be in the theme setup instructions. Now is the time to put these customizations in place because you can see how your visual ideas look with your content.
Test Your Website
Do you have friends, co-workers, or acquaintances that are your target audience? Great! These are the people that should make up your testing crew, not your mom, dad, brother, and sister. When you have someone look at your site, you want them to be someone who can appreciate what you are sharing on your website, so it is very important to find people who would actually do/buy/sign up for what you have to offer.
When you ask someone to test your site, remember they are doing you a HUGE favor. Do the testing over lunch or cocktails or coffee that you are treating them to or in some other way that they will truly appreciate. Just ask for ten minutes of their time to look at the site, and stick to it. Trust me, ten minutes of hearing someone’s thoughts will be plenty for you to act on. When they look at your site, watch them and ask them to do specific things. Ask specific questions. “So, what do you think? Do you like it?” Those are examples of questions that will leave your website tester feeling on the spot and unsure. Instead, ask them specific questions, such as, “I was hoping to create a look that reminds people of IKEA. Do you think I succeeded?”
Remember, people have tons of opinions. So don’t take all of the information you get and try to make all of the changes that are thrown your way. Instead, only change the things you hear the most. Once the site is live, you’ll learn if the other things matter or not when a much larger audience can view your website.
Yes! Have your host help you assign your domain name to your website. Tell everyone. Go reward yourself. But then come back because you have one more thing to do.
Search Engines and Tracking
In addition to launching your site, you’ll want to see if you can get attention from Google. This is a HUGE topic, but for now, let’s keep it simple and start with the basics. Install Yoast SEO plugin. Learn how to use the plugin and grade each one your pages with the plugin. Install MonsterInsights plugin and install Google Analytics code so you can start learning what people do when they visit your website and how they found you in the first place.
You Made It!
There’s a lot more I could add after Step 10, but if you can just follow this process, you’ll actually get your site online and it will be in line with your goals and your audience.
Happy site building!