Some people use their WordPress site like a blog, while others use it like a website without blogging. Both options are available.
We can design and develop simple 5-6 page WordPress sites, or more complex sites with hundreds of pages and numerous custom menus.
Some sites we build only partway and our clients further develop them. Some we finish completely. For some we do minimal search engine optimization. For others we do extensive SEO then follow up over the months. Every client and every project is very different.
Who should have a WordPress site?
We strongly recommend WordPress sites for people who want to:
- improve their search engine optimization results
- edit and update their own sites
- build up their site over time by adding new pages and/or blog posts
- have their site display properly on mobile devices. A responsive WordPress design ensures your site will look good on any kind of display, from iPhones and iPads to the wide range of tablets and Androids currently available.
WordPress building blocks
Wordpress is an application with hundreds of files and functions – more than most people will ever need. It’s a free application but it has to be installed on a server and configured. It also needs to be updated several times per year.
The host you choose is very important because WordPress is vulnerable to being hacked. You must be on a host that can offer you a regular backup of your files in case something happens to your site. Currently we recommend our managed hosting using an international company that works only with developers.
After WordPress is installed, a theme is built or modified. A theme is an interface design with background colours, heading areas, footers, sidebars and other features. There may be one or more templates, and one or more style sheets. The style sheets contain the instructions for how everything should look.
Plugins and widgets
Most WordPress sites need 4 or more plugins – some have 20 or more. These small applications allow you to add interactive features like contact forms, maps, newsletter signups, blog subscriptions, slideshows, photo galleries, social media links and much more. There are also smaller scripts called widgets that are used to organize small tasks, like showing Archives or Latest Posts in the sidebar of a blog.
After the site is built, content is added to the pages. The beauty of WordPress rests in the ability to easily add pages, move them around, quickly make custom menus, organize categories, and other tasks that can be very time-consuming in a standard html site.
Once the content is added, the site is tested in different browsers and devices like cell phones. Adjustments are made to the themes and style sheets as necessary.
It’s important to ask what a developer has in mind when he or she gives you a WordPress quote. Many will install WordPress using a one-click installation and leave you to it. This is not what most people have in mind.
After installing WordPress, the developer should go through all the settings and prepare the framework. A really good article listing the work that should be done to complete a proper installation can be found at setting up a WordPress installation.
If you tell a developer that you “want something simple you can update yourself”, he or she may assume you just want the basic installation. However in most cases you need $up to $1000 worth of work to make it even start to look like a website.
Before asking for a quote, discuss the following with developers.
• the extent to which you need a developer to complete your pages – from blank to fully finished
• the extent to which you will need someone to research text, write text, edit your own text, take photos, size your photos, make your photo sizes consistent, etc.
• if you are willing and interested in buying books and using online tutorials to learn how to use WordPress
• if you are willing to learn some HTML to fix up layouts or links
• if you are able to do WordPress and plugin updates yourself, or are willing to return to a developer for them
• if you have the software and skills to size images, because WordPress does not work well with unsized images taken directly from a camera
Do not use free themes!
We don’t recommend free themes for many reasons. People who create free themes do not generally keep them updated. A theme that isn’t updated every time WordPress releases a new version can cause problems in the future.
There are also many issues with code snippets and spam embedded in free templates. Read more about why you should not use a free WordPress theme. You may not care about your site enough to use a custom theme, but you should care about your visitors, who can pick up nasty malware and other hidden code.
Ask for stable, tested plugins
Because plugins are created by independent programmers, many are unstable. Others might stop functioning after a new version of WordPress is updated. We only use plugins that we’ve found to be reliable over the long term, and that we’ve tested.
Plugins do not usually look exactly the way you want them to look after they’re installed. Ask your developer the degree to which he or she is able to reconfigure plugins, such as changing the appearance of the text or removing features you may not want. Otherwise you could be stuck with an unappealing plugin or one that doesn’t fit the space well. Be aware that the cost of these extra hours can add up, so check with your developer first.
Decide on a simple or complex menu system
In the next stage, we develop your menu system so visitors can navigate from page to page. If one or more of the main headings has sub-headings, we can design drop-down menus. Or we can create custom menus in the sidebars (as you see in this site).
Determine who creates and adds content
Your site is now ready to go with blank pages. Again many developers take you only to this point, so it’s good to discuss your expectations ahead of time. We encourage you to let us set up each page with at least a little content, and install a few images in each gallery, just to get you going. If you need lots more, we can research, write or edit your text, create slideshows, install ecommerce shops, make art galleries, add event calendars and set up many other features and content.
Determine who will do your updates
Unlike html sites, WordPress sites rely on code that has to be “updated” all the time. By updating we don’t mean adding new content. We mean updating the code itself: the WordPress installation, the theme and the plugins. New versions of WordPress and plugins become available almost monthly. The updates fix security breaches in earlier installations and it’s critical you do them. Read more about updates
Ask about training and follow-up help
Wordpress is not very intuitive to use. Ask your developer how much help you can expect. In our case, we start with an in-person tutorial session. If this is not possible, we’ll send you screen shots and tips on how to use different features. We’re available by email or phone if you get in a jam. We find most people are good to go after just a couple of posts and may only need a hand once or twice a year.
Ask about SEO – Search Engine Optimization
We also offer search engine optimization services for blogs. It’s important to use an SEO plugin and use it properly, rather than the tag feature, or you will not achieve good results in Google and Bing. The tag feature in WordPress allows you to categorize content for your visitors, but has no effect on search engines.
In addition to on-page SEO services, we make sure your site is submitted to Google and verified so your pages will start appearing in the organic listings. This is a critical final step.
We welcome you to come by for a no-cost consultation to discuss how a WordPress site can work for you and your own visitors. Contact us for a discussion or to set up a free consultation.