How WordPress works

Wordpress is a popular software for building websites. You can get a free account at wordpress.com and try it out. WordPress can also be installed on an independent server, and that’s where we come in. We install WordPress on commercial servers, offer managed hosting in Canada, and specialize in responsive design. A responsive WordPress design ensures your site will re-size and re-configure to look good on any kind of display, from cell phones and tablets to desktop monitors.

We can design and develop a simple 5-6 page WordPress site or a more complex sites with hundreds of pages and numerous custom menus. 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

WordPress building blocks

WORPRESS
What is WordPress? WordPress is a free application for building websites that includes hundreds of files and functions – more than most people will ever need. It is installed on a server and a number of settings configured. Both WordPress and the plugins used by your site, such as contact forms or sliders, need to be updated by your developer when major updates become available. You should expect to do 2-3 major updates per year. The updates replace older versions of the software running your site.

The host you choose is very important because WordPress is vulnerable to being hacked. You must be on a host that provides a regular backup of your files, in case something happens to your site. There is no other copy of your site other than the copy on the server! Note: We strongly recommend that you use our managed hosting and backup system, which are monitored daily.

THEME
After WordPress is installed, a theme is built. This is the interface design, including background colours, heading areas, footers, sidebars and other features. Your site will have one or more templates, and one or more style sheets. The style sheets contain the instructions for how everything should look. We build only custom themes, for reasons discussed below.

PLUGINS and WIDGETS
Most WordPress sites need 4 or 5 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.

CONTENT FILES
After WordPress is installed and configured, and after the theme and style sheets are developed, your site is ready for content. The content can be put on Pages, which show in the main menu, or on Posts, which are located in an area of the site called “Blog”, “News” or “Updates” – or any other name you’d like. When you write a new Post, it’s automatically added to the blog area. If you make a new Page, you’ll need to add it to the menu in a second step.

The main menu can be designed as one level, or with drop-down menus. Larger sites like this one often have additional menus in a sidebar.

Videos should be uploaded to an account with Youtube or Vimeo, then embedded on your site by pasting the Youtube or Vimeo web address on your pages.

Testing
As we add content, we test your site in different browsers and on different devices like cell phones and tablets. Adjustments are made to the theme and style sheets as necessary. For example, we need to ensure that images reduce properly and text is easily readable.

Getting quotes
It’s important to ask what a developer has in mind when he or she gives you a WordPress quote. Many developers 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, your developer should go through all the settings and configure them. 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 of WordPress plus a ready-made theme. However most sites need experienced coding and design to look professional.

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 will to return to your 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 may 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 prefer to use ones that we’ve tested.

Plugins do not usually look the way you want them to look after they’re installed. Ask your developer if he or she is able to style plugins. 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.

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. We can also 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
We can’t say this strongly enough: WordPress sites rely on code that has to be updated. By updating we don’t mean adding new content. We mean updating the code itself: the WordPress installation, the theme and the plugins when new versions become available. The updates fix security breaches in earlier installations and it’s critical they are done. 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 or 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 help once or twice a year.

Ask about SEO – Search Engine Optimization
We also offer search engine optimization services. It’s important to have an SEO plugin and use it properly, rather than the tag feature, or you will not achieve good results in Google. 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. Without it, search engines don’t automatically know a new site is online.

We welcome you to come by for a no-cost consultation to discuss how a WordPress site can work for you and your visitors. Contact us for a discussion or to set up a free consultation.