How to build a WordPress website that works
Let’s start by explaining what we’re talking about when we say WordPress. WordPress is a platform originally developed by the good folks over at WordPress.com as an open-source Content Management System (CMS), which was made available – and still is available for download – at WordPress.org. WordPress.com now offers competitive hosting and limited support for its platform on WordPress.com, while the WordPress platform can be deployed on any server independently of WordPress.com. Think of it as if Squarespace opened up its program to every developer in the world and you could just download and upload the Squarespace editing system and access to all the plugins on any server you wish.
There are benefits and drawbacks to this open-source mode of operation. The benefits being with a fully explorable file structure anyone with knowledge of PHP and HTML could learn and develop for the WordPress platform. This means that overall as of 2019 the total hours worked to develop the WordPress platform has gone over 100 combined years. Which is crazy. The drawbacks of the open-source nature of the software are – in line with the benefit – that anybody can learn how it works and develop for it – even those with nefarious intentions.
But why am I telling you this in an article about building a WordPress website? I think it’s incredibly important to understand that an open-source platform like WordPress means that choosing hosting, proper security and support are key components when you’re building your WordPress site.
- Always ensure your site has an SSL
- ensure your site is backed-up every 24 hours
- Ensure your site is updated at least once every month
- Perform a full database and site backup before you run your updates
- Only run updates that are reported to be safe by the author
- Choose to host that’s dedicated to the WordPress platform like Flywheel or WPengine or even WordPress.com
- Avoid cheap hosting as there is usually hidden bandwidth and traffic restrictions
- Ensure your site has a proper cache system as WordPress can be a robust system
- Keep your theme updated
- Don’t install new plug-ins without doing some research on how/if they will work correctly with current plug-ins.
- Always use premium plug-ins, if it’s critical to the function of the site
- Keep WordPress itself updated, this is critical for security
It’s for reasons like the above our team saw value in developing our own WordPress Management Solutions Packages. If you’re interested in seeing what that looks like, click here.
The tools we use!
Toronto Creatives uses WordPress as a go-to solution for most simple websites. For more complicated projects or projects with more security concerns – it’s sometimes necessary to build a site from scratch. In other cases, if a client has a smaller project that requires a complex solution like an eCommerce site, we will recommend a service like Shopify, which can be more expensive in the long-term but can be set up to start making money very quickly and easily.
Whereas on larger scale projects with a little more scope, audience and/or functionality we would recommend a WordPress eCommerce site powered by WooCommerce, the leading eCommerce solution for the WordPress platform.
Depending on the size and scope of the final site, and how much traffic the site is expecting we typically recommend a host like Flywheel or WPEngine. Both these hosts are specialized in WordPress hosting and support. They offer robust and reliable platforms and will help you troubleshoot any WordPress – hosting related problems.
Once you have your hosting nailed down, and we’re assuming that we’re going to be using WordPress as a platform. We generally like to work with a theme like Divi, or at least make sure we’re working with one that is compatible with the Divi Builder. The reason for this is that we’re a boutique team and while we absolutely offer white glove hosting, social media management, and blog content – we are dedicated to providing our clients with a final product that they can update themselves, feel empowered to use, and know its safe if something goes wrong, because their site is backed-up every 24 hours.
The Divi family of products isn’t huge but it’s extremely powerful. The Divi theme, in particular, is not just an extremely nice example of minimalist design right out of the box, it’s incredibly customizable. Keep in mind, the more customize your site, the more difficult it could be for a client to use – this is why we try to make our build processes as straightforward as possible. That said, if you’re building a site for yourself, the more about how you know how your site works, in my opinion, the better!
There are other themes out there that are less intensive to set up, but few as customizable and user-friendly as the Divi theme.
When you’ve got your theme down, and you have an idea of what your site needs to do, and what information it needs to include, you can start to get to work. When you work on a hosting platform like Flywheel or WP Engine there is usually a staging area where you can develop your site in private before dropping it live on your URL.
Those are the three main components to most of the website properties we build and manage. This provides our clients with a website that works, that they can update and that is on a stable and reliable hosting plan.
So if you’re looking for a simple website solution or you’re a designer with some CSS knowledge I would recommend the Divi theme all the way. It’s one of the most versatile themes in the WordPress landscape and it includes a powerful front-end builder interface.
The world of WordPress is almost endless, there are plug-ins for almost everything. But that doesn’t mean WordPress SHOULD be used for everything. Some plug-ins are good, some are not bad, and some are terrible. Overall you should try and stick to plug-ins that are on their third or fourth version – this means they have been around for a while and won’t likely be abandoned by the developer, leaving you without updates, plug-ins should have good reviews and developed by a reputable studio, over a single developer. We also recommend using premium plug-ins whenever possible, because at some point SOMETHING WILL BREAK and you’re going to need to reach out to the developer THAT BUILD THE PLUG-IN and knows how it works, with WordPress. You could argue this is another drawback to working on the WordPress platform, that the developers are spread across the globe and really could be anyone, but this is, in fact, true for most plug-ins for other platforms too, such as Shopify and Squarespace. The exception is that with the open-source WordPress platform, so much more can be accomplished by the community at large because they can be worked on totally independent of WordPress.com