Web/blog design can be overwhelming, especially in the beginning, you wonder where to start. Most of us back in the day landed on blogger and as blogger evolved so did so many other “blogger” type sites. Over the years, I stayed true to Blogger, up until WordPress took over the blogging scene and started flexing its superhuman design muscles. I became captivated by the quality themes, design options, affordability and robust functionality all wrapped up into one neat little package. And the rest is history…
When prepping for whichever blog/website you do choose to design, you have to elect a domain name, you can do this through any site really, but WordPress manages to keep everything in house right down to hosting your site and giving you the option to select a free WordPress domain name or the option to purchase a premium domain name as well, sans WordPress part of the domain: www.mywebsite.wordpress.com. I love WordPress because it keeps things simple and fluid. Check it out!
WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com
When you first start dabbling in the lovely world of WordPress you will find that there are two different sites, WordPress.org and WordPress.com. This is simple discernment. WordPress.org is for building websites and robust blogs and WordPress.com is for building a free simple blog which is also indexable through Google, Pinterest and Bing.
- WordPress.com benefits: Free, easy to setup, secure, your content is automatically backed up on hundreds of servers.
- WordPress.org benefits: Ability to upload custom themes, plugins and if you are HTML savvy you can customize code.
Choosing a WordPress Theme
Choosing a theme is like choosing a pair of shoes. You try them on, walk in them for a while, and you love them, hate them, or add them to your collection of shoes. Themes in reality are very similar. To start with, WordPress gives you several default themes, such as the twenty-ten, twenty-eleven, twenty-twelve and now just released the twenty-thirteen default theme. These are great starter themes to acclimate you to using WordPress and the back end functionality of this very robust yet simple CMS (content management software). In addition to these default themes, WordPress also affords you the option to select from a large array of FREE themes as well. Surprisingly, the list of FREE themes grows everyday and some of these themes are incredibly beautiful, functional and easy to use for your blog/website and most of these themes are good for either a blog or your website. You also have the option to purchase premium themes as well. Premium themes usually have more styling options and custom CSS. Premium themes will cost you though, typically between $25-100 depending on the extensiveness of the theme. It’s ok to collect themes are try out different ones and their functionalities. You also have the option within the pre-download portion of the theme to look at it live as well, a great way to try it on quickly to see if it fits your style! TIP: Info-Way inkthemes.com is a great place to download theme packages for very little cost, they have excellent forums and customer service!
How do I….?
When initially trying to learn WP, you are faced with an interesting challenge; you are either here for a simple blog design or a website design/extensive blog. The disparity between the two can be vast but learning WordPress is very similar on either platform. WordPress manages to keep things reasonably balanced in regards to blog vs. website design. My suggestion, if you are a beginner and trying to learn WP, start with a blog and get your feet wet there first. And of course, it is good for any entrepreneur to blog anyways, this is a great way to learn WordPress and to launch your first published work! Another suggestion is to purchase “WordPress for Dummies” keep in mind there are two versions, make sure to take notice, ”WordPress” for Dummies & “Wordpress Web Design for Dummies”, both are outstanding resources and will take you through WordPress step by step. It will also reveal some great secrets of WordPress and give you tips and tricks as well. I still reference these books to this day and as WordPress and the world of CMS are constantly shifting I continue to get the updated versions on my iPad. Note: WordPress also has a great support page and a forum page as well. Both will help you with most any issue or question with WordPress.
One thing you will see and hear a lot of is the word “plugin”. Wordpress.org presents an array truly incredible tools for you to download, install and diversify your WordPress powered website these are called plugins. What is a plugin you might ask? Plugins are undersized programs, or combination of programs rather, that sit on top of your WordPress system and enhance the function of your website dependent on the chosen desired plugin(s). Basically the way plugins emerged were from programmers wanting to give WordPress sites that little kick and capability to do one more extra thing or element without having to alter the code, and voila the plugin was born! Now, there are over 23,000 different plugins all used for different purposes, and when you start looking at the list of plugins, it’s easy to get a little lost and beleaguered. But a word to the wise, make sure you do your research and read reviews and ratings about plugins. One plugin can crash your entire site, and this is no joke. Don’t be cavalier about what you decide to download onto your site; and before you start getting crazy with plugins always make sure you have good back up of your website. But don’t be deterred from using plugins, if you do your research and download from reputable sources, then you are good to go and honestly there are some plugins you just can’t live without! Here is a list of must haves:
- All in One SEO Pack -Out-of-the-box SEO for your WordPress blog (Love this one!)
- Google XML Sitemap -This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com to better index your blog.
- WordPress Database Backup
- Google Site Verification -One-click Google verification for your website – This is great for veryfiying and indexing your blog on Google. Make sure you have a Google Webmaster Tools account (it’s free)
- Bing Site Verification- Same as Google
- Contact Form 7
- Google XML Sitemap for Videos – same as above but specific for video sites
- Simple Pull Quote – This is just a really cool way to pull out certain text and put it in cartoon-like quotations.
- Thank Me Later – An automated “thank you” to anyone who comments on your blog, great for your blogger on the go!
WordPress also gives you the option to add all or some of your Social Media pages to your blog/website. Take advantage of this option because this is your way of reaching the outside world, outside of your WordPress family. And if you don’t have social media pages setup in your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ then do so! You are missing out on the internet’s biggest party and a key function to SEO! With just a few clicks you can quickly reach numerous audiences and besides what good is a published work if no one can find you and read what you are writing!?
There is a learning curve to all of this WordPress stuff, and at first it might feel overwhelming almost like learning a new language, but in the end if you are willing to get past some minor nuances you will find that this very robust CMS is compelling and intuitive. WordPress is dominant because it gives you a toolbox full of tools, you just have to learn how to use them, when to use them and where to use them. This is something that will come quickly, if you are willing to put in the effort and hours it takes to learn WordPress. Once you’ve done that, the rest is cake! Trust me, learning WordPress will be the best investment in your blogging/website future. WordPress has changed the face of CMS and things are changing rapidly so get on board and be a part of this incredible ride!