Can I build my own WordPress website?
Of course you can! It’s time-consuming and there is a bit of a learning curve when using WordPress, but, you sure in the heck can build and design your website!
There are a lot of moving parts to designing a WordPress website (any website for that matter), so it is important to have a plan and know what tools to use. There are many website builders out there that you can use, and over the years I have used a few of them.
In my experience, I am here to tell you that WordPress is by far the best. There is no limit to what you can do and you have full control over your website, which is not the case with self-hosted platforms like Wix and Squarespace. I’ve written a blog post on 7 reasons to use WordPress over Squarespace.
It’s important that you begin your website starting with a solid foundation because without it, you are at risk of your website crumbling. I know, it sounds harsh, but when you are building your house (i.e. website) on a shaky foundation (i.e. theme, plugins, hosting), you are much more likely to have problems with the functionality of your website, potentially losing out on those clients, sales and growth you want.
I’ll tell you from experience that having a stable, rock-solid foundation is going to set you up for success.
So, here we gooooo….. let’s get started!
So what are the steps to design your website from scratch?
- Choose your domain name
- Purchase hosting
- Install WordPress
- Find a WordPress theme (free is not the way to go)
- Install your WordPress theme
- Configure your WordPress theme
- Install WordPress plugins (oh goodness there are soooo many!)
- Create your pages
- Create your navigation menu
- Design your website
- Write blog posts if applicable
- Making sure your website looks good on mobile devices
- Connect your domain name to your website
- Install your SSL certificate
- Direct your website to https://
- Go live with your website
Whew! Let’s not even talk about all the steps in between each of these steps! Holy camoly – here’s just a few!
- Optimizing your images for upload
- Writing great content
- Page titles and meta descriptions are in place
- Permalinks are set
- Choosing fonts that pair well with your brand
- What about colors?
- Getting the fancy font on your website
For reference, when we have a new client come on board with us and I begin the website design process, I refer to a 50-point checklist just for the actual design part so I am covering everything – crossing my ‘T’s and dotting my ‘I’s. Getting all my ducks in a row so to speak.
1. Choose your domain name
The first thing you’ll need to do is decide on the domain name you’ll use for your site. The most logical choice is to choose your business name, paired with a .com extension. This extension is the most popular one and most people expect a website to end with a .com. You can also use .org or .co – these are two popular ones.
I recommend using Google Workspace to purchase a domain name (and while you’re there you can get a professional email address too!). There are other places to do this, I just like Google. They automatically give you privacy protection, too!
2. Purchase hosting
Once you’ve settled on a domain name, you’ll need to purchase it as well as a hosting plan or server space that will allow you to store your site’s files and make your site accessible to the rest of the world. This is SUPER important.
Your website is only as good as your hosting provider.
There are a TON to choose from.
We host our clients’ websites on our own server so that we are able to manage what is going on and update WordPress, themes and plugins when necessary. DO NOT purchase your domain name with your hosting provider OR your email address. Keep all three separate. This can set you up for all kinds of problems down the road.
My recommendations for hosting are FlyWheel and SiteGround. We also offer hosting for websites we do not design or maintain – but only after approval. If you are interested in hosting with us, please reach out and we can walk you through what that would look like.
3. Install WordPress/choose theme
Installing WordPress is pretty straight forward. With either FlyWheel or SiteGround, you install WordPress directly from the platform. With us, we install WordPress for you, then hand over the “keys” to your website.
Choosing a theme is a little more involved. You DEFINITELY want to stay away from free themes. They are limited and can prohibit you from getting the design just like you want it.
We use Divi with all our websites and I highly recommend this theme. The purchase comes with the builder. A premium theme will have all the features needed to create an attractive site and you’ll also be able to contact the theme author if you need any help with the theme setup or customization.
4. Configure your theme
You will need to adjust the settings to match your brand (logo, fonts, colors) as well as other settings that will dictate how your site performs and looks.
5. Create your pages and menu
I recommend you prepare all the content and images that will go on your site before you create your pages. Think about the pages you want to have and prepare a document with all the text ready to go on each page. At least have most of this ready so you know what pages you want on your website. Make sure you are resizing your images before you upload them to your media folder.
6. Install plugins
Yowza, there are a LOT of plugins you can choose from. While there are many plugins that serve a specific purpose, here are some that we use and recommend.
- Imagify – image optimizer (free & paid)
- Anti-spam by Cleantalk – eliminate 99% of spam. I really like this one!
- SEOPress – add your titles, meta description and keywords to most pages and posts (free & paid). Yoast is a popular SEO plugin, I just didn’t care for it that much.
- FluentForms Pro is a premium form builder that is versatile in every way. A free option is Forminator.
- FluentCRM – This is hands down the best email marketing program I’ve used. There is no separate platform you need because this is a plugin for your WordPress website. NO LIMITS ON SUBSCRIBERS EITHER! 😃 One yearly subscription and you’re all set.
- WP Rocket – a caching and performance plugin that improves speed
- WP Vivid is our backup plugin we use and it’s affiliated with MainWP where we manage all our websites. There are a few you can choose from.
- We use some Divi specific plugins such as Monarch and Divi ToolBox. I also love CSS Hero. This plugin allows you to add CSS code without having to know CSS. I do know quite a bit of CSS, but this is a lovely tool that makes my designs move a little faster.
7. Design your website
This is where the rubber meets the road so to speak! This is where you get your hands in the clay. Using the Divi builder makes it fairly easy for you. They have 100s of layouts to use or you can design from scratch. You can also start with a layout and modify it how you want.
This is the part that takes you the longest. You don’t want to rush this because your design matters. The components of your design matter.
8. Make sure your website looks good on mobile devices
This is a MUST DO. If your website looks crappy on a phone or tablet, visitors are not going to stick around. With the Divi builder, it’s fairly simple to do, but you may have to find tune it with some CSS. Most often though, using the settings in the builder, you can adjust for a tablet and a mobile phone.
9. Wrapping up
When you are finished with your website, you will have to connect your domain name so that it “points” to your website, making it available for all the world to see. You also need your SSL certificate. Please DO NOT pay for this certificate. Your hosting provider should set this up for you for free, or you would simply click a button and it’s installed for you. We do this for our clients, as well as connect the domain name.
Along with this is making sure your website is pointing to an https:// address and not http://. This difference is the security. Go take a look at some websites and see if they have the padlock next to their URL. If so, they are secure and have an https:// address. If not, well, their site is not secure which is not good.
10. GO LIVE AND MAINTAIN
need help with your website design?
You’re probably thinking this is quite the undertaking, yeah? From start to finish, a website is a hefty little project and hiring a professional can surely take a load off you. Let’s grab a coffee and chat about it!