I'm a do-it-from-scratch entrepreneur by nature, but I've mentioned a few times on this blog (also here) that it's smart not to reinvent the wheel. That's why I say, if you need a website and you want something a bit more complex than you'd get with these brochureware sites like Squarespace, use WordPress. (Check out the WordPress site for Kuaui Cigars here.) Previously published in Starting from Zero
WordPress isn't Just for Blogs Anymore
Savvy founders know the value of DIY. But sometimes, what you can do yourself just isn't good enough. Not so with the website – anymore. These days WordPress, that old standby for blogging enthusiasts, is the place to go for a great style, extremely complex business site as well as to host your blog. Here are some tips and resources for putting together your first WordPress website.
Download a Free Theme
Go to WordPress.org and browse their library of Themes (WP templates are called Themes). There are hundreds and they're all free! So if you're really strapped for cash you should have no problem finding one you like. In fact, if you're anything like me, you'll wisely start building your WP site with the free template first, just to try things out.
Then, as you envision more and more things you want to do with it, you'll switch to better and better themes. This will ultimately lead you to spending $30 – $60 on a really awesome theme from one of the big vendors out there. (I mean, come on. You can't spend $30 on a theme for your website?)
Buy a Theme
So you figured out that doing exactly what you have in mind for your website will require something a little more than a free theme. Now head on over to one of the big vendors and look at all the candy! There's so many fantastic designs, it will be hard for you to chose.
… You don't need me to list them all, Google it!
One caution about buying a theme: read all the comments about that theme first. Older themes are tried and true, and so most of the bugs have been worked out. Newer themes are trendy — but are also still buggy. So read other customers' comments to see just how buggy, and how responsive the author is to requests for fixes.
Host on WordPress.org (But Beware)
One of the best things about WordPress is that you can host everything on the WordPress.org site for free. With one mouse click. That's right! Free theme, free hosting, why wouldn't you go this way?
Well, one of the drawbacks is you can't do anything that generates revenue if you're on the WordPress servers (the free side). That means no ads, no Adsense, and they won't even allow you to link to commercial sites. I ended up moving to my own servers pretty fast, because I was writing an article about resources for startups, and I wasn't allowed to include links to any of the service sites I found. I know, I know, kinda the not-for-profit Nazis. But still, their house, their rules. Fair enough.
So when you decide you want to link to commercial sites, or that you want to start making a revenue stream with your website, it's time to move everything to your own hosting service. Don't panic! It's super simple to do – and you can even download all your past posts and comments and upload them into the new WP site without losing anything.
Host on Your Own Server (It's Simple)
You've made the choice to host your WP site on your own hosting service, but now you're on your own when it comes to getting set up. Again, this is waaayyy simpler than you think.
On my hosting site, HostGator.com, I found a easy online tutorial that explained what buttons to click in order to set up my site for WP. Check it out just so you see how easy it will be.
Most hosting services will have WP either already ready to go or you can set it up with a few mouse taps. I recommend you Google search on the name of your host, and “wordpress installation.”
Making Your WP Website Useful
Blogs are great for conveying information to readers, but they're not really useful in the way that websites are. For your business, you'll probably want to include call to action light boxes, contact forms, perhaps an eCommerce section, and all the other features cool, professional websites have. This is where WordPress becomes awesome – it can do anything and everything you can think of. And it does it with plugins!
Plug-Ins Can Do Anything!
You bought your theme, you've installed it and now it's time to add features. Plugins are developed by third-party programmers who either do it for fun and offer their Plugins for free, or do it for cash and sell the Plugins for about $6. Because they are crowd-sourced from the developing community, there is literally anything you want to do. All you have to do is find the right Plugin.
Here's a great list of the 95 best Plugins for WordPress – a good place to start.
The basics for installing a Plugin is to navigate to the Dashboard of your WP site. Scan down the left navbar and you'll see the Plugins tab about half way down. Click that and you'll come to the Add New page, where you can search for the Plugin you want.
Alternatively, do a Google search for the type of Plugin you want. You'll find dozens of developers who are working on that very thing (whatever it may be).
When you get a free Plugin from the tab, you just click a link to install it instantly. Couldn't be easier!
If you buy a Plugin from the Web, save the .zip file to your desktop first. Then head back to the Plugins tab on your WP site and at the top of the Add New screen is the Upload button. You upload the entire zip file without unzipping and WordPress does the rest.
Setting Up Plugins
Once you've installed a Plugin, you might have to spend a little time learning how to work it. It's the wild west when it comes to how developers integrate Plugins with WP.
You might have to go to the Settings tab to customize it. Or there might be a new tab for that specific Plugin on the navbar. Some will create widgets that appear on the sidebar of your website. Some will simply integrate with the post writing page. Some – usually utilities – will add their own tab at the top of the Dashboard.
But hey, this is the DIY part, right? You can figure this out.
Find Out How to do Anything in the World on WordPress
Okay, so you're up and running. It probably took you a couple hours to get the basic WordPress site set up. But it will be weeks and months of (fun) scouring the web and the Plugins for every feature you can think of. You'll spend your Saturday mornings playing with Plugins. You'll stay up 'till 1:00am installing and uninstall hundreds as you get the site exactly the way you want it. You're practically a developer yourself now, building website and all.
That's the cool part about WordPress sites – you're doing this all yourself! You don't have to worry about paying a developer. You don't have to get it perfect and then be afraid to ever touch it again. It's a living, breathing website that you are the master of – not some guy you've never met with really bad social skills who you suspect of living in his mother's basement!
And if you can't figure something out? I guarantee someone online has written a tutorial about it. So go Google the problem.
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