WordPress

Custom WordPress Websites: WordPress Development for Beginners

Are you a freelancer keen on marketing your capabilities with a compelling digital portfolio? Or, what if you’re an agency or business seeking to deliver a truly personalized browsing experience for potential clients, job candidates, or any other way?

Updated on 10/26/2022

Regardless of your needs, a generic and uninspired website just doesn’t cut it nowadays. The need to stand out – and to make it clear to users what sets you apart from the competitor across the street – is crucial.

This is when custom WordPress website development comes in handy, establishing your personal brand and striking a chord with your target audience. However, when it comes to custom WordPress website design, there are several important elements that you need to consider in advance of concepting, creating, and launching. In this guide, we’ll go over the fundamentals.

What Is WordPress?

In layman’s terms, WordPress is software that allows you to build a website for your business, yourself, or just about anything else. It’s described as an open-source content management system, written in hypertext preprocessor, or PHP. This means that the software is maintained by a community of developers, rather than being owned by one company, and the scripting language can be embedded into HTML. 

WordPress.com and WordPress.org: a Product and a Resource

Sometimes there’s confusion as to whether the .com and .org versions of WordPress are the same thing. In fact, they’re totally different and serve a unique purpose. In short, one is a digital product to build your own site using pre-installed instances, and the other is a resource library/community that lets you personalize the design even further. Let’s take a closer look at each option.

What is WordPress.com?

WordPress.com is a dedicated digital platform that enables you to build out your website, plan and schedule pages or articles using its built-in content management system (CMS), and more. WordPress.com automatically takes care of all server-related needs, and it even allows you to host on dedicated WordPress subdomains or link up with your own.

What is WordPress.org?

WordPress.org is much more complex, and newcomers to website development will likely be overwhelmed by its technical elements. This is because WordPress.org is totally open-source and acts as a resource for developers, users, clients, and even enthusiast coders. This means that you need to do most of the work yourself.

Experienced web developers love using WordPress.org because it affords them greater flexibility and creative freedom, plus the chance to participate in forums, contribute to the CMS code, and more. Using the open-source framework, you’ll be responsible for securing your domains and hosting, full site creation and management, and maintaining the server side of things. Those interested in using CSS or HTML to create a website will feel right at home when using WordPress.org as the invaluable resource and community that it is.

Planning Your WordPress Development

When building a website, as with building anything, it is always a good idea to start with a plan. The user-friendly nature of WordPress may lead you to believe that you can simply log in to your account and build your website with ease. However, launching a new site is a process, and you’ll have to consider a few key components you want your site to have, as well as the experience it will provide readers or customers.

How Long Does WordPress Development Take?

Wishful thinking might lead you to believe that spending a few hours putting together your website will suffice, and in a matter of days, it can be launched. While it’s possible, it would certainly not have all the features it needs to be useful to you, or to people who visit it. It can take at least five weeks, and up to 200 hours, to complete your WordPress custom website. This is a crucial time that ensures all of the kinks are ironed out and will allow visitors to have the best experience possible.

Consider Your Budget

Your WordPress development plan should likely start with a budget. It costs money to build a site that not only looks good but also works well. You’ll have to take into account the purchase of a domain name, your hosting solution, the webpage’s theme, and plugins to ensure your site is user-friendly and working well. Within your budget, you may also want to account for hiring a developer who can save you time, but also has the skills and knowledge to troubleshoot issues you may not be familiar with.

What Skills Do I Need?

Tackling the building of your site yourself can be a considerable process. With the help of WordPress, a lot of the work can be done for you, but it means your site might read a bit more generic and less customized than others out there. As a result, there are a few skills you or your developer should possess to ensure your WordPress development goes just the way you want it to. These include:

  • HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, which is the backbone needed to structure content on your website. 
  • CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, is used in tandem with HTML and can change the order of elements on a page without impacting the visual layout.
  • Javascript is another programming language that works alongside HTML and CSS and can be used to create dynamic web pages.
  • PHP is a little more skewed to web development but can be helpful if you want to customize your WordPress website beyond the basics.
  • Web design will encompass all the skills listed and give you the edge to decide where text and visuals should go, and how the flow of the page can be enhanced to improve the reader experience.

Setting Up Your Domain

The domain you choose has a significant impact on overall web traffic and brand appeal. Naturally, you should choose a domain address that uses your brand name, and don’t forget to seek out .com or .ca extensions to suit US or Canada-based operations. The latter is especially important if you are trying to target local traffic rather than folks living further abroad. It should also be noted that, while .org extensions are often available, they’re better suited to non-profit organizations rather than e-commerce sites, for example (those would benefit more from using .com). Of course, if you wish to target traffic in a specific country, such as Japan or Germany, you should try using domain extensions relevant to those countries.

It can be rather addictive to shop for domains and, yes, you usually need to purchase one. Depending on the extension and value of the domain itself, the annual price to hold the rights to it will vary. GoDaddy is one of several popular domain marketplaces that are well worth a browse. Be prepared to invest a little bit more than planned into your domain. It’s important to select the option that best suits your business type, operations, location, and target audience because the traffic (and potential leads/conversions) you may accumulate in the long run could more than cover the initial cost.

Which Hosting Solution?

In order to keep your website running efficiently, you’ll want to choose a hosting solution that works for your needs. There are a few different options available depending on your budget, and the size and traffic that your site sees. These choices are:

  • Shared hosting. This option typically has multiple tiers depending on your needs. It’s more cost-effective than others because your site will live on a server with hundreds of other web pages. The company that owns the server will maintain it and employ security from malware, but if one site becomes infected, it’s likely that others will too.
  • Dedicated hosting is ideal for complex, resource-heavy sites or if you are trying to scale your webpage. Only your site will be hosted on your server, and you’ll have more control over the management of this solution. However, these benefits also come with a higher price tag.
  • Managed WordPress hosting is specific to WordPress, as the name implies, and is a fast, secure option. It also provides automatic server and site updates, and can be scalable. You’ll receive premium support compared to other hosting options, but that also comes with a premium cost.
  • Cloud hosting is a flexible choice that uses a virtual server to host your site. You’ll experience security and scalability options that you may also get with other servers, and won’t have to worry about the potential for other sites on the server impacting yours. However, data leaks and theft are more possible with this type of hosting solution.
  • VPS, or virtual private server hosting, is ideal for tech-savvy individuals who prefer to customize their operating system or software for projects. It’s a dedicated option, but it also requires a considerable amount of technical skills in order to function.

WordPress Installation

WordPress is super easy to install and navigate, making it possible for even less-experienced users to experiment and create a website. In a quick and simple manner, here are the general steps required to install and start making use of the platform (as detailed by WordPress themselves):

  • Go to the WordPress website and download the package containing the platform.
  • Upon completion of the download, unzip the package.
  • Next, you need to create a dedicated WordPress database on your web server of choice. You also need to set up a user for either MariaDB or MySQL for permissions management and accessibility control purposes.
  • After that, you need to upload the downloaded WordPress files to your web server. Be sure to check WordPress’ detailed instructions if you need to take any special steps here, such as performing a domain root integration or creating a subdirectory.
  • Lastly, it’s time to run the script that initiates the installation. This can easily be done by opening the URL that the WordPress files were uploaded to on your web server.

Theme and Design

How do you want your WordPress website to look and feel for the user? Are you going for a minimalistic look that’s also performance-friendly, offering up the best of both worlds? Or, do you have a lot of products or services that need to be carefully organized and easy to find? Are your site and business going to rely more heavily on imagery and video content rather than text, or do you intend to provide users with in-depth content on certain topics?

These factors will help determine the appropriate theme and design for your website. While the WordPress platform includes several free themes that look great and get the job done, there’s nothing wrong with wanting even more in terms of style and substance. That’s where premium themes come in, which are an added expense but well worth it if you wish to wow your users (and possibly better engage with them). Just ensure that the theme you choose aligns with the vision and goals you have for your site, or it won’t make sense to the reader.

Of course, you don’t have to stop at a theme when designing your website. With the help of an experienced and skilled web developer, you can take the overall design even further, custom-tailoring it to suit your target audience, user search intent (SEO data analytics), and performance requirements. Creating a fully customized site and not using a theme is also an option, but it’s best to leave this to professionals who know what they’re doing. Again, that’s when a dedicated web developer who knows the ins and outs of WordPress can really shine.

If you’ve reviewed a few themes and find yourself drawn to more than one, did you know you don’t have to choose your favourite? Perhaps you like the idea of your homepage standing out with a certain theme, but your other pages would work better with another. You can use multiple themes on your website without much difficulty and have the best of any theme should you choose to.

What About Plugins?

Plugins are programs that can be installed on your WordPress site to enable certain features and quality-of-life improvements. Some of these are free, while others have fees associated with them. The more experienced a web developer you have, the fewer plugins you may require, as it’s likelier that they’ll have the know-how needed to create their own new functionalities and features. The more proficient and experienced they are in coding for languages like CSS and HTML, the better.

WordPress plugins can easily be added by clicking Plugins, followed by Add New. This takes you to a marketplace where you can find, download, and install whichever plugins that interest you. Developers may also update plugins, which can then be downloaded to ensure you have the latest version.

Some plugins you should consider for your site include:

  • WP Rocket, which uses caching to decrease the time it takes to load your site, making for a more user-friendly experience.
  • Elementor is a great tool that allows you to drag and drop boxes to build out your content pages on WordPress.
  • WPForms lets you easily build a form for contact inquiries or other needs on your website.
  • Yoast helps your site perform better on search engines, like Google, and gives you tools to improve overall SEO.
  • Redirection allows your site to track and remove 404 errors, linking users to a live page that can actually help them.

Create Your Pages

The process of creating pages of content within WordPress is relatively straightforward. To get started, click the Pages tab in your Dashboard. After this, simply click on Add New Page to do exactly that. Upon creating the new page, you have the option to set its designation (such as a home page that users will land on when they click or enter the URL).

The WordPress Editor tool can be used to add and update content, including text, and imagery, though more complex work may be needed regarding graphical design implementation. You’ll also need to test the user experience to ensure that everything looks as it should and functions correctly with no overlapping elements, which is where the View mode can come in handy. This creates a preview of what the page will look like on the live site.

As part of your WordPress development, plan to have some set pages on your site that make it easy to navigate and allow your readers or customers to get the needed information. Some pages you should include are:

  • A homepage, where visitors will first land when they click on your site. Make content here short and sweet and give users the opportunity to explore further.
  • An about page that should cover why you started this business or website, and some content relating to who you or your company is, like a mission, vision, and values.
  • A services page offers your customers insights into what you can do for them. Consider using this as a collection space for every service you offer, then break down your services on other dedicated pages where the reader can learn more.
  • Blogs are a great way to connect with readers and rank for keywords. This page should link to your latest blogs that can provide people with information such as advice or tips.
  • A contact page is your greatest asset to ensure it is easy for readers to get in touch with your to place an order, request a service, or ask any questions they have.
  • With the use of coding skills, you can also implement a custom post type on your webpage to add to your reader’s experience by including a book, movie, review, or product.

What Else Should I Consider?

To close out, here are several tips to help take your site to the next level and drive more traffic:

Utilize SEO

Short for search engine optimization, SEO involves populating your site with engaging, relevant content that is tailored to appeal to user search intent. This means much more than simply jamming in keywords; however, your content needs to resonate with the audience, be written well and enjoyable to read, and focus on the advertised subject matter.

Users are smart and unafraid to leave your site for something more relevant, and Google’s algorithms are less worried about strict word counts and keywords than ever before. Installing a dedicated SEO plugin and integrating other SEO elements can make fine-tuning your content more fun with less guesswork. If you’re looking for insights on which plugins work best, our post on the top three SEO optimization tools for your WordPress site can help you decide what to add.

Choose a Theme that Appeals to Your Target Audience

If you’re seeking young adult users, your theme should align with trending interests and the core messaging and brand image of your organization. For older readers, it makes sense to have a simple, straightforward site layout that is easy to navigate. Also, be sure to focus on colours, fonts, point sizes, spacing, and sourcing high-resolution images that look unique and not generic.

Do you need eCommerce? 

If you’re planning on selling any kind of product on your website, an eCommerce tool is vital. This will streamline the item posting process, but also create a secure way for customers to buy your products and for you to receive the relevant information you need to ship them. On WordPress, you can use WooCommerce, a plugin that is integrated with the platform. It is known for being easy to install and customizable based on what you are selling.

Monitor Performance

Broken links leading nowhere? Replace and update them with more relevant ones. Are you noticing a drop-off in traffic on a page for a popular service? Check to ensure that it’s not redirecting elsewhere. Also, which pages are getting the most traffic, and which could use an update to increase relevance and engagement? These are just some performance areas that are well worth focusing on, helping you stand out from the competition and remain a viable option.

Image Compression

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to have 4K images on your site if they’re being shrunk down. This leads to bloat and slowdown, so don’t be afraid to compress your images. This can be done using a wide array of digital software (some of it free) that can reduce file sizes without noticeably lowering image quality.

Conclusion

Now’s a great time to break into WordPress website development. Whether you’re an agency, a small business seeking to grow its digital presence, or a freelancer wanting to learn more about this much-loved platform, we hope this guide has proved helpful and insightful. For more details or assistance, or to learn about the services available from our talented web developers, contact us at Goodie today!