How to Build a Custom WordPress Website

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 finetuning your content more fun with less guesswork.

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.

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.


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!