You’ve got your domain name, you’ve got your hosting package and you’ve installed WordPress. So what do you do now? If you’ve spent some time getting to grips with the basics of your fledgling WordPress site, you’ll have already realised that although the default setup is good enough for a personal blog, your business project will need something different.
Fortunately, WordPress is a powerful tool which can be adapted to the needs of any business. And you don’t even need to be a technical expert to create the perfect WordPress site for you. In this guide we’ll explain how you can use WordPress to build the site you need.
Planning your site
Before you dive in and start tinkering with your WordPress site, it pays to draw up a plan of how you want it to look and what you want it to do. Without a plan, there’s a chance you’ll lose track of your aims and end up with a website that isn’t suitable for your business.
Make a list of the features your website must have. You’ll also want to sketch out a basic site map to give you an idea of what content you’ll need and how the site will fit together. If you’re unsure about what your business site will need, then take a look at this guide. We won’t be talking much about content in this guide, instead we’ll focus on creating a bespoke site that looks good and is ready for you to add your content. Alternatively, if you already have a WordPress site then this guide will allow you to improve the way it looks without losing any of your content.
Getting the WordPress site you want
Once you’ve got a general idea of what you want your site to do and how you want it to look, it’s time to begin putting together a collection of resources that will help you build the site you need. Of course, if you’re a business just starting out then money may well be scarce. For that reason, we’ll focus on resources that are either free or very cheap. Let’s start with the most fundamental building block of your new WordPress site; the theme.
Choosing a theme
What is a WordPress theme? Put simply, it’s the template that defines how your site looks. Installing a new theme will change the appearance of your site but it won’t delete any of its content. So picking the right theme is a vital first step in ensuring your site looks the way you want it to, even if you already have a site.
Here are a few places where you can find quality free, or cheap WordPress themes.
WordPress’s own theme directory – All free
Theme Forest – Has over 5,600 themes
My Theme Shop – Easy to search via your requirements
So how can you go about picking a theme that’s right for you? Well, the first thing to do is go back to the plan you’ve drawn up for your site. If a theme doesn’t offer what you want, then you can remove it from your shortlist straight away. Then there’s personal choice – you’ll instinctively like some themes more than others and that’s fine. Of course, you should also bear in mind what potential customers will think of your site, so you may want to ask others what they think about the themes you’re contemplating.
Here are some other things you should be looking for in your WordPress theme.
Customisability – How easy is it to change the theme’s look? Will you be able to change the colour of the theme, for example? If a theme can be easily customised through widgets (we’ll talk about these later), you’ll be able to give it your own twist without getting to grips with CSS. In fact, you won’t even need to know what CSS is.
Mobile friendly – Your theme should be mobile friendly. (If you’re not sure why, then check out this article on the importance of mobile-friendly websites.)
Compatible with the latest browsers – Make sure the theme will look good in modern browsers.
Compatible with your version of WordPress – Make sure the theme will work with your version of WordPress.
All of this information should be contained in description of the theme you’re considering. Many sites will also let you see a preview of a theme, so you can get a good idea of how your site will look once you’ve picked a theme, you may find it beneficial to go back and update your website plan and base it specifically on the theme you’ve selected.
Branding your new theme
Once you’ve selected your new theme, you want to make it unique to your business. This will ensure that customers view your business as unique and your website doesn’t feel generic. Branding is a complex subject, and you can get to grips with it here.
Before we get into what you’ll need to change, we need to talk about widgets. Most of the customisation you do to your new theme will be done via widgets. WordPress widgets are great because they allow you to make changes to your site without having to do any coding. Most modern WordPress themes use a large number of widgets, making it really easy to make the below changes (and more besides). You’ll be able to see what you can change by going to the Appearance menus in your WordPress dashboard. With that out the way, let’s have a look at some basic things you’ll want do to make your site your own.
Add your logo
Your logo is your business’s ID badge, so make sure people can see it. It should feature on every page, so make sure it’s there. Many themes designed for business have a specific option for you to upload your logo. If you don’t have a logo, then you can learn about why it’s so important in this guide.
Brand it to your colour
If you’ve developed brand colours, then you’ll want your website to use them. If you’ve picked a theme that’s easy to customise, this should just be a case of inputting the right hexadecimal codes in the right places and clicking save. Again, hexadecimal colour codes are something you don’t need to fully understand before you use them. If you’ve got a brand colour scheme but don’t know the relevant codes, then you can use this simple tool to discover them. If you don’t have a brand colour scheme, then you can develop one quickly and easily with Paletton.
Add new fonts
If you’ve gone the whole hog on the branding front, you’ve probably selected brand fonts. If you haven’t, now is the time to pick some. Selecting two or three fonts can add an extra personal touch to your site. You can find a guide to selecting fonts that work well together here. If you use Google fonts, then this plugin will install them on your WordPress site. Not sure what a plugin is? We’ll talk about that in a second.
Source high quality images
After you’ve branded your website, you need to think about the other major visual aspect of your site – images. WordPress is a highly visual platform and you can add photos and images almost anywhere. If the theme you’ve selected uses background images, slider images or something similar then you can’t consider your site finished until you’ve uploaded pictures.
You can get in depth tips on what makes a good image here, but the general rules to follow are:
- Avoid staged stock photos
- Use photos of your business wherever possible (eg staff, customers, products, premises)
- Never use copyrighted photos if you haven’t licensed them
Discover what else you can change
There are likely to be loads of other options that you can tweak – such as social media buttons, or the number of columns you site’s homepage has. Explore all the options available to you so you know what your site can do. Once you’ve done that, you can add extra functionality through plugins.
Get to grips with plugins
Plugins and widgets are a great way to add extra features to your website. Put simply, if you want to add a feature to your WordPress site, then there’s probably a plugin for it. You can learn about plugins and some your site will definitely need in this guide.
By this stage you should have a solid website that’s ready for you to add your content. Adding posts and pages to WordPress is really easy, but if you’re not sure how to do it then check out this guide to getting started with WordPress.
If you haven’t launched your business website, then you’ll never have a better chance to experiment with how it looks. Try adding features, moving features to new locations or even removing features. Ask friends or potential customers to test drive your site to see if they can navigate around it easily. You should also remember that your website will never be perfect – you should expect to keep changing things even after your site is live. To understand why you need to do that and how to go about it in the right way, check out this guide to A/B testing.
Any questions? Let us know in a comment and we’ll get back to you.