In two previous postings I gave some guidelines on choosing a website name and selecting a hosting service based on my own experience of putting agewhatage.com together. Hopefully by now you should have all you need to start building your own website, so this is about the first steps in creating a wordpress website.
This post relates solely to WordPress for the simple reason that starting out I had no experience of building a website for myself! It should also be useful to anyone who has used a commercial developer to build a website for them. By understanding the technology you will be able to make your own changes without having to go through the developer and incur more expense. Also if they try to lead you up the garden path with techtalk you will know how to respond!
So now you have chosen a domain name which is registered in your name, signed up with a hosting service and no doubt found the answer to many other issues by searching the Internet. Not surprisingly there is a huge amount of on-line advice and information about managing WordPress sites. Wpbeginner is one I have found particularly useful.
However, be sure to check the date of each article. WordPress continually updates and improves its standard development tools and you will find that many manual features have now been incorporated into subsequent releases.
Before starting it is well worth looking at a variety of WordPress websites. You should look at some personal blogs as well as professionally built wordpress sites. This will give you an idea of how each one has been put together and how they use a basic structure. A few key points you need to grasp before starting a WordPress site:
You will need a theme.
The simplest way to build a website is with a theme – effectively a design template for your website. Some are very simple. Others are more complex and offer different layouts and colour options. WordPress itself offers many themes in addition to those available from third-party developers. The simple themes are free of charge. More sophisticated themes are available for a modest price, or you can buy access to a portfolio of themes for a one-off price. The latter are more suitable for commercial developers who build websites for a number of different clients or uses.
It makes sense to start with one of WordPress’ own free or paid for themes. You can always change your theme later, but the process is not as straight forward as many developers claim, so not something you should plan to do frequently. All themes claim to follow the same protocols and design processes as WordPress itself and in theory you can change from one theme to another seamlessly. In practice this is not always the case, so you must check all your internal and external links very carefully after changing theme and before you publish it. Many third-party themes are created by small organisations and may not necessarily be configured to the latest release of WordPress.
It is still possible to create a bespoke wordpress website without a theme – but obviously this is for experienced developers only.
Posts and pages
Your site will consist of posts and pages. They may look the same but there are fundamental differences and they work in different ways. WordPress was originally developed as a blogging platform, just like an online diary. So think of posts as individual entries on each page of the diary, whether they are specific to a particular day or a particular topic.
Posts and pages are indexed in different ways, so it is important not to confuse the two. Fortunately, cut and paste works very well in WordPress, so if you decide that a page should really be changed to a post, or vice versa, you can easily make the switch!
You can allocate each post to one or more category or self category, which works like an index. If you do not allocate a category WordPress will apply the default “uncategorized”. This is not helpful because the categories help visitors navigate around your site and find postings on specific topics.
You can also add a date to each post. WordPress automatically allocates the day you started to write each particular post, but you can change that to a previous or later date if you want. This can be very useful if you want to stack up a number of posts to be released in the future when you might be away on holiday or busy doing something else. So your posts are indexed by category and date.
Pages work in a different way. They are for static articles and features, and are managed through parent and child hierarchies. If you only want to write a blog you will have very little need for pages.
However, our website includes general information, reviews and topics that are not time specific, so these appear under pages. Quite often it can be difficult to decide whether to add a feature to the site as a page or a post. WordPress allows you to link pages and posts with other pages and posts, but it does require more than a little thought.
So much for the time being, and enough to digest. I keep coming across really good sources of information about the different features of WordPress and recommendations on how I can improve agewhatage.com. For more details about the topics on this page have a look at Tim Brown’s blog. In my next posting I will discuss some of the finer but important points that you need to be aware of from the outset.