Is your business or organization being inadequately represented by a Web site that was built years ago? Does it have:
- Static pages that never change because it’s too difficult
- Narrow pages that look a bit odd on a modern wide screen
- Nagging errors you’ve never correct because there’s…
- No content management system (CMS) in that back end that would let you edit the site yourself
- Almost no traffic (so who cares if you’re not seeing page views?)
Or are you living a more modern version of the outgrown-technology story?
- Using hosted blog service such as blogger.com or wordpress.com
- Posting to Facebook
- Perhaps even selling goods on Etsy, Shopify, or other hosted shopping cart.
You’ve develop a yearning for your own domain, blog and e-commerce site, all consolidated in one place, under your control, where nobody is hoovering your credit card with excessive monthly fees and where you can have things the way you want them.
TAKE CONTROL WITH WORDPRESS
If you read my last post, What Is WordPress?, you already know I think it’s the best thing to come along since perforated toilet paper. It has a massive user base, it’s supported with regular updates, there are thousands of free and low-cost plug-ins to add any function you can think of, it’s open source and it’s FREE. So let’s go through some steps (seven, I think) to see how you get from here to thee.
STEP 1: GET HOSTING
Of course to get this wonderful free thing, you need inexpensive, reliable hosting so that you can have your own domain name and generally control your online presence. Some folks argue the benefits of $20/month hosting vs. $5/month hosting, and there is a good discussion of this in the comments beneath my last post.
Step 2: GET YOUR DOMAIN
Once you’ve tapped your credit card for a year (at least) of hosting, register your domain name (type it in here to see if it’s available: http://www.internic.net/whois.html).
STEP 3: DOWNLOAD WORDPRESS
Most hosts offer automated setup of WordPress, but you can also download it at http://wordpress.org/download/ and install it yourself. In my opinion when you’re first setting up a site and traffic is low, security is not an issue. But if you’re expecting lots of traffic and/or are setting up a shopping cart, you should review this about making your installation as secure as possible: http://codex.wordpress.org/Hardening_WordPress (thanks again to Peter Abraham for bringing this up).
STEP 4: CHOOSE A THEME
General layout, fonts, and colors are controlled by templates that in WordPress are called themes. You can play around downloading free ones to try out, or you can pay a few bucks for one that has more features and adjustability. There is a whole cottage industry out there of WordPress theme developers, and many of them are quite sophisticated. However, be aware that free themes can be modified with child themes. That’s what you would hire a WordPress expert to do, so that you can get a custom look for your site and blog.
STEP 5: TO BLOG OR NOT TO BLOG
Some folks want a blog, recognizing the important online marketing benefits of constantly renewing content. Others aren’t there yet, and besides that they can’t imagine adding a writing assignment to their weekly workload.
A good hired hand can help out with the blogging chores, should you be convinced of its value in driving customer interest but don’t have the time or inclination to write it yourself. Either way, just know that WordPress began as a blogging platform, so it’s easy to set up a blog as part of your site.
STEP 6: SELECT PLUGINS
If you can think of it, someone probably already wrote a plugin to do it in WordPress. Shopping carts for WordPress have come a long way in the last several years, and your choices are legion. Over the last month, I’ve almost gone batty reviewing WordPress shopping cart plug-ins. I was an e-commerce manager in another life, so I kind of knew what to look for. But it was still hard. I studied MarketPress, WordPress E-Commerce, ShopperPress, Cart66, Shopp, WooCommerce, and eShop among others.
One I’m currently most interested in is actually a hybrid– a plug-in that’s hosted somewhere other than where your WordPress installation resides. It’s called Ecwid Shopping Cart, a somewhat wretched-sounding name derived from “ecommerce widgets.”
Besides shopping carts, here is a list of useful plugins that I use on many of the sites I’ve built. You can search on any of them to see what they do:
- AddThis Social Bookmarking Widget
- Best HTML Sitemap
- Breadcrumb NavXT
- Broken Link Checker
- Contact Form 7
- Easing Slider
- Exclude Pages from Navigation
- Google XML Sitemaps
- Twitter Widget Pro
- WordPress Database Backup
STEP 7: MARKET YOURSELF ONLINE
The work starts, not ends, when your website goes live. Maintain a lively presence online. Post to LinkedIn or Facebook, Twitter; do a blog post now and then; regularly update the content of your site’s pages. Use an email list of your customers to stay in touch with them. It’s not complicated. But it takes hard work and a steady hand. With great tools like WordPress and perforated toilet paper, how can you go wrong? If you do, feel free to contact me.