So I’ve been thinking … over the past months we gave you some individual pieces of advice on how to do this or that in WordPress, yet there wasn’t any structured step-by-step guide on how to actually build a WordPress site from start to finish.
Start being when the idea for a new site strikes you. And finish being when you push the publish button on your first post.
Therefore, today’s the day as I’m starting a new series, in which I’m going to take you through the whole process of building a WordPress site from scratch.
But hold on.
I’m not going to tell you how to code things, build your own plugins, or develop your own themes. This wouldn’t be good for business … especially the part about building themes (joke).
So instead, I’m going to give you a step-by-step guide that revolves around tasks that you can execute even if you’re not a programmer. Some of those tasks won’t be that intuitive, but that’s the whole value of having a guide you can use for reference.
Also, some of the advice won’t be very technical, as building a site requires you to do a lot more things than just work with software and various tools.
Okay, enough of this introduction, let’s get down to business.
Starting with an idea
This first part of the series talks about the moment when the idea for a new site gets born.
This is the moment when you’re probably the most excited and you want to do things right away. You want to get a hosting account, buy a domain, install WordPress, select a free theme, and start publishing entries. The quicker the better … sounds familiar?
I know I was like that when I got the idea for my first site…
Maybe you’re not excited that much as the site is meant for a client of yours, not for you personally.
Either way, there are some things you should do to set yourself up for a smooth process of building and then launching your site.
Finding the reason
Every website was created for a specific reason, or a number of reasons. However, building a site solely because “you feel like it” is probably not the most fortunate of them.
No matter if you’re building a site for yourself or for a client, there’s always the same set of questions you should ask.
Why do you want the site?
And bear with me because this isn’t as simple as it sounds.
This question is not about your personal desires (or your client’s) but about the goal you have for the site.
What’s your main goal for the site? What do you want to achieve with it? What value will it bring to you?
When answering these questions keep in mind to make your goals measurable and real.
For instance, “I want to be the leader in my field” is not measurable. “I want to attract 5 consulting clients every month,” on the other hand, is.
Additionally, the more concrete and simple your goals are, the better. Complex goals will only cause confusion.
A well defined goal is one you can have in the back of your head to help you make various decisions regarding your site. You shouldn’t have to remind yourself about what the goal is by looking at a note, for example.
What should be the main element of the site?
That’s mainly my own approach, not any industry-wide standard, so you don’t have to treat it like it’s written in stone, but anyway.
I advise you to choose only one element that you want to make the central point of your site.
For instance, building a “blog/e-commerce store/job board” probably won’t work all that brilliantly.
Well, it might work for you – the author, but when a first time visitor comes to your site they won’t ever get a grasp on what’s going on. That’s the reason why every site should have just one main element.
If you want to build an e-commerce store then make the listing of the products your main element. If you want a blog, your main element is the main content block. If you’re selling one custom-made product, then your main element should be the marketing message talking about the product, and so on.
It really doesn’t matter what it is as long as you choose just one.
What’s your target audience?
Finding target audience is often a very hard task for many clients. They usually say something like “our customers are our target audience,” which isn’t actually the most fortunate answer.
However, when you’re building your own site, this doesn’t get any easier. Target audience is simply not among our first thoughts when planning a website.
But we need to fight through the initial resistance and define this target audience with a set of simple questions:
Who’s the ideal visitor of your new site? Why are they visiting the site? What can they get from the site? What’s most likely the main source of visitors to your site? What are the demographics of your visitors?
All of these questions can help you greatly when working on the site later on. Whenever you stumble upon a problem, you can look at your typical visitor’s profile and decide what would be the best solution for them.
If you’re not sure about the demographics, you can use a tool like Quantcast and do some spying on your soon-to-be competitors, to find out what demographics they target.
By the way, do you see anything suspicious about the question “what’s your target audience?” There’s another meaning to it, and it is: “what’s your niche?”
“Target audience” is just a more elaborate term.
What the money is going to be made with?
The wording of this question sounds really strange, doesn’t it? But this is a conscious manipulation on my part. I’m doing it to emphasize the concept of making money from a site and the fact that sometimes it feels really awkward and out of place.
Not that making money is by any means wrong. It’s just that trying to monetize an existing site can feel really awkward, both for you and your visitors.
That’s why you should think about such things right from the get-go. And even if you’re not planning to monetize your site anytime soon, chances are that you might want to do this in the future, so you shouldn’t shut the door now.
It just so happens that I talked about monetizing a WordPress site in my previous post. So I’m just going to point you to it for further information: How to Monetize a WordPress Site.
This closes the first part of the series. Next time I’m going to talk about some technical aspects of being a soon-to-be website owner. Until then feel free to let me know how much time did you spend on planning and getting ready to launch your first WordPress site?