WordPress is a well-known content management system and supports over 43% of all websites making it the world’s most popular website platform. The popularity and flexibility of this open-source platform make it a great choice for a website that is easy to use and maintain. But, because of that flexibility, there are many different ways to build a website on WordPress. There are over 55,000 WordPress plugins used to create specific functionality and over 31,000 themes that can be used to customize the look of a site on WordPress. All that flexibility means that any type of organization can get the site they want built on WordPress, but it also means that not all WordPress sites will function in the same way.
So what should you look for if you’re looking to create a WordPress site? You’re most likely not going to build your site on your own. If you are, keep reading for some of our favorite plugins and themes. But, for the rest of you, this will help you find the right website designer and/or developer so that you end up with a WordPress site that will make your life easier and grow with your organization.
First, let’s clear up the confusion between the .com and .org versions of WordPress. Wordpress.org is a free, open-source content management system. You can install it on your own host (or one your agency manages for you) and you completely own your website.
Wordpress.com is a for-profit version of the WordPress CMS. Think of Wordpress.com as both the CMS and the hosting provider in one. They make it easy for beginners to get a basic site quickly, but they limit your capabilities. Often if you want some of the most basic capabilities of WordPress (like installing plugins), you need to pay for their highest-tier packages. This ends up being more expensive in the long run.
If you’re building a site “just for fun” and don’t mind being on a subdomain of wordpress.com (like imawesome.wordpress.com) sure, use .com. But if you’re building a site for your business or organization, you really need the self-hosted version of WordPress.
WordPress Visual Builders
If you’re going to need to update content on your site, (And seriously, if you’re not planning to update your content, we really need to chat about SEO. But that’s for another day.) you’re going to want a theme that offers a visual builder. This will make it easy for you and your team to update content without having to run back to your website designer every time you need to update a paragraph. Depending on the size and expertise of your team, visual builders may even make it possible for you to quickly build new pages as well.
At Trebletree, we love the Divi builder by Elegant Themes. Divi is one of the most popular WordPress themes and builders out there and there’s a reason for that. It gives you loads of flexibility, an intuitive visual editor, and modules that cover everything you need from blogs to sliders, testimonials, galleries and so much more.
WordPress Themes vs. WordPress Builders
A WordPress theme is essentially just a pre-designed WordPress website. Themes are often a great starting point for building a custom WordPress website.
At Trebletree, we use the Divi Builder by Elegant Themes. Divi is not just another one of many WordPress Themes. Divi is a complete framework from which we build completely custom WordPress websites.
In addition to acting as a blank slate, Divi enables our clients to easily manage and update their website content with its easy-to-use visual builder.
There is no right or wrong answer to the question of WordPress themes vs. builders, but we find that builders give us a stronger framework to build any kind of website our clients need. When building your site, choose a capable builder with a strong WordPress community behind it – whether that’s Divi, Elementor, Oxygen, or another platform. Going this route will ensure you’ll have an easy-to-use tool to update your websites down the road.
Posts vs. Pages
There are 2 primary functions behind a WordPress site – WordPress Posts and WordPress Pages.
Use Pages when you are building standalone pages – like your services page or your about page. Use Posts when you are building multiple pages that all follow a similar format – like your blog or your portfolio.
Custom Post Types
WordPress comes out of the box with a Blog/Posts functionality. If you are planning on additional content like news or resources or any other type of content that you will be adding frequently and that all have a similar format, Custom Post Types can be a time-saver. Custom Post Types also enables team members with little to no website experience to publish great-looking content.
You can create post types that line up specifically with your organization. For example, if you want a newsroom where you post press releases, you can have a specific post type called “News.” Each post type can be tied to a design template so that they all look consistent. Some website designers may put all your updates in “Posts” and use categories or tags to filter different types. This can function well as long as anyone posting understands the tagging structure, but creating a custom post type can ensure that no matter who is updating your content, it will look uniform and show up in the right spot on your site.
What are the best WordPress plugins?
With over 55,000 plugins to choose from, finding the right combination of the plugins you need can be a challenge. Some essential plugins for any site include:
· SEO (We’re big fans of Yoast)
· Forms (Gravity Forms make us happy)
· Accessibility (We love Accessibe to make your site more accessible for everyone)
· Spam Protection (Askimet is the standard)
After the essentials, what plugins you choose really depends on the functionality you need. From image optimization to increase site speed to e-commerce solutions, Plugins make your site functionality truly custom. If you’ve got events and need a calendar, there’s a plugin for that. Need a more organized media library? You guessed it, there’s a plugin for that too!
You can’t just install an SEO plugin, you need to actually use it. Many of our SEO clients come to us with sites they thought were “SEO friendly” only to find out that very few SEO optimizations were ever done. While SEO is an ongoing process, there are a few essentials that all WordPress sites should launch with.
Title Tags and Descriptions
Each page on your site should have a Title and Description optimized for target keywords. Titles should be as close to 60 characters as possible and descriptions should be 160 characters. This is what you potential website visitors see first before they click through to your site so make sure it is clear and compelling.
Image Alt Text
Making sure all the images not only have alt text, but have alt text that accurately describes your image is essential for SEO. This also makes your site more accessible and can help visitors using screen readers enjoy the full experience of your site.
When you’re launching a new site, you may have a different page and URL structure. It’s essential to make sure that all links from your old site are redirected to the appropriate content on your new site.
Google Analytics Integration
Don’t forget about tracking! Set up your Google Analytics integration before you launch your WordPress site, so you have visitor tracking from the very beginning.
Custom WordPress Development
If your organization is large or you have a very unique functionality need, you may want to find a website designer that also offers custom development. You can hire WordPress developers off of marketplaces like Upwork, but vetting their quality of work can be a challenge. Instead, work with an agency that handles both WordPress web design and WordPress development. (BTW Trebletree can help with that!)
Custom development comes into play when you need your CMS to function in a particular way or you need integrations with other systems in your organization. To see an example of a Trebletree project that required custom development, check out our urbanair.com case study.
Getting the WordPress Site of Your Dreams
If you’ve decided that you want to build your site on WordPress, the next step is to find the right partner to help you. We hope that Trebletree is that partner for you, but we can’t build all the WordPress sites in the world so if you go another route, be sure to keep these important aspects of a WordPress site in mind. Want to learn more? Connect with Trebletree.