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How to create a Wordpress Website a detailed checklist

WordPress website creation checklist

Creating a new website can feel overwhelming. There are so many decisions to make and so much information to remember.

To make it a little easier, I‘ve put together a checklist to help you get started with creating your first WordPress website.

This checklist covers the main boxes you need to tick before going live with your website.

Let’s take a look at each of the areas you need to cover step by step. 

Wordpress Website Creation Checklist part 1
Wordpress Website Creation Checklist Part 2

plan your website on paper

You’ve heard the old saying if you fail to plan you plan to fail. This is really true – planning is super important. 

I promise you, you will waste LOADS of time if you don’t as a minimum sketch out a rough draft on paper first.

Have a real good think about what you want your website to do and what you want it to look like. 

Questions to ask yourself when planning a WordPress Website

Your website plan needs to answer these two questions. As this is a creative process, I find grabbing a big notepad, a pencil, and an eraser and jotting down all my ideas in one big brain dump is a great way to get started.

Next start mapping out what you want your site to look like, what pages you need, what menus you prefer and how it all is going to be linked together.

Set your website goals and a budget. DIY websites can be free to costing thousands of dollars. Be clear now about what your limit is.

Start thinking about what colours, fonts, and logo you will be using. Write the text for each page, along with any images and videos you want to use.

Ideally you will create an entire draft of your website on paper. Once you have completed the plan, the next step is to start building your site.

How to plan your first website

Free WordPress website planner workbook

I’ve created a free mini workbook designed to help you plan your website. It has spaces to list all the key components of your website such as colour, style, font and pages. Keep all your thoughts organised in this one handy workbook.

How to plan a website

purchase a domain name, hosting and install wordpress

The first technical steps to cross off the list is to purchase a domain name, website hosting and then install WordPress.

This is a decision that is often agonized over, but it doesn’t need to be. There are literally hundreds of choices for a web hosting company, with positive and negative reviews for them all. I’ve written an extensive blog post on how to choose a domain name and web host company. Please remember you can change hosting, later on, don’t worry too much about it, just get it done.

Once you have purchased a domain name and hosting, install WordPress through your web host – your web host can do this for you if you are unsure. Get them to set up your email address at the same time.

Once you have WordPress installed, spend a little time to look around and get a feel for it. Have a play, watch some tutorials and just get to know it. If you want some tips on how to get better at WordPress you can join my facebook group or read this article to get my favourite online places to learn more.

Schedule Automatic Back Ups

Once you have set up WordPress, it can be tempting to get straight into creating your website.

But, before you starting creating anything, I suggest you schedule a backup. A backup is a copy of all the files that make up your website. It is scheduled each day or week, whatever you decide, and can be saved to your web hosting company or saved to a google drive/drop box. If your website “breaks” for any reason, you can retrieve the saved version of your website and use a plugin to restore it. 

As you begin to playing around with your website, changing, updating and creating, the last thing you want is to loose all your hard work. 

A back up plugin like Updraft Plus takes minutes to install and set up. Once done, the back up’s will happen automatically without you having to do anything.

install a theme

A theme has to be installed on every WordPress site.  A theme a piece of software that dictates the style and design structure of your website.  You can choose whatever theme you like and if you don’t choose a theme it will default to WordPress Twenty Nineteen theme which is a theme for bloggers. 

Some themes are absolutely basic. They don’t have many features and you will need to create most of the design styles. These are useful for intermediate to advanced users as you have more freedom but much more work as you have more areas to design by yourself. At the other end of the scale, there are themes which have so many design features and options that will leave you overwhelmed! The question “What theme should I use” is asked so often by beginners, in some forums the question is banned! 

You can choose a paid version or a free version. Do a little research and pick one, there are many places to download a theme, not just on WordPress so do some research. Once installed, activate it and have a play. Remember your theme choice is not permanent and you can change it whenever you like.

For some ideas on what to look for when choosing a theme, I have lots of tips in this article “How to choose a theme for your WordPress website.” On my website, I use the free theme called Astra which also has a paid pro version. I also use a page builder plugin called Elementor to help with the design of my site.

Once you have installed your theme – activate it, and then it’s onto the next box to tick – plugins.

install plugins

Plugins are pieces of software/code that you can install to your WordPress dashboard to give your WordPress website extra functionality.

WordPress has a number of standard features, but it doesn’t do everything. As it is open-source software, (which means that anyone who knows how to code can create extra bits of code to add to WordPress to customise it), there are many people who have created lots of cool code to make WordPress do some great things. These pieces of “extra” software are called “plugins” and they make WordPress perform custom tasks.

Anyone can create a plugin, some are free and some are paid.  There are many to choose from, some examples include:

* Security plugins – making your website safe from hackers, Wordfence is a popular one.

* Payment gateways – WooCommerce turns your website into an online store.

* Email provider plugins – linking your website to your email provider. You can create a pop up to get email subscribers. MailChimp, for example, has a free and easy to use plugin.

* Search Engine Optimisation plugins – Rankmath and Yoast are two popular plugins that can help your website rank better with Google. 

Think back to your website draft. Decide what plugins will suit your website plan and start installing them. Note that plugins are extra software and can make your website slow down if you have too many of them. So go easy on the installing! 

configure plugins

Once you have chosen, installed and activated your plugins, you will need to configure them. 

Each one will have it’s own settings and manual. You will need to set up each plugin one by one. This will be a little trial and error. If at any stage your site doesn’t work properly, deactivate the plugins one by one until it works again. 

upload images

Now it is time to add all the images to your media gallery. Go back to your website plan and ensure you have all the images you need and they are ready to go.

When you add an image to your website, you need to ensure it is compressed. Compression ensures the images are as small as possible (memory not resolution size) so it does not slow your website down. You can compress your images using a free online image compressor such as tiny.png

You can add the images one by one as you create each page or post, however, if you do it at the start it will save you lot’s of time later on.

To help with your SEO and also organising your website, it is best practice to name all your images (so don’t leave the name an image “abc12.jpeg” change it to “pinkflower.jpg”) It needs to be very descriptive as this will help search engines to understand your website.

If you have the time, update the caption and description fields and crop or resize the image where needed.

Create Pages & Add Content

Now the fun part begins! Start creating each page of your website according to your draft.  

Page by page, add all the text, images, videos and colours to make your site look amazing.

When you are happy with each page, publish them. Don’t forget to create those boring pages like terms and conditions and privacy policy which in some countries it is mandatory to have them.

configure menus

Now all the pages are created, it’s time to create some menus. These are the drop down options at the top (primary) and bottom (footer) of each website.

 

Wordpress Header Menu
Plinkit website header menu
Wordpress Footer Menu
Plinkit website footer menu

Once again go back to your website plan, see what menus you drafted. Go into your WordPress settings and create your menu’s.

Configure menu in WordPress

add links to social media

This is optional, however, it is important to be consistent across all your public profiles. Linking to them ensures you don’t miss out on giving your customers different opportunities to connect with you.

You can do this by using buttons in your menus, as I have in my footer menu, use a plugin, or place a link on your contact page.

add A form to the contact page

To ensure your website looks professional and credible, a contact form is a necessary addition to your contact page. It usually has a form that a customer can submit a message.  You can also add a subscribe button for potential customers to subscribe to your mailing list.

If you are using a page builder like Elementor, you can use their builder to create a contact form. Or you can use a plugin like Contact Form 7 to help you build a form.

Optimise for SEO

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a HUGE topic. It involves designing your site and its content to be found on Google.

There are hundreds of tweaks you can make to your website to improve its SEO.  To get started, I suggest you install the plugin “Yoast”. This popular plugin gives some simple tools to steer you in the right direction. It uses a traffic light system – you get a green light when you have made enough SEO tweaks to your website and gives you suggestions for improvement when you haven’t tweaked it enough.

Whilst it isn’t essential to work on your SEO, it is a good idea to learn a little and get some good habits in places so later down the track you don’t have to spend lots of time reworking your content. Better to get it right at the start. 

test for mobile responsiveness

Most websites are viewed on a mobile phone, but most are designed on a desktop. Sometimes the layout we designed on a widescreen can look all kinds of weird on a mobile device. 

If you have built your site using Elementor Page Builder, you will be able to switch between the mobile view and the desktop view. You can hide sections on either view to make the design work on both screen sizes. 

Many themes are now designed for mobile responsiveness, however, you will still need to test and view each of your website pages on a mobile device and desktop and make any tweaks as you go.

test every link, button and menu

This is a very tedious final part of website design. If your website links or menus are not working, it can cause your visitors to leave your site and not return. 

Every link, button, form and menu needs to be tested to ensure it works. If you have set up a store with a payment system, an appointment booking calendar or even a social media feed, you will need to test they work as well.

test page speed

A slow website is a death wish – the longer your site takes to load the more likely that your visitors will leave your site. It also affects your Google ranking negatively. Google does not like slow sites and can penalise you by ranking your site lower against competing sites for the same keywords.

Many things can slow down your website, from too many plugins and large uncompressed images. To test your page speed, Google has a good tool called Pagespeed Insights

Don’t be too worried if the speed is slow and you get a bad score. I’ve seen many successful websites that are very slow.  Use your results as a starting point highlighting any bottlenecks on your website. Be warned though, improving your page speed can be very time consuming and addictive. Focus on a few key areas to improve and leave the rest until later after you have launched your website.

link google analytics and google search console

Your website is almost ready to go! Very exciting! Before we finish, connecting your site to both Google Analytics and Google Search Console are two essential tools that Google provides to give you information on who is visiting your website.

Using the links above, create accounts, link them to your website. This will help you track data on who is visiting your website, how long they are staying for and where they are coming from. Even if you aren’t interested in the statistics right now, I guarantee at some point in the future you will, and you will be kicking yourself if you don’t start tracking it now.

publish!!!!

Publish Publish Publish!!!!

Take away the coming soon, or staging information and release your website into the wild! 

Congratulations, you are almost there.

maintain your website

One last step before we are done. Once your website is finished and published, there are still some regular maintenance tasks that need to be carried out.

From time to time, plugins, themes and WordPress require the software to be updated.  You will get a notification in your WordPress dashboard telling you to update your plugins when it is time to do so. If you do not update your plugins you leave your site vulnerable to being hacked. Your site also may become outdated and certain features may not work so it’s pretty important to keep them updated. 

Another part of your website that needs to be kept up to date is your content. Any changes to your contact details, social media links, prices or products need to be made quickly. Incorrect and out of date information does not look professional and is frustrating for your visitors.

You can also change the theme, style, colours and fonts of your website to match your business as it matures over time.

I suggest putting some time aside once a month to review all the content and make updates. There are many freelancers and web developers who you can hire to do all the maintenance for you if you do not have the time. 

And for now you are finished!

Celebrate finishing your website – well actually your website is never really finished! Hopefully you enjoyed the process.

You can download a two page copy of the checklist here to print out!

Goodluck and let me know you went with your website, I would love to see your work.

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