Building Your Own Awesome Brick and Mortar Website Part II: What is WordPress?
Do you know Jack? What is WordPress??
We’ve done the why in our previous article about whether your brick and mortar business really needs a website, now for the how. If you’re a neophyte and don’t know jack about how to build a website or are asking yourself “what is WordPress anyway,” this post is for you.
I’m going to pretend I don’t know jack too, so let’s go through the process. We’ll get some help from the Earl of Leicester, aka John ‘Ranners’ Ranby, ace WordPress freak and general authority on making stuff on the Web look cool. Are you asking “What is WordPress?” If so, you’ll really appreciate this entry-level information about building your own website for your brick and mortar business!
For those of you who don’t know, WordPress is THE website creation tool used by millions of people around the world. As of June 2017, WordPress runs almost 16 million websites, which is roughly 27% of all websites around the world! If you’d like to learn more, check out Wikipedia’s WordPress article here.
Shall we Google?
‘Best WordPress Tutorials’ goes into the search engine query and bata-boom! Number one result, Creative Bloq’s guide for beginners. It’s actually a useful, multipurpose list, with links to a range of useful resources for beginners. These include ‘How to learn WordPress in one week’, a WordPress cheat sheet, and an informative link to expert advice for those just starting out on the platform.
One level in
WordPress is intuitive, user-friendly, and its coding makes for fluid, fast-loading blogs and sites. Stacks of the program’s templates jostle with even more that are user-generated, allowing you to scroll, spot, and create pretty much any look you like. WordPress now underlies 27 percent of Web pages, so it’s clearly doing something right (we’ll look at alternatives in a later post).
You’ll need to choose a hosting package and buy a domain name to get properly started, two things which are pretty much straight up and down, so smashingmag’s beginner’s guide is a good place to start. Once you’re done with that, you can get under the hood and start putting your magnum opus together. However, it’s worth mentioning at this point that TLDs, or ‘top-level domains’ such as .com, may not offer you what you’re looking for; so many .com names have been registered that unless your site is going to be called www.ihaveafishanditsalovelyfish.com, you could be out of luck. Other options include .net, .org (for charities and NGOs), or country-specific domains such as .co.uk or .me. Sector-specific names include .news and .media. There are so many TLDs available now it’s almost overwhelming. Check out the latest TLD list on Wikipedia.
Before you even deal with hosting and domains, you’ll want to map your site properly, as mentioned in Part 1 of this post. Let it sit for a day or so and review it, too; it’s better to get it right the first time than to go back in and tweak your site structure later. Indeed, your choice of a domain may well be affected by the purpose of your site. If you’re restricting your business to in-country sales or clients, a nation-specific domain may be desirable. If you’re going to take over the world with your new open-source blockchain tech business, you’ll need your domain to reflect your global ambitions.
Security alert on building your own website for your brick and mortar store
Sellers of domain names (which are saved on a distributed database to avoid duplication) also often provide hosting facilities. It’s good practice, though, to host your site with a different provider than the one from whom you bought your domain. This prevents unscrupulous hackers from “pissing on your fries” by robbing your files and transferring your domain somewhere else, leaving you with an empty shell where once there was an all-singing, all-dancing ecommerce hub. Rather than a one-year domain purchase, grab yours for five or six years just so the name is securely yours for an extended period. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from clients who have lost their domain name because they forgot to re-register it.
Another security consideration is the use of “https” rather than the un-secure “http.” If you’re setting up a new site, you should seriously consider going all-in with https. First, it helps keep your site and visitors secure. Second, Google is really pushing sites to go https and has started counting it in how your site ranks.
WordPress itself is bifurcated into a .org site and a .com site. So, what is WordPress.com and WordPress.org? The former takes care of the hosting for you. It’s also a fun place to search for blog articles on almost anything. As open-source software, WordPress undergoes open review and updating, and .org is where the latter happens. If you plan to host your WordPress site yourself then WordPress.org is where you want to go to download it.
To summarize, if you’re new to the game you’ll want to visit the .com site which allows you to quickly choose a template, lob in your content, and post it for all to see (though your site will have a .wordpress.com domain). If you want full control over your site, you’d be better off going to WordPress.org, hosting your site separately, and managing your own updates and plug-ins yourself.
Packages on WordPress.org include free, $99 (premium), and $299 (business), the fees being annual. Since changing from .com to .org is a simple process, and you can switch between WordPress’s plans with little pain, consider opting for a free, templated website on WordPress.com to begin with and move off to your own domain as soon as you know what you’re doing.
However, first impressions count in eCommerce. If you’re a hack blogger who just wants to get your material out there, the .com option works, but if you’re a serious company looking to leverage the Web properly, you’d be better off going it alone and downloading WordPress to host on your own domain (and perhaps hiring a web designer to help you get started).
My name is Earl
Let’s call in an expert for some top tips. John ‘Ranners’ Ranby, aka The Earl of Leicester, is a design pro with a track record as long as the director’s cut of Apocalypse Now. I asked him what he thinks is the most important thing to bear in mind when beginning a website project on WordPress: ‘Definitely map it first so you have a good idea of the shape of the site you’re trying to create. You can draw the links with arrows or a flow diagram. It’s crucial to be prepared in this way before you even get into the design stage.’
The Earl also says research is vital: “Look at as many websites that relate to your sector as you can. Crawl all over them. What kind of structure do they have? What images are they using? What payment method are they running? If there’s one thing that’s true about Web design, it’s that the sheer number of sites out there, whatever kind of business you’re in, is bound to spark some ideas for you.”
He goes on to say, “Being proficient in HTML, css, php, and MySQL is also very useful if you’re doing your own site, so get on top of those. And really get into WordPress and explore it, take it apart. Learn its structure and how it works conceptually. This will help you a lot when you’re trying to build a site that serves your precise needs.”
We’ll get back to the Earl whenever we’re in need of some expert input on Web design and tech, so thanks for now milord.
Hopefully, this article has given you some basic answers to the questions “what is WordPress” and “how do I build a website for my brick and mortar business.” If you have questions or comments about this article, please let me know here.
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