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1. Introduction

Picking the ideal domain & hosting service. As tempting as it is to make this the first step, ideally, it should be one of your last. Choosing a terrible domain name can be the beginning of major marketing woes, which would have easily taken off if the name was right. We all want .com domains, that’s understood. If your site doesn’t end with a .com extension, it doesn’t really count as a site to some people. Being the popular choice, however, means they are tough to secure, and this results in small companies trying to fit other suffixes to relatively random domain names, which can make them look third-rate. A $10 domain is no issue, you can even grab half a dozen, but it’s also something that could decide the fate of great content or ideas. There are some classic names secured with over thirteen alternative well-known suffixes to strengthen the brand. Think about Vimeo, a very attractive and lasting brand, but the most expensive domain (Vimeo.com) for your convenience. Seeing this, when I initially started Lyrical Joe back in the day, it was clear the .com Purple Line was going to be a challenge. My creative domain choice was limited due to budget, which partly drew me back from fully committing to my dream plans at the time. I eventually landed an odd, albeit “Vimeo” random, .com domain, perfectly with my name, and it seems to blend in naturally without looking like a mere alternative to the next person’s .com.

Considering embarking on a website development journey? Perhaps things are looking a lot more tedious than they seemed initially, and now you are a bit more confused as to what exactly you should be doing or who you should approach to kickstart your idea into reality. Don’t sweat it; you can either cool off and come back to attack things with a refreshed perspective, or you can milk every bit of info in this article, which lays out ten key tenets in website development you should be embracing to set your projects on the right path.

2. Planning Your Website Development

This is about identifying what you want to achieve from the website. As an individual, your goal may be to blog and share your thoughts with people, however, for an organization it may be to create awareness, build brand, inform, educate, interact with clients, share resources, sell products or services, etc. Understanding your goals will help you decide on the essential plugins and functionalities you will need in your website development. For instance, if you have a blog goal, you might want to consider using the Yoast SEO plugin which is the best free SEO plugin to help your blog posts reach the search engines.

Knowing your audience is the first step in planning your website project. If your target audience varies, you may need to create a user persona for each type so that you can tailor your website to meet their needs. This will help you identify what your target audience desires from your website and plan to include those in your website development blueprint.

It all starts with planning. Take time to carefully plan before diving into your website development process. Ask yourself a few questions before you start the website project.

2.1. Identifying Your Website Goals

The act of asking such questions is itself a rigorous process that exercises the mind and precipitates clarity. The answers you uncover will help guide your own independent research. Google things that you can’t wrap your head around yet, because, like I have stated previously, WordPress, as popular and celebrated as it is, is certainly not a silver bullet. A good way to start is citing other websites that inspire you and finding out what makes them so interesting. If you’re adventurous or you have the time (and resources) then start a project where you and your friends design your dream websites. Anything you like – really. All this is hard work but it’s necessary to prepare yourself for the pretty, visual part of web design. Without further ado, let’s dive into the first part of our list.

There are two primary questions you should answer before the design phase. What kind of website do you want and why? Is it meant to inform, to engage, to sell or to entertain (or, ideally, more than one of these)? Are you building it simply for practice and study (which is not a bad reason)? Knowing why you are building your would-be WordPress website gives you a more effective compass, where each decision is viewed in the context of bringing you closer to your destination. You see, without having a clear objective, it’s akin to having no destination in mind, or worse – to not understanding why having a destination matters.

2.2. Defining Your Target Audience

Develop a good template of the visitors who would frequent your web pages and draw stick men who match your targeted profile. Whichever unique ideas you may generate based on your market analysis, tailor your website content to meet the taste of this person. No decent designer would go about the working process without a clear vision of what their project is about, why, as well as who the designed product is intended for. But believe it or not, this is actually often the case with website development!

To develop a robust and aesthetic website, identify your audience to bring the task into sharper focus. Whether it is for individuals or a niche, getting details of the target audience such as their age, gender, geographical location, and identity is a great place to start. Here, the benefit is twofold: first, you will find it easier coming up with content ideas that suit your audience, and second, a clear-cut vision of who you are targeting with your website ensures your content is more focused and provides a better user experience for those people.

2.3. Determining Your Website’s Structure

This is the simplest approach and very fast to implement. If your content is very minimal with a clear and not so complex objective, then a single landing page may be the best for you. Furthermore, a single landing page would be the most economical way of establishing your web presence if minimal customization is required. However, if your objective advances to providing additional content beyond the typical single landing page, it is recommended to accept the reality of living with organized menu items.

Once you have a clear understanding of your website’s objective, your target visitors, and the content that you should deliver, the next big activity is to start determining the structure of your website. Normally, the structure of your website is determined by your content because it is the main attraction to gain visitors. Once you have a rough idea of the structure of your website, you may start identifying the logical areas and corresponding “Parent Pages” for your website. Explain the structure of your website, logical areas, and parent pages in a mind map to get a clearer view of the hierarchy and to compare it with other structures you have in mind. Then, put these all on paper for future reference. After finalization of the website plan, go ahead and configure the parent pages.

3. Choosing the Right WordPress Theme

Finally, a responsive display on mobile devices is key. Mobile traffic has already surpassed desktop traffic and the stats are only going to get higher. You need to ensure you don’t lose out on potential traffic and customer engagement. It is worthwhile to pick themes that have been developed using a mobile-first approach. As a beginner, you should keep in mind that e-commerce systems should be responsive, easy to use, very flexible, and well supported by knowledgeable people who can provide the right kind of support to overcome the peculiar challenges.

As a beginner, you would want to consider sticking only to free supports even if the theme’s creator permits donations so that you get the understanding needed to effectively use in more complex themes. Though free themes are a good place to start your journey into web development, the fact remains that premium themes offer dedicated support and mind-blowing features that could expedite the process of development. Ultimately, this means paying for themes is not a waste of money as the savings in time is worth it in the long run.

One of the first crucial tasks in web development is choosing the right WordPress theme to use. From the wide range of WordPress themes available, it could be a little overwhelming to decide which is the most suited for your project. While some developers may opt for a customized theme, many beginners would normally bank on stock themes. Notwithstanding the route chosen, there are several factors to be considered to ensure you start off with a bang.

3.1. Researching and Evaluating Themes

Extensive research is vital to assure that this theme delivers your essential attributes to displaying credibility and exuding professionalism: your qualifications, products, services and industry that require: flexibility; responsive design across devices; and effective support system. Other important factors are how timely, comprehensive, relevant and beginner-friendly theme support is; as people browse the Internet primarily from mobile devices, Google will rank you on its first page if you choose better-performing mobile responsive design themes. Then, should you purchase your display material within your hosting account or WP.com and install it right away, use the pre-installed ones or add new items to the Cloud that host your new site, pick and install a current locked WordPress core website from WordPress.org influential to your open-source development?

As part of website development, you may use WordPress themes for cost-effective graphic designs. While reviewing this point, answer the following questions that deepen your understanding of WordPress capabilities for your dream website: Does the theme align with your strategy and branding, your corporate culture, the values non-profits live by? Relate to your target audience, their psychographics, habits, customs, limitations and level and type of technology usage. Are their needs and challenges addressed? What is your site story, how do you want to approach and allocate your resources: licensed theme, paid partners, volunteers or existing staff members? And initial functionalities that inspire your initial choice of themes displayed in WordPress current hosting, .com or .org.

3.2. Customization Options and Flexibility

Despite the various positive features of WordPress, it is necessary for you to practice your due diligence. It does boast of inherent security features and is packed with plugins, themes, and resources. While WordPress can offer a strong foundation, it is up to you to steer the direction of the website and filter the numerous recommendations from the themes, plugins, and resources available for your specific needs. Responsibly select the appropriate popular plugins to service commonly needed functionalities such as forms, SEO, caching, stats, comments management, and social networking integration.

Lynda C. Golub, the Senior Editorial Associate at Web Development Group, pointed out that WordPress also offers an exponential array of customization options. You can pick your website’s structure, make a purchase from sophisticated theme libraries, choose from endless plugin options, or customize the site through PHP, CSS, or JavaScript. WordPress offers an abundance of free plugins, which is appealing if you have a tight budget. It also has extensive plugin libraries. Alex Iskold, a blogger of Read Write Web, shared that behind the scenes WordPress is neat, fast, and easy to use, and most of all, does not require you to know PHP, CSS, or JavaScript. On another note, W3Techs also shared that it is secure and easy to use even if you are inexperienced in web development.

3.3. Responsiveness and Mobile Optimization

Eventually, RWD has become even much more important as Google starts to use mobile use as the key criterion for its rankings algorithm. Mobile Optimization means that your website should deliver majorly to mobile devices. As of 2014, more people used mobile devices to access the internet than those that use desktop devices. Recently, Google announced that mobile use now surpasses desktop use. And hence it is much more important to design your website responsive. This is something that professionals at WordPress web design can do for you without difficulty. Make sure the team of web developers you plan to work with make mobile responsiveness and mobile optimization prime features for your new website.

Despite the internet boom and smartphone/tablet invasion, a lot of websites still appear ‘tiny’ on mobile devices. Certainly, if your websites do not have Responsive Web Design (RWD) and Mobile Optimization (MO) features, then you will be losing out on a lot of opportunities. With WordPress, however, it is much easier to find designers and developers that can implement a responsive design for your website. Currently, a site doesn’t absolutely need a mobile theme to be classified as a mobile-friendly website. However, as more and more people use their mobile devices to browse the internet, it is essential to make sure that your visitors might enjoy unlimited access to the full functionalities and features of your website regardless of the mobile device they are using.

4. Essential Plugins for Your WordPress Website

Among the most essential of the 58,356 are site performance gauge, image optimizing, creating a sitemap, boosting your SEO, contact forms, spam blocker, security software, CTA buttons, social sharing, email opt-in pop-up, affiliate linking, GDPR compliant cookie banner, website backup, and product auto-upload plugins, to mention a few. Other bonus plugins, albeit as equally important as the essentials, are Ad-inserters, review and rating, image compression, and SVG images. Before installation and activation, ask about the time of their last update, as well as reviews. Your contact forms plugin may be out of date and quite irrelevant to the clients expecting responses from your inbox, as their inquiries are left unattended as long as the plugin is outdated and non-functional.

As with every opening chapter of a website development journey, the installation of WordPress is essential. Akin to renting a building for your business, WordPress is like your vacation accommodation from which your travels, tours, adventures, and exploits shall be executed. The fun part of reaching the vacation home is the amenities it possesses. Such is the excitement to dash off to new heights. Once your abode is sorted and the excitement is recoiled, it is of utmost importance to first clean your domicile! Sparkles and shines work to enlighten the experience, and plugins are the polishers of your site. Specifically, there are myriad details to be added, removed, fixed, and sorted. These are all essentially brought to life with plugins, which are by far the automation of such minute yet important tasks. It’s like your car is serviced coherently with car cleaning equipment. WordPress has about 58,356 plugins that execute a vast variety of functions on your website.

4.1. SEO Optimization

When doing your keyword search, it is important to consider various notations such as Ubersuggest by Neil Patel and Google Keyword Planner, as well as free or paid versions of SEMrush. Ubersuggest has a number of neat solutions for entrepreneurs who want to start on a budget. You will be limited to three keyword searches per day with the free version, but it still offers considerable daily value. The Ubersuggest Keyword Overview page is a helpful tool. This page gives the keyword volume, as well as keyword suggestions and management tools such as traffic statistics and keyword difficulty scores. With this in mind, let’s get started with keyword optimization. First, ask a question you want your website reader to answer. Then, conduct some keyword research. Go back to your question and integrate specific keywords you have chosen. Use these keywords in headings, meta descriptions, titles, alt tags, URL slugs, and eventually in the body copy of your text. Only use your keyword a handful of times so that it is not misconceived as a spam sentence.

SEO optimization is among some of the questions that are commonly asked by beginners embarking on website development. If it is your first time optimizing keywords, it may feel daunting, but it is actually a straightforward process. To get started, download an SEO plugin such as Yoast, SEOPress, or All-in-One. These are the three well-known and proficient SEO plugins. You don’t have to be economically burdened by this aspect. These are free to use with paid options should you want to upgrade in the future. A suggested plugin is Yoast. This plugin gives you multiple options for optimization, even with the free package. The most considerable feature that optimizes your keyword research is the color-coded achievement rating.

4.2. Security and Backup Solutions

Most hosted web servers do create regular backups. However, if you don’t have confidence in their solutions, I can recommend “BackUp Buddy” and “VaultPress” as being the most popular backup solutions available in the market. As I mentioned, always check them out for the latest features in the article “Choosing the Right Hosting and Domain Setup for WordPress website”. Some hosting companies, including “Siteground”, provide daily backups. Always read and understand the right plan for you before purchasing.

The internet is filled with ‘how to’ articles on WordPress security, but is it the answer that most website owners desire? Imagine even hosting a website on the world No.1 web hosting company like “GoDaddy”. Security would not just be an ‘issue’ but also a ‘prerequisite’. Features include the most important security measures like malware scan, FTP scan, and DOS protection with built-in monitoring tools such as uptime, resource usage, and traffic. Cloud proxy servers are also built-in for better protection and performance of your website. However, if you do not want to go with a paid service, you can at least take advantage of some of the most recommended free WordPress plugins in the repository, including “WordFence Security” and “iThemes Security”.

4.3. Performance and Speed Optimization

WordPress, in bulk, is not particularly slow, but by installing many plugins or preloading the site with pictures in high resolution, it can slow down. To optimize the performance of your WordPress site, you can use plugins available in the official repository, such as WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache, and WP Google Page Speed or Auto Optimize for the compression and concatenation of files CSS and Javascript. You will understand that the names of these plugins are in English. This is no small detail, on the contrary, they often make the difference. In any case, remember that for all these problems, there are always solutions, being a problem that has been solved on the web a thousand times.

The page loading speed of your website is a crucial factor that determines whether or not your users will stay in your web pages and engage with your content. If your website takes too long to load, your visitors will fly away, and this will negatively affect your SEO results. Google cares a lot about the speed of the sites and rewards the faster ones, penalizing the slower ones. WordPress is clean in its native installation, but it is often imbued with many plugins that can make it slower.

4.4. Contact Forms and Lead Generation

With the plugin becoming integrated into your online store, you are now able to generate trust and security with your potential buyers and to attract those customers willing to spend on your website. But how can you implement the leading e-commerce system? To do this, you should first familiarize yourself with the software, as mentioned under the heading of general solutions for the assimilation of new technologies. Next, you should install, configure, and update WooCommerce, an e-commerce WordPress plugin for stores of all sizes. Official help articles, starting with a discussion of the resources enabled to get you started, will bring success to your most important information page.

Creating mailing lists and email campaigns is academic with WordPress and Mail Munch: this is a premium service. The plugin is added free of charge to your WordPress website with just a few clicks and gives you amazing leads, which allow you to create emails and engagement levels exactly to your liking. In particular, creating beautiful sign-up forms, integrable into your website, emails, and even your social networks, takes absolutely no time. Once a visitor has signed up for your list, Mail Munch will automatically send the new member a sign-up form confirmation email to be clicked on. Email broadcasts of this list are associated with triggered emails of the company.

A frequent question is how to integrate contact forms into a website. The best way is to use a contact form, which adds a contact form on a separate page. To do this, you first have to download and install the plugin Contact Form 7. In the window Contact, click Add New and enter the information necessary to create your specific contact form. When you’re done, simply copy and paste the given code in HTML format into the text editor, then you add a page with the title Contact, for instance, and paste the code into the text editor. Just a few steps later and you can view your contact page and individualize it.

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References:

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