This post is designed as a step by step informative DIY (do it yourself) resource to help you buy, host, create, maintain, backup and generally get the most out of your website using WordPress as a platform.

 

STEP 1: BUY YOUR DOMAIN

GoDaddy - World's #1 Domain RegistrarGet your domain at GoDaddy.com – but just say NO THANKS to all the other products they offer during the signup process.

Bless their hearts, they are masters of upselling and they are the very best registrar in the world, but for hosting, email, etc…. not so much – so remember: all you need is the domain, none of the other stuff: GoDaddy.com.

 

STEP 2: PAY FOR YOUR HOSTING

NEXT for your hosting, get started with the “Hatchling” plan at HostGator – you will never regret using them for your hosting needs, as their systems & support are so great that you feel like a VIP if you ever call them. If you have ever dealt with any other hosting company and then phone HostGator, you will not even believe your ears! They are awesome!

Click the big “View Hosting Plans” button and select your hosting plan (Hatchling unless you have some special need), and just sign up – it’s cheap and it’s amazing! Click Here to sign up at HostGator now!

 

STEP 3: INSTALL WORDPRESS

Now that you have your domain and the hosting plan where you can ‘put’ your website, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of creating the actual website. You will refer to the Account Details email that HostGator sends you to log into your domain’s cPanel (the administrative control panel that controls your website from emails & forwarders to file management, scripts, and more!).

Using Fantastico script installer (there are other tools but HostGator uses the tried & true Fantastico installer which works just GREAT), you are able to create an instance of WordPress on your domain in just a few clicks – seriously – this used to take a team of developers and designers months back in the day. After you go through your 2-minute setup, you will have a website which is ready to go – quite presentable-looking right out of the box and will allow you to publish your content dynamically with NO HTML knowledge whatsoever.
Click Here For The Video Tutorial .

 

STEP 4: INSTALL A COMING-SOON PAGE

Chances are, even though you ARE ready to get going on your website, you may not have all the elements ready to go, and if you have never done this before, you will want several hours to complete and tinker with your new site before you want to have it ‘out there’ live on the Internet for anyone to see. I most frequently use the Custom Coming Soon by NetChillies plugin for developing when I am developing on a live URL – it’s pretty much seamless and you can even allow people to sign up to receive an alert when your site is ready!

Click Here For The Video Tutorial!

 

STEP 5: SELECT A THEME

Now that you have your WordPress installation complete and a holding page, you can start developing your site in earnest – there are a lot of theme companies to choose from out there and my top 2 are StudioPress (Brian Gardner is my personal hero) and Woo Themes. Both are great in their own ways and offer excellent FAQs, documentation, community forum, and support for their themes, so you don’t feel out in the cold once you have submitted your credit card information!

There is a long list of premium theme publishers (I recommend against free themes), and many are fine and great and I am not saying anything against them, but remember when shopping for a theme to look at the reputation of the developer and the company producing the theme.

I am linking to StudioPress and Woo here because I have personally used premium themes from both and can vouch that they have good documentation and stand by their products. You may choose a theme from the huge selection at ThemeForest.net too, but BE CAREFUL to check the author.

After purchasing your theme, you are able to install it in your WordPress installation (as above) – it’s simple to unzip your purchased content and follow the readme files or watch the video tutorial which many premium theme companies provide with their products.

Each theme has its own idiosyncrasies and you will need to follow along with the instructions, but with even a medium technical ability you should have no problem!

 

STEP 6: ADD YOUR CONTENT!

Pages & Posts

Now that you have a coming-soon page up and a high-quality theme installed, it’s time to start EXPRESSING YOURSELF!!

It is so easy to add your pages and posts with WordPress that tutorials are almost overkill – if you can use facebook, you’ll have no problem with the WordPress interface for adding text, images, hyperlinks and more. Just log into the WordPress admin dashboard, click Pages, and you’re on your way.

 

Beautiful Stock Images
Most modern themes now feature an easy-to-use home page slide show which you can configure with very little effort in the Theme Options under Appearance in your WordPress admin dashboard.

Need awesome royalty-free photography and illustrations to make your website POP? There are a lot of royalty-free image websites – the best-known being iStockPhoto and BigStockPhoto… here’s another one which is a bit lesser-known but less expensive in general and excellent quality: Fotolia.

 

STEP 7: MAKE YOUR WEBSITE STICKY!

A sticky website is one where visitors land on and stay… and return later too. If you are wondering whether your website is sticky, ask someone who won’t lie to you or better still, just check your analytics and look at the bounce rate. If you have a lot of visitors landing on your site and leaving immediately, you need to work on it!

Here are a few tips to help you make your site stickier:

  • Use catchy images – face it – people want to click the pictures!
  • Make it personal / personable – reach out and address your visitor
  • Use social media – facebook & twitter particularly – check out WebFriendly.ca for social media
  • Use standard navigation – people like to ‘know where they are’ on a website
  • Use big subscribe buttons – use constantcontact / aweber
  • Try polls & surveys etc if you like – use  constantcontact / aweber
  • Install a ‘related posts’ widget like LinkWithin
  • Check your analytics and kind of build-out very popular posts
  • Update frequently!

 

STEP 8: GROW YOUR LIST

There are a number of awesome services you can enlist to keep on top of your email communications. Remember that once your list gets to a certain size you risk running into deliverability issue (spam filters) and so on, even if your subscribers are properly opted-in. Some of the top mail services are:

Check out the raging debate on the Internet about which one is best… This is a scenario where I have no evangelistic opinion – I have dabbled with AWeber & done a fair amount with ConstantContact, and have heard rave reviews about MailChimp, but it seems to be a matter of taste so do your research and rest assured that using one of these services is better than NOT using one! Check out the features lists and decide for yourself.

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Thanks, BCACG, for inviting me to speak at your 2012 Symposium!

This post was originally named “BCACG Presentation: How to Make Your Website Work for You”