WordPress: Cracking pages, themes and widgets

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Six years ago I was travelling around South America and spent three weeks in a hostel in Buenos Aires, where I had regular natters with a Danish guy called Mike, who – apart from being a bit of a nomad – was a tech guy who took on contracts building WordPress sites.

Mind. Blown. Until then, I had only ever known WordPress as a blogging site, not a platform you could build websites on.

Fast forward to 2014 and I was working for a start-up using WordPress for its blogging. I become a real aficionado at using it – as a CMS for content. I had no idea, still, how the in-house designer was building it (I assumed he was designing it, rather than choosing a theme), what plugins (other than Yoast for SEO) he was using or how he was magically making featured images appear on the site’s static pages.

The next year I set up Locke Digital and made a basic hash of a site using WordPress. I bought a theme, created some static pages and then got stuck building the pages beyond a paragraph of text, and trying to make a blog page. And got so busy I never went back to pretty it up for another 15 months.

Widgets – lightbulb moment!

I asked around over the next year but never really found anyone who could give me a hand fixing it, so I decided to get on a training course. Finally, last week I went to Pootlepress’ Learn WordPress in a Day course, having first spotted them in the Guardian. For £100, around 10 of us had a 10am-4pm crash course in WordPress and – tah dah, two lightbulb moments!

Firstly – I needed to build a blog page to host my blog posts and point it out to WordPress as being the posts page. Which I knew really, but somehow omitted. So I’d just taken it off the navigation and promised to get round to fixing it. Which I hadn’t.

And secondly – while I had successfully installed WordPress, bought a theme, added a ton of unnecessary but fun plugins and even managed to load a favicon, I had no idea I needed widgets to build out the site fully. I thought they were optional, not the building blocks and sidebars.

(Which serves me right for never reading the instruction manual. There was one, clearly labelled ‘read me’, in the zip file for my chosen theme, explaining which widgets to put on which pages, plus which plugins – which I had not downloaded – were vital for this theme.)

Building a WordPress site – the steps

So when my friend Bex then asked me how to set up her new blog, I was able to give her the following step-by-step list:

  1. Installation – for me, all at GoDaddy
    • Buy your domain name (URL)
    • Sort out your hosting
    • Install WordPress (and now type in your own site domain, then /wp-admin and log in to do the rest)
  2. Change ‘ugly’ URL links in Settings – Permalinks from default to ‘friendly’ post name links
  3. Set up your main pages (not posts) – at the most basic, probably Home, Blog, About, Contact
  4. Build out and order your navigation menus (in Appearance) and ‘point’ the (home) front page and (blog) posts page to the pages you’ve built (in Settings – Reading – front page displays)
  5. Choose a theme and install – read the instructions!
  6. Choose some plugins (sometimes plugins will add these, like Facebook): good ones are Yoast for SEO, Akismet for comment moderation, Woo Themes shortcodes for funky additional design elements to your posts, Unsplash for pictures, Meta Slider for slideshows, Ninja Forms, Table Press for tables, Woo Commerce for ecommerce. But not too many…
  7. Build out your widgets (here’s where I’m at).

There’s a great set of videos about this on Pootlepress.

I’ll let you know how I get on. If I get stuck now, I have a month to book onto Pootlepress’ WordPress Xpress, where they sit with you for a day and build your site with you for £595, minus the £100 spent on their one-day course.

And I’ve realised I’m very late to the party. A quarter of all sites are built using WordPress, including biggies such as Lifehack, TechCrunch, Time and Wired. Wowsers.

Content Disclaimer

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Locke Digital Ltd disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.

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