Developing a WordPress site is not quite as simple as choosing a theme and uploading content. Whether you do it yourself or hire a company, it’s important to understand the five critical steps to a finished, well-developed site. Until all five are incorporated, your site could have major problems.
It goes without saying that you first need a secure and stable host for your site. The host should fully support WordPress. Install WordPress on your host and set up your account. Remember to change the default admin username and password. Ensure you’re using the latest version of WordPress for a more secure site.
Choosing A Theme & Design
The first development step involves choosing the right theme for your site. Free themes are okay, but professional themes are usually better. They offer upgrades and support for glitches. The theme should fit your site’s purpose and be easy to customize. If you hire someone, you can still choose your theme or have them develop one for you. Opt for responsive themes if you want your site to work on the widest variety of screen sizes.
Remember you can change your theme at any time, but it may not always support all the same features of your current theme. A good idea is to work with a single framework, such as Genesis, and install child themes. This helps prevent many compatibility and update issues.
Optimizing For Search Engines & Humans
WordPress makes SEO much easier. Make it easier for visitors to find your site by installing an SEO plugin. The WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast is a popular option. All you need to do is fill in the additional fields to help optimize posts and pages. Plus, you can generate the XML sitemaps search engines love.
Speed is a vital factor in a site’s success. Caching helps speed up page loading times, increase server performance and save bandwidth. Configuring this manually can result in numerous problems. Installing a WordPress caching plugin makes this easier to do. Many professionals install and configure a plugin as part of the development process. One of the more popular plugins is W3 Total Cache.
Setting Up Security
You don’t want someone taking over your site, especially if you store membership data or other private details. This is a two step process. First, install a backup plugin or have a backup plan in place. If something does happen, you have a backup ready to restore your site quickly.
Second, secure your admin area. Some common tips include removing the login error message, create a custom login page, limit login attempts, use encrypted passwords and limit access based on IP. You can even install WordPress antivirus to help prevent site attacks and hacks. Some of these tips can be accomplished with plugins or custom coding.
If you’re allowing comments, it’s also a good idea to control spam by installing an anti-spam plugin. One of the most popular is the premium Akismet or you can use a free WordPress plugin.
Performance Final Maintenance
The last step is the process involves thorough testing and final maintenance. Ideally, this should all be done on a test server to prevent visitors from finding the site while you’re testing. Start by double-checking that you have the latest version of WordPress and your theme is compatible. Next, view your site on different screen sizes, devices and browsers. Test every page and link for loading times and any possible link errors.
Ensure the design works well and all plugins are working properly. A single plugin error could cause the site not to load for some or all visitors. Finally, test all custom coding and clean up any bugs.
Obviously, there are other steps, but these five are essential. Once these are complete, you should have a professional, fully functional WordPress site that will impress your visitors.