WordPress is the world’s most popular platform (or content management system) for creating websites and for many good reasons.I am not a WordPress re-seller, agent or on commission (WordPress is open source and doesn’t work like that). I’ve simply become convinced that WordPress is becoming to websites what Microsoft became to office software and will meet most people’s website or blogging needs at zero or very low cost.

There are other good solutions available, but I think you should always at least consider WordPress as one option, especially if you are a small or medium-sized organisation or on a very restricted budget.

If you do choose WordPress

If you do choose WordPress I can help with:

1. Choosing between WordPress.com and WordPress.org

There are lots of confused people and lots of myths, I use both and can quickly put your right.

2. The preparation stage

Taking you through all the decisions you should make before you start your site.

Too many people jump in feet first and start work on a site before they are really clear about what they are trying to achieve. Completing some simple checklists and answering questions about where you are with your business and marketing planning will help identify if you are ready to go.

3. Selecting a design theme

WordPress.com offers nearly 400 design themes and over half  are free. WordPress.org has even more. Some themes are available on both WordPress.com and WordPress.org, some aren’t. There’s a wonderful choice — but potentially bewildering one.

All themes are customisable to a great extent, some customisation is very easy (just tick a box), some requires you to upload your own graphics, some themes allow you to change colour schemes without knowing any code, some themes have special home page layouts.

Sidebars and often footers can allow you to add widgets which can bring a lot more functionality. Widgets can be set to run across the whole site, or on selected pages.

Some themes have some special header functions. Some include image sliders.

All themes allow you to choose to have your home page as a static page, or a blog.

You can always change your free theme if you want to. But you can make yourself a lot of extra work if you do that too often, as well as potentially confusing your audiences.

I can guide you through the different issues about selecting your theme and the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches.

And a lot of tricks for customising your theme without getting into complex or costly solutions.

4. Under the bonnet

WordPress offers lots of settings to make the site work as you want it. From the basics of setting the right time zone, setting up links with social media (automated or not?) and user roles, there are also categories and tags which are very powerful tools and often overlooked by people using WordPress for the first time.

Menus can be exploited a lot more than WordPress lets on. You’ll see ‘This theme has one menu’ or ‘This theme has two menus’, but actually you have more: you can create customised menus to put in sidebars and footers to your heart’s content. You may also want to create mini-menus at various points of your content (helpful if you’re reading on a tablet or smartphone where the main menu can be obscured).

5. Statistics count

WordPress.com comes with its own built-in analytics — statistics about how many people have viewed your site, which country they came from, top content and search terms they used. It’s the not the most sophisticated — WordPress.org allows you to use much more sophisticated statistical analysis like Google Analytics — but even simple analytics are vital to running your site and for planning future content and maximising your visibility on search engines (‘search engine optimisation’ or SEO).

Analytics, categories and tags working together give you real extra power with your SEO, ignore them at your peril!

6. Content

Content can appear as pages, posts or widgets.

You can produce your own content, or embed it from other sites (make sure you don’t infringe any copyright). Embedding content from say, YouTube, will save you needing pay extra hosting costs, and have search engine optimisation advantages.

But there are lots and lots of other sites and types of content you can embed from, you normally just have to copy and paste some HTML code (some easy to use website software highly restricts embedded content and that can come back to bite you as embedding is a real trend in websites these days).

Documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, surveys, graphs can all be embedded using free Google software for a start (and some of these are available on Microsoft’s free Outlook.com). There are some accessibility arguments against some of this, but it does mean you can update parts of your website just by accessing Google or Outlook: simple and totally free!

Writing for a website is different from writing for print. People don’t read from page 1 to page 2 and through to the end. You need to think about how the content will work on small screens as well as larger ones. How search engines will read your pages and posts.

Images are both powerful to give impact on your site, but they also have an important role in making your site visible on search engines. Don’t underestimate what you can do with an image!

7. Do you want content your readers can download?

I can also produce e-booklets/leaflets and e-posters that people can download in pdf format to read offline. E-booklets can also be set up to mimic a mini-website and used on a tablet, in receptions and at events, for example, where there may be no or patchy internet connection (many tablet users don’t have internet connection away from home, and may rural communities don’t have fast or reliable broadband).

8. Connecting to the outside world

There’s little point to having a website if people can’t find it. You need to register with search engines, but there are all sorts of other easy, though often time consuming ways you can gain visibility:

  • good links and activity to and from relevant social media
  • good links to and from other relevant websites — I can’t stress relevant enough here — stuffing your site with irrelevant links is an old trick that the search engines have rumbled and may get your site struck off
  • clever use of tags (keywords) and to some extent categories — again how keywords are used has changed over the years, but appropriate use of relevant keywords, not just as tags on your post but consistently in headlines, first paragraphs and links is a powerful search engine optimisation tool

Beware the snake oil sales emails offering ‘Guaranteed number 1 position on Google’. Nobody can guarantee a search engine ranking (well that’s what Google says, and if they don’t know, who does?). Lots of things influence search engine rankings, not least the activity of other people throughout the world and rankings can change by the hour particularly in very crowded marketplaces/subject areas.

Your ranking will depend mainly on:

  • having a clear understanding of your organisations’ objectives
  • knowing your target audiences: who they are, where they are and how they use the internet
  • a well written, well structured site
  • regularly updated and relevant content
  • regularly reading your site’s analytics, learning from them and tweaking your site accordingly (eg if a number of people are searching for content you don’t cover, or if they use phrases differently from how you wrote them, consider a bit of rewriting).

Your site and objectives are unique to you, but I can help you through the maze of getting the basics of search engine optimisation right. Contact me to discuss your need.