Building a Website With WordPress

Welcome to Building a Website with WordPress, offered by Westmoreland County Community College. Here you’ll find plans, notes and links for our four-week class.

Welcome to week 1!

This week, we’ll get to know each other and start to gather everything we need to build a WordPress site.

wordpress.com vs. wordpress.org

We’ll start the class with a little about WordPress including the difference between wordpress.com (a hosting platform that limits what you can do with WordPress) and wordpress.org (the free software that we’ll use on the hosting platform of our choice).

I’ll also mention the Pittsburgh WordPress group and WordCamps everywhere.

Class website

Pair Networks has graciously provided free Managed WordPress hosting for the duration of the class and for 30 days after.

You’ll receive a link to your site as well as login credentials to log in.

After class

Upon completion of the 4-week class, you can do one of the following:

  • Purchase a domain name and reach out to Pair to take over billing of your account
  • Purchase a domain name and migrate your site to another host (like Flywheel or WP Engine)
  • Do nothing and your site will be removed after 30 days

Domain name

Your domain name is your URL or website address. Finding the perfect domain name can take a bit of time. You’ll want to select something that’s easy for people to remember and that is meaningful. Oh, and a domain name that’s available is good, too!

Domainr is great for searching for possible domain names and GoDaddy and ThemeIsle have good articles on selecting the perfect domain name.

You can secure a domain name from anywhere, but I recommend Namecheap because they are easy to use and include privacy (which cuts down on spam).

Hosting

Website hosting is where your files will live. I recommend Managed WordPress hosting at Pair Networks, Flywheel or WP Engine. The top features I look for in a website host are quick and helpful support, free SSL certificates, additional backups and staging environments.

We’ll also discuss the difference between managed and shared hosting.

Email

You may or may not want an email address at your domain name. If you do, I recommend Pair Networks (included with hosting), Zoho, Fastmail or GSuite.

Goals, content and images

We’ll talk about why you want a website and what you’re hoping it will do for you.

I’ll encourage you to think about your target audience; if you say everybody you’re not being specific enough and end up generic.

You need content.

As you’re writing your content, think about what you want the visitor to do. Guide your user through your site and use calls to action.

You’ll also need images for your website. I like pexels.com and unsplash.com. Never use Google! You may need to resize images (I like pixlr). 

Homework

Before the next class:

  • Write out the goals you have for your website
  • Start to gather content and images
  • Look through my resources and read any that look interesting to you
  • Plan for your site after the class is over; think about a domain name and research hosting providers

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Review

Last class we talked a bit about caching. Here is the link I mentioned with a great explanation of what caching is!

Plugins

Plugins are added functionality for WordPress. We’ll install and configure the following to start:

  • Wordfence (security)
  • UpdraftPlus (backups)
  • Yoast (install but don’t activate)

If you need a Dropbox account to store your backups separate from your website, sign up for a free basic account.

Themes

We’ll look at two themes, Astra and Blocksy.

Updates

You’ll need to keep WordPress as well as your themes and plugins up to date. There are two ways to do this:

  • Easy Updates Manager
  • Log in to your site and perform the updates once a week or once every few weeks

Homework

Before the next class:

  • Finish your content and search for images
  • Set up security and backups
  • Choose a theme and design

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Pages

If you used an Astra starter site, it will have created some pages for you. Go ahead and update those pages with your own content using the Elementor page builder.

Create a new page by going to Pages, Add New OR duplicate an existing page by using a plugin.

Editor

We’ll do a quick run-through of how to use the Elementor editor and the Gutenberg editor. 

Settings

Visit Settings, Reading to set your home page (and blog page if you have one).

Settings, General is where you can set your site name and tagline. Settings, Permalinks is where you’ll set the permalink structure (how the URLs appear).

Menus

If you used an Astra starter site, it created a menu for you. If you have to add/remove any pages, go to Appearance, Menus. 

Customize

Check Appearance, Customize to look at the customizer. Each theme will have a different set of options here, but many are also the same.

Privacy Policy

Privacy policies are good to have; I mentioned Termageddon before, but also here is a template, a generator, a plugin and a walkthrough. Also check the guide under Settings, Privacy, Check out our guide.

Homework

Keep working on your site and put all the pages together.

To round out our four-week class, we’ll discuss the following.

Widgets

Depending on your theme, you’ll have different sidebar and widget options. You’ll be able to set your sidebar and footer with widgets (generally). 

Contact form

If you used an Astra starter site, a contact form was created for you. If you didn’t, I’ll help you install and configure a forms plugin. Then, we’ll make sure your contact form works.

SEO

I’ll introduce Yoast, Google Analytics and Google Search Console. You may want to write some meta titles and descriptions for your site with Yoast. We’ll also cover other best practices for SEO.

Speed

I’ll show you how to take a page speed test as well as how to make your site faster.

Launch

Thanks so much for signing up and completing this course! 

Once you have your content and images in, do some testing.

Marketing

If we have time, we’ll discuss a bit about social media and email marketing.

Welcome to week 1!

This week, we’ll get to know each other and start to gather everything we need to build a WordPress site.

WordPress

We’ll start the class with a little about WordPress including the difference between wordpress.com (a hosting platform that limits what you can do with WordPress) and wordpress.org (the free software that other we’ll use).

I’ll also mention the Pittsburgh WordPress group and WordCamps everywhere.

DNS

Before we talk about domains, hosting and email, I want to describe all the pieces and how they fit together.

Domain name

Your domain name is your URL or website address. Finding the perfect domain name can take a bit of time. You’ll want to select something that’s easy for people to remember and that is meaningful. Oh, and a domain name that’s available is good, too!

Domainr is great for searching for possible domain names and GoDaddy and ThemeIsle have good articles on selecting the perfect domain name.

You can secure a domain name from anywhere, but I recommend these providers because they are easy to use and include privacy (which cuts down on spam).

Hosting

Website hosting is where your files will live. I recommend Managed WordPress hosting (and we’ll discuss the difference between managed and shared hosting).

Email

You may or may not want an email address at your domain name. If you do, I recommend these providers.

Goals, content and images

We’ll talk about why you want a website and what you’re hoping it will do for you.

I’ll encourage you to think about your target audience; if you say everybody you’re not being specific enough and end up generic.

You need content.

As you’re writing your content, think about what you want the visitor to do. Guide your user through your site and use calls to action.

You’ll also need images for your website. I like pexels.com and unsplash.com. Never use Google!

Homework

Before the next class:

  • Think of and secure a domain name
  • Purchase website hosting
  • Write out the goals you have for your website
  • Start to gather content and images
  • Look through my resources and read any that look interesting to you

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Getting set up

  • Now that you have your domain name and hosting, I’ll sit with each of you individually and get WordPress up and running
  • We’ll also configure SSL
  • To log into your website, add /wp-admin to the end of your URL

Settings

We’ll look at your WordPress Dashboard under Settings, General to see all of the available options for WordPress.

Plugins

Plugins are added functionality for WordPress. We’ll install and configure the following to start:

  • Coming Soon
  • Wordfence (customize the emails you get from Wordfence by going to Wordfence, All Options, Email alert preferences and Activity report)
  • UpdraftPlus

Themes

We’ll install the Astra theme and child theme.

There are two ways you can go here — design from scratch or use one of their free starter sites (choose Elementor and free when searching). We’ll walk through the pros/cons of each and will dive into this next class. (Here’s a video if you want to work ahead!)

Homework

Before the next class:

  • Finish your content and search for images
  • Decide on a design. If you’ll design from scratch, choose fonts and colors. Otherwise, choose a starter site that you like best

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Pages

If you used an Astra starter site, it will have created some pages for you. Go ahead and update those pages with your own content using the Elementor page builder.

Create a new page by going to Pages, Add New OR duplicate an existing page by using a plugin.

Editor

We’ll do a quick run-through of how to use the Elementor editor and the Gutenberg editor. 

Settings

Visit Settings, Reading to set your home page (and blog page if you have one).

Settings, General is where you can set your site name and tagline. Settings, Permalinks is where you’ll set the permalink structure (how the URLs appear).

Menus

If you used an Astra starter site, it created a menu for you. If you have to add/remove any pages, go to Appearance, Menus. 

Customize

Check Appearance, Customize to look at the customizer. Each theme will have a different set of options here, but many are also the same.

Privacy Policy

Privacy policies are good to have; here is a template, a generator, a plugin and a walkthrough. Also check the guide under Settings, Privacy, check out our guide.

Homework

Keep working on your site! Less is more — try to get it to a place where you can show the class next week and possibly turn off the coming soon page.

Discussion

To round out our four-week class, we’ll discuss the following.

Widgets

Depending on your theme, you’ll have different sidebar and widget options. You’ll be able to set your sidebar and footer with widgets (generally). 

Contact forms

If you used an Astra starter site, a contact form was created for you. If you didn’t, I’ll help you install and configure a forms plugin. Then, we’ll make sure your contact form works.

The blog and blog posts

I’ll describe how the blog and posts work, even if you don’t think you want to have a blog on your site.

Security

I’ll give you some tips to keep your website secure.

SEO

I’ll introduce Yoast, Google Analytics and Google Search Console. You may want to write some meta titles and descriptions for your site with Yoast. We’ll also cover other best practices for SEO.

Speed

I’ll show you how to take a page speed test as well as how to make your site faster.

Launch

Thanks so much for signing up and completing this course! 

Once you have your content and images in, do some testing.

Remove the coming soon plugin and send me the URL. I’d love to see the final product!