The versatile WordPress platform is used by more than half of websites worldwide, and it’s no wonder. You can build virtually any type of website or ecommerce business using WordPress. However, it also comes with a pretty steep learning curve. If you’re looking to learn WordPress in a day, these 10 tips will help you launch your website in no time.
1. Know the WordPress Website Building Blocks
Every WordPress website—from online stores and affiliate blogs to news powerhouses and e-learning academies—uses a basic set of building blocks. These are:
- WordPress hosting: This is where your website “lives” online. Managed WordPress hosting services provide the data storage and internet connectivity needed to house your content, images, website files, and, if applicable, your customer, sales, and order data.
- WordPress theme: Every WordPress website needs a theme that defines its overall design, navigation menus, and essential functionality. These WordPress themes range from simple blogs to designs geared toward everything from online stores to real estate property search websites. Most themes give you control over site elements like colors, typefaces, and page layout, and some are fully customizable.
- WordPress plugins: WordPress plugins let you add functionality to a WordPress site. For example, ecommerce plugins enable online stores and e-learning plugins support online course marketers. Other plugins add features used by all types of websites, like email marketing, social media sharing icons, and search engine optimization (SEO) tools.
Multipurpose WordPress themes like The Gem ($59) deliver ready-to-go site templates with demo content and built-in plugins. Though not free, premium themes make it easy to learn WordPress in a day and quick-start your website. Image source: The Gem.
The secret to a quick-start WordPress website is not overthinking these three WordPress building blocks. There are hundreds of WordPress hosting services and tens of thousands of WordPress themes and plugins to choose from. You can spend weeks exploring your options, but that won’t get your website launched quickly—if ever.
If you want to learn WordPress in a day, it’s best to start with a managed hosting service, a theme pre-designed for your needs, and basic plugins, then grow from there. The following tips walk you through the process.
Remember, you can always upgrade hosting, change themes, and add plugins as your business outgrows your starter setup. In fact, that’s one of the greatest features of WordPress—it’s practically impossible to outgrow.
2. Use a Managed WordPress Hosting Service
Managed WordPress hosting services like Bluehost, GoDaddy, and WPEngine do the hard work for you. Your account comes pre-installed with WordPress so you don’t have to install the platform yourself. Plus, important elements like website backup, malware protection, and SSL security are all built into the service, so you don’t need various add-ons and plugins to protect your data.
Managed WordPress hosting services are very economical and include SSL certificates, automatic backups, a domain name, and a pre-installed WordPress environment that’s ready to build out. Pricing above is from Bluehost.
Most managed hosting services also provide you with a free domain name, or URL, for your first year. You choose your domain name when you create your account and it’s automatically connected to your WordPress website. Of course, if you already have a domain name, you can simply point it to your WordPress website host.
3. Pick a WordPress Theme Designed for Your Business
Technically speaking, you can turn any WordPress theme into any type of website. For example, you can turn a basic WordPress blog into an online store by adding an ecommerce plugin. However, your blog theme won’t have important sales features like “featured products” built into your home page, a cart link, or product search in the menu bar.
If you want to quickly launch an online store on WordPress, you’re better off starting with a theme designed for online stores, like the free Storefront theme by WooThemes or one of the ecommerce templates from The Gem. Likewise, you can find themes and templates designed for all types of business needs, from real estate, consulting, and online academies to affiliate blogging, magazine sites, and more.
The free Storefront theme has every selling feature a startup ecommerce store needs, including the free WooCommerce ecommerce plugin and built-in header elements for easy item search, shopping cart access, and customer account login.
Another plus, business-specific themes usually have the plugins you need built-in. You’ll enable these during your theme setup, which saves loads of time if you’re trying to learn WordPress in a day.
For example, the Storefront theme above comes with WooCommerce already built-in. Other business-specific themes include the plugins that power certain needs, like real estate home searches (called IDX plugins), online course management, and affiliate links, to name a few.
4. Install Your Theme’s Demo Data
Most themes provide demo, or “dummy” data that you can choose to install or not. Without demo data, your theme is just a blank slate, which is a tough starting point for new users. If you’re trying to learn WordPress in a day, installing the demo data can be a real timesaver for your initial setup. It also makes it easy to see which customization tools affect different elements like colors and fonts.
Demo data gives you a starter website complete with homepage layouts, placeholder images, header and footer layouts, plus a few blog posts pages, menus, and product pages if it’s an ecommerce theme. You simply swap out the demo images and content with your own to quick-start your WordPress website.
5. Limit Plugins
The WordPress plugin universe is vast, and as you learn the platform, you’ll have fun exploring the many plugin options. However, overloading WordPress with unnecessary plugins can cause your site to load slowly or even break due to plugin conflicts. In the beginning, stick with your key functional plugins, like WooCommerce, eLearning, or real estate plugins, and add others sparingly.
In addition to the functional plugins that run your business, most WordPress websites need:
- SEO plugin: Yoast SEO is the leader in SEO plugins, and the basic version is free.
- Anti-spam plugin: Akismet is preinstalled in all WordPress websites. Once enabled, it automatically filters out spam comments in your blog posts.
- Email marketing plugin: Most industry-specific themes include plugins or integrations for email marketing services. If not, you can add plugins like MailChimp or Constant Contact.
- Social media sharing plugin: Many themes also include built-in social share features, but if yours doesn’t, try WP Social Sharing or Easy Social Sharing.
- Affiliate plugin: If you’re building an affiliate blog or content outlet, affiliate plugins like Amazon Affiliate WordPress Plugin (AAWP) or ThirstyAffiliates can help you manage links and better organize and publish affiliate content.
As you learn more about WordPress and solidify your business goals and needs, you can explore plugins that add more functionality. However, doing this on day one slows down your website launch. So stick with your must-haves, which hopefully came with your theme, then add what you need for SEO, social shares, and email marketing.
6. Use a Typeface Logo in Your Header
WordPress themes treat header logo images very differently. Some center your logo or align it to the left automatically. Others have a default size that might be too large or small to showcase your logo well. In short, you can spend a lot of time tweaking how your logo appears in your website’s header section.
If you’re trying to learn WordPress in a day, don’t waste precious time on your logo if it doesn’t look right. Instead, use the typeface logo option that’s built into every WordPress theme, like Ocean WP, below. Once your WordPress website is set up and launched, you can revisit your header layout and explore the tweaks that will make your logo fit perfectly.
Ocean WP ($39) is a multipurpose theme that gives you a simple text header and ready demo content to help you quick-start your WordPress website with minimal fuss.
7. Create a Content Plan
A new WordPress website is a blank slate just waiting to be filled with interesting content like blog posts, product pages, imagery, and video. Your quick-start WordPress site might have just a few pages, but that’s sure to expand. Having a basic content plan from day one keeps everything organized as your website grows.
Start with a quick overview of your WordPress content options:
- Pages: Use these for static content like the “About Us” and “Contact” pages that users will find via menu links.
- Blog posts: These are your versatile content pages for blog entries, articles, reviews, and video posts.
- Items or products: Ecommerce plugins create item pages with sales-specific elements like product pricing, SKUs, variables, and descriptions.
- Imagery: Images can be presented within pages and posts or alone as image collections, collage pages, slider sections, and lookbooks.
- Video: Video can be incorporated into any WordPress page, post, or item page, including your homepage.
Next, create 10 to 20 ideas for content. These can be articles, blog posts, videos, photo galleries—whatever mixture of content works for your brand. Next, group those ideas into categories based on an overall topic or a theme. Once complete, your content plan will guide your content creation and help you set up your navigation menus, which we discuss next.
8. Use Categories to Build Your Menus
WordPress organizes content under “Categories,” and every page, post, product, video, and image collection that you create can be housed under one or more categories. This category structure makes it easy to build out organized and topic-specific website menus. As your content grows, you can also create sub-categories and sub-menus to further organize your website and provide a great user experience.
A simple menu structure is easy to build using WordPress Categories to organize your items, blog posts, and other content by topic. Image source: SimplySmartLiving blog.
Aligning your content plan to your website menu is an easy way to build out your content in a focused and organized manner. After creating and publishing the 10 to 20 content elements in your initial plan, you’ll have a good idea of where your brand is headed and what you should create next.
9. Put Key Links and Information in the Footer
Footer elements are displayed sitewide on WordPress websites and are the perfect place to display important information on every page of your website without cluttering up your header or main menus.
Use your footer to display things like your business phone number or address, links to key pages or categories, business taglines, or even brief terms of service. Most WordPress themes build the footer using mini sections called “Widgets,” which you can populate and move around as needed.
Fundera’s footer includes important contact information, links, and review icons that users can find from any page on the website. Each column is created using a WordPress footer widget within the theme customizer.
10. Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly
More than half of all website traffic comes from mobile devices, so all modern WordPress themes are designed to be mobile-friendly. However, you can also “think mobile” when building out the elements of your quick-start website. In fact, some of the tips covered above are ideal strategies for mobile sites.
For example, using a typeface for your website logo is better for smaller mobile screens where type is more legible than a tiny logo. Likewise, building menus from categories and putting extra links in the footer help you create succinct menus for smaller screens.
Here are a few more mobile-friendly tips that fit perfectly with your quick-start WordPress website plan.
Don’t Spend Time on Splashy Sliders
If you’re trying to learn WordPress in a day, leave the image sliders and animated hero image sections for another day. These elements usually take time to set up and really are unnecessary screen-fill for mobile users. Revisit these after your initial launch when you can spend time tweaking your image sizing, overlay text, and appearance options across all screen sizes.
Skip the Sidebars
Sidebars are easy to add to most WordPress themes. However, on mobile screens, they drop to the bottom of your page and push your footer information even lower on the screen. For your quick-start website, put key information and links in your sitewide footer and leave the sidebars for another day.
Avoid Distracting Backgrounds
Clutter is the enemy of mobile screens and busy website backgrounds are very last-century, no matter your screen size. You can’t go wrong with a plain white background for your quick-start WordPress website, but if you must add some color, stick with light grays or neutrals that are easy on the eye.
The Bottom Line
The versatile WordPress platform lets you create any type of website you can dream up—from online stores and affiliate blogs to news powerhouses, e-learning academies, and much more. All of this power comes with a steep learning curve, but even new users can learn WordPress in a day and build a quick-start website.
The first step is understanding the building blocks that make WordPress tick: hosting, themes, and plugins. Next, you must commit to a right-for-now solution that you can expand and upgrade later. It’s easy to get caught up in the many hosting, theme, and plugin options, but your quick-start site demands decisions. Pick a managed hosting plan, a business-specific theme, must-have plugins, and get cracking!
Use your theme’s demo data as a starting point and don’t get caught up in time-consuming tasks like perfecting your logo in the header or adding splashy homepage sliders. Instead, spend time creating a content plan to guide your initial website build-out and menu structure.
Finally, think mobile-friendly in all things since most of your visitors are using mobile devices. Clean, simple mobile-first planning clears much of the clutter, like sidebars and slider images, off your planning plate.
If you avoid time-consuming setup tasks, you can learn the WordPress basics in a day and start your website in no time. Afterward, you have all the time in the world to explore the content, design, and functionality options available as you dive deeper into WordPress.