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An Extensive Guide to Get Started with your own WordPress Website

Hi. Hello. Welcome to WordPress.

You are now a part of a sprawling (nothing else comes even close) community of WordPress users, developers, and designers. Anything you need, just look it up on Google, and you’ll find hundreds of thousands of themes, plugins, widgets, and resources lined up. We look out for each other in this community.

So now that you have selected your domain, finalized web host and installed WordPress, it’s time to get going with customizing it and getting it ready for a smashing public appearance. There are things you’ll need to take care of, because as awesome as WordPress is, it’s not capable of sustaining on its own.

Here’s a checklist of WordPress basics you’ll need to cover, and tips on how exactly to do so:

1. The Basics of Maintenance

The Basics of Maintenance

There is an entire industry around providing WordPress maintenance services to website owners, but you should try your hand at it as a beginner to become better acquainted with the platform. What better way than learning on the job?

It’s a really simple, 4 part process. Once you get the recommended tools, you’ll intuitively know what to do (remember: everything is easy on WordPress). I’ll walk you through the list:

  • Backup

    A backup is your safety net. If you get hacked, or locked out, or when things go sideways with the code, that’s when a backup saves the day. The more recent, the better: so create these periodically but consistently.


    The first thing you need to do: Install a backup plugin like BackupBuddy, Updraft Plus, BackWPup, et al.
  • Security

    This is to ‘harden’ the walls around your fortress to make sure you don’t get attacked in the first place with consistent anti-malware scanning and threat removal.


    A good security plugin is mandatory. Choose WordFence or Sucuri (these are the best), but there are other good plugins you can look up too.
  • Anti-Spam

    If you leave your comment section enabled, 99.99% of all comments you receive will be spam, pingbacks, and trackback alerts. These take up space in your database and may even harm your website overtly.


    Short of disabling comments entirely, you can use anti-spam plugins as a powerful interim measure. I recommend WP-SpamShield Antispam or Akismet
  • Database Cleanup

    You don’t need this on a brand new site, but once you have enough content, visitors, and the endless spam, you’ll need to sort the significant from useless. Both are taking space in your database.


    Improve query times (loading speed) by cleaning your database of redundant crap with plugins like WP Sweep, WP-DB Manager, etc.

2. URLs

Modifying your URLs can play a huge role in the success of your SEO efforts, and WordPress doesn’t need plugins to let you customize them either.

Just go to your WordPress admin >> Settings >> Permalinks, and change the URL structure to a different one, because let’s be honest, the default www.yourwebsite.com/?p=5 isn’t going to cut it for good SEO.

Here’s what you need to pay attention to while customizing your permalink structure:

  • Comprehension

    Generally speaking, posts/pages with URLs that are readable and make sense (to humans) feel less ‘threatening’. URLs were designed to be human-readable anyway (to replace those god-awful numerical IP addresses).


    User should be able to understand what is on the page by looking at the URL alone; which brings us to…
  • Length and Relevance

    It’s a good idea to make sure that the page title is as close to the domain as possible. So keeping everything else just the same, this:

    www.yourdomain.com/sasha-obama-fangirls-over-ryan-reynolds

    …will rank higher on search results page than this:

    www.yourdomain.com/news/humor/sasha-obama-fangirls-over-ryan-reynolds


3. Optimizing Speed (Front-end)


Nobody’s gonna wait for ya…

That’s harsh, yes, but in an age where information is more than readily available, them’s the breaks.

Optimizing TTFB (Time-to-First-Byte) is important, again for the sake of both your users (because they like the impression that something’s happening) and SEO (funny how the two coincide so much, right?)

Here are the basics of taking care of 20% of performance issues on WordPress to receive 80% improvement in speed (yeah, that rule applies here too):

  • Images

    Get EWWW Image Optimizer or WP Smush.it plugin to compress images without losing quality. WordPress will take care of the responsiveness (if your theme doesn’t: even though it should).
  • Lazy loading

    The super cool Lazy Load XT plugin will apply a ‘conditional’ loading sequence to your images, making sure that they load up only when the user scrolls down to them.
  • Complete caching plugin

    To keep your website’s arsenal of plugins to a minimum (hey, less is more: good for performance, security, and maintenance), get a multi-purpose caching plugin like W3 Total Cache. This will take care of compressing and minifying CSS and JavaScript too.
  • Analyzing Themes and Plugins

    Theme Check and Plugin Performance Profiler (two separate plugins) let you test your themes and plugins for loading time. You will need to remove uninstall those that are causing massive spikes to your page load time.

If you can manage it or happen to hire WordPress developer, reduce external dependencies and inline CSS/JS, use CSS sprites, et al.

4. Accessibility


WordPress Accessibility

Matt Murdock, avocado at law, is blind. That didn’t stop him from being a ninja and a superhero. What makes you think that regular breed of humans playing the game of life at one of the highest difficulty settings will be kept away from the web?

There are countless people with visual/auditory/motor/cognitive impairments on the internet and might find your content relevant and interesting if it were accessible to them.

WordPress is decent enough with ALT tags on visual media (anytime you add an image, add ALT tag too). This bit of text helps visually impaired people (using screen readers) to understand the context of the image. If you put a relevant keyword in the ALT text, it’s also relevant to search bots: so that’s an SEO benefit right there. This plugin will also be of some help: WP Accessibility.

Other than that, you will need accessibility-ready themes and stylesheets, so make sure you get those. If you go for a WordPress company or a developer, specify that you want strict adherence to WebAIM guidelines.

Don’t be an ableist a-hole. Seriously.

Endnote

There’s so much more to do, and so much to learn. I am a professional developer and I’m still learning.

Integrating with analytics, Social media plugins, configuring theme settings (don’t forget to change your tagline and that favicon, Scott!), et al: it’s enough to make a rookie stagger.

But you’ll be well rewarded for perseverance.

Tracey Jones

Tracey Jones Author

Tracey Jones is a professional writer and a front end WordPress developer at HireWPGeeks Ltd. where she provides custom WordPress theme development services. She also happens to be a blogger who loves to write articles and blogs about technical stuffs in her free time.

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