If starting your own website is daunting, the thought of designing one can seem nigh-impossible. Even if you already have a site, many users- especially bloggers- don’t always put in the time or money design a distinct site. I know from personal experience. Up until recently, I was ok with my personal blogs going without themes. I’m getting my content out there, after all. So who needs to spend all that extra time and money with site design, coding, and every other headache that site building entails?
Well, as I have discovered, WordPress doesn’t just make it easy to get started, it lets anyone make a good-looking website. If someone like me, who is just getting started with site coding, can figure out WordPress site design, those of you with previous experience are already going to have a leg-up. So let’s do a run down of the options WordPress provides over other services. Use the table of contents to jump each section as you need.
Table of Contents
Who Uses WordPress?
WordPress is the go-to for most site designers.
Of the top 1000 sites on the internet, over 30% use WordPress as their content management system. Some WordPress site examples include big brands like MTV, Microsoft, and even Disney+. These companies all opt for WordPress over other systems, even when other packages are built specifically for large companies. So why is this? Why is it that some of the most profitable brands still opt to use a free service to build their site? The answer is simple: flexibility.
Even if you’re running a small business you know the importance of standing out, of making your site unique. You don’t want to use a generic theme that looks like any other site, even if it is done up in your brand’s colors. With many other systems, you’re usually locked into whichever options they provide, not the least of which is your site’s appearance. A big company, then, is going to want something they have complete control over and instead put their money towards designers who know how to take full advantage of WordPress’ tool kit. But what does this tool kit include?
WordPress Design Elements: What Are Your Options?
WordPress features flexibility and ease of use in its base system, as well as a robust network of support.
While more complex systems can be obtuse or require specialized training, WordPress has a fairly straightforward dashboard. Site design can be done with easy visualizers for both layout and text posts without ever needing to touch your site’s code. Visual customization can be done through themes- which we’ll cover later- or through dedicated page-building plugins. However, if you ever need to access your site’s HTML or any other code, WordPress also has native functions for doing so.
WordPress’ real superpower, however, is its plugin library. I mentioned plugins as a way to further customize your site visually, but that is just one example. Plugins are independently developed expansions or apps for your WordPress dashboard which can give your site nearly limitless capabilities. There are plugins for everything from page builders, to statistics and SEO, to eCommerce tools. In addition to this library (which currently features over 44,000 plugins and counting), WordPress is constantly being updated. The free, open-source nature of the system means that dedicated developers are improving the WordPress code base every day in addition to new plugins expanding its capabilities.
Using WordPress Plugins
Let’s take a brief look at some specifics about WordPress plugins.
Since plugins are one of the most key features of this system, it’s important to know how to use them. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to do. The plugin browser is located front-and-center on your WordPress dashboard. If you’ve got a functionality you need for your site, chances are the plugin library will have it. If you’re having trouble sifting through everything, there is plenty of information online about your best options for plugins. So feel free to use Google as well and comparison shop. Since plugins are independently developed, a lot of them will have similar or identical functions, so getting a second opinion is always worthwhile.
You can also feel free to just browse the library without a specific plugin in mind, you never know what you might find. It’ll also remind you of what you’re getting with WordPress. Sure, a lot of plugins required paid licensing, but with WordPress you have the freedom to choose each. Other systems would lock you in to whatever functions are native to the platform. WordPress is modular and ever-expanding, which allows your site to be as well.
Themes and Coding on WordPress
Themes and website coding are not something unique to WordPress, but each system approaches them differently.
When it comes to themes, WordPress has a tons of options (over 11,000, in fact!). To clarify: themes refer to templates for the basic visual design and layout of your site. WordPress has a whole library of prebuilt, ready-to-use themes, both free and paid. In addition to this, WordPress also has options to create custom themes. This may require more technical know-how or money for a site designer (custom themes are the brunt of design work), but simply having the option there is invaluable, even if you don’t take advantage of it right away. For anyone just beginning, our blog also features a breakdown of some easy-to-use theme software featured on WordPress.
For those of you who are software-savvy, WordPress is unambiguously your best choice. Having an open source code and tools to directly modify HTML on-the-fly is something that not every system will feature. In fact, most will restrict you to a set of tools for site design. Besides being limiting for you as a user, this also means you are spending more on less options. Restricted layouts also mean that it is often apparent when you are using certain systems. Even if you pay for you own domain, users might still see your site as just another Wix or SquareSpace site, rather than something unique.
Hosting for WordPress
WordPress also gives you the freedom to choose your own host.
Although your users wont see it, hosting is one of the most important features of your site. Web hosting refers to services which provide server space for your site’s content. Essentially, all of the data which your site runs on (code, images, text) needs to be stored and delivered to visitors via a dedicated computer. With many content management systems, hosting is provided with a paid plan. Since WordPress is free, web hosting is not provided by default. You get to select your own host.
This may sound like a hassle, but it’s actually good news for you as a site owner. Since WordPress does not provide hosting, you are not locked into one hosting service. Like other parts of your site that WordPress allows you to customize, the options are left open to you. If one host is not up to you standards or out of your budget, you can easily switch without the need to migrate your site to a new system. You wont need to worry about any of that if you choose WP Super Host, though. The WP Super Host service provides the most current security, reliable access for visitors, and flexible pricing options, which can be viewed at this page.
I also advise against ever selecting a free hosting plan. A host is in charge of site security, maintenance, and keeping your site online, so don’t cut corners for it.
Putting it Together: How to Design a WordPress Site
So, with all of these features in mind, let’s go over a step-by-step process of WordPress website design.
1. Set up a WordPress account at WordPress.org
WordPress.org is the free, open source service we’ve discussed, whereas WordPress.com is the paid alternative. Go through the steps of account creation and navigate to your dashboard.
2. Domain and hosting
You’ll need to select a domain for your site along with hosting. You can find a more detailed breakdown of domains and hosting on our blog. For now, just know that you have the option to select either a free WordPress subdomain, or a custom one you buy from a domain registrar. Similarly, you’ll have to associate your domain with your host, which can be done through your domain registrar after you’ve bought a hosting plan.
3. Themes and design
Now that you’ve sorted out all of the technical stuff, you can start having some fun. WordPress features built-in themes from the dashboard- both free and paid- and the freedom to create your own. If you’ve really got some money to throw around, you can even hire a professional site designer to cook one up for you to really stand out. Just know that you pay for what you get by outsourcing.
So what exactly does my WordPress site need in my design? There’s a few things you’ll want to keep in mind at this stage. We’ve discussed budget, but you also want to consider your site’s goals and its brand. These will vary depending on you exact needs, but all sites should have ease of use and visual clarity as a top priority. Make sure users know what they’re looking at and how to get where they want to go. Think practically, but creatively.
At this point, you’ve probably got a good handle on your site’s goals. So start browsing for some plugins if you haven’t already. You can do this at any time in your design process, but you’ll like add more as time goes on.
5. Keep your site updated
Now that you’ve got the structure in place, it’s time to start publishing! Whether your site is a blog or for business, you can make regular updates with posts and media under the relevant tabs on WordPress’ system.
To Sum Up
Compared to other systems, WordPress makes web design easy for anyone. On top of that, WordPress is one of the most versatile and cost-effective content management systems because of its free, open-source nature. Trust me, if I can handle the basics of WordPress site design, you can too!