The cost of a ‘hand-built’ website can be prohibitive for a small business.
You probably wouldn’t design a house or a new car from scratch, and there’s no need to build a website from scratch either.
This is why I recommend using WordPress to make your website. WordPress is a website content management system for website building, for blogging, for e-commerce, for everything. It’s totally free to download, robust and extremely customisable. There are thousands of additional styling themes and plugins, most of them are free. WordPress powers more than 30% of the websites on earth (and that’s a lot!).
WordPress is the bare bones of the system, it allows us to add pages, content, images, products etc.
To build your website…
1. I will install WordPress on the server.
2. To enhance the functionality of WordPress I add and install various plugins on top of the base. A plugin can be something as simple as a contact form or as complex as an online reservation and booking system.
3. To make the site look nice I then install a theme, the theme is the look and feel of the site, the positions of things, the style.
4. To personalise the theme, I then add your logo, text and images, change some colours and if needed tweak the theme design to your specifications.
Future-Proofing your Website
I get a lot of work from people who have had added functionality to their site by getting a developer to hand-code something. Over time, the code stops working as servers and general base code is updated. The developer then becomes hard to contact, stops working or has moved on. The client is then stuck with a site that no longer functions. They then call me.
So, to allow for your site to function for as long as possible, I won’t hand-code anything extra. This means that the site we build can be managed and maintained by me, by you, or the next person who comes along.
I use free or paid plugins and themes to achieve all your needs. Obviously, if the theme or plugin developer stops maintaining their offering, we may need to fix things. To minimise the chances of this happening, I recommend only choosing themes and plugins that have a large number of downloads, a good rating and an active support system.
Choosing a Theme
For most basic sites, I have used a few simple themes, again and again. One of these might just fit the bill. So you don’t need to be worried about looking for one. I can show you a few of these to narrow down the choice. But for more bespoke use, you may need to help me choose the theme. You know what you want and need, I can see if the theme is good or not.
Try to imagine your logo, colours and images in the place of the ones you see on the demo version. Don’t get caught up on things that can easily be changed. Many people see a site with specific images (for example of furniture) and think, ‘oh, we are not selling furniture’ and dismiss the theme, when in fact the theme may be just what you need.
WordPress Free Themes
There are thousands of free WordPress themes, one of these may be perfect for you.
They are all free to download and use. When choosing one, ignore all the themes that say twenty-something, these are WordPress pre-installed themes.
When you click on a theme to have a better look, look to the right and then click THEME HOMEPAGE–>. This will take you to the theme developer’s site where you can see the demo version that they want you to see. This will show you all the features and functionality that the theme can use.
WordPress Freemium Themes
Next up are Freemium themes, these are free themes with limitations. You can download and use these for free. The theme can be upgraded for a fee. If the theme is called ‘SomeThemeName-lite’, then this tells you that there is a pro version available. The pro version will have some added features and functionality. If you really like the lite theme but need a few more features, we may have to upgrade and buy their ‘pro’ version.
I generally don’t like or use freemium themes. They lure you in with a free theme, only for you to find out after hours of work that there’s something needed that cannot be achieved without paying. This is fair enough. Usually, the freemium themes can be purchased from the developer’s own website. The problem here is how do we know that the developer is going to still be maintaining the theme 2 years down the road? Premium is better than Freemium.
WordPress Premium Themes (from Theme Forest)
Lastly, there are premium themes. These are more refined and have added features pre-installed. A premium theme might be something like an estate agent theme, which would have the ability to add properties with images, floorplans, prices, maps etc. or a restaurant theme that allows us to easily add a menu or take bookings. All of this extra functionality is in the theme so we don’t have to look for a separate plugin to do the same job.
Premium themes generally take longer to build as they have added features, longer pages, more complex page layouts.
We should always try to choose a theme with lots of downloads and good reviews, these are invariably the best/easiest to use.
I use Theme forest because it’s a large open market for themes. The best rise to the top. There is a one time cost for the theme. 6-months developer support is free. Additional support can be purchased if needed.
Choosing a Plugin
For most basic uses, I know and use a few really good plugins. If you need a function (like a contact form), then I know a good free plugin. You don’t need to be worried about these. I can choose the right plugin for you.
But for more bespoke use, you may need to help me find one. You will know what you want and need the plugin to do. I can search for a good plugin based upon your requirements.
So, What’s Next?
I have created many great simple websites using free themes. I have also created rich and beautiful websites using premium themes. I have used free and premium plugins to add additional features and functionality to lots of websites. At the end of the day, we would always recommend the most cost-effective option. It’s all based on your needs, which in any instance can be met.
I only use WordPress to build sites these days. I customise the theme to suit the client’s business’s needs. Professional WordPress theme customisation means that I add content sensitively, creating graphics, logos, layouts correctly sized and formatted for the best display across all devices.
If you want to Do It Yourself
I have also installed the basic WordPress install and then handed over control to the client immediately. From that point onwards, the client then does everything themselves. Some clients ask us to set up the basics so that editing becomes more straightforward.
It’s easier to edit a page than build it from scratch. Most clients let me build the whole site professionally to completion, then we make the site live. The client can then choose to edit the completed site themselves or ask me to do it for them. All possibilities are available.
If you would like to know exactly what we did for each site, please contact me.
When Choosing between Free & Premium, look at the information below to help.
WordPress Free Themes
- These are easy (relatively quick) to set up.
- They don’t have many options generally (some do).
- If one looks perfect, go for it.
If there’s anything that’s not right, look for another theme, there are so many, one will be right.
Always choose a theme that has a high number of downloads and a good review score, this usually means that we won’t get stuck halfway along the build process with something that the theme cannot do. If the theme is new and you really like it, we may have to take a chance, because new themes have neither many downloads or reviews.
WordPress Premium Themes
- These generally are much better.
- They have many options & features.
- They have premium plugins pre-installed for free.
- They take longer to build which may cost more.
Options & features make for additional work. More work equals more time to set up the site.
https://themeforest.net/popular_item/by_category?category=wordpress (use the search option to refine the big list)
ALWAYS look for a theme that has lots of downloads, and lots of good reviews, these are generally better.
It’s imperative that you decide on the theme you like the look of because it’s the base of everything we do.
A Few Examples
Below are a few themes that I have used to make sites for clients.
The idea of this list is to show you what the original theme looked like as it was downloaded and then what the site looks like after I have worked on it.