Encountering the mighty realm of websites for the first time (sing it: “…like a virgin, oooh!”) can be as overwhelming and daunting as being a Swedish tourist stranded in the middle of Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood: nobody speaks your language (or any English), the sun burns stronger than you’ve ever felt in your life, there are pork sandwiches everywhere (?), roosters and chickens aggressively roam the streets, and you just don’t know what the hell is going on or how to get back to your hotel.
Consider me your Latina tour guide. Of websites. Um.
WEBSITES! I’m gonna break ‘em down for ya. We’ll look at:
- Possible platforms and how to choose one depending on whether you’re a service- or product-based biz owner
- Choosing a hosting provider
- Choosing a WordPress theme
- Choosing an email list provider
- Picking the web designer/developer for you
Plus we’ll get nerdy at the end with extra resources. Ka-pow!
Ready, set, website basics for beginners!
Choosing a platform
Psst…wondering about wordpress.com vs wordpress.org? Here’s the dealio: You most def wanna be on wordpress.org, a.k.a. self-hosted WordPress. That way you can have full control of your website: it’ll allow you to use all the fancy plugins you’ve never heard of that make for droolworthy opt-in forms to capture emails (go clean yourself up), sophisticated sales funnels to turn visitors into customers, the works. Plus, you’ll get to be as anal as you want when it comes to the design (more on that below when we talk themes!).
For a product-based business, I recommend two options:
Shopify: The amount of reporting and integration with third party options for things like taxes, shipping, and bookkeeping (plus its great support) make this one a winner. Comes with a lot of attractive themes. A downside is that aesthetically there’s less flexibility; another is that its blogging function is relatively weak, so you may wanna have a WordPress site for the blog (which means two websites = bigger expense).
WordPress: Combine any theme with a plugin like WooCommerce and you’ve got a full-fledged shop on your hands. Complete freedom in terms of design, but it’s more of a pain in the trunk to get things like taxes, shipping, and bookkeeping sorted.
(Wix/Weebly/etc., you ask? The answer is an all-around nope, chipmunk!)
Choosing a hosting provider
GoDaddy is notoriously unfriendly with WordPress (their servers just work better with other platforms) and Dreamhost is sloooooowww. Bluehost is hit or miss, and Hostgator and Greengeeks are on the same boat.
FYI, once you’re in and you have your domain (that’s next!), you can install WordPress from your hosting account (not through wordpress.org).
Buying a domain
You can buy it anywhere, although if you buy it via your hosting plan, you might get it for free (plus, you won’t have to fiddle with nameservers to hook it to your hosting plan — can I get a high five?).
Choosing a WordPress theme
As I’ve written about before, I’m a huge fan of Headway, which post-installation presents you with a blank canvas — literally. It’s an epic drag and drop theme that gives you oodles, bundles, delicious bucketfuls of chocolate flexibility. Read more about why I love Headway here (I also discuss a couple of its worthy competitors).
With version 3.8 they’ve even added Parallax scrolling, a technique where background images move at a different speed than the rest of the page, creating an illusion of 3D depth. It now also comes with “sticky positioning,” which lets you keep your navigation or opt-in form (or anything) stuck to the top as you scroll down — without code, ladiez, gents, and puppies! Headway just keeps getting more ovawesome (my feminist version of amazeballs).
Hoping I could recommend a free theme? Here’s why I don’t: free themes are infamous for their inflexibility and, since the developer isn’t getting paid, support often sucks (if it exists at all). Soon enough, the theme is no longer being updated, and you’re left with outdated software that’s vulnerable to hackers. Womp womp. Go with a premium theme instead. Totes worth it.
Choosing an email list provider
Ready to create and grow your mailing list? Let’s do it! When starting out, I like to recommend MailChimp or Aweber as they’re economical (free, even) and do the job. K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, sister!) Learn about MailChimp vs Aweber here.
Choosing a web designer/developer
If you’re past the DIYing stage or wanna start out with a profesh site from the get-go, you’ll wanna head here to learn how to find a web designer you’re crazypants about, and then here for when it’s time to sign the contract, to make sure it protects your bee’s knees (ahem, business). (Psst, click here if you’re confused about the difference between graphic design, web design, and web development. I’ll clear it up for ya!)
Get nerdy with me
Wanna learn more website basics for beginners … and beyond? (Hello, my nerdy friend! You’re in good company! I’ll get us some gluten-free brownies…)
Whether you’re going it alone or hiring out, check out this pro advice to make smarter decisions about your online business home:
- 5 ways to make your website turn visitors into customers
- Pretty design vs design that works
- The only two things you need to grow your business with your website
- Website backups: Backup Buddy review
- How to use a test site to save thousands of dollars (and countless hours)
- Website security tools to shut the door on hackers