The building blocks of a website

Building your own website has never been easier. With the tools now available, building a website today is easier than the building blocks we played with as children – with far fewer instruction manuals and trip hazards.

Whether it’s a small marketing site for your business, a blogging hub or an eCommerce online shop, we’ve compiled a list of the tips and tools you need to employ to safely build a website of your own.

Let’s start with the set up – what to do before the building begins.

The Foundation

First up you need to determine what route your website creation is going to take – on the assumption that starting from scratch is not the best way forward (unless of course, you are a technology whizz in which case this post probably isn’t for you!) The most obvious route is to start with a Content Management System or website building tool – populating templates with the relevant content and images of your choice.

By Content Management System (CMS) we tend to mean WordPress, so your choice here is between WordPress and an alternative website builder. WordPress is responsible for over 30% of all the websites currently available in the world, showcasing its popularity and ease of use. After all, if 30% of the website population can use it, I’m sure you can too. WordPress is ideal for everything from small blogs to large online publications and even online stores – all in a highly customisable and professional format.

If customisable and flexible isn’t what you’re looking for however, a website builder is the best option. These tend to follow similar designs and patterns and allow the user to input their relevant information easily and quickly. It’s simple to use and quick to customise, with no added dragging and dropping of different features and content blocks. Essentially you pick a template and you stick to it.

The Build

So, you’ve reached the build. The first thing you need to do is secure your hosting and a solid domain name. The host of your site is where all your online files will be stored so must be reliable with adequate space. The domain is what you will get your visitors to type into their browser to access your website. Typically, it’s easiest to purchase these as a package deal, as this saves technical admin further down the line, although you can get these separately if needs be.

To sign up for website hosting you need to select a plan through your chosen host site. These tend to start from a basic package to a more premium option, and which you opt for depends entirely on your requirements for the website you want to build. Ensure you read all the fine print before agreeing to any package. Once this is selected, you will be asked to enter a domain of your choice – if your first choice is taken, keep trying variations until you’re happy with the one that is also available.

Assessing the building site

Do research. What do your top competitor’s sites look like? Are they focussing on anything? How will you make your site stand out? What is the purpose of your website? Only when you know the answer to these questions can you start to build an idea of the visual aspect of your site and how it should appear to your visitors. This, in turn, will inform your template decision.

Once that’s decided, you need to create some kind of structure plan. Generally, these are not complicated – after all, we’re creatives, not techies. However, making sure you have an idea of which pages need to build will make your job easier down the line.

The Design

Everything available to you both on WordPress and a website builder has been created by a professional website designer. They’re user friendly, easy to personalise and all already available. You’d be a fool not to use them.

With WordPress, you need to first install the app on your host. Once this is done you can add a theme – this will inform the design of your entire site. Spend some time going through the available themes. When you finally find the right one, click ‘Install’ and then ‘Activate’ to set it on your own site. Once selected, the theme becomes customisable through the settings. This will allow you to add new pages, changes the colours and fonts, alter the display of the menu and many more options. You can also add plugins to increase your cybersecurity and SEO, as discussed in other blogs.

A website builder is far simpler to use, with a multitude of potential themes available for all manner of industries. The theme you select will become the template for your site. Basically, what you see in the theme selection box is very like how your final site will look. Though perhaps, with different colours. So, choose wisely and make sure you play around to work out the extent of the changes you can make.

Building a website is as easy as it has ever been, and with our simple instruction manual, you should be up and running in no time. The choice between WordPress and a website builder should be made after considering the time scales. Plus, the ongoing time it will take to manage and update regularly.

Keeping Hackers Out – the Basics

Hackers are the enemy of the online world, and can destroy everything you’ve worked on with the click of a button. Whether it’s an entire website of content, or accessing and destroying your client database, a breach of your website is a horrible blow to your hard work and can often feel like a very personal attack.

Protecting your website from hackers is one of the most important investments you can make into your online security, and not all of them require a tech-whizz – some of them you can employ right now. So, without further ado, read on for our top ideas for keeping hackers out.

Security Plugins

We talk a lot about plugins – some can help improve your SEO and some may make your developers life easier. Security plugins do a different job; actively preventing hackers from breaking into your website.

Content management systems are designed with a number of built-in plugins that do just this, and each one addresses the most vulnerable areas of security on the different platforms; whether you use WordPress, Magento or Joomla.

Another thing you can do to further tighten your online security is looking into SiteLock, which acts as a daily monitor across your website; identifying everything from a virus to active attempts to break into the site. Picture the online version of a burly bouncer on the door of a nightclub – that’s SiteLock, and it’s well worth the time spent on installing it.

HTTPS

If you’re inputting personal information into a website, for example, payment details during an online transaction, chances are you know to look for the green padlock at the beginning of the website address in the browser bar. Next to the green padlock, you will see the letters HTTPS – these five letters show you that the website is safe from hackers and that you can safely input your personal details without risk of theft.

Historically it has always been important for eCommerce websites to hold an SSL certificate because it secures the transfer of important and private information and ensures the safety of your website visitor’s data. Since July 2018 however, Google has taken to informing website visitors of every site that doesn’t have an SSL certificate, no matter what your website provides or does.

If you want your visitors – and Google – to trust your brand and your website, investing in an SSL certificate is a valuable investment as it will ensure your site is ranked highly on Google and will make visitors feel safe when visiting your site.

Keep your content management system up to date

This applies to everything. From the content management system to your plugins, apps and any additional scripts. If any of these are left outdated for too long, a hacker can get in.

Checking that your website is up to date is easy enough on WordPress, by checking directly through the dashboard. The dashboard will instantly tell you if the version you’re running is up to date.

Keep your passwords new and unique

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as recalling the name of a favourite pet. Passwords are there for a reason, don’t make it easy. If it’s too simple, it’s going to lead the hackers straight to you.

When choosing a password, make it long and use a mixture of letters, characters and numbers to create something that really is unique.

And it’s not just you. If you work within a team who all have access to your website, making sure they all have strong passwords. This is just as important as your own. After all, the website is your business. Something as simple as a bad password can allow hackers in to quite literally destroy your business and livelihood.

Don’t take the chance!

Automatic back-ups

One of the worst things that a website hacker can do is erase all of your work. This is easy if you have no back-up.

Making sure you have a recent back-up of everything you do is super important. An automatic backup service will enable you to do this without even having to think about it.

There are a handful more ways in which you can secure your website from hackers. But these require a more technical skillset and understanding of how the backend of websites work.

For now, we suggest employing the above techniques in order to keep your site safe from hacker harm and will explore the more technical tips in a future post.

Theming your WordPress site

Theming your WordPress site is a big decision. Not only does it determine the colour scheme of your site, but it also impacts how user-friendly the site is both for yourself and for your website visitors. Your WordPress theme is essentially the template for your site with added bonus bits, including customised formats, fonts and backgrounds.

So how do you install a WordPress theme onto your website?

The easy route – from the inside

Using one of the built-in themes that WordPress advertises in its catalogue is by far the easiest way of installing a theme. Yes, your site may reflect the look of many others like it, but with quality content and some good marketing, you should be able to stand out from the crowd without too many problems.

If you’re brand new to WordPress and don’t yet have any selected themes to choose from, starting from scratch is simple enough. Click on ‘Add New’ in the menu under ‘Appearance’ and spend some time scrolling through the many hundreds of options available in the online library. A top tip we recommend is spending some time looking at all of the pages of themes – people in a hurry will often make their selection from the first few pages alone, making these themes the most frequently used. Make your site different by avoiding these most popular designs and picking something lower on the list.

Once you’ve selected your theme, switch to live view and explore. Once you’re happy with your selection, install the theme. Remember you can always return and change the settings as often as you like. And if you get bored with the theme you chose, the plethora of themes available will always be waiting on the menu.

Downloading an external theme

While WordPress offers a multitude of themes in its own database. Plus, the internet is full of creators who have designed and made up WordPress themes of their own to sell. Of course, this involves installing the theme from an external location; a slightly more complicated but entirely doable process.

First, you need to download the theme file and save it somewhere that’s easy to find. It’s likely this will come as part of a zipped file. (One which has been reduced in size in order to make download easy.) In order to access the contents, you then need to unzip the file.

Returning to the backend of your WordPress site, open your theme’s menu and click on ‘Add New’. Alongside the available options in the WordPress library, you will see an option to upload a theme from your computer. Click on this and then locate the file you just saved.

Once your chosen theme has been installed, it works much the same as an internal theme. This is in terms of editing the settings and formatting select areas. Make sure the theme you choose is compatible with the version of WordPress that you are working in. In a world where technology is constantly being updated and renewed, software updates are inevitable and regular. You need to ensure you keep on top of them when theming your WordPress site to keep your website looking great.