By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Create and edit content with a WordPress account
- Evaluate WordPress as a tool for businesses
Developing and maintaining content can be tedious and can become overwhelming over time. The more information that is created, curated, shared, or collected, the better equipped you must be to manage all the data. This is where a CMS can make content managers’ roles easier. As you read more about tools like WordPress and how to use different features to appeal to your audience and meet company objectives, you will start to understand why this CMS is very popular.
WordPress is an open-source CMS. It can be a platform for small businesses, start-ups, nonprofits, and bloggers. It is critical to begin by identifying your objectives for using WordPress so that you can stay focused and select the WordPress functions that will enhance your business. We will cover WordPress in this text, but it is just one example of an open-source CMS for smaller organizations. WordPress is a larger player in the CMS market, garnering almost 40 percent of the market for website development. It is easy to use and can support integration with Google.
What Is WordPress?
WordPress is an open-source CMS that allows hosting and building for websites. Whether you are looking to build a business, blog, portfolio, or online store, it is a website platform for getting started. Without any knowledge of coding, you can use its features and functions, such as plugins and templates, to customize any website. For example, you can download WordPress e-commerce plug-ins to build an online store on your website. With WordPress, you can create many different types of websites, such as websites for business, portfolios, forums, blogs, events, and more. Once you are set up with a WordPress account, you can manage your website from any location.
Getting Started with WordPress
There are some basics about terminology that are important to know before setting up your website. First, the domain name is your website address. It is what people will use to get to your website. Generally, the domain name is similar to, or the same as, your business or organization’s name. However, each website has a unique domain name. It is possible your business name is already in use by another organization. So, you might have to make modifications to the domain name to secure that domain for your organization’s use.
To have the information on your site available on the internet, it needs to be hosted by a hosting service. Hosting service providers store your website files and allow you to publish the website for public viewing on the internet. Your website has to have both a domain name (website address) and a hosting service. WordPress is convenient because it guides you through the process of both securing a domain name and hosting your website.
To get started with WordPress, go to get.wp.com and choose Get Started (see Figure 8.13). You will create an account using a valid email address. Next, select a username and password. (Once you sign up, you will be asked to verify the account with the email address used, so you must have immediate access to the email you are connecting to the platform.)
Now that you have created an account, let’s revisit the Happy Tails WC organization. First, we need to consider an appropriate name for the domain name (website address). The next step will prompt you to enter a domain name for the site. You will most likely pay to secure your domain name for the website. This usually ranges from $10 to $20 per year depending on which type of domain you choose. WordPress does provide some completely free options for domain names, but the name will have the wordpress.com extension at the end of your website name rather than just having your organization’s name.
Start by typing in happytailwc. Notice there are several suggestions when you type in the organization name. You can also create your own website name. Some options might be free for the first year, but you will pay after (i.e., choosing to go with the .com suffix). If you choose a name that uses the wordpress.com extension, it will be free (see Figure 8.14). This example shows the free version. On the next screen, choose “start with a free site” at the top of the page (see Figure 8.15).
The next two screens will prompt you to answer questions about the purpose and goals for the website. Then, you will be taken to the database of website designs. Notice that some designs are only available for premium members (i.e., you must pay a fee to use them) while others are free, as shown in Figure 8.16. You also have the option to skip the design selection and create your website from scratch. Let’s select “Skip for now” (in the upper-right corner) to see more about what WordPress has to offer for building a site from scratch.
Once your site is created, let’s explore the interface. The first screen you will see will display the overview of your website. This is called the Wordpress dashboard. Here, you will be prompted to start building the pieces of the website. First, you should give the website a title and tagline, which could vary somewhat from the website address, but for this example, we will simply call it “Happy Tails WC.” Notice there is a menu of options on the left to help you change the appearance and add elements to the site (see Figure 8.17). From this menu, you can also establish users for the website and their privileges to edit the site. Once you set the title, you will be prompted to update/edit the site’s design. WordPress will walk you through the steps along the way to build your website. Be sure to save your settings as you make changes. WordPress will remind you to save your settings as you move through the elements to build the site. Notice also that there are many links on the dashboard to assist you in developing the layout and content. These links can be very helpful as you are working on the design of the website.
Before we design the layout, let’s choose a theme for the site. Choose Appearance and then Theme from the menu on the left of the screen in the dashboard, as seen in Figure 8.18. A theme provides the framework for the site that you can then customize. It is a good place to start rather than creating the layout and elements from scratch. A new screen will appear listing the current theme and then options to search and choose a new theme (Figure 8.19).
For Happy Tails WC, we want to use an engaging theme. Let’s choose a theme that contains a good deal of color and one that puts pictures on the home page so that we can pique the interest of individuals who are interested in adopting the available pets. Themes are categorized by style, type of business, or use. For example, one set of themes may be ideal for users who want to build a website for a personal blog, and another set for a family website. Once you select a theme, you will notice that it comes with complete branding, including fonts, color schemes, page layouts, and other features. After choosing a theme that matches the feel or mood of your business, you can change the images, color scheme, and fonts, all while keeping the same layout.
Choose the theme Snaps. This theme prominently displays pictures in a nice layout, while also being able to accommodate text that would describe each pet available for adoption (see Figure 8.20).
After you have activated the design theme, you can customize the site to fit your needs by changing colors and fonts, adding images, building the website menu, and adding information for a post. You will be working in the website screen as it will appear to users (WYSIWYG), so when you make a change to colors or content, you can see immediately how the result will look to anyone visiting your site online (see Figure 8.21). You can add information and add images in this view. When finished, choose Save Changes at the top left of the screen to go back to the WordPress dashboard. (It will read Saved afterward.) If you need to get back to the customization screen, you can access it from the Appearance menu in the dashboard.
When you save your changes to the theme, you will go back to the WordPress dashboard. Notice you have several options in the dashboard view, as Figure 8.22 shows. You can add pages to the site, you can modify/add users and set permissions, and you can also draft posts and blogs for the website. Save your changes by clicking “Update” in the upper-right corner. The best way to learn WordPress is to experiment with the options and settings.
At this point, your website is not “live,” meaning it is not yet published on the internet. When you are satisfied with the design of the site and are ready for people to see it, you need to make the site available on the internet. To publish the site, simply choose Launch your site from the menu on the right side of the screen on the dashboard. You will be prompted to select the domain and be asked to pay for hosting (see Figure 8.23).
Take the time to work through the features of interest to you. Here, we have covered some of the basic elements you need to get started, but there are many more things you can do in WordPress. As an editor working in WordPress, you will create, edit, publish, and delete posts, as well as moderate, approve, and delete comments written by others.
Editors may be given permission to change settings, add new users, or install plug-ins by their supervisor or administrator. These abilities can come in handy when designing and editing a website. A plug-in is a software application, similar to a smartphone app, that you can add to a WordPress website to extend its functionality. For example, suppose you want to add a plug-in to track engagement on your blog posts so you can see what content to curate or expand within the blog. Your plug-in might consist of a contact form that you use to collect subscriber data, such as favorite color, shirt size, or hobbies—data you can use to improve the user experience. WordPress currently has over 55,000 plug-ins, a figure that may seem overwhelming at first. You can easily narrow down the options using the search-and-filter system as well as the plug-ins themselves.
Another important customizable feature of a WordPress website is the widget. Widgets are software applications that display information or allow users to interface with a website. They can be difficult for users to understand because they are typically something that developers deal with and require extensive coding. But in WordPress, widgets manage the content in the design of your site without using code. Unlike plug-ins, widgets impact the design of your website. For example, you may want to add a widget to your website that embeds your social media feed, displaying posts, an email subscription form, testimonials, and a list of social media icons.
Your entire website is made up of pages, much like the pages of a book, except that the user can choose to view the web pages in any order they prefer. The pages will be consistent, giving the whole website a cohesive look. Most websites will have a home page (Home), an About or About Us page that describes the organization, and a Contact page, which provides a way to contact the organization. In WordPress, the pages will look very similar to a post, which is a piece of information that can be added to your website and listed in order from oldest to newest. Pages are the skeleton or core of the website and are organized as main pages and subpages of the main pages. The pages of your website set up the framework for organizing the content and how users will navigate your site. Posts, by contrast, are time-oriented and are generally meant for social media. Often, posts are made to highlight certain events or news related to the organization.
Posts can be organized and made searchable to users through the use of tags. A tag is a keyword about specific details in posts that help make the content in posts searchable. There are also categories for posts. Categories are a method of organizing posts on a website so that visitors can sort them easily, similar to the way search engines locate your content. Think of a category as the broad subject of the post and a tag as something more specific in the post details. For example, Happy Tails might have a category entitled “Dogs Available,” whereas a tag in a post could be “German Shepherd puppy.” It is a good idea to establish categories; otherwise, WordPress will put all posts in a generic “Uncategorized” category. Tags are optional, but they do help users get to the content you want them to see. There is also an option for visitors to sign up for an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed to have posts delivered to them via email. RSS allows posts to be shared quickly and increases the level of traffic to your website.
To add categories or tags to your site, go to Posts on the WordPress dashboard (see Figure 8.24). From there, choose either categories or tags. Let’s add the category “Dogs available” (see Figure 8.25) and the tag “German Shepherd puppy” (see Figure 8.26) to our Happy Tails WC site.
Business Site Considerations
About 40 percent of internet websites, including small businesses, are developed using the WordPress platform. WordPress offers features that can accommodate businesses of many different sizes and types, and we have included it here because it is free and easy to use. But regardless of the platform you use to develop a website—even if you hire a firm to do this for you—there are important considerations to examine. First and foremost, how will the website be used? Will the site be used for e-commerce? Is the site used primarily to share information? Is the company counting on the website to increase its market share through interactive elements to build a customer base? The site should be in line with the company image and brand, as well as reflect the company’s goals. Having a discussion about how the website will be integrated into the business is a key step in the design process. This process often starts with choosing a unique domain name, like “Happy Tails WC,” that expresses what your business is or does.
Another factor to consider is how you will drive users to your website. This can be facilitated through SEO. Recall that SEO is the process of increasing the visibility of a website to users who are searching for products or services. The most common search engine is Google, with Bing as a very distant second. SEO works by including keywords on each web page that identify titles, descriptions, and images. Adding these keywords will help move your site closer to the top of the list when a user searches for a business similar to yours. Although many search engines use different methods of ranking, including charging for the top spots in the results lists, SEO is essential to get users to your website. We will learn more about SEO in Search Engine Optimization.
Improving the accessibility of your website is crucial to providing a positive user experience for all visitors, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. By incorporating accessibility features, you can make your website more user-friendly and inclusive, ensuring that all visitors can engage with your content and have a positive user experience. Here are some features and considerations to enhance the accessibility of your website:
- Alternative text (alt text): Adding descriptive alt text to images allows screen readers to convey the content to visually impaired users. This ensures that they can understand the context and purpose of the images on your website.
- Text equivalents: Providing text equivalents for non-text content, such as videos or audio files, allows individuals with hearing impairments or those who are unable to access multimedia content to understand the information presented.
- Proper heading structure: Using headings (H1, H2, H3, etc.) to organize your content in a logical and hierarchical manner helps screen readers and users who rely on keyboard navigation to understand the structure and easily navigate through your web pages.
- Color contrast: Ensuring sufficient color contrast between text and background improves readability, particularly for individuals with visual impairments or color blindness. Using tools to check and adjust color contrast can help meet accessibility standards.
- Keyboard accessibility: Designing your website to be navigable using a keyboard alone is vital for individuals who cannot use a mouse or other pointing devices. This includes providing keyboard focus indicators, ensuring all interactive elements are accessible via keyboard, and enabling users to skip repetitive content.
- Captions and transcripts: Adding captions to videos and transcripts for audio content allows individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to access the information presented. It also benefits users who may prefer reading or have difficulty understanding spoken language.
- Researching accessibility plug-ins: There are numerous accessibility plug-ins available that can help enhance your website’s accessibility features. These plug-ins can provide additional functionalities such as text resizing options, screen reader compatibility, color adjustments, and more. Research and select plug-ins that align with your specific accessibility needs and requirements.
To explore further examples and important considerations for building accessible online content, visit the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) website provided by W3.org. The website includes wealth of valuable information and practical examples.
The security of your site is also important, so customers will feel safe entering their personal information. A site that doesn’t look professional or that doesn’t have trusted security icons or safe payment method options can deter customers and reduce sales. Some of the safest payment methods include credit cards with chip technology and payment applications such as Google Pay, Apple Pay, Cash App, and Zelle.
Finally, you will need to use analytics that measure your website’s performance—how many visitors are coming to your site, how much time they are spending on each page, how many users are contributing to your site, and so on. These metrics are found in menu on the left side of the WordPress dashboard, which we will learn more about in Search Engine Optimization.