Setting up a WordPress website and creating your online shop or blog isn’t difficult at all. It’s no mystery and there’s no magic. These easy tips will make your life easier and your WordPress website better, faster, more secure and easier to manage.
Hosting: go for fast & reliable dedicated WordPress hosting
When it comes to hosting for your new WordPress websites there are so many options… And so many differences between all providers and the hosting packages they offer.
If you already have a hosting provider that you are happy with… GREAT. Never change a winning team to stick to it.
If you are looking for a hosting provider that specialises in WordPress hosting, offers more for free and has excellent support, then keep reading.
WordPress hosting with more extras
WP Engine is my favourite hosting provider as they offer reliable, secure and fast WordPress hosting. They only do one thing – WordPress hosting – and they do it extremely well.
This is what sets them apart from other hosting providers:
- Premium WordPress themes included. No need to buy a WordPress theme separately, you’ll get a bunch of amazing themes for free.
- Free automated migration plugin, so moving your website to their fast hosting services is easy.
- Daily & on-demand backups. No need to worry about losing data, you'll always have a back-up of your website.
- Free SSL so no need to purchase an SSL certificate yourself.
- You'll get a development, staging, and production environment meaning you’ll get 3 web environments for the price of one. Why? Then you can create a development site for testing purposes or work on a new version of your site.
- Faster site speed with website caching
- Threat blocking & security
- Site content in the cloud: integrated Content Delivery Network aka CDN
- Multi-factor password authentication
- Managed WP & PHP: easy and automatic WordPress and PHP updates
- Amazing & helpful support team
And WP Engine has really affordable packages and pricing structure for everyone looking for fast & reliable WordPress hosting. Whether you just need hosting for one website or a few of them. Check out their pricing plan and current deals.
As you can see from the Lighthouse statistics above when all lights are green your customers or visitors are on the motorway of a really good user experience. And when they are on that motorway they will reach your goals easier and/or faster. More success for you.
In case you are wondering, Lighthouse is a free tool created by Google to measure various stats of your website. It is a great way to tell how you score on for example Core Web Vitals.
Security: install a security plug-in
There is someone out there that wants to access your website and use it for evil. No fairytales, this is a fact. It doesn’t matter how small your business is or that you only operate in New Zealand. Insecure websites are an easy target for people looking for ways to send spam, launch malware attacks or more.
To make sure your website is secure is easy to do. Simply install the Wordfence security plugin for WordPress. Their free version will secure your site, but their paid version is even better as you’ll get security rules applied quicker.
The plugin will apply settings manually and has a great help section that explains features so you can tweak it further.
Some simple tweaks to do right after the installation of this security plugin:
- Select ‘lockout invalid user names’. Set locked out time as high as possible.
- Select ‘hide WordPress version’ as no one needs to be able to see in the code what version of WordPress you are running. Even if you forget to implement a WordPress upgrade immediately, people won’t see that you are running an older (or outdated) version. But do make sure you keep your WordPress website and its plug-ins up to date.
Back-up: set-up a back-up & management process
Once your WordPress website is live you will notice that you will regularly need to update your plugins or WordPress core. It’s super-important and easy to do. You just need to be aware of it.
By using a website management tool like ManageWP you can manage all your WordPress websites from one dashboard. It shows you the plugins that need updating and it’ll help you to get it done. Run regular back-ups (automated schedule) so you always have a copy of your website in case an update goes wrong.
It may look like something that you don’t need as “things never go wrong on my website”, you will regret it when your website goes offline due to an upgrade process messing things up and you not having a backup. It is like insurance, if something happens you will regret it that you didn’t get it.
Emails: don't use your website to send emails, use an SMTP provider
Your website is like an online extension of your business. It only has one job and that is to make sure your business looks great. Until you add an online shop to your site, then it has two jobs to be great at. Making sure that emails are sent correctly and fast to your visitors or customers should be the job of some other system. Why? Well, because you care about deliverability, reliability and quality.
When your WordPress website is in charge of sending emails – from simple notifications to order confirmations – it often leads to issues like emails not arriving in the receiver's inbox, not even in their spam folder. It is a bit of a technical explanation of why this happens and has been described in simple words in plain English on this blog.
There's an easy solution to fix this problem of emails from your WordPress website not arriving… Or better to prevent this from happening, by using an SMTP service. It is an email server that only has one job: to make sure your emails get delivered fast, all the time.
Setting up SMTP on your WordPress website
Sendinblue offers a great SMTP service that is perfect for a WordPress website like yours. This SMTP service is free for small business sites (sending up to 300 emails per day). They also offer a full email marketing suite that is easier to use and better than Mailchimp. The biggest advantage of the Senfinblue system is that when you grow your business and email database you don't pay for the size of your database. Their paid plans are based on the number of emails you sent out, which is much more cost-effective.
I'll explain a bit more about Sendinblue and how to use it for email marketing in a future blog post but do check them out. I highly recommend them.
Back to setting up an SMTP email sending service for your website, It is really easy to install, especially if you use the WP Mail SMTP plugin. That one has an easy wizard function that guides you through the process of setting up an SMTP service on your WordPress website.
Theme: use a flexible and easy to use theme
The theme you choose will decide the look & feel of your website… Well, that is what you might think. It is true and it is a great option if you don’t want to do a lot of designing or creating yourself. That’s why it is great that there are hosting companies like WP Engine that offer free WordPress themes with their hosting packages.
But if you prefer to start with a – more or less – blank canvas and want to create your website from scratch, then a free theme like Pagebuilder Framework is a great option. It is a great theme, well-maintained and easy to use.
Their paid upgrade (low price) offers even more flexibility and lots of extras. And an added bonus is that the Pagebuilder Framework theme works great with a page builder like Beaver Builder. Keep reading and I’ll explain what a page builder is.
Layout & design: create your website with a page builder
A page builder is a tool that helps you to create your website from scratch. Instead of you having to do it from scratch, a page builder offers you building blocks that you can use to create your website.
It is like LEGO. A page builder hands you a box filled with LEGO blocks, you just have to use them to build your dream project. See how it works and how easy it is to create your own website,
So you don’t have to create a contact form yourself. Just add a Form Block, add data, tweak it and you are done. The same goes for image galleries, text blocks and more… Lots more. They even offer pre-built blocks.
Beaver Builder is such a page builder and in my opinion the best out there. Especially if you are new to building your own website or don’t have that much web experience yet.
- The easiest way to build your website: just drag & drop
- Works with a variety of themes and plugins
- SEO friendly, it’s mobile responsive and your website will load fast.
- Easy to duplicate blocks to use on other parts of your website: use ‘em as separate blocks or as one global block so changes to it will be done on all instances of that block.
- Easy to use on sites that require multiple languages
- Pre-built rows, build your website faster
Contact options: create beautiful yet easy forms
Unleash the power of contact forms…. Well, not just contact forms, unleash the power of any form on your WordPress website. If you are wondering, “why do I need a form on my website?”, it is the easiest and most efficient way for customers to get in touch with you. A form is so much easier than just pasting your email address on a page and saying “flick me an email”.
- Get detailed and correct info from customers. Forms make sure that customers fill out the info you require to answer their questions. For example, when you run an online clothing store and customers want to know if t-shirt XYZ is available in blue, it is easier when they also mention the required size. When you use a form with required fields to fill out, you don't have to email back and forth with customers to get all the details.
- Forms are awesome when you offer custom-made products. You can create any form you like, just the way you need it. It'll be a great onboarding experience for your customer when he enquires or orders your custom-made products.
- Forms can even process payments by connecting them to a payment provider.
The easiest way to set up manage forms is via WP Forms
If you are new to creating forms on your website then WP Forms is the best solution for you. Their drag & drop system is just so easy to use. And the features of their form builder are impressive.
- Drag & Drop Form Builder – creating a form for your WordPress website is as easy as dragging the fields you want to have on your form and dropping them in place. Easy as.
- Prebuilt Form Templates – no need to create your forms from scratch. They have ample form templates you can use.
- Responsive Mobile Friendly – no matter the device your website visitor is using to visit your website, your forms will always look great.
- Multi-Page Forms – if you have super long forms you can split 'em into several pages, so it is easier to fill out. But if you do want to use that option, you might want to check first if your form really needs to be that long. A shorter form is always better.
- File Uploads – customers can add photos or files to the (contact) form.
- Form Locker Addon – the coolest feature if you want to restrict access to your forms, for example by adding a password or by creating a Members Only form.
WP Forms offers even more features and free add-ons, they're all listed here, so do check 'em out. It is by far the easiest form builder to use on your WordPress website.
Forms with more power: Gravity Forms
When looking for a great solution to create website forms in the most powerful way, then Gravity Forms is the way to go. Their drag & drop system makes it easy to create or customise a form… And forms can be connected to major payment providers like Stripe to create a really simple yet effective e-Commerce solution.
Other advantages of Gravity Forms:
- You can use Conditional Logic to show certain fields when specific conditions have been met. For example, show field 2 when the answer to field 1 (options via radio button) is option A. Show field 3 when the answer to field 1 (options via radio button) is option B.
- Customers can attach files like documents or photos to the form via File Uploads.
- It is a secure way to collect your customer's data, which is important in this day and age.
Check out the low prices of the Gravity Form plans. Simply start with the cheapest plan, which has unlimited forms and entries, as that will be more than enough to get started. If you need more advanced features it is easy to switch plans.
Oh, and it also integrates with email providers like ActiveCampaign, AWeber, Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact, HubSpot, Mad Mimi, Mailchimp, and SendGrid, so perfect to grow your email marketing database.
WP Forms vs Gravity Forms
The reasons I have listed, both form builders in this article will make your first steps in the world of WordPress as easy as possible. The fact os that I love both WP Forms and Gravity Forms and I use both on my projects. It just depends on what your wishes and demands are when creating forms on your WordPress website. Sometimes WP Forms is the best solution, while in other cases Gravity Forms is the one to go for.
For example, Gravity Forms supports more payment providers so if your form needs to be able to process payments then Gravity might be the best one for you. Especially if your payment provider isn't a big one like Stripe but more a niche one like Molle, a great European payment provider.
Bonus tip: don’t overdo it with (free) plugins
The biggest mistake to make when creating your WordPress website or blog is using too many plugins or too many free plugins.
Let me explain… You don’t need to install a plugin for every little thing you want to do. For example, adding code to your site’s header can be done via your theme as most themes support that option. Adding a pre-loader counter to show people that your site is loading is outdated and unnecessary. If you feel you need it because your site is loading slowly, fix the loading speed of your site but don’t add another item that needs to be loaded.
Then too many free plugins… Free is great, we all love free things. There are just too many free plugins out there that were created by someone that wanted to provide a solution. Then they forget about the plugin after a few years, don’t update it anymore and your site is using outdated plugins.
All plugins eventually need an update as technology changes, coding changes, bad people find ways to hack or misuse a plugin etc. If a plugin is abandoned and no longer maintained it’ll be a risk for you. Therefore, before you install a plugin, always check the date of the last update. If that one is 6 to 9 months ago, then don’t use that plugin.
Creating your WordPress website is easy & fun
Setting up your own website via WordPress is easier than you might think. And it definitely is fun. If you only require a simple website or blog it really is easy to do and the tips listed above will make your life easier. If you have questions about them, just post a comment below.
If your plans are big and ambitious you might need to hire a contractor to design and set up your website, but you don’t need to do that straight away.