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The Wisconsinite's Guide to WordPress: Givin' Away the Farm

Hey there, folks! Zachariah, your local digital guide here! Welcome to the world of web development, where we'll explore some essential steps to kickstart your online presence. And yes, I'm givin' away the farm on this one. Be sure to comment with questions or contact me to request a topic for my next blog! If you get stuck, schedule a consultation or workshop and we'll be sure your project is finished within your budget. I'm here to help!

I admire any business owner who wants to be hands-on with the creative beast of a project that a website can be because I personally have a deep passion for it. Visual design, UX, and SEO = the most fun, creative, and challenging work I've ever done. But I digress! I'll discuss choosing between and, the free vs. premium theme dilemma, must-have plugins, and some out-of-the-box website layout ideas. So grab a seat, and let's dive in.

Above: If Star Wars took place in rural Wisconsin. AI-inspired photo art by Kip Praslowicz

Choosing vs.

First things first, we've got to pick our platform. With WordPress, you can build a free website for your blog or an enterprise website like Disney or Facebook. WordPress powers 43.2% of websites worldwide ( WordPress is a trusty companion, but which one suits you better? (Self-Hosted): This is like owning your piece of internet real estate. You're in control of everything, from design to functionality. Great for businesses, bloggers, and anyone wanting flexibility. Hosting and domain costs are on you, but it's worth the freedom. Plus, Bluehost makes hosting and DNS work reliable. Yes, I offer hosting and webmaster services! (Hosted): This is like renting a cozy apartment. It's quick and easy to set up, but you've got limited customization options. It is good for hobby bloggers or small personal sites.

Free vs. Premium Themes:

Now, let's talk about dressing up your site. Free themes are tempting, but premium ones have their perks:

Free Themes: They're budget-friendly, but customization options may be limited. Popular free themes like Astra and OceanWP provide a good starting point.

Premium Themes: These offer more flexibility and features. Take a look at themes like Divi, Avada, or Genesis Framework if you're willing to invest a bit.

Essential Plugins (You Betcha!):

Plugins are like spices in your website's kitchen—use 'em wisely. But don't go overboard because you'll slow down your performance. Also, some plugins don't 'play nice' with others because they essentially overlap functions and can cause security, rendering, cache, and other issues. My general rule is to go with premium plugins with regular updates that are time-tested by many users. Here are some staples:

  • Yoast SEO: Helps you optimize your site for search engines.

  • WooCommerce: If you're selling stuff, this plugin turns your site into a sales machine.

  • Akismet Anti-Spam: Keeps pesky spam comments at bay for your blog.

  • UpdraftPlus: A lifesaver for backups. If your host, for some reason, doesn't include regular backups. Do this. Trust me; you'll thank me later.

  • Contact Form 7 or WPForms: Simple yet powerful for creating forms.

  • Smush Image Compression: Speeds up your site by compressing images.

  • Wordfence Security or JetPack: Locks the virtual doors against cyber intruders.

  • Elementor Pro: This builder is my personal favorite for Wordpress and it's popular amongst marketing agencies. I did test the Elementor Beta Developer Edition. I strongly prefer the regular Pro due to the limited selection of tools. I only recommend Elementor Pro to those comfortable with building websites because Elementor has made visual building dev-minded-friendly; I enjoy starting from a blank canvas. That would be a steep learning curve for a novice. Note: Use "Hello", a stripped-down, minimal theme built to pair with Elementor Pro.

Unique Website Layouts From Scratch:

Now, let's get creative with layouts beyond the usual suspects. I update my website, perhaps, too often. Is there such a thing when you're still discovering your brand as a creator? No, I don't think so. I love creating new layouts and themes!

Here are a few unique website layouts I've tried over the last couple of years:

1. Interactive Timeline: Tell your story with a scrollable timeline. Each scroll reveals a new chapter, keeping visitors engaged. This one was a fun challenge for a class project. I think it would work best for companies with long histories. I would love to work with a company with a historical story. We could make that timeline come to life!

2. One-Page Parallax: Combine all your content—about, services, portfolio—on a single, scrolling page. It's smooth and modern and can be the most impressive way to show off graphics and artistic styles.

3. Magazine Grid: Arrange your content like a magazine with varying-sized tiles. Great for showcasing different types of content.

Pro tip: To create custom cover graphic for your website, use Canva Pro. Enter the correct canvas dementions for a standard webpage. Create your design. Then use the Pro feature to resize your image for your tablet and mobile breakpoints.

And there you have it, folks! You're now armed with the knowledge to embark on your web journey. Whether you're choosing WordPress, themes, plugins, or getting creative with layouts, remember to keep it true to your brand and audience.

Need help with branding?

Thanks for reading!

Be sure to comment with any questions or topics you'd like to see covered in the future.

Zachariah Strong

#BarabooWebDesigner #BarabooGraphicDesigner #BarabooDigitalGuy

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