Every time I start a new website project there are always a ton of things to do.
There is domain setup, and hosting related stuff.
Then there is the basic stuff that every new WordPress site needs to have in place.
And a whole lot more!
The whole point of starting a new website is knowing what it means for you.
For some people starting a website means charting their own path to be able to leave that job they hate.
For some people it means getting a side-hustle started to earn some extra money.
For some it means taking a brick and mortar business online for the first time.
For others it means making a bigger impact on those you feel called to serve by telling your story.
But it all begins with first things.
I learned a long time ago that you need to have a process in place to get the basics done so you don’t have to worry about missing foundational elements.
The things we’ll cover here can be done by anyone on just about any web project you’re going to work on.
If you’re going to build something that is going to move the needle in a meaningful way then you have to start at the beginning and lay the groundwork that you’re going to build on.
So let’s take one of those very first steps and get our WordPress site setup the right way so we can build on it.
Set your permalink structure
You want you permalinks to be easy to read and understand and you want to do this at the start of your new site so all your future posts are using a good permalink structure. It makes your content more understandable and it’s easy to communicate. I recommend using the postname setting. You don’t need to include dates.
Create your blog categories
You should have a good idea about what you’re writing about and you should have a rough idea of what categories that content should fall in to. I generally recommend 6-8 main categories. It’s not a big deal if you have a couple more or less, but you don’t want a lot more or a lot less. If you do, review them and see how you can clean them up by consolidating or expanding them.
Delete the “uncategorized” category
This is a completely useless category and you don’t want it on your site. Once you’ve got this category removed, set a new default category.
Make sure all your images use alt tags
When you place an image for a post or page you’ll have the opportunity to set the title and alt text. This is a good habit to get in to for a number of reasons, but providing users who use assistive devices to read your content is at the top of the list. Use your keywords and make them descriptive.
Create and place your menus
Make sure you have a thoughtful menu so users can find their way around easily. You want to have thoughtful and informative menus. Too many can be confusing. Too few will not be informative enough.
Create a killer “about” page
This is one of the most important pages on your site and you want it to be awesome. Make sure that your about page gives visitors what they need to know and make it about them.
Create a contact page
This is the page where you will have your visitors reach out and contact you. The right way to do it here is to use a webform. There are a couple great form creating tools like Contact Form 7 and Gravity Forms. You will want to display that form here along any other important info like phone numbers and addresses you may need to list. A good idea is to also include social media networks you’re on so people can connect with you there too.
Check your page formatting
Copying and pasting from applications like Microsoft Word can bring with it a lot of formatting junk you don’t want. Make sure your content uses accurate, clean HTML formatting.
Proof read everything
Look for spelling, grammar, and typo issues in every piece of content you create. Mistakes are easy to make and even overlook so look for errors in your content.
Create a custom 404 page
Whether it’s by a mistyped URL, or a bad link, someone is going to end up on a “404 not found” page on your site at some point. Make sure you deliver value on that page by helping reroute them to useful and helpful information.
Setup your metadata
Every page and post on your site has metadata that is indexable by search engines. Use a tool like Yoast SEO (mentioned in the plugins section) to this step easier.
Create your terms and conditions
Make sure you’ve got terms and conditions in place. You need to set the rules for how people are interacting with your website, and you have to outline your policies clearly – especially if you’re selling anything on your site.
Include a copyright notice
Many themes will do this for you automatically. You want to make sure that you protect your content.
Ok – so that’s about it for now.
These steps help you get the tools in place for when your site is up and running and you’re working on cranking out your content.
If you’re looking for a great guide to get started with WordPress you can download the Ultimate WordPress Start-Up Guide here to get everything you need to know about starting a new website project with WordPress.