Website tips for non-website designers

Graeme The Basics July 22, 2015

Having a company website these days isn’t just important, if you don’t have one you might as well not bother.

I know that may seem blunt or maybe a bit harsh, but let’s face it, it’s the truth. I don’t know about you, but the first thing I do when I want to find out about a product or company, is go straight to Google. But when even the smallest of web design companies are charging in excess of £2,500+ for a website, is it any wonder that smaller companies don’t have one? I am a graphic designer by trade, but I am by no means a developer. So when it came to building a website I was happy with, it proved to be a challenge. I tried a lot of different platforms and programs, from the very basic site builder platforms that domain companies offer (that was many years ago though), to building my own site in Dreamweaver using CSS. Ultimately I decided that WordPress was the platform that I wanted to use. It is open source, so the core files are free.

Things you will need to build a WordPress site

There are a few programs that make life a lot easier when building your own site. Firstly, download a clean version of the latest WordPress package. From there you will need an html editor, I use Text Mate (don’t worry, it’s only the basics), Sequel Pro to build your database, and MAMP to run the database on your machine. This way, you can build and test your website locally on your machine before putting it live.

All of these programs are easy to understand. Here is a brief description of what you need to do:

  • Download the WordPress package
  • Launch MAMP and hit “start servers” (you need to do this for Sequel Pro to work)
  • Open Sequel Pro and create a new database (you need to connect via socket, the user and password is always root and root)
  • Use your text editor to edit the wp-config.php file (it will be called wp-config-sample.php, change the name to wp-config.php once you have changed it). You need to define the database name, user and password which you have just created in Sequel Pro
  • Then in your browser, go to http://localhost:8888/
  • And there you are, a new WordPress site just for you.

What to do next

WordPress has a lot of free templates, and don’t get me wrong, they are great if you need something basic. Personally, I prefer something a bit more adaptable, with a few more cool features. For that, I use Theme Forest by Envato. They have a huge selection for WordPress, all of which are a bargain at about £30. Just make sure you filter them by responsive themes, because Google has recently said that if a site isn’t mobile friendly it will no longer feature in its mobile search results. If you do end up using Theme Forest I would recommend installing the Envato Toolkit plugin, which controls all of your updates when you link it to your Envato account.

Installing a theme into your WordPress site

Once you have downloaded the .zip file of your new theme, you need to install it onto your site. For this you need to copy the .zip file into the /wp-content/themes section of your site files, then unzip it, and the theme will automatically load into the appearance/themes section of your website.

Most of the themes from Theme Forest come with demo content, which is definitely worth installing. On my site, I used the demo content and just altered it to suit. It has all of the features of the site built into the pages and posts, so you get a feel for it and an understanding of what your site can do.

So in conclusion, you don’t have to be a website designer to have a nice looking website, and you certainly don’t have to pay 1000’s of pounds.