I see a lot of people out there starting and building their own WordPress sites. I’m not talking about dot com, I’m talking about the self hosted dot org. Which means you use the WordPress software (dare I say framework/CMS) on a host some where. The host could be anywhere because WordPress is written in the programming language called PHP and just about every hosting company everywhere can run PHP. Some hosting companies strictly only host WordPress. This site is hosted on Flywheel, I used to be on Siteground. Both are great companies I’ll write another post later on why I switched.
Any way, when a newbie first starts things can be very overwhelming. Relax, if you just want to get a site up and running WordPress comes installed with a pretty decent theme right off the bat. You can start there, no need to be overwhelmed at least right away. But there are these things called plugins that help you easily extend the functionality of WordPress without having to code. For instance, forms or google analytics there are multiple plugins for that. Here’s my list of ones just about every site out there should have. But first I’ll start with themes.
The theme that I use as a go to is the X theme. It has just about everything you would ever need built right in. That’s the good part about it, the not so bad part is that it has everything built right into it. Makes it feel bloated and doesn’t run as fast as something lean like Genesis. X theme does have a really good page builder built right into it that makes it to where you can do just about anything you want to with it. Here’s a list of built ins that come with it:
Cornerstone (Page builder)
Email marketing pop up forms (modals for when someone visits your site)
and a lot more. X theme is my defacto choice for an all in one theme. If I need something that’s a quick turn around on “creative” budget I reach for x theme every
Now let’s say your a bit more like me and like things a little more a la cart, more custom and light weight. I choose genesis. Now genesis is a theme framework not an actual theme you can or should use. It utilizes a thing called child themes. There are a ton of child themes available for them some by Studio Press themeselves (maker of Genesis) and a lot more by 3rd party vendors. Now if you buy one of StudioPress’s child themes you will find great documentation on how to set up the theme. Now it’s not as straight forward as x theme but there is no coding required, it’s just different your entire Homepage is widget based, which means you have to go through the widgets panel to build out your home page like the demo. There’s no page builders or anything like this included but I’ll get into what I use as defaults for every site in the next section.
I have a decent list of plugins that I use if I’m using Genesis. If I’m using X theme I typically just use what’s included with the theme, unless I need something more. As a side note I am an affiliate for some of these products and I may or may not receive compensation for you using the link to buy. If you do use the link to purchase based on my recommendation, thank you. I use all of these so if you have an issue with them please let me know I’d love to help you out with them.
Gravity Forms- Building custom forms, this form plugin gets deep and you can do some serious customization with it.
Beaver Builder – The ultimate page builder, it’s very light weight and does not use short codes to implement which makes it very fast as well. I highly recommend using beaver builder. It will work with almost any theme out there.
Contact Form 7 – It’s completely free, if you just need a simple contact form with no integrations this is the way to go. I have a developer license for gravity forms so it’s always my go to but if you don’t want to spring for the license I recommend using this plugin.
iThemes Security- I have the pro version but the free version is still pretty good. Setting up can get complex but if you just do the recommendations it give you, you should be fine.
Yoast SEO – Probably the most popular plugin for all of WordPress. It’s free just install it and follow the directions given. It will give you guidance on how SEO friendly your content is as you write it.
I’ll write another post later on Genesis specfic plugins that I use as well. What I listed above will give you enough to get started for sure. Don’t let WordPress overwhelm you, yes it might be a bit complex to a beginner but it’s worth it I promise.
If you have any questions at all let me know in the comments or feel free to head over to the contact page and shoot me an email.
Also published on Medium.