This quick step guide lists all the steps an architect needs to build their own site using WordPress
Before jumping in and building your website it’s a good idea to do some preparation.
- Read 5 Mistakes that architects make when building websites.
- Understand what your practice does and why you’re different. If you don’t know what that is then hire a business coach. If you can’t afford one then get someone external to your practice to provide feedback. Tell them what you do and why you’re different. If you can’t explain it then you’re going to struggle writing it onto your website. Even worse, without this knowledge your site will be without purpose
- Know your audience. You can read this article on who normally visits an architect’s site.
- Organize the projects that you’ll include on the site and make sure each one has at least these things
- 5 to 10 images, preferably all the same resolution (960px wide jpegs are a good format for the web, but with 27″ imacs and the new ipads having retina displays we may see this base size jump in the near future)
- Project description including the client’s brief, your response to the brief, the design team, and basic info like building size, typology, materials etc.
- Write your about page properly. There are some notes on that here.
- Understand the risks of building your own website and how to mitigate them.
2. Get a Host
This is where your website files will live
Hosting companies manage the servers where your website will live. They also have super big internet connections so lots of people can access your website at once. Using a good host (and avoiding bad ones) is really important for security, speed and also Google rankings. Many people use hosts like Bluehost or Dreamhost, but I recommend using WPengine for professional sites because they are super fast (which means better Google rankings), have WordPress preinstalled (which means it’s easy), and have a very good backup system (which means your site is safe and secure).
Recommended hosting companies
Bluehost (cheaper alternative)
Dreamhost (cheaper alternative)
- Sign up for a hosting account
- Install WordPress (WPengine does this automatically other hosts will typically have a tool to do this in a couple clicks)
- Understanding how your host affects your site speed
- Using Alternative Hosting Companies
- Video tour of the WPengine admin section
- 2 Minute install of WordPress using WPengine
3. GET A DOMAIN NAME
A domain name is the address of your site, ie www.nicgranleese.com. You buy a domain from a domain name registrar like GoDaddy. Choose a domain name as close to your practice name as possible. eg, if your practice is John Smith Architects try and get Johnsmitharchitects.com. (Only use .com .org or .net, plus country extension if applicable) If you are not a global practice then make sure you use a country specific domain extension. If you were in Australia you would want a .com.au, .org.au, or .net.au. To find out what domain extension applies to your country check out this wikipedia article. If you need a domain extension for a specific country click on the more options button after you search for a domain name. This will allow you to refine your search for domain extensions like .com.au or .org.uk. Once you buy a domain name you will need to redirect it to your website files stored by your host. A tutorial video on how to do this is below and written instruction can be found here.
- Buy a domain name from a reseller like GoDaddy.
- Choose a name as close to your practice name as possible.
- Choose the domain extension (eg, .com.au) that matches your country.
- Direct your domain to your host by following these instructions or by watching the video below .
- Domain Names for Architects
- Tips for architects choosing a domain name (video)
- Tutorial: How to connect your Go Daddy domain name with your WPengine as your host (video)
4. Basic configuration of your new WordPress install
If you used WPengine as your host then WordPress is preinstalled (which makes things easy) and the next step is to configure WordPress. This is done via your site’s admin panel, which can be found by adding /wp-admin to the end of your domain name. Ie, www.yourdomain.com/wp-admin
- Add a site title and tagline. (go to Settings > General).
- Install the Underconstruction plugin and hide site from public while you finish building it. (To install a plugin go to Plugins>Add New.)
- Change your admin name using the plugin Admin username changer. This is for security. WordPress by default uses Admin as the first user’s name. By changing this it makes it harder for bad people to break into your site.
- Turn on permalinks by going to Settings > Permalinks and choose Post Name as the URL format.
These steps are explained in more detail here: Configuring your new WordPress install.
Step 5: Install a theme
The style of your site is controlled by a theme file. These are templates that allow you to change the style and look of your site very quickly. Themes can also include additional functionality like project pages or built in widgets and plugins. There are free themes, but I suggest buying a theme from somewhere like Themeforest. They tend to look better and function better. Once you buy a theme you download it to your computer and then install it via your site’s admin panel. Once activated your theme will have a new look and feel.
- Buy a theme from Themeforest.
- Download the theme to your computer.
- Install theme via the WordPress admin panel Appearance >Themes. Click on the Install tab and then click upload.
- Activate theme.
- Follow the theme instructions (eg, to upload site logo)
Step 6: Configure the theme
Each theme is configured slightly differently and theme designers can include different options and features. This means you need to follow the theme’s instructions (normally included as a PDF when you download the theme) to make it work properly. There are, however, some common things that most themes require.
- Install an options plugin. Themes often require this so you can configure the theme using an easy interface.
- Upload a logo. Check the pixel size the theme requires. Some resize images, some need exact sizes.
- Create a Page (not post) for your homepage. Often a theme asks you to create a normal WordPress Page (not post) and then nominate it as the home page.
- Create a Page (not post) for your blog page. Same process as above, but this time you’re creating a page that will list the site’s latest posts.
- Set up a menu. WordPress has a very good built in menu system, and often a theme just asks you which WordPress menu it should use.
Step 7: Additional configuration (plugins)
WordPress allows plugins to be installed to give it additional functionality. Here are the plugins that I install on every website.
- Add a contact page. Some Themes will include a contact page. If so, follow their instructions. Otherwise, use the Jetpack plugin or Contact Form 7 plugin. They handle the form which you then add to a page.
- Install the TinyMCE plugin. This will give you more advanced options while typing text: bold, tables etc. You install the plugin and then configure the extra buttons you want via Settings > Tiny MCE Advanced.
- Install Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps. This will create a map of your site to help Google index it.
- Install All in one SEO pack plugin. This will help you optimize your site for search engines.
- Activate the already installed plugin Akismet. This will help prevent spam comments on your site. This is only required if you have blog posts and allow comments.
Step 8: Add content
What we have done so far is create the website structure, now it’s time to add the content.
- Add a Home page content
- Add an About page and paste in the text that your prepared earlier
- Add Projects including the images and text you prepared earlier.
Step 9: Make your site live
Now it’s time to turn your site on and allow the world (and Google) to see it.
- Turn off the Under Construction Plugin. Settings > Under Construction.
- Let Google see your site. Go to Settings > Privacy and select Allow search engines to index this site.
- Tell me about your site! Send me an email with a link to your site and i’ll send some traffic your way with a link and a tweet.