Using WordPress To Create Websites

Over this past week I’ve been helping a local business colleague build a new website. Actually that’s kind of a misnomer, as it’s actually more of a sales page of sorts, only it looks a bit like a website. Don’t ask. 🙂 Anyway, she wanted to know if I could do it using WordPress software, something I’d never done before, and I decided to take up the challenge so I could see what it might all be about. It’s possible one of you that reads this will have done it and may have gone about it differently than I did; let’s find out.

The one thing I think I knew was that it wasn’t WordPress one modified so much as it was a blog theme. In this case there’s one theme in particular that I’ve used for multiple blogs that I decided to work with because I’m familiar with it. This theme has two sidebars already with content in the middle, like this blog only I didn’t use it for this blog; maybe one day I’ll update it (yeah, right! lol).

The first thing I did was to go into the Privacy area under settings and told it to not let search engines go through it. I knew that as soon as I loaded the WordPress software onto the site it would send a message to the world that a new site was being born, and I didn’t want that to happen before it was ready to go; actually it’s still not really ready to go as we’re now in tweak mode. After that I loaded the theme I mentioned about, and for all intents and purposes it looked like a blog.

I went under Reading in settings and changed the tab to Static Page; that’s what makes it look like a website with two sidebars instead of a blog. The difference now is that instead of going under posts to get content to the site, you go under Pages instead. You can add a blog page later on, but this isn’t her intention; at least right now it’s not.

You have to be ready to do one of two things. One, you have to be confident enough to go into the CSS settings and start altering things, because you know your client, or even you, aren’t going to want everything looking like it does as its blog theme. You’ll probably change fonts, width of columns, colors, etc. Some of it’s big, some of it’s minor, but I’ll say up front that if you have any skill with CSS it’s much easier already having it there for you.

Two, you have to be confident enough to go into the PHP files and remove things when necessary. This takes guts, but luckily, if you’re smart you’ll have two things. One, you’ll set up a file of some kind where you note everything you remove and where you took it from. I opened a Notepad file, named it after the client, and put everything in there. Two, you’ll have your original file to look at some of the things you might have removed if you can’t remember exactly in which spot something you took out was in. I had to do that when she wanted to see what the site looked like without sidebars, then decided she wanted them back in there and I knew which PHP file I took it out of but not exactly where it was. The thing is that it doesn’t have to be in the exact position all the time, but sometimes there’s a lot of “div” tags and you don’t want to get caught putting stuff between the wrong ones.

The wildest thing is that instead of writing a lot of code and then trying to figure out if you closed all your tags, this time you’re looking for things to see where they are, what they are, and how you can alter them. I found that because I use Firefox, I could open up the source code, do a search for what I was working on, and it would tell me which CSS container I needed to work on; that’s pretty neat.

In overall time I’ve spent less on it than if I’d had to write code. I can’t say everything’s easy, and I also can’t say that it handles everything the way I could get it to fit if I’d coded things. For instance, her initial drawing had different items on the sidebars on different pages, and as you know, when you go from page to page the sidebars are almost always the same. I had a plugin I tried to use, but it turned out it only worked on posts and not on pages. If I were coding each page separately I could have made the change, but she decided to deal with it.

It’s been an interesting process. The best part is that in this case I really don’t have to worry much about the content because she’s already used to using WordPress, as she has it for a different blog, so once we get the tweaks done I’m done, and she can go about her business. I’m in an odd place trying to figure out if it’s easier to do that code so I’ll say this. Since I’d normally have to create a frame before doing anything else, this was easier because the frame is already done. The CSS already being done works well also. However, I’m thinking if this had been a site with a lot of details and complications I’d have wanted to just write the code for it. I also don’t know if I’d have known how to add a fancy background image to it, or where I’d have put it. Luckily, I don’t have to deal with it.

How many of you have tried creating a website from WordPress from scratch, and what have you encountered?

20 thoughts on “Using WordPress To Create Websites”

  1. Hey Mitch!

    Yes I’ve done this a lot, using WordPress to set up a “static” site. Truthfully I won’t ever do another website in Dreamweaver or the like, I’ll use WP or Joomla instead.

    Luckily I’m pretty handy with the CSS so modifying these things is not a problem. And you’re dead on about keeping track of changes. I also use a text file because even though you might think you’ll remember what you did, well, you WON’T. lol

    With WordPress, I always start off with a child theme (check out Lisa Irby’s links here:

    This way you don’t modify the actual core files and if things get messy you can always revert. Also if there’s updates to the theme your changes won’t be overwritten.

    Also when it comes to your sidebar widgets, you can use the Dynamic Widgets plugin:

    (normally I don’t pepper my comments with links but I felt these would add some value here).

    This will let you decide exactly which pages which widget should appear on. takes a lot of the pain out of it.

    Both of these issues are things I feel Joomla does better. I can make Template Overrides (Child Theme) without a lot of fuss, plus I can pick and choose which Joomla Module (Widget) appears on which page and where on the page just using the core functionality.

    I’ll say I would definitely recommend that people interested in developing websites pick a CMS such as WordPress and stick with it. I don’t have a problem with code, but unless you’re a die-hard coder, then it will definitely go easier on them.

  2. I just started a static site with wordpress for my wife. She wanted a sales page and a welcome front page without a blog yet. I’m not a coder, so I had to go with a premade theme. I found there’s lots out there with customization options so I could change the look of the site to look a little less bloggy and more ecommerce like. Then I set a static home page and a store page and left the blog page off the menu.

    I was able to use a third party plugin to set up the store front. So far it all works, though could be prettier, I admit.

    1. Richard, I think creating sites with WP can be easier, and yet this morning I spent an hour looking for what was causing a dot to appear and finally found an errant tag in one of the PHP files, something that could also happen by mis-coding yet was still time consuming. However, overall it took me less time to create this website that it’s taken me to create other websites, so it offers something if a person wishes to have a relatively simple website. Someone could probably figure out how to get really fancy as well; glad I didn’t have to do it.

  3. I havent tried to do it from scratch. actually i was pretty casual. but with the time i found out that the wordpress plugins and themes doesnt always delivers what i want. so this post is very effcient for me. it can help with the things i stuck for few monthes.

  4. I love wordpress. You can create almost any kind of website, using the right theme. One more thing I like about it is that wordpress will do the SEO for you.

  5. I’ve never done one with WordPress but so many people tell me that there are certain themes that are set up to do just that. I’m sure when I get around to doing that some day I’ll check more into it.

    But the way you set it up is the only way I know how to do that Mitch.

    I do still build static websites but I’m not really building entire sites. Long story but I have some training sites and I point them to a video and it will open into a new site and that’s what I have it on. It’s so darn easy to do it’s not even funny which is why I continue to do them that way. I’ve found blogs are a pain for including videos if you don’t have them on YouTube.

    Glad you were able to give them what they wanted. Still sounded like a lot of work.

    1. It was a lot of work Adrienne but in the long run it was less work than starting from scratch. My hope is that, since I saved the basics of the altered theme, that if I have to do it again I’ve already fixed the stuff that I ran into this time around and can build these things much faster. It’s great if only because I don’t have to write the CSS from scratch; whew! 😉

  6. Several times for customers, actually once it was completely rebuilding everything, even modifying plugins, this was a tough call, but not very difficult. Generally it is very easy, but there are also paid themes and plugins that can do any tasks. Actually recently I’ve used a theme which used to have 100 widget based static but at the same time dynamic home page.

    1. Carl, 100 widgets is definitely going overboard, but I guess as long as it wasn’t that many plugins things wouldn’t slow up that much. It wasn’t hard creating the site, just some lessons I had to learn.

  7. Theres more than one way to skin a cat. For the site Ive linked abck to here Ive settled for the Flex theme and some external plugins to drive the vertical left sidebar rather than get bogged down in the CC code.

    Im happy with the way this site is coming together, its a work in progress and theres a fair bit more modification left to do on the home page, the only revervations I have are the number of plugins used slow the site down and could open it up to security issues.

    I have seen some good non wordpress proprietary HTML CMS sites that would probably work well without the plugin and code overheads but I’ll be sticking with wordpress for now as its all I know

    1. Peter, first I need to share this bit of code showing at the bottom of your page: “Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/healthnb/public_html/wp-content/plugins/wp-cconversion/wp-cconversion.php on line 441”. I think that’s the type of thing you’re talking about, plugins getting in the way of some of what you’re trying to do. Actually I didn’t load any plugins on her site, mainly because it’s supposed to be a sales page instead of a full out website, but I’ll have to remember to mention it to her at some point.

  8. If I was asked to build a site I would probably do something similar to what you suggested. With a little time I am confident that I could create something that would be suitable.

    There are lots of tutorials online and more than a few people we could ask for help so why not.

  9. I’d like to advise everyone to use WordPress if you’d like to develop your own website. That deals with the fact that it’s very easy in use and in managing for its owners, and it have very interesting and creative design for its visitors

  10. Hi Mitch

    I’ve got to admit I’m a total WordPress convert. I first started out building sites in Dreamweaver many years ago, but the power and flexibilty you get from WordPress makes it a no brainer for me. There’s so many themes out there to change the way your site looks and so many plugins to add functionality.

    You do encounter problems with things like compatibilty issues between say plugins, WordPress version and server specs for instance, but these can be worked through. One rule that I tend to follow is to only use premium themes or only themes that have been downloaded from the official WordPress site, this is due to once using what looked like a cool theme from some random theme download site and to my constination finding that it contained hidden links to a casino site which were encrypted in the code.

    1. Good stuff Beth. Actually, the theme I used is one I’m very familiar with because I use it often for others who want blogs to look like their websites, so it’s easy to manage. This first attempt at using it to create a website was interesting. Truthfully I never even thought about going to look for themes already set up to be websites, and I didn’t add plugins to it either since she’s not running a blog there. Of course, if she asks I’ll make some recommendations later on.

  11. I’ve only created WordPress websites using templates and found it very user friendly. This is very helpful for people just beginning to try to make websites, or people that want to do it quick. However, I still prefer using Dreamweaver because I feel more comfortable tweaking the site how I want it. You can still make very professional looking websites with WordPress though. This is especially true if you now how to make adjustments.

    1. James, I’m a Top Style kind of guy, but I’m with you when it comes to creating websites, at least for myself. Still, it seems to work wonders for those people who like to tinker a bit.

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