A Wiser Web: Designing With WordPress

WordPress is the answer for the modern web. A robust platform that enables countless possibilities with all types of websites.

Many who recognize me as a web designer are aware that I began my journey with the now-defunct Adobe Muse. It's also known that it didn't take me long to transition to a completely different tool for building my clients' websites.

Initially, I knew WordPress solely as a blogging platform. At that time, WordPress.com's hosting service was the go-to solution for crafting simple blogs with WordPress as the backend. However, within just a few months, I had mastered WordPress. Thanks to the ease of use and versatility of popular script installers and managers, WordPress quickly became my preferred tool for developing modern, dynamic websites for all my clients.

Getting Started is Easy

There are two primary methods for installing WordPress on a well-configured web server. The first and easiest method is to utilize a script manager like Softaculous, which is included in the hosting plans of most contemporary web hosting providers.

Using Softaculous or similar script management tools simplifies the installation and management of WordPress. To install, one only needs to input some fundamental details about their WordPress site, and after a few clicks, a database is automatically created and connected, completing the installation in roughly two minutes.

It's important to recognize that Softaculous isn't the sole script manager available. Having worked with various web hosting control panels, I've found that nearly all include some form of script manager, with some offering tools designed specifically for installing and managing WordPress sites.

The second method involves manually uploading the WordPress files to the web server, creating a database, and inputting the database details during WordPress's renowned five-minute installation process.

This manual installation approach may pose challenges, especially for those new to web hosting and servers. However, once one grasps the fundamentals of file and database management, handling WordPress and similar scripts becomes straightforward.

Managing is Easy

One of the best things about WordPress is its modular structure. What this means is that a fully featured WordPress website is developed using various plugins.

Plugins Here and There

Let's put it this way - there is a WordPress plugin for every single thing you would want your WordPress website to do.

There are two main ways of obtaining plugins for a WordPress website. The first (and perhaps primary) way of getting WordPress plugins is via the WordPress Repository. The repository contains thousands of free plugins and many freemium ones to help you enhance the functionality of your WordPress website.

The WordPress Repository is available via every WordPress installation, and can be accessed directly from the dashboard.

The other way of obtaining WordPress plugins is via third-party repositories or sellers. These are usually premium plugins and are priced for purchasing either with a one-time payment, or a recurring subscription to use more advanced features.

There are several reputable marketplaces around the web that showcase and sell premium WordPress plugins. These provide a great way for coders and plugin developers to sell or get their work across to many WordPress users. Many large plugin developers even have their own websites that they use to showcase and sell their plugins from.

Some popular functions and features that are achieved through WordPress plugins are:

Contact forms - there are several form builder plugins available for WordPress. We do have some plugins that are more popular than the others, but from all the plugins I have used, I can assure you almost all of them work flawlessly with WordPress.

E-commerce - WordPress doesn't have e-commerce built in. It is achieved entirely with the WooCommerce plugin, which has loads of useful and helpful features that make creating, running, and maintaining a powerful e-commerce website easy.

With WooCommerce, you can add many other plugins that further enhance the features of your e-commerce website. Some popular choices include automated shipping and payment processing workflows, as well as integrations with existing ERP solutions outside of WordPress.

Security - While WordPress itself has some good security built-in, and most of the security bits of a website fall back on the server configuration, we do have many reputable plugins that enhance the security of your WordPress website. They provide essential features such as brute force protection, firewall, and other role and permission based enhancements.

Page builders - WordPress comes with a built-in, block based page builder, but we do have several trustworthy and impressive page builders that make creating WordPress websites easier. These page builders are drag and drop plugins that allow users to add, edit, and remove elements from an existing page.

Themes to Suit all Requirements

There are thousands of WordPress themes available all around the web. Simply put, a theme will define the visual aesthetics of a WordPress website. WordPress, like its plugins, gives two main ways to obtain and install themes.

The first one, which is also the default way of installing themes is through the WordPress repository. It contains a wide range of free themes, most of which have a premium version that can be upgraded to via purchasing through the theme.

The second way of obtaining themes is from independent theme developers or reputable online marketplaces for WordPress themes. Themeforest is a well-known marketplace that contains WordPress themes (and some plugins, too), for almost every niche.

Apart from Themeforest, many theme vendors sell their themes directly and independently from their own websites. Some theme vendors also bundle their own page builder plugins that work well with their themes.

Automatic Updates

WordPress has a built-in feature to allow automatic updates for all major version releases. By using this feature, website owners can rest assured that their website is running on the latest and the most secure WordPress version.

To make things even more convenient, WordPress also allows plugins to be updated automatically when they are available, which depends on how frequently they are rolled out by their developers.

If you install and manage WordPress via a script manager, managing the entire installation of WordPress, including updates is easy. Most script managers will also send out email notifications when plugin and version updates are available for WordPress.

Automatic updates are recommended for users who have some experience running and maintaining a WordPress website. This is because some plugin updates may cause a website to behave differently.

Manual Updates

Updating WordPress plugins and themes manually is not a difficult task at all, and can be done in a few clicks.

The only thing to note if managing updates manually is that the website owner needs to log in and check if there are new updates available for the plugins and themes that are installed and activated on the website.

Updates Availability

Like every other piece of software, there is no form of regularity over WordPress plugins and themes updates. Mostly, the frequency at which new updates are released depend on several factors such as:

  • How active the developers are
  • Their internal updates cycle
  • The package or plan you are subscribed to (free plugins usually have fewer updates, or longer update cycles when compared to premium plans)
  • The threats and vulnerabilities that affect those plugins and how quickly the news travels to the development team.

Despite the variance in the availability of the updates, most well-known plugins are regularly maintained so website owners can rest assured that the plugins they use would be updated or patched to avoid ongoing vulnerabilities.

Backups are Easy

WordPress websites can be backed up in two main ways. The first way to backup a WordPress website is by using a web host's default backup configuration, where all the files and databases are backed up, either manually or automatically.

In this way, a website owner relies completely on their web hosting provider to provide the mechanism and storage for the backup.

The second way to backup a WordPress website is to use a plugin. In this method, a plugin that is specifically built for the purpose of backing up a website will either automatically, or manually create snapshots of the WordPress website and store it in a pre-specified location.

The best way to work with this method of backing up your WordPress website is to ensure that the snapshots are stored at a remote location which you have access to. Storing backups and snapshots in the local storage of your web hosting account is risky and must only be done temporarily to move it to a better location later.

As usual, the recommendation is to keep a recent backup copy of the entire website files and database offline, preferably on your local drive or an external storage media.

Both these methods of backing up are also helpful when and if you need to move your website to another hosting provider or file location from where your website will be served.

Subscribe to Jaitish Bissesar's Blog

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.