There are many tools and resources available to help you build a WordPress website

Here are just a few of the tools I found available on the web for little or no cost

I just completed an over haul of our website. Along the way, I learned about and used some tools that were new to me that I want to share in the hope that you might find them useful in your own web mastering, particularly if you are a WordPress website user as I am.

To start, we had a specific strategy for the features of the new website. We wanted a website which:

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  • more strongly represents of our branding
  • is intuitive to navigate
  • is completely mobile friendly with responsive images
  • provides really useful, engaging, informative and interesting content and resources for visitors.
  • has a robust platform with the latest versions of WordPress, the theme and plugins which enhance the user experience and optimize performance.
  • My best friend throughout this process was Lynda.com If you are not familiar with this incredible learning tool, just visit the website and take a look at the amazing array of courses that you can access for very short money. You can even try it out with a free trial membership.

    Here is a listing of courses I reviewed and enjoyed while preparing the strategy for my wordpress website development. These provide excellent information even if you are just improving your site, particularly your Search Engine Optimization. SEO is a moving target, so keeping up with the latest best practices never hurts.

    Because I was doing a major facelift as opposed to tweaking a few pages on my WordPress website, I decided to install a local MAMP server on my desktop. By doing this, I was able to develop and test a new website while the existing website remained in place and uninterrupted. The MAMP (Macintosh, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) server for Mac and WAMP server for Windows comes in a free version, and it provides a local web server environment. It sounds daunting, but is actually quite straight forward. This article from WordPress Codex explains the process quite nicely. Follow the naming conventions and you should be fine.

    Once I had that in place I was able to start developing new pages. I took the opportunity to test out some new themes which I felt spoke to our brand aesthetic, while providing all the functionality I wanted. I settled on the Link theme which is a child theme of the Flat Bootstrap theme. In their words : “It is a modern, fully responsive, "flat" style theme with a nice color palette, big full-width images, and full-width colored sections.“

    I also discovered a couple of cool new plugins at this point which made the page layout so simple. If you are modifying or developing pages and posts on a WordPress website, tryout the Page Builder SiteOrigin Plugin. It is a new tab on your editor interface which enables you to build beautifully formatted, responsive grid layout pages without diving into a bunch of CSS coding or in inserting unseemly tables. You just drag and drop rows, columns and a wide array of cool elements into the template. Here is an instructional video from the SiteOrigin plugin page and there are others if you search on Youtube.

    I also replaced the SEO Plugin I was using with the more robust Yoast SEO which is recommended in the WordPress Plugins course referenced above. The instructor walks you through all of the settings with detailed explanations. I particularly love the feature in the page editor which helps you analyze and improve the SEO of each page and post.

    A few of my other favorites are RICG Responsive Images, Rich Contact Widget and Insert Video with Schema.org .These were all used with the intent to improve mobile usability and improve SEO .You can read more about the features in the links provided.

    I wanted the site to tell a story through the images, so I relied heavily on iStock for images, our internal collection of images and a basic working knowledge of photoshop; the cropping and 'Save For Web' functions in particular.

    Once the content and functionality was in place locally, the site was ready to upload to the remote server. I went through a rather protracted process because I wanted to keep the blog posts and some other data associated with my old website. If you are just uploading a new site, this set of instructions, though technical will get you from local to a live site. This article from the WordPress Codex also explains the process in detail.

    If you are contemplating building a WordPress site, just do it. You can run a search anytime you bump up against a topic or procedure that you are unfamiliar with. The WordPress support area has an answer for any question you may have. With a little research you can also determine which blogs provide answers and solutions. So here is the final product. There is always more to do, but I feel like this is a solid start thanks to the tools that are so readily available on the internet. Good Luck!