how to make a website 2020

How to Make a Website – The Beginner’s Guide in 2020

If you have a business or are starting a business, then you’ll need to create a website.

Whether you want to do it on your own or hire a web design agency, ensuring that your business has an online presence is essential for your success.

how to create a website

Build a Website: The Preliminary Stage

It’s entirely possible to create your own website, but if you are ready to take your business to the next level or simply don’t want to deal with figuring out how to design and build a website (after all, you are already designing and building a business!), then you can hire a web design agency or a local website designer to help you out.

Having said that, there are a multitude of website design tips and articles about how to build your own website – read on to discover the best of the best tips from a world class web design agency.

Whether you already have a business or personal website and you want to take it to the next level, or you are building a completely new website for one of your online business ideas, this guide will help you discover and make use of some of the best website builders and website optimization tools out there today.

How to Design a Website Optimized for 2020 & Beyond

The elements you need to have a successful website are constantly changing.

how to build a website

Besides a clean, elegant, and intuitive design, the code or backend of your website has to be constructed properly so that your website doesn’t only function for its users, but attracts them and eventually converts them as well.

Of course, the messaging needs to be on point and include the necessary keywords that you want your site to rank for – choosing the keywords that you want to target for each page of your website, and a better understanding on what your prospective buyers are looking for.

If you’re asking yourself “how to create a website?” or “how to start a blog?” for your business, personal brand, or anything else, check out this guide and you’ll have the tools you need to get started.

Website Speed is Crucial for Search Engine Optimization – and Everything Else

creating a website

Google and the other search engines tend to rank sites more highly on search engine results pages for various reasons, including content that helps prospective searchers, relevant keywords, page authority (or the number of high-quality backlinks and high authority sites that link to your site or a particular article or page on your site), and increasingly, page load speed.

The search engines value pages that are easy to crawl and quick to display for users – the user experience is quickly becoming a more important factor in ranking than ever.

Read on to discover our tips and tricks for creating a super-fast website that the search engines and your users will love.

What CMS Would Work Best for Your Website or Blog?

website builder

The first thing you should consider when you are building a website or blog is the content management or CMS.

This will help you design your site, lay out your content, and otherwise make things look exactly the way you want them.

Drupal, Joomla, Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress are all popular choices for business websites – and for good reason!

WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems for business websites (or really, any other type of website – it is also one of the best blog sites) because it’s so user-friendly, offers a variety of extensions and thousands of plugins that let you basically make your WordPress website into anything you might want it to be, and it might be possible to build a WordPress website yourself if you are somewhat tech-savvy.

WordPress is also an open source or free platform, so the price is right and many developers around the world use it, so you can always find development resources online, low-cost or free website themes and plugins, and web design companies that work with WordPress.

Another reason that WordPress has become so popular (it is reported that WordPress powers 35% of the Internet as of this writing), is that you don’t need to need to learn how to code, although a bit of HTML and CSS knowledge is always helpful if you want to customize the look and feel of your site further.

However, if you get started on your own with WordPress or any other CMS, chances are you can find a web design company who can help you take things to the next level.

You will be able to find developers who specialize in almost any CMS, but WordPress is particularly common.

The Difference Between an Ecommerce Website & a Standard Website

best ecommerce platform

If you plan to sell things directly from your website, you have additional options to consider.

WordPress ecommerce sites can be a good idea, but you’ll need an additional plugin like WooCommerce or to use a platform like Shopify to actually build out your online store.

WordPress plus WooCommerce is widely considered to be one of the best ecommerce platforms for newbies since they are both highly intuitive and play well together.

Not using WordPress?

Here’s a list of the best ecommerce platforms updated for 2020.

What else to consider when you are building an ecommerce site?

You’ll not only need to make sure your CMS and any additional plugins support the payment gateway or gateways that you want to use, you’ll also want to integrate email marketing platforms and accounting software with your CRM software, and make sure there are plenty of support options available, since running an ecommerce site can be much more complex than setting up a more basic website.

Choosing a Domain for Your Website (and How to Find One)

building a website

Your domain is perhaps one of the most important decisions that you make when creating your website.

If you are building a website for your business, chances are that the choice is simple – the name of your business followed by the domain extension of your choice.

If you are lucky and your domain name of choice is available, purchase it and you’re ready to set up hosting.

But what if that domain name is already taken?

If your business’s name is already established and trademarked, you may be able to acquire that domain from the current owner depending on what they are using it for, or if it is parked (meaning that the domain is owned by someone but they are not doing anything with it).

Be aware that buying a parked domain might be more expensive than picking out a brand new one, and always check to see what the domain was previously being used for by searching “_____.com” or whatever the domain extension (.com, .net, .org, etc.) is in order to ensure that there is no problematic history there.

The biggest problem with a domain can be its history, where it could of been previously hacked and injected with toxic backlinks.

It is always good to check out the Internet Archive to see the last cached view of the previous website on the domain.

Ahref’s free backlinker checker can also give you a glimpse of backlinks to the domain’s previous website.

If the domain name you want is being actively used and you can’t take it over, consider trying a different domain extension, adding your city or region to the domain name if your business is localized, or adding on a keyword that is relevant to your industry or location.

Or better yet, if you are in a niche industry trying focusing on a broad keyword in your domain.

Moz has a great guide on how to structure your domain.

Another way to find an available or free domain name is to look at domain auction sites like Sedo or Flippa; this is a particularly viable option if you want to start a business online and are willing to take over an existing domain that already has traffic and solid backlinks.

We suggest always purchasing your own domain if you are making a website for your business, since it looks more trustworthy and professional.

Plus, you are not constrained by the limits of another platform and you can customize, modify, and otherwise make your website completely your own in ways that you can’t accomplish on any non-owned or leased platforms.

Whatever domain you choose, make it easy to type, simple to pronounce in your language or the main language that your audience speaks, and as short as possible.

Pro-tip: maintain ownership of your domain at all times, and set up admin-only access on your domain registrar to any web development companies that you hire.

This way, your domain is not compromised in anyway.

Domain Extensions

A domain extension – a .com, .org. .net, or something newer like .io, .blog, or similar can be another important choice.

Of course, dot.com is the most well-recognized option, but other extensions have become more common as the dot.coms of the world are starting to become unavailable.

If you have an ecommerce site, .shop might be a good option, .blog may work if you are starting a blog or media site, and .io is trendy for apps.

wordpress hosting

How To Host Your Website

After you choose an available domain and register it, you’ll need to set up hosting.

Many hosting companies also offer domain registry as well as 1-click installs of WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla, so the quickest route to getting started and getting your website live is to choose a hosting company that handles all of the above.

GoDaddy and Bluehost are some of the most popular website and blog hosting companies, which are usually a more economical option.

There are also many different choices including WP Engine, which is considered to be one of the best WordPress hosting platforms that offers customizable website templates and 24/7 support, making them a great choice if you are building a WordPress site.

They also have their own caching system that will make your new WordPress site run faster.

Siteground is another potential option, and they offer WordPress and Weebly website builders; note that they may throttle your traffic if your website becomes especially popular extremely quickly.

Amazon AWS and Google Cloud hosting are among the biggest data providers in the world, powering some of the biggest infrastructures.

In most cases, unless you have a company that can help you manage an Amazon AWS server, you’re best sticking with a managed hosting platform.

You should keep in mind that nearly all hosting companies offer plans at several tier levels depending on the bandwidth you are using or the traffic that you are receiving; there is usually a basic or budget plan, a mid-level plan, or a high end or even unlimited plan.

The cost of your website hosting is based on the amount of traffic that your website receives.

Want to explore your options?

This WordPress Hosting Facebook group is carefully moderated and can be a good place to begin.

Choosing a Website Hosting Plan

best wordpress hosting

Lower bandwidth plans can be fine if you are on a budget, but the unlimited last option might be the best choice if you are planning on scaling up traffic to your website and having it be the main driver of your business’s leads.

On the other hand, if your website will simply be an online business card of sorts pointing visitors to your physical location, you may be able to get away with a lower bandwidth plan.

With most website hosting companies, it is fairly simple to upgrade your plan later on if your website starts to get more traffic.

Keep in mind that if you have a sudden burst of traffic – e.g. your business gets on Shark Tank, or you become popular on Reddit and receive the “Reddit hug of death” – your site may go down for a while unless your hosting provider offers some kind of contingency plan (note that this will probably cost extra).

Once you create your account and add your payment details, you can purchase your domain and hosting and you’re ready to begin to build your website!

If you are using WordPress or a similarly popular CMS, your hosting provider will likely provide a 1-click install so you can begin to build your site right away.

If the hosting company you are using doesn’t provide a 1-click option, WordPress is fairly simple to install yourself – check out this guide on how to install WordPress.

designing a website

Designing a Website

The look and feel of your website is incredibly important – design plays a key role in the overall user experience after all, and perhaps even more importantly, it tells your audience what you and your brand are all about!

Designing a website can be overwhelming, however, especially if you don’t already have an established brand logo and style (if you don’t have a logo yet, Canva or Logo Crisp are free logo design engines).

But, our best advice is to make the investment and hire a designer to bring your brand to life.

There are lots of local designers that can help, or you can hire a designer on Upwork that is based anywhere around the world.

There are plenty of tools out there that can help design your website – in fact, one of our most important web design tips for beginners is to go with a platform like WordPress that essentially has built-in web design software.

If you go with WordPress, there are thousands of free and low-cost themes that you can choose from – there’s no need to go through the trouble of designing your own or working with a web design company to create a customized website.

When you first set up your WordPress CMS, you’ll have a basic blank template to work with, but accessing the thousands of free and relatively inexpensive themes can be done right from your dashboard.

how to use wordpress

You can also install and activate your theme right from this dashboard as well using the “Themes” link in the left sidebar of your dashboard.

css cheat sheet

Tools & Tutorials for Customizing Your Website or Blog

It is always possible to customize your WordPress theme or the design and visuals of any CMS, it just depends on your needs and goals for the website and your technical acumen.

If you know some basic HTML and CSS (there are some great CSS cheat sheets and HTML cheat sheets out there too) you can modify an existing theme to your desired look and feel.

If you want to get even more complex with it, teaching yourself JavaScript to add more complex functionality (yes, there are some great JavaScript tutorials and cheat sheets out there too) or Adobe Dreamweaver (of course there are also Dreamweaver tutorials as well) can be a great way to pick up some new skills and you’ll be more likely to be able to update or make changes to your website yourself.

If you are even more technically inclined, checking out Bootstrap – a popular HTML, CSS, and JavaScript framework that is ideal for building mobile first or responsive websites – could be a good idea too, and yes there are some great Bootstrap tutorials out there too.

Choosing a WordPress Theme

how to create your own website

One thing we recommend to anyone who is building their own website using WordPress is to choose a theme with lighter weight and has ongoing developer support.

A good theme should focus on fast page load times and only use customizable features for the most important elements of your website.

Pro Tip: All website themes are not created equal.

One theme may look great, but if the theme loads slow because of an abundance of bloated code (to accommodate robust and sometimes unnecessary features), move on to a theme that is lighter weight.

You can check the page load time of your theme and overall website using GT Metrix or Google’s PageSpeed Insights, free tools that help calculate your website’s page speed and performance.

If your site measures at over 2 seconds loading time with GT Metrix, then you will want to change your theme or design to one that can load quickly and provide an optimal user experience.

If you want to measure the speed of a templated theme, plug the theme example URL into a website speed test tool like GT Metrix.

website builders

Elegant Themes Example

A good theme like the example above loads under 2 seconds, so opt for a similar theme with a fast load time.

In most cases, website speed tests should be used as general guidance, as some suggested optimization opportunities are just not possible without sacrificing the aesthetic look of your website.

As a general consensus among marketers, the Astra WordPress theme paired with the Beaver Builder WordPress builder plugin is regarded as a go-to setup.

Here is a full video tutorial on setting up the Astra theme.

Installing a WordPress theme is fairly simple.

You can access the official WordPress theme directory right from your CMS dashboard, and browse popular themes, featured themes, the newest themes, or you can search themes by name, style (e.g. one column, two column, etc.), the subject of your site, and by color palette.

Ensuring that your theme uses web safe fonts – fonts that display properly across all the different browsers and devices are also important.

Generally, most WordPress themes already use the proper web fonts or HTML fonts, so there is not much to worry about in this regard if you stick with the fonts in theme or use another web safe font; here’s a font list for fonts that work with HTML and CSS.

web safe fonts

Want to know our favorite sources for web fonts?

Best free fonts:

  • Google Web Fonts has perhaps the best selection of free, ready to use web fonts, and most themes and all custom websites support them.

Best paid font sources:

  • Adobe Typekit – if fonts are your thing, Adobe typekit has them. Here’s a good source of monthly “best of” Adobe Typekit fonts.
  • Hoefler – Some of the biggest brands in the world use fonts from the Hoefler type foundry.

Want to check out some example website color schemes or need inspiration for the design of your website?

Look at your main competitors for your targeted keywords, look at brands with an aesthetic that you already enjoy (even if it is a completely different industry), and look at design websites like Behance and Dribble to see some of the most current web design trends.

If the aesthetic goal of your website is a brochure-style look, like a photographer, production company, or a graphic designer, then Awwwards may give you a boost of inspiration.

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Crafting the Homepage of Your Website

When you’re creating a website (or a blog site) getting the homepage and navigation right is absolutely key.

Chances are the home page might be one of the most visited pages on your site – and you only get one chance to make a first impression on your audience once they arrive at your website.

This is why the design, layout, and navigation that is available on the homepage is so important.

Need some webpage design resources or ideas?

Check out your favorite websites, your competitors, and any big brands that you admire.

Chances are that larger companies have spent significant amounts of time and money solving the same problems and accomplishing the same goals that you want to achieve with your website, so you should use their research to your advantage!

You can also check out the Webby Awards for website design ideas – the websites that have won design awards on this site have been vetted already, so why not get design ideas from some web design experts?

Loading speed is absolutely critical for the success of your website in 2020 and beyond, so be sure to choose a theme or design template for your site that not only looks good, but performs well too.

Your search engine rankings may be better if your website loads quickly as well – Google built a page speed tool, so it is likely that websites that have speedy loading times and excellent performance may see a boost and continue to trend in 2020.

A fast website is also beneficial for conversions, as every second counts to retain the attention of your audience.

Static Homepages Versus a Blog Homepage

how to start a blog

There are two primary options for your website’s homepage – static and active, which typically means a blog.

A static homepage is exactly that – static and not regularly updated (although there may be a blog elsewhere on your site and linked from the homepage).

A blog website homepage has the latest blog content right on the homepage instead of a different URL such as www.example.com/blog or www.example.com/news.

Should your website have a static homepage or a blog on the front page?

That depends on your goals, your industry, and even your ability to maintain a regular blog.

If you have a set of services or offerings that are fairly consistent, a static homepage can work; if you regularly have news or want to publish content often, a blog-style homepage might be the better choice.

Commonly, your homepage is the strongest page on your website.

That’s because your external profile links (like your Google My Business profile) usually point to your homepage.

Generally, the objective of your website is to capture conversions in the form of sales, leads, or newsletter signups focused on the product or service you are offering.

It is normally good practice to feed your inner pages from the homepage so that the link authority flows through the inner pages you want to promote most.

You can do this by adding direct links from your top-level navigation, or you can add short banner excerpts with direct links to your inner pages.

If you have a blog, you can feature your top posts to help give them a step-up.

web design software

Creating & Adding Content to Your Website

WordPress and other CMS options make it easy to add content to your website, and to update the content whenever you have additional items to add or changes that you want to make.

Some of the basic pages that you’ll need in addition to the homepage are a contact page with a form that users can fill out to get in touch with your business, pages for each product, service, or solution that you offer, and an about page that gives people some background on your business – and you!

These pages are typically static pages, meaning they don’t have a date or timestamp.

We do suggest adding a blog (or an articles or news page, if you don’t want to call it a blog) because search engines tend to reward regularly updated websites with higher rankings on the search engine results pages or SERPs.

Blog posts or articles do have dates and timestamps so the search engines and your readers will know what is most recently updated (although you can choose to hide those from readers).

There are lots of strategies on how to do content marketing through the dynamic channel on your website, but resources, costs, and time can play a big factor on your writing strategy.

According to Hubspot, here is the frequency of how often you should be blogging.

blog websites

Image source: Hubspot

This is a lot of writing on a weekly basis.

There are lots of studies on blog frequency, like Marketing Insider Group’s detailed write-up on blog frequency and the size of your business, B2B, and B2C.

In our own experience, it really depends.

For some clients, we get great results with a lower frequency of 2-3 long-form posts per month that covers a topic extensively.

We tend to favor a content framework composed of the best guides, comparisons, or case studies on the Internet.

So, what do you write about for a business-related blog?

You can use a blog or a news page to keep your current clients and prospective clients informed about updates happening for your company, industry news, or both!

Blogs and expert write-ups are also a great way to show off your knowledge and build thought leadership in your industry.

Prospective clients will see your deep level of expertise and feel more confident about hiring your company.

WordPress and other CMS options offer the opportunity to tag and categorize your posts so users can go right to the topics they are looking for – plus it will help the search engines properly categorize your content.

If you add a blog to your website, make sure you can commit to keeping it updated regularly, whether you intend to do it yourself, assign posts to employees, hire a freelance writer(s), or some combination of the above.

There are lots of quality content writing hubs, with very talented writers that span across every type of industry.

If you are going to outsource your content marketing strategy, it is best to hire candidates that you can work with regularly.

Although a diversity in authors can be good for a media site, a B2B company may be better at having a few consistent voices.

The Difference Between Pages & Posts

blogging sites

If you are using WordPress or another popular CMS, you’ll see the option to add a page or to add a post.

Both of these options are important when you are building your website, but it is equally essential to understand the difference between the two.

Pages include your core content; WordPress pages or general website pages are pages that do not have a date and timestamp to show when they were created or updated, and are considered to be more static.

Examples of possible static pages include your contact page, your about page, and other pages that are content you will want to perennially feature on your website.

If you are building a website for your business, then you will want to feature your offerings, products, or services.

On the other hand, posts or blogs include a date and timestamp and can be used to update people about your business offerings, company news, news in your industry, or to share new knowledge that you’ve gained.

Posts also offer the opportunity to expand on your core content pages in a way that shows Google and the other search engines that your site is regularly updated.

Search engines can be sensitive to a blog posts timestamp, especially if you are writing about the latest gadget comparison or the best VPN.

In any case, you should be regularly be updating your posts when they become outdated or lose traffic.

WPBeginner’s 27 Tips on Getting Blog Traffic is a good start before you kick off a content marketing campaign.

Setting Up Navigation for Your Website

online business ideas

The perfect website navigation menu is what will help your users engage with your content and find what they are looking for easily and quickly.

Generally, WordPress sites (and most other common CMS options) have a main level navigation which appears across the top of the site and a sidebar which may or may not be expandable depending on what theme you choose and the type of content hierarchy you establish.

Think of the navigation as the visual hierarchy of your website, or its table of contents.

Everything from the position of the elements in your navigation to the way that it is displayed (across the top of your website, in a sidebar, or in the “hamburger” style of expandable menu that is becoming increasingly popular because it works so well on mobile) as the navigation.

And optimizing the site for mobile is particularly important – more and more people are browsing via mobile these days and a positive mobile experience can be an important search engine ranking factor.

How to Create Your Site Title & Tagline

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Now that you have a website, you need to give it a title!

This is what shows up across the top of the browser tab when you visit the website.

It is simple to add your title and tagline using the WordPress Customize tool (located right in the main dashboard) and choose Site Identity, then input your copy.

The title tag and tagline are what shows up for your homepage in the search results.

best blog hosting sites

While you’re doing this, you’ll also want to create your favicon – that little image to the left of your title in the browser tab.

Perhaps the easiest way to add a favicon in WordPress is to use a favicon generator plugin like RealFaviconGenerator – more on plugins further on!

Which leads us to adding metadata, or the title and tagline or description for every page of your website.

Adding Metadata to Your Website

wordpress page title

Your website page titles and descriptions are what help the search engines properly crawl and understand what your site is all about.

Your title and metadata are what shows up in your search engine results listings among other competitor websites.

The best comparison in the real world is driving down a highway and seeing billboards.

Normally, the best billboard wins a phone call or a website visit, so writing compelling titles and meta descriptions are a necessary part of optimizing your website.

The titles for your web pages should be short – 60 characters or less since that is what shows up in the search engine results – and contain at least one of the keywords you are targeting.

Your meta descriptions should be no longer than 160 characters and should contain two to three keywords (one of which matches a keyword in the title) and each web page should have a unique meta description.

This online character count site is great when writing your website content.

The Moz team has an incredibly detailed write-up on how important title tags are, and how to write them.

Setting Up a Blog on Your Website

website color schemes

As we’ve covered, a regularly updated blog is a great way to draw new visitors to your website and help improve your search ranking for your targeted keywords, since Google and the other search engines tend to reward sites with fresh, new content.

Setting up a blog with WordPress is super simple.

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Once you’ve got WordPress installed on your domain, you can just add a new page in the CMS then visit Settings > Reading in the left sidebar, under “Your homepage displays” check the radio button labeled “A static page” and choose the option for blog page you just added, and you’re ready to start creating and publishing posts.

Controlling the Comments

Allowing comments on your website can be an excellent way to build a community and interact with your audience more directly; on the other hand, you’ll have to moderate the comments and deal with spam comments.

While there are excellent spam blocking plugins on WordPress and extensions for other CMS’s, you also have the option to remove the ability to comment all together.

Understanding WordPress Plugins & How to Use Them

One of the many reasons that WordPress is such a popular CMS is the extensive developer community and the many free and low-cost themes and plugins that are available and easy for even a web development and web design newbie to install.

What is a WordPress plugin?

what is plugin in wordpress

It’s a software package (a folder containing various files including PHP, JavaScript, CSS, and sometimes even HTML or XML) that allows you to optimize the functionality and add new features to your WordPress CMS.

There are thousands of WordPress plugins – many of them free or relatively low cost – and you can search the plugin library right within the CMS itself and add plugins with just a couple clicks (the same goes for uninstalling the ones you don’t want to use anymore).

The vast library of plugins is one of the reasons that WordPress is so popular – if there is a feature you want on your website, there’s nearly always a plugin for it.

How to Install a WordPress Plugin

Installing WordPress Plugins is super simple.

You can go to the plugins directory right from your CMS if you want to see the all the free plugin options and install from there; keep in mind that the steps may be slightly different for paid WordPress plugins, but the same process applies.

what is a plugin

To install a free WordPress plugin, you start by Plugins in the left sidebar, then click the button labeled “Add New.”

You can search by plugin name or general functionality.

Once you find the one you want to add, simply click “Install Now” and WordPress will install the plugin on your site.

Then you can activate the plugin right there from the search page, or visit the plugins page and click the “Activate” button found on the listing for your newly installed plugin – don’t forget that last essential step!

Installing a paid plugin involves uploading a zip file via the WordPress Upload method.

For that, purchase the plugin – you’ll receive a zip file – and then go to Plugins > Add New in the left sidebar (it’ll show underneath plugins when you are in the main plugins admin area).

This will bring you to the Plugin Search page we mentioned above – click the “Upload” button at the top of your plugins management page.

Upload your zip file, click on “Install Now” and activate your new plugin.

What Are the Best WordPress Plugins?

best wordpress plugins

While there are thousands if not millions of WordPress plugins available, there are some that come more highly recommended than others – and for good reason!

Here are some of our favorites:

  • Yoast SEO – This is an excellent plugin that we’d suggest for nearly any type of website. The features are easy to use, and there is an option to upgrade to premium if you want a more robust performance. Note that Yoast premium allows you to easily set up PHP redirects (without having to mess with your .htaccess file), which is important if you are moving content around or deleting pages or posts – you don’t want to send users to a broken page and you don’t want your audience to suffer or search engines to waste your crawl budget. If you don’t want to pay for Yoast premium, here’s a redirect plugin that performs redirects and some of the more basic functions the plugin offers.
  • Short Pixel – One of the biggest things that slows down website performance is overly large image files, so the Short Pixel plugin is super useful for optimizing your images automatically. In all of our testing of other image optimizing plugins, Short Pixel’s plugin offers the best compression while maintaining the integrity of an image.
  • Site Kit By Google – This plugin is from Google itself and puts your website analytics right on your WordPress dashboard, so you can track your website’s performance right there in your CMS without needing to be logged into Google Analytics as well. It will save you tons of time! In our testing, this plugin did have some issues with caching plugins.
  • WPForms – This drag and drop online form builder will let you set up contact forms, surveys, email list signups, and more with a few clicks.
  • WP Rocket – Caching your pages on your server so that they don’t need to be reloaded each time they are accessed within a given timeframe is another thing that will speed up and optimize your website’s page load time and give your users the best experience. WP Rocket is a great “out of the box” caching plugin with a very user-friendly UI and a great Facebook group for support.
  • Swift Performance – This plugin is similar to WP Rocket but is meant for more advanced users; while it is one of the best ways that we’ve found to speed up a website, it can also cause problems with incorrect implementation. If you trust your technical skills there’s a good unofficial Swift guide, and there’s a Facebook group as well.

In general, when you are experimenting with new plugins or making changes to existing plugins, make sure you have a full backup of your website, or use a staging server to test, test, test.

Actually, that’s a good idea in general – and regularly backup your site in general!

Your hosting company may offer those tools for you, or there are a variety of plugins like BackupBuddy to help you out as you learn how to use WordPress.

Common Website Errors

website error code

Chances are if you are building or maintaining your own website, you’ll make errors or come across them – it happens to the best of us.

One common error is experiencing an error establishing a database connection.

When this happens in WordPress, it means that the two types of technology that WordPress is built on – PHP and MySQL – aren’t communicating with each other.

Essentially, WordPress uses PHP commands to access the MySQL database and that stores the content that is displayed on the screen.

An error establishing a database connection occurs when there is a breakdown in communication between the PHP and MySQL.

These can occur if the database is corrupted, the server is down, your WordPress files are corrupted, or you are getting too much traffic (which can be a good problem to have but you need to have something for those users to see!).

So how do you fix this website error?

The first step should be to connect with your hosting provider via their support line or live chat – there’s a good chance they will be able to fix the problem for you.

Failing that, if you’ve recently updated your theme or plugins, you may be able to go in and fix it yourself – here’s a good tutorial on fixing database connection errors.

Client-Side & Server-Side Errors

error establishing a database connection

Other errors that you and your users will see tend to fall into two different groups – client-side errors and server-side errors, or 400 errors and 500 errors.

400 level errors – such as the commonly “404 page not found” that you’ve seen before when a link is broken or a page otherwise no longer exists – are on the client-side.

Client-side means any browser accessing the website, usually a site visitor.

If you see a 404 error on your site, you need to go in and set up a redirect for that page if you’ve moved or deleted it (see above for the appropriate plugins to use).

You may also see 401 or 403 errors if you try to access an area of your site that requires a password with being logged in, this means the connection was refused by the host.

While many client-side errors can be unwittingly caused by and remedied by the site owner (think moved or deleted pages not properly redirected, a resource such as an image that has been removed, or even a typo in a link), some, such as 404 errors, may be caused by the site visitor, such as someone typing the incorrect URL.

500 internal server errors are also commonly seen, they usually occur because the server is overloaded and you can most likely refresh the page, clear your cache, and it’ll pop back up again.

If this error persists, contact your hosting company for help.

501 errors mean that your browser doesn’t support that particular feature (in which case you might just need to update the browser), and 502 errors mean the server is temporarily overloaded and the page should reappear.

These are the most common types of website errors that can occur (here are a few more common website errors explained), so if you see them, stay calm, check out the tips we’ve mentioned, and get in touch with your hosting company as soon as possible.

Still wondering how to build a website, start a blog, or even launch a whole business on the web?

Leave a comment below and we’re here to help.

We hope this guide helps you create your own website in 2020 – and beyond!

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