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** This post contains affiliate links, meaning I might make a small commission if you choose to purchase via this post. However all opinions I express are my own. **

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The process of beginning your website can be a daunting one. If you don’t know where to begin, here are three things to make your WordPress life easier.

WordPress Preparation Tip #1
Choose your hosting provider wisely

Hosting is one of those hotly contested Internet topics. Wanna see people get in a digital fist fight? Ask who the best hosting company is. You will get both high praise and scathing critiques of almost every single host out there. So how the heck is someone supposed to choose?

Be Strategic About Who You Ask – It is all well and good that one guy in a random facebook group said that this host was rocking, but do you know anything about that guy or the site he runs?

If you ask a super tech savvy guy who runs multiple message boards, an online store, and speaks in jargon that you can hardly understand, he might recommend a host that is entirely overkill for you. If you ask someone who runs a single page website that gets minimal traffic because their business is strictly referrals, they might recommend a host who can’t meet your ecommerce needs.

Ask people who run similar businesses and websites to what you are looking to build. Ask people who have a similar level of technical skill. If you want to poll people, try to find people who run businesses similar to yours and have website needs similar to yours.

Research Your Potential Host on Social Media – A few months back I had been hearing tons and tons about this hosting company and was wondering if it would be something I could recommend to my clients. I went to this company’s facebook page and their wall was blowing up with posts about a several-days-long outage with spotty customer service. This is super helpful information. Regardless of if that company is worthwhile overall, it told me not to recommend them to anyone right now.

Check the company’s facebook page. Check their twitter feed. Google their name and see what people are saying {and look at the dates!}. Weigh what you see against the information you have already gathered.

Consider Your Price Point + Desired Features – Not all hosts are created equal and not all hosts are priced equal. WordPress specific hosting usually costs a little more than standard shared hosting. It is always worth asking about bandwidth limits, if hosts offer server level backups, when customer service/tech support is available, and uptime guarantees.

A lot of times comparing hosts isn’t comparing apples to apples. So prioritize what you would like, how much you would like to pay, and ask lots of questions!

Who Would I Recommend {updated April 2017!} – I previously used and recommended Media Temple in this blog post. Because of how much people loved SiteGround I grabbed their one month trial and moved one of my websites over to test it out. I was hooked! My site loaded SO FAST and they absolutely blew me away with their customer support. After I decided to move all my sites to SiteGround I ran into a few issues {site migration is not always easy!} but their tech support team and database of tutorials were there to save the day each time.

The other thing I LOVE about SiteGround is that they offer free SSL certificates for websites {they also have paid options, depending on the type of SSL certificate you need, but the Let’s Encrypt certificates are 100% free}. As SSL becomes a more important part of owning a website, I loved that I could get SSL certificates basically installed at the click of a button without paying $75 a year for each for them. I’m so excited to pass that savings on to my Monthly Maintenance clients!

I could go on all day. My experience with SiteGround has been fantastic so far, but let’s move on.

BONUS TIP! Know that Sh*t Happens – Even the very best hosts have outages. Servers get hacked. Viruses sneak in. Data gets corrupted. Backups are lost. You can do all the research, read all the reviews, and comb through every social media mention, but that isn’t going to change the fact that tech misbehaves sometimes. Do yourself a favor and be prepared.

Which brings us to…

WordPress Preparation Tip #2
Choose a back up system. Right now.

I want you to promise me {& yourself} that one of the first things you are going to do when you set up WordPress is get a back up system in place!

While it is usually something people think about after they have built their website I want you to start thinking about it from Day #1. Install it before anything else happens on your site, and know that you are protected from the first moments of your website.

There is nothing worse than nearing the end of a website design + build only to have something go wrong and realize that all that work is lost because there wasn’t a back up solution in place {one of the reasons it is one of the first things we do when we work together to design websites}.

How to Choose a Backup System – There are tons of options for backup methods and while many of them are good, I have two consistent favorites. This is because I don’t just want you to have a good back up, I want you to also have the ability to easily use your back up if you ever need to. Not every backup solution offers easy restorations, and when you are trying to restore your website the last thing you want is a complicated or confusing restoration process.

WordPress is complex. Backing up the correct files, tables, and databases is crucial to be able to easily restore that back up. I don’t know about you, but I hate having to worry about if my back up system is handling all the jargon correctly or not. For that reason I have encouraged my clients towards two options.

Who I Would RecommendBackupBuddy from iThemes and VaultPress. Both are awesome, it is just which one is right for you.

VaultPress is a plugin + monthly subscription service by Automattic. At the time of this post they are offering backup + restoration plans, as well as backup + Akismet plans. Each has a monthly and yearly payment schedule.

VaultPress is super easy to use, from setup to backups to restorations. I recommend it for clients who want to easily manage their own backups and restorations.

BackupBuddy is a premium plugin created by iThemes. This means you purchase a license, which you renew each year for updates + support. BackupBuddy is wonderful, easy to use, and as of this blog post they are currently rolling out their new Stash service {a place to host your back up files} which allows for realtime backups without straining your host’s server. The other thing I adore about BackupBuddy is iThemes support, they have always been prompt and helpful when I needed technical support.

BackupBuddy is easy to use, though a little bit of technical knowledge does help. I recommend it for clients who want more control over their backups, and it is also what I use for my own sites and clients on my WordPress maintenance program.

But What About Free Backup Solutions? – I strongly encourage you do your research before you settle down with a free backup solution. Google some tutorials and watch some videos about your intended free backup system before you choose. Free can be totally awesome, but I have found that with backup systems you get what you pay for.

And the idea of paying for additions to WordPress brings me to my final point…

WordPress Preparation Tip #3
Plan where to spend your budget

Wait, budget? You’ve probably heard that WordPress is free. WordPress itself is free, and a WordPress website can be free. But a WordPress website can also cost you a fortune if you aren’t careful. This is because there are so many amazing premium add ons you can purchase! Themes, plugins, and subscriptions, oh my!

Prioritize your functionality – I would begin by listing all of the functionality that you think you might need. Contact form, membership site, popup opt ins, slideshows, ecommerce/shopping cart, landing page software, email list service, appointment scheduling software, social media scheduling etc. Keep in mind that you might add more to this list as you build your website.

Some things that might help if you are overwhelmed by this list is to consider what you need now versus what you need a little bit later. If you need both an opt in and a membership plugin for a future course, the deciding factor should be which one is a more important investment to your business right now.

Check for reputable free versions – There are several great contact form plugins that are free, while I have yet to see a free membership website plugin. Do your research!

Check for bundles – Several companies offer bundles of great plugins, it is a great way to get several plugins you need all at once.

Plan for renewals – Some plugins have a lifetime license, you purchase it once and you have it forever. Some have yearly renewals. Know your renewal costs :)

Work with a designer or developer – Many WordPress designers + developers offer the use of their premium plugin library as part of their website packages. I offer this to all my website clients as part of my web design projects + my WordPress maintenance program.

Be patient, young padawan – I cannot stress enough how easy it is to overbuy plugins. Okay, maybe only for me. I collect plugins like some people collect shoes. Luckily they take up less closet space… ;) The moral of the story is: don’t be me. Buy plugins thoughtfully and your WordPress budget will stretch much further.

And there you have it, the three things I think you shouldn’t WordPress without! With a solid host, a strong backup system, and a clear plugin plan you will be well on your way to a successful WordPress website.

Peace + Bandwidth,

Laura

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