This is the first in a set of Field Manuals. Our field manuals will be designed with step-by-step instructions on the steps you need to take to accomplish a goal. In this Field Manual, we’ll go through the beginning stages of building client sites. This is not meant to be a catch-all; our Field Manuals will change and update over time. Within every Field Manual, you’ll find links to other articles that dive deeper into that subject. Now, it’s time to embark on your mission to create a fantastic website (aka site). You’ll easily conquer the online landscape with the right tools and techniques. Let’s dive into the field manual for website design!
Affiliate Statement: Throughout our guides, you will encounter several links to software, products, and services we recommend. Some of these companies pay us for sending customers their way. That said, we’ll never recommend a software, products, or service we do not believe has your best interest in mind. If a company we have recommended starts doing bad business, you can be sure we will let you know.
Getting Your Domain Name
Using Google Domains
Your domain name acts as the digital address for your site, making it an essential component of your online presence. Choosing the right domain registrar, such as Google Domains, is crucial to establish a strong foundation for your site. This user-friendly service stands out for a variety of reasons:
- Competitive Pricing: Google Domains offers domain registration at affordable rates, ensuring you get the best value for your investment. Their transparent pricing structure means there are no hidden fees or unexpected costs.
- Integration with Google Products: One of the main advantages of using Google Domains is its seamless integration with other Google products, such as Google Workspace, Google Analytics, and Google Ads. This compatibility streamlines your website management process and ensures consistency across various tools.
- Privacy Protection: Protecting your personal information is vital in today’s digital landscape. Google Domains includes privacy protection as a standard feature at no extra charge. This means your contact details are hidden from public view, reducing the risk of unwanted spam or potential security threats.
- Ease of Use: Google Domains boasts a clean, intuitive interface that makes navigating easy for users of all skill levels. The straightforward domain management dashboard lets you quickly update DNS settings, renew domain registrations, and manage other domain-related tasks without hassle.
- Customer Support: Google Domains offers reliable customer support to help you resolve any issues or answer questions that may arise during the domain registration process. Their team of experts is available 24/7 through email, phone, and live chat.
Using a service like Google Domains to secure your site’s digital address offers several advantages, including competitive pricing, seamless integration with other Google products, privacy protection, ease of use, and dependable customer support. You can be confident that your site has a strong foundation for success by choosing Google Domains.
Securing Social Channels
Before you build your website, lock down your social media channels. Choose a username that aligns with your domain name to create a cohesive brand identity. This way, your troops (aka visitors) will easily find and follow you on multiple platforms. It’s a smart strategy to help you gain ground in the digital realm.
Setting Up Cloudflare
Next, it’s essential to set up Cloudflare for your site. Cloudflare is a globally distributed content delivery network (CDN) and security service that provides numerous benefits to enhance site performance and protect against cyber threats. Here’s a more in-depth look at the key advantages of using Cloudflare:
- Performance Optimization: Cloudflare significantly improves your site’s performance by caching and delivering content from its network of data centers worldwide. By serving content from a location closer to your visitors, Cloudflare reduces latency and ensures faster page load times, which is crucial for user experience and search engine rankings.
- Security and DDoS Protection: Cloudflare is a protective barrier between your site and potential threats, such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. By filtering and blocking malicious traffic, Cloudflare helps maintain the integrity of your site and prevents downtime caused by cyberattacks.
- Web Application Firewall (WAF): Cloudflare’s Web Application Firewall (WAF) offers an additional layer of security by detecting and blocking common web threats, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and other vulnerabilities. This proactive approach to security helps safeguard your site from potential exploits.
- SSL/TLS Encryption: Cloudflare provides SSL/TLS encryption, which ensures that data transmitted between your site and visitors remains secure and confidential. SSL/TLS encryption also boosts your site’s credibility, as modern browsers display a padlock icon in the address bar, indicating a secure connection.
- Traffic Management and Load Balancing: Cloudflare’s traffic management features, including load balancing and geo-steering, help distribute traffic evenly across your servers, ensuring optimal performance during peak traffic periods or in case of server failures.
- DNS Management: Cloudflare offers a robust, easy-to-use DNS management system with built-in security features, such as DNSSEC, which protects against DNS spoofing and other attacks that could redirect your visitors to malicious sites.
- Analytics and Insights: Cloudflare provides detailed analytics and insights about your site’s traffic, performance, and security events. These data-driven insights enable you to make informed decisions about optimizing and securing your site.
Incorporating Cloudflare into your site setup is a strategic move to ensure optimal performance and robust security. With its comprehensive suite of features, Cloudflare is a protective shield, defending your site from cyberattacks while accelerating page load times – crucial factors in winning the battle for online dominance.
Choosing Your Hosting Platform
We have written an entire guide to choosing your hosting platform. You can check that out here.
When it comes to hosting platforms, WP Engine is a powerful ally. And if you’re not choosing RuckDigital to manage your website (which includes hosting), it is our top choice. WP Engine is managed WordPress hosting provider that ensures optimal performance and security for your website. With features like automatic backups, malware scanning, and top-notch support, WP Engine keeps your site in fighting shape.
Shared hosting can be a cost-effective solution if you’re working with a limited budget or have less complex hosting requirements. While we do not recommend shared hosting for many reasons, a few like Bluehost, HostGator, and SiteGround, offer plans that cater to various needs, providing an accessible entry point for website owners. However, it’s crucial to understand the pros and cons of shared hosting before making a decision:
Pros of Shared Hosting:
- Affordability: Shared hosting is generally the most budget-friendly option available, as the cost of server resources is distributed among multiple users. This makes it an attractive choice for those just starting or running small-scale websites.
- Ease of Use: Shared hosting providers often include user-friendly control panels, such as cPanel or Plesk, that simplify site management tasks. This allows even those with limited technical knowledge to manage their sites effectively.
- Scalability: Many shared hosting providers offer tiered plans with varying levels of resources, allowing you to upgrade as your site grows. This flexibility helps ensure that your hosting solution can evolve alongside your site’s needs.
Cons of Shared Hosting:
- Limited Resources: Since shared hosting involves sharing server resources (such as CPU, RAM, and disk space) with other sites, resource-intensive sites may experience slower performance or even downtime during periods of high traffic.
- Potential Security Risks: Sharing server resources also means sharing the same environment with other websites. If one of the sites on your shared server becomes compromised, it could also impact your site’s security.
- Less Control: Shared hosting plans typically offer less control over server configurations compared to more advanced hosting solutions like VPS or dedicated hosting. This limitation might hinder your ability to customize your site’s performance and security settings to meet specific requirements.
- Variable Performance: The performance of your site on a shared server can be affected by other sites sharing the same resources. If another site experiences a sudden spike in traffic or consumes excessive resources, it may negatively impact your site’s speed and stability.
Shared hosting can be attractive for those with tight budgets or simpler hosting needs. Services like Bluehost, HostGator, and SiteGround offer affordable plans with decent performance. However, before committing to a shared hosting plan, weighing the potential drawbacks, such as shared server resources and the impact on your site’s speed and stability, is essential.
WordPress is the CMS (content management system) for many digital warriors. It’s versatile, user-friendly, and highly customizable. If you’re using WP Engine, WordPress comes pre-installed. Otherwise, follow your hosting provider’s instructions to set up WordPress on your server.
Installing a Theme
Now it’s time to choose a theme – the visual framework for your website. There are countless themes available, both free and premium. In our Field Manual, we’ve chosen the Astra theme because it is the main theme we use with clients. Remember, a well-designed website can make or break your online conquests!
Installing Your Starting Plugins
Equip your website with powerful tools by installing plugins. First up is Elementor, a versatile page builder that allows you to create stunning layouts without coding knowledge. With a drag-and-drop interface, Elementor makes site customization a breeze.
Astra Starter Templates
Next, grab the Astra Starter Templates plugin. This treasure trove of pre-designed templates helps you build a professional-looking website in no time. Choose a template that fits your brand, and use Elementor to fine-tune the design to your liking.
For SEO firepower, enlist the help of RankMath. Many website designers prefer RankMath over Yoast because it’s feature-rich, user-friendly, and free. With RankMath in your arsenal, you’ll climb the search engine ranks and command attention.
Site Kit by Google
Lastly, install Site Kit by Google. This plugin connects your website to essential Google services like Search Console, Analytics, and Ads. With Site Kit, you’ll have the intel you need to optimize your site and outmaneuver the competition.
Choosing Your Layout
Installing a Template Site
With your plugins installed, it’s time to choose a layout. Select a template site from Astra Starter Templates that complements your brand and industry. Once installed, you’ll have a solid foundation to build upon, saving you valuable time and energy in the trenches.
Customizing Your Site for Your Business
Now that your template site has been established, it’s time to customize it and showcase your unique brand identity. Personalizing various design elements and adding engaging content can create a cohesive and appealing site that speaks to your target audience. In the digital battlefield, capturing and retaining attention is of utmost importance. Here’s how to make your site stand out:
1. Modify Colors and Fonts:
Carefully choose a color palette and typography that aligns with your brand’s personality and values. A consistent color scheme and font selection can significantly impact your site’s overall appearance and user experience. Keep in mind that colors can evoke emotions, while fonts can convey a specific tone, so choose wisely to make a lasting impression.
2. Customize Images and Visual Elements:
Incorporate high-quality images, graphics, and other visual elements that represent your brand and resonate with your target audience. Ensure that the images are properly optimized for web use to maintain fast loading times. Use tools like Canva or Adobe Creative Suite to create custom graphics, infographics, or illustrations that enhance your site’s visual appeal.
3. Update Logo and Favicon:
Upload your brand’s logo and create a favicon (the small icon displayed in browser tabs) to reinforce brand recognition and create a professional look. Ensure that your logo is clear, scalable, and visible on various devices and screen resolutions.
4. Craft Engaging Content:
Develop compelling content that speaks directly to your target audience’s needs and interests. Use a conversational and informative tone to foster a connection with your readers. Remember to incorporate relevant keywords and use proper formattings, such as headings, subheadings, and bullet points, to improve readability and SEO.
5. Optimize Navigation and User Experience:
Ensure that your site’s navigation is intuitive and users can easily find the information they want. Create clear calls-to-action (CTAs) that guide visitors to take specific actions, such as subscribing to a newsletter, making a purchase, or contacting you for more information.
6. Integrate Social Media:
Incorporate social media icons and links on your website to encourage visitors to follow and engage with your brand on various platforms. Additionally, add social sharing buttons to your blog posts and other content, making it easy for users to share your work with their networks.
You can create a captivating and effective site by customizing your template site to reflect your unique brand identity and crafting engaging content that speaks to your target audience. In the digital arena, capturing and retaining attention is crucial for success – so stay focused on continually improving and optimizing your online presence.
Launching Your Website
As you prepare to launch your fully customized and battle-ready website, it’s essential to ensure a successful deployment. Follow these steps to guarantee a smooth and effective launch:
- Review Content and Design: Carefully inspect your site’s content, design, and layout, ensuring it aligns with your brand identity and messaging. Look out for typos, broken links, and any inconsistencies that may have been overlooked during the customization process.
- Test Functionality and Compatibility: Test all features and functionalities of your site, such as contact forms, subscription forms, and e-commerce features. Check compatibility across browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) and devices (desktop, mobile, tablet) to ensure a consistent user experience for all visitors.
- Optimize Performance: Analyze your site’s performance, paying close attention to page load times and responsiveness. Utilize tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix to identify areas for improvement and implement necessary optimizations.
- Set Up Analytics and Tracking: Install tracking and analytics tools, such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console, to monitor your site’s performance and gather valuable insights into user behavior. This information will help you make data-driven decisions to improve and grow your site over time.
- Prepare for SEO: Ensure your site is search engine friendly by using an SEO plugin like RankMath. Optimize your site’s metadata, create an XML sitemap, and ensure proper keyword usage to maximize your chances of ranking well in search results.
- Create a Marketing Plan: Develop a marketing strategy to promote your site’s launch. This may include social media announcements, email marketing campaigns, paid advertising, or public relations efforts. Creating a buzz around your site’s launch will attract more visitors and increase the chances of success.
- Backup and Security Measures: Implement a backup solution to protect your site’s data in case of unforeseen issues or security breaches. Additionally, ensure that your site has proper security measures, such as an SSL certificate and plugins, to safeguard against potential threats.
With these steps complete, you’re ready to deploy your site to the world and witness your online presence grow and flourish. Stay vigilant, as maintaining and optimizing your site is an ongoing mission – continue learning, adapting, and pushing forward to achieve online success.
Additional Plugins to Enhance Website Functionality
Consider incorporating additional plugins that expand functionality to elevate your website’s capabilities and cater to specific needs. Here are some recommended plugins and their features:
WooCommerce: Sell Products and Services on Your Website
WooCommerce is a powerful e-commerce plugin that allows you to sell products and services directly from your site. It’s highly customizable and integrates seamlessly with WordPress, providing a comprehensive solution for online stores. Some add-ons for WooCommerce worth considering include:
- Subscriptions: The WooCommerce Subscriptions add-on enables you to accept recurring payments from your site, simplifying the process of managing subscriptions for products or services.
- Memberships: With the WooCommerce Memberships add-on, you can create a membership site and define membership levels based on users’ purchases. This feature allows you to offer exclusive content and benefits to members, enhancing user engagement and loyalty.
Elementor Pro: Elevate Your Design and Gain Access to All Elementor Features
Upgrading to Elementor Pro unlocks advanced design capabilities, allowing you to create more visually stunning and interactive websites. With Elementor Pro, you’ll gain access to additional widgets, templates, and features, such as a theme builder, form builder, and popup builder. This powerful toolkit helps you create unique, professional-looking websites with ease.
Form Builders: User-Friendly Solutions for Creating Forms
Adding a form builder plugin to your website enables you to create and manage custom forms for various purposes, such as contact forms, registration forms, and surveys. Here are two popular form builders to consider:
- Gravity Forms: A pioneer in the form builder space, Gravity Forms offers a comprehensive solution for creating and managing forms on your site. Its extensive range of features and add-ons makes it a versatile choice for both beginners and advanced users.
- Fluent Forms: As a solid alternative to Gravity Forms, Fluent Forms provides similar functionality while being more user-friendly for newcomers. Its clean interface and intuitive features make creating and managing forms on your site easy.
Integrating additional plugins into your site can significantly enhance its functionality and improve user experience. Plugins like WooCommerce, Elementor Pro, and form builders like Gravity Forms or Fluent Forms provide valuable features that help you create a robust, engaging, and versatile website tailored to your unique needs.
You’ve skillfully traversed the field manual to website design and, as a result, have crafted a robust, captivating, and secure site prepared to dominate the digital realm. Remember that maintaining and optimizing your site is a continuous endeavor – stay committed to learning, adapting, and advancing. With your newfound knowledge, you’re ready to march forward and triumph in the online world!
- What is a domain name? A domain name is the digital address where your site lives. It’s what users type into their browser’s address bar to access your site.
- Why should I secure my social channels? Securing your social channels helps create a cohesive brand identity, making it easier for users to find and follow you on multiple platforms.
- What is the purpose of Cloudflare? Cloudflare is a service that improves site performance and security by protecting your site from cyberattacks and accelerating page load times.
- Why is WordPress a popular choice for building websites? WordPress is versatile, user-friendly, and highly customizable, making it an excellent choice for creating sites with various features and functionalities.
- What are some essential plugins for a WordPress website? Some essential plugins include Elementor (page builder), Astra Starter Templates (pre-designed templates), RankMath (SEO), and Site Kit by Google (connecting your site to Google services).