In the past few weeks I’ve built – and rebuilt – two sites. It wasn’t a fun experience, but it was necessary.

The purpose of this post is to help you. If you find yourself in a similar position, where you need to setup a site with limited funds and limited time, hopefully the information below will help!

Frameworks & Foundations

When I first started with website design, options were limited. For the most part we coded it by hand. We either did this in a simple text editor or an IDE, like Dreamweaver.

Nowadays, things are easier. Ok, maybe easier isn’t the correct word, but you get the idea – just about anyone can create a website, and you don’t need to be a developer to do so.

So what are your options?

Well, you can still code it by hand, if you want. Or, you can use one of the big three site creation tools:

WordPress
Joomla
Drupal

* Another option is Octopress.

Are there others? Absolutely. But, these are the big players in my book.

Note: The rest of this post will focus on WordPress because it’s what I use on 90% of the sites I manage.

WordPress Themes

There are almost as many themes as there are grains of sand on the beach. Ok, maybe not that many, but there are a lot!

My recommendation is to find a theme you like before adding any real content to your site. Usually my process goes something like this:

  1. Install WordPress.
  2. Add some dummy content.
  3. Search for a nice theme until one is found.
  4. Delete site.
  5. Reinstall WordPress (clean copy).
  6. Install theme that was found in step 3.
  7. Add plugins and content (see below for help with that).

Why do I install WordPress twice?

Simple. I like a nice clean database. Some of these themes can muck around with things. I don’t like having things I don’t use just laying around (if I were divorced, this would make for a good joke!).

Is this a necessary step? Not at all. It’s just something I do and have always felt like the extra time was worth it.

Up next… plugins!

WordPress Plugins

Plugin choices will be driven by what you plan to do with your site. With that in mind, I think every site – regardless of its function – may benefit from these:

  • All in One SEO
    All in One SEO Pack is a WordPress SEO plugin to automatically optimize your WordPress blog for Search Engines such as Google.

  • Custom Content Shortcode
    Display posts, pages, custom post types, fields, images, attachments, comments, files, menus, widget areas.

  • Jetpack by WordPress.com
    Jetpack adds powerful features previously only available to WordPress.com users including customization, traffic, mobile, content, and performance tools.

  • Ninja Forms
    Forms created with a simple drag and drop interface. Contact forms, Email collection forms, or any other form you want on your WordPress site.

  • Simple Follow Me Social Buttons Widget
    Add follow me social buttons. Uses font icons, ready for Retina Display.

  • Simple Lightbox
    Simple Lightbox is a very simple and customizable lightbox that is easy to add to your WordPress website.

Additional Plugins (honorable mentions)
These are some other plugins I think are worth having. I didn’t include them in the list above because their uses are narrowly focused.

  • Duplicator
    Duplicate, clone, backup, move and transfer an entire site from one location to another.

  • Groups
    Groups is an efficient and powerful solution, providing group-based user membership management, group-based capabilities and content access control.

  • Login-Logout
    Widget with login, logout, admin and register links. Replacement of the default Meta widget.

  • MailChimp Forms by MailMunch
    The #1 MailChimp plugin to get more email subscribers. Easily add MailChimp sign-up forms as popup, embedded widget or sticky top bar.

  • Users Ultra
    Users Ultra is the ideal plugin for creating advanced user communities & networks in few minutes. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Google.

In Conclusion

These recommendations are just that – recommendations. They’re not meant to be the definitive guide to creating a website. They’re simply a list of resources I wish I had when I was working on justwritecode.net and roundaboutfm.com.

With any luck, this post will save you a little time – and money.

As a bonus for reading this post until the end – you did do that, right? – here’s a tip on where to find some awesome images for your site: Pixabay.