3 min Read
July 25, 2011

The One-Hour Website: Bootstrap Your Next Online Initiative with WordPress

Guest Blogger

Guest post from Jereme Bivins, Social Media Manager at The Foundation Center. He is a former progressive political operative, turned nonprofit digital marketing & communications specialist. He tweets by day @fdncenter.

Time for a re-design, but the mere thought sends shivers down your spine? You’re not alone. Few things intimidate us as easily and as completely as technology, so we find countless excuses to avoid upgrading, re-designing, or launching:  “We’d love to re-design our site, but we don’t have the money… the board will never approve it… I have no idea how to do that… it’s not my job… it’s not your job…”

So, even though you know your website needs an overhaul, you wait…

Enter Amanda McCormick of Jelly Bean Boom, and the wonders of WordPress – it’s not just for blogs anymore. At this month’s 501TechNYC event, Amanda explained that WordPress is an, “Open Source Content Management Framework,” which essentially means it can host your website. WordPress is a great tool for “rapid, scalable development that is built around content,” and it can be remarkably inexpensive to implement. Check out some of Amanda’s key tips on getting started below:

‘Waiting for Dot Com.’ Naturally, one of the first things you’ll need is a web address to call your own. You can find a host like GoDaddy for as little as $3.99 a month and it doesn’t take long to sign up. Many of these are ready to work with WordPress sites and you can even find a list of pre-approved WordPress hosts.

Think of your website as a box with a standard layout: header, body, sidebar, and footer. This box is where all of your content goes. No matter how fancy or utilitarian the site, this concept makes the design scheme simple and gives you a framework to start from.

Don’t think – do! Experience is the best teacher, so just get started. Set up a “sandbox” – your own private place to play – to familiarize yourself with WordPress’ different fonts, features, themes, plug-ins, etc., until you’re ready for primetime.  Since your sandbox is private, it’s also a great place to learn basic HTML and CSS, especially if you’re not sure what you’re doing. Remember, if you’re going to play with code, copy and paste the original HTML/CSS into a Word document just in case you don’t like latest creation.

Don’t re-invent the wheel. You don’t have to be a designer to get started. Check out other WordPress-powered sites to find out which themes you like best. Try whetting your palate with some of the sites WordPress highlights. Changing your theme is simple. Don’t be afraid to try a few out before you publish.

Customize. Personalize. Socialize. Your WordPress site is not a blog. Customize it with features that your fans and followers want to see, and that you want to show them. Add events, call-to-action buttons, tailored landing pages, and make it easy for them to ‘Like’ your Facebook page, engage with you on Twitter, and share your content. Plug-ins will let you add plenty of great functions, but remember that these are designed mostly by third parties and unintended bugginess could be part of the package.

Never stop learning, never stop playing. WordPress is a popular platform, so it’s easy to discover new widgets, plug-ins, and tutorials scattered across the web. Check out YouTube for ‘How-To’ videos, and, when in doubt, Google it. You’ll turn up plenty of tips and tricks on features and customizations.

Now you’re ready to go. No more waiting, no more excuses, no more procrastination! Roll-up your sleeves and start building your next site on WordPress. You only need to spare an hour.

The next 501TechNYC event will be on August 17: Nonprofits and IT: Lessons from Sysadmin Country. Hope to see or tweet with you there!

What’d I miss? Leave your WordPress tips in the comments below, and leave the address of any great WordPress sites you’ve come across.