I am building a new self hosted WordPress web site for a family member and I thought I would blog along with my progress.  This is Part 1 “The Beginning”.  I hope other people trying to do the same can learn something from my account of my own experience and also that I can benefit from comments/ feedback from readers 🙂

First let me set the context.  My family member wants to set up a business web site: something to showcase the products he sells, allow people to buy online and for people to communicate with him in two ways: he can publish an embedded blog to publish news about his business and so that people can contact him by email, phone and also interact with his site.

He’s new to web sites in general and wants a site that he can ultimately manage rather than have me manage for him.  In reality it will be a bit of both as he really does not want to learn enough “IT” to do everything but he wants to be able to do things that matter to his business like maintain his products, photos, descriptions, prices; take and process orders; etc, etc.

He has hundreds of products and I knew it was going to take a while to get all of the “assets” together to set the site up properly.  Much of the work to do this would be pre the site being created e.g. getting images ready, creating files with the product details, ready to load onto the site when it was ready.

A key goal for me was to make sure he didn’t have to do the set up work more than once and that he didn’t lose of his work along the way.

In the background while this was happening, I asked him to sketch out the site he envisaged in terms of look and feel.  In response he showed me a lot of other web sites from peers in the industry, competitors, customers, etc.  He was really happy when I told him that WordPress could do any of those 🙂

I explained that much of what he was seeing was just the ‘user interface’ on top, underneath was the same stuff that I could create for him in WordPress: a product catalog, Home page with featured products, a Shop with the product categories, ways of customers searching for products with the attributes they were looking for e.g. colour, size, material, price, eCommerce facilities (using WooCommerce), a Blog, A Contact Us page, etc.

I set him up a basic site to demonstrate things using Frameworks and Plugins from my favourite WordPress development resources:

  • WPMU DEV – over arching frameworks, backup/ recovery, SEO, management
  • Themify.me – for some nice themes and user interface/ experience elements
  • Jetpack – for security, monitoring, etc.
  • ServerPress – for a local development environment on my Mac

he liked what he saw and I told him that we would do a lot more later on when the content for the site was ready.

So on he plowed getting the content ready: hundreds of photos, renaming each to feed into the site SEO later on and also thinking about the product categories he would group them by later on in the product catalog/ shop.

We are now preparing to load all of the photos onto the initial site using WordPress’s Media manager upload facility.  I have installed WP SMUSH PRO from WPMU DEV to optimise the photos we load up and test runs have been promising.  I am also trying out the new Hummingbird plug in which tests your site for performance and suggests improvements.

We are also preparing to link all of the photos to the images.  I have created some template csv files to house all of the information we need and will use the pro version of WooCommerce CSV Importer by ALLAERG.org to upload all of the details.

To ensure we don’t have to do too much manual editing on the site once everything is uploaded I am using a workflow I can run again and again, fixing things along the way to get things ‘perfect’.

  • I use ServerPress to set up the basic site
  • Take a snapshot of the site before a major import run
  • Import everything
  • Check the results
  • Rinse and repeat if anything big needs to be corrected – recover from the snapshot, fix the import files, other content, and run again

Its early days but the workflow tested out well and it means we can do stuff in bulk before loading it onto the site.  Its a great learning experience and we are tuning things as we go and building skills and knowledge for next time 🙂

I’ll report back at the next checkpoint, probably in a couple of weeks.  Its not that we are working on this full time, its a part time labour of love, snippets of time on nights and weekends.  The goal for the site is to go live by July this year… no hurry 😀

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