Essential Resources For Designing A WordPress Site

Essential Resources For Designing A WordPress Site

Building a new WordPress website can be a challenge—especially if you’re responsible for all the design decisions, and you’re just starting out. Even if you’re an experienced web designer, you’re going to need to learn new skills in order to make WordPress work for you. And it’s highly recommended, as the rewards for good WordPress skills pay off in easier maintenance, management, and all around user-friendliness for you and everyone else that deals with the site backend.

We’ve put together a starter pack, if you will—the five things everyone must have in order to take a site from conception to launch with minimal previous exposure to WordPress theme design. Note that most of the items on this list are categories rather than specific tools—the WordPress development world is very diverse, and you’ll want to have plenty of options as you get started.

Bonus: This WordPress guide will show you what to do for every step of WordPress site development. If you’re having a problem, or just want to refer to a very quick best practices guide, start here.

1. Tutorials

While we think WordPress is definitely the easiest way to get a good-looking website up and running, that doesn’t mean that it’s just something you can pick up without working for it. Web Design Fan has a great list of the 20 best WordPress tutorial blogs currently available.

A word to the wise about the tutorials list: Not all tutorials are designed the same way. For absolute beginners, something like WPTutorials or TutsPlus is more appropriate. If you’re a bit more advanced, but would like good tips on making elements come together, hit the magazines—Smashing, Speckyboy, and the like. And, of course, there are great tutorials between those two extremes as well.

2. A Template

We’re going to go ahead and recommend two themes right away: Thematic and Responsive. Thematic is designed for theme development—that is, it’s a theme built for people who want to build their own themes. Responsive is also very extensible, but it’s designed specifically for sites that are targeting multiple platforms, such as phones and tablets.

This is not to say there aren’t other great theme templates out there—if neither of these seems to meet your needs, spend some time on the WordPress Themes page and find one that’s just right for you.

3. Dummy text

This may sound silly, but writing lengthy bits of nonsense is hard, and it’s essentially impossible to tell what your site will look like without some text. Here’s a list of the top five dummy content plugins, from WPMU, that’ll fill all your lorem ipsum needs.

4. Images

No website would be complete without pictures, but it can be difficult to find high-quality images in a palette your discerning designer eye approves of. Happily, Shutterstock has a brilliant solution: the Shutterstock Pantone Project, a series of posts that present a group of images in pre-chosen swatches.

There are plenty of other swatches available, if Olympian Blue doesn’t strike your fancy. Keep your eyes on this page, though—there are still a few more installments in the works, and all of the swatch posts thus far have been great.

5. A Reference Guide

After you’ve gone through all the work of learning how to do WordPress right, you wouldn’t want to forget it all. Besides, who can remember every little thing about the development process? Even experienced designers are known to occasionally steal a glance at a cheat sheet. Here’s TutsPlus’s repository of reference guides.

The thing to remember about reference guides is that they’re just as varied as the tutorials. If you’re looking for a basic reference, this sheet is about the right speed. There are other sheets for SEO, theme development, widgets, and plugins, and not just on TutsPlus. Figure out where you’re going to be spending most of your time, and grab those cheat sheets.

It’s important to remember that the tools are just that—tools, the things you use to make your creative vision real. Now that you know how to find the right ones, focus on the end goal, and your website will be a surefire hit.

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