Seven Website-Building Tips for Beginners

We recently shared how to set up a fixed front page for those of you who want an online presence that’s more like a website, not a blog. Here are seven more tweaks that will refine your website and move it closer to your vision.

Add a contact page

If you’re building a website for a business, consulting gigs, or professional work, offer a method for people to contact you. Take a peek at our resource on evergreen page content — which discusses contact pages — then follow these steps to add a contact form to a page.

Explore creative ways to use the contact form.

Here’s an example of a simple, well-designed Contact page on the website of traveler and freelance writer Tricia Mitchell:

Create a custom menu with essential pages

Browse these 10 About pages we love for inspiration.

So, you’ve got a Contact page, an About page, and other important pages, like Services, FAQs, or Team pages. Now what? Make sure visitors actually see these can’t-miss pages by adding them to your menu.

You can also include other items in a menu: a category, a specific post, or even a link to an external site, like your Etsy shop.

Create a new menu, or update an existing one, in My Site → Customize → Menus. You may have one main menu or several menus in different locations, depending on your current theme — refer to your theme’s showcase page for details.

Activate a full-width page template

Browse themes that support a full-width page template.

You may not want to display a sidebar for extras like widgets. Some themes have a Full-Width Template option, so you can configure any page to be a single column.

Not sure if a full-width template is right for you? Let’s see two different templates in action on the same theme. Group theology blog Biblical Reasoning uses the Hemingway Rewritten theme’s default template: all of their pages, including the homepage, include a right sidebar. In this area, they include widgets like a Search Widget, a short welcome note in a Text Widget, the Authors Widget, the RSS Links Widget, and more.

At Life with Json, automotive photographer Jason Hoang uses the same theme, but configures his pages with the full-width template, which creates a very different look with no sidebar:

If your theme supports a full-width template, you can activate it when creating or editing a page — look for Page Attributes on the right. Select the appropriate option (Full Width, No Sidebar) in the dropdown menu under Page Template.

Update your sidebar or footer

If you do display a sidebar or footer on your website, keep these areas tidy and update them often — you don’t ever want to promote stale information!

Explore how other authors use widgets to promote their books.

Take a peek at the website of author and Newbery medalist Kelly Barnhill. She prominently promotes her books at the top, using Image Widgets that link to her books’ Amazon pages.

The Text and Custom HTML Widgets are simple but powerful tools.

Similarly, the collaborative blog The Disorder of Things uses widgets that are relevant to its publication: it displays its many authors in a grid of circular avatar images, achieved with custom HTML in a Text Widget (the Authors Widget is an alternative if you don’t want to play around with HTML). The site highlights writing and recommended websites and resources further down the sidebar, once again using a versatile Text Widget.

Pro tip: you can control where a widget appears on your website, displaying it only on specific pages. Explore the Visibility option for more.

Update your footer credit

An easy way to distinguish your site? Change the default credit text in your footer (“Create a free website or blog at”). Go to My Sites → Customize → Site Identity, scroll down to Footer Credit, and switch the default text to A Website. (Some of the other options will work as well, too.)

Set up a social links menu

Another must for your new website? A menu for your social channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Many of our themes have a built-in social menu with icons that link to your social profiles — here’s an example on the Independent Publisher 2 theme, used by Raoul Pop:

You can add this menu in My Site → Customize → Menus. Refer to your theme’s support page and our video tutorial for details.

Disable features like comments and sharing buttons

If you have a business website or professional portfolio, hide comments and sharing buttons at the bottom of your pages for a clean and distraction-free experience.

Tricia Mitchell at Travels with Tricia disables commenting and sharing at the bottom of every page (and also has a minimal, professional footer with a search field, social icons, and copyright and terms of service text).

You may prefer to keep comments open on some of your pages to encourage discussions, as Emily Polis Gibson demonstrates at Barnstorming. But generally, with page comments disabled, you can funnel correspondence and questions from readers or clients through your Contact page or social channels instead (or blog posts, if you maintain a blog).

To disable comments on pages, go to My Site → Site Pages and open a page, then click on More Options at the right. Scroll down to Discussion and uncheck the boxes next to Allow comments.

To hide your sharing buttons, go to My Site → Sharing → Sharing Buttons, scroll down to Options, and uncheck the box next to Pages.

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April 19, 2018Business, Design,