Turning a Static HTML Site into a WordPress Theme: Why, How & More
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With the release of version 4.1 “Dinah”, WordPress now powers over 60 million websites across the web and is being used by many well-known sites like Forbes, TechCrunch, GigaOM and CNN. Due to the rapid growth in popularity of WordPress in recent years, more and more people are now in favor of moving their static HTML sites to WordPress.
Running your site on WordPress platform proves to be beneficial for you in many ways, out of which “easy content management” is the one. In this blog post, firstly I’ll make you familiar with reasons that inspire people to adopt WordPress. After that, I’ll take you through the process of converting an HTML site to WordPress. Later, I’ll be telling you what things you should do after migration.
Why to go from Static HTML to WordPress?
Below are some solid reasons why people move to WordPress:
#Easy to Use: First and foremost reason, WordPress is extremely user-friendly. Anyone having adequate knowledge of computer and internet can setup and manage a WordPress site without any hassle. Regardless of who you are, a professional developer or a non-techie, you can get up and running with WordPress in just five minutes. Strictly speaking, everything from software installation to code modification to content publication is a breeze in WordPress.
#SEO Friendly: WordPress is built to embrace search engine spiders and crawlers and therefore, it attracts a huge amount of organic traffic to your site. Having a clean code structure and packed with several search optimization tools, such as permalinks, blogroll and pingback, WordPress ensures your site would get higher rankings in search engine results. In addition, it allows you to take advantage of third party plug-ins for better SEO of your site.
#Scalable and Flexible: As WordPress is an extremely customizable and highly expandable CMS, you’ll be able to give your site any look and functionality that you desire. It allows you to choose from a wide range of themes so that you could create any website of your taste. Also, there are a myriad of plug-ins available to let you enhance WordPress’ core functionality. Thus, the possibilities of what can be done with WordPress are endless.
#Cost and Time Effective: As WordPress is open-source software, it’ll not affect your bank account unlike traditional websites do. Most of the WordPress themes and plug-ins are available to use for free. Means, you don’t need to spend a lot of time and money on a developer to have minor changes in the design and functionality of your site. With WordPress, you can do them by yourself.
#Strong Community Support: WordPress is backed by a large and always growing community. So if you need any help regarding your website, there will always be someone there to assist you. There is no need to call a developer every time you want some editing in the code and content of your site. Just post your problems there and get them resolved by experts for free in minutes.
#Trouble-free Upgrades: Websites built with WordPress take less time to upgrade as compared to static ones. In WordPress, using an FTP program such as FileZilla, you can take your website to a whole new level with a few mouse clicks. Unlike classic HTML websites, there is no need to mess with complex firewall settings or any other software.
#Multi-User Capability: Being a multi-user capable platform, WordPress lets you control who can do what within your site. You as a site owner can assign a specific role to each of your users, allowing them to perform a set of tasks. For example, you can set up your editor with a user account where he is allowed only to add and edit content to your site. Try this with a static HTML site!!
#Safe and Secure: Since its launch, WordPress has been updated more than 25 times. What do these all updates mean? Obviously, security! WordPress team is continuously working hard to make WordPress world’s most secure and reliable CMS. That’s the reason a site built with WordPress is secure enough to deal with any kind of malicious intent.
How to Migrate from Static HTML Site to WordPress?
If you’re ready to switch to WordPress, below are four steps following which you can move your existing HTML website to WordPress platform efficiently and effectively.
#Analyze Your Existing HTML Site: This is the first and foremost step that you should follow before you’re going to convert your static HTML site to a WordPress theme. Check your site for irrelevant or outdated content and if found, clean it up. Examine the existing navigation system and think how it can be improved. Also, don’t forget to dig into hidden elements such as contact page, registration forms and email subscription etc.
Doing your HTML site analysis would help you decide what content, features and functionalities should be migrated to WordPress. Consequently, you would have a clear idea about what plug-ins you need to install for getting the same functionality on WordPress platform. Remember, migration is the perfect time to assess whether the content of your site is worthy or not.
#Get to Know WordPress: Once you have analyzed your static HTML site, the next step is to familiarize yourself with WordPress. This can be done by installing WordPress on a local computer or with your web hosting provider. WordPress installation is a quite easy process and therefore, I don’t think you would face any kind of trouble. Most web hosts offer one-click quick install and in case you do get stuck, please contact your web host.
After finishing the installation, understand how WordPress works and try to find out which plug-ins would prove to be extremely helpful after migration process. Additionally, using “Settings” menu in the WordPress Dashboard, choose your permalink structure and disallow search engines to index your site during migration.
#Do a Thorough Backup of Your HTML Site: Even if you have taken back-up of your old static site many times, you must not skip this step. I strongly recommend you to “take a complete backup of your static site once more” in order to avoid any risk of data loss while migrating. Remember, backups take very little effort and time but still are absurdly ignored.
Hence as a precaution, have a tested backup saved in multiple locations (such as DVD, hard drive or hosting backup server) so that you could restore your site in case something goes wrong. As well, I suggest you not to tinker with your site in live mode even if you feel whatever you're doing is right.
Assuming you have sufficient coding knowledge and your site is small, the best option possible in front of you is to divide your existing HTML code into four sections (header, footer, sidebar and content) and then copy the content of each section into its respective PHP file. In case your site is large, you can take advantage of an HTML to WordPress plug-in, like HTML Import 2, to give your conversion process a boost.
What to do after the migration?
Once the conversion is completed, you need to do a few things to give your WordPress site the final touch. They are mentioned below:
- Install Necessary Plug-ins: To supercharge your brand new WordPress site with same functionalities as HTML site, install plug-ins that you found handy.
- Check and Fix Broken Links: Check your website for broken links (404 errors) and if found, fix them as soon as possible. You can make use of Google Webmaster Tools for this task.
- Set-up a Custom 404 Error Page: Add a custom 404 error page to take your visitors to important sections of your WordPress site, in case they try to access any URL that doesn't exist.
- Redirect Links: To inform search engines that your website’s content has been moved to a new web address, set up 301 redirects. For this purpose, you can use Simple 301 Redirect or Redirection plug-in.
- Enable Search Engine Indexing: Go to “Settings --> Reading” in your WordPress dashboard and check “Allow search engines to index this site” to get your site indexed by search engines.
- Generate and Submit XML Sitemap: To ensure your site would be included in search engine results as fast as possible, create an XML sitemap using plug-in like Google XML Sitemaps or XML Sitemaps and submit it to Google.
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