Podcast Episode

267 – Best Way to Build a New Site


Is there a plugin for that?

With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.

For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.

Compress JPEG & PNG images speeds up your website. Optimize your JPEG and PNG images automatically with TinyPNG.

Best Way to Build a New Site

Build a new site, should I wipe out all of my existing plugins and start with a clean slate?

There are two approaches to this.

Start From Scratch

This is definitely the harder option.

Last year, when I launched my new site, I started with a clean slate and installed everything from scratch and only pulled certain database tables from my current site (posts, comments) and reconfigured all of the plugins I wanted to use. This helped to keep my database light and got rid of any settings that might have been left in there from old plugins. I developed the whole site locally, then when it was completely done, I pushed all my changes to my live server.

How to accomplish this method:

  • Start with a fresh version of WordPress. Remove any plugins or themes you won’t need from the default install. I like to do all of this locally with Desktop Server
  • Add your new theme / start building your new theme. I’d recommend using dummy content for the text (so you can see the layout of the site).
  • Add the necessary plugins as you develop the site. Remember, only the ones you need.
  • Once your theme starts to take shape, let’s add your content current content. I like to pull in particular database tables in with WP Migrate DB Pro. These are tables such as wp_posts, wp_postmeta, wp_comments, wp_commentmeta.
  • If your site has an eCommerce store, feel free to import all the products / orders so those pages can be designed as well.
  • When everything looks good on your local site, it’s time to launch!
  • For minimal downtime, manually upload your new WordPress theme and any additional plugins you’ve added.
  • Also create a new database and import your new data.
  • Change the credentials in ‘wp-config.php’ to point to new database and your new site will be live.

Modify Current Site

The other option is to build / configure your new theme on your current layout. The only thing is you might see a slight performance hit with the some of the old options in your database. It’s possible to remove these entries by manually deleting them from the wp_options table.

  • Create a clone of your site on Desktop Server. You can use the free Duplicator plugin to create a clone of your site
  • Build or configure your new theme
  • When you are happy with the new theme, upload it via FTP to your themes folder
  • Activate the new theme
  • If your theme has a settings panel, be sure to copy / duplicate settings to live site.

Thank You!

Thank you to those who use my affiliate links. As you know I make a small commission when someone uses my link and I want to say thank you to the following people. For all my recommended resources, go to my Resources Page

If you are interested in learning more about Desktop Server or WP Migrate DB Pro pleas check the resources page for more details.

Both of these tools will help you to more efficiently build your website

Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

Hello everybody welcome back to another episode of Your Website Engineer Podcast today. Today we will be talking about the best way to build a brand new WordPress website. But first there are some announcements that are happening this week in the WordPress space. The first one is WordPress 4.4.1 Security Maintenance Release has been released.

This happened on January 6, so last week, and it’s basically a security release. We want to make sure that there was non-security bugs, but there was also some security vulnerability, some cross-site scripting vulnerability that could allow a site to be compromised. All of those things were fixed. If you have the box checked to auto-update on the point releases, your website is probably already updated to 4.4.1. If not, head on over to your web post, your dashboard inside WordPress, and update that to the newest version to make sure that you have got your site safe and secure.

Another thing that’s happening in the WordPress – well, it’s not actually – I mean, it’s happening, now but it’s not a big announcement for right now, today. But WordPress 4.5 kicks off. It’s set to release in mid-April. Probably right around the end of February, the beginning of March, I’ll start to talk about the Beta versions available. We can start looking at some of the features, and some of the things that are actually going to be in this release.

It looks like, right now, as of this recording, three or four hours from now is when they’re going to actually set the stage for everything that’s going to be completed. That’s on January 12, 2016. Maybe there will be a little more information that I can share next week, after they’ve kind of finalized some of these new features that will be coming in 4.5.

All right, let’s see what else is in the news. This week there also came out – this was actually two weeks ago and I just haven’t had a chance to cover it – Automatic’s Word Ad Network is now open to self-posted WordPress sites. So Word Ads used to be pretty much the only way you could monetize a WordPress.com website, and you had to have a certain amount of traffic, a certain amount of visitors come to your website on a weekly or monthly basis. They would pay out a hundred dollars every time that you met that threshold.

Now there is a Word Ads – is now available. It is available through the Ad Control Plug-in. Word Ads is very similar to Google Ad Words. But it displays on your WordPress site. It does require Jetpack in order to work because it needs the site ID. It needs to connect with the Jetpack REST API. The payout in earnings is all done through Calypso, which is the new version of WordPress.com, and so you have to manage all that stuff there. If that’s something that’s interesting to you, there’s a link in the show notes for an article over on WP Tavern for more information. With that, let’s move on to the last announcement.

That is now all the WP 101 Tutorials that are there at WP101.com, are now close captioned which is really nice. If you want to be able to see without hearing, you can see. Everything has been transcribed, and those transcriptions are now on every single video, which is really, really cool. So that is another piece that I saw that was in the news this week.

All right, moving right along to the, “Is there a plugin for that?” section. I’m helping you, trying to figure out what are the best plugins that are out there when there are over 42,000 plugins in the WordPress repository.

The one that I came across this week is called Compress JPEG and PNG Images. There are several different plugins out there that will do this, but this is an interesting one that I found that has over 40,000 active installs. It basically, the tagline says, “Speed up your website. Optimize your JPEG and PNG images automatically with TinyPNG.” If this is something that you’re looking to do, if you want to compress those image files, you definitely want to check out this plugin. It is a free plugin of the repository, and you can find out more or the link to it directly from the show notes for Episode No. 267.

Today I want to talk about the best way to build a new website. This is a question that came in a few weeks ago. I thought, “Man, this is really a neat question, and something I don’t think I’ve ever talked about before in all of these shows – 266 shows previously – and I don’t think I ever really dove into this topic.” The question really is, “When I build a new site, should I wipe out all my existing plugins and start with a clean slate?”

I thought that was a really unique point of view, and so we’re going to tackle this and dive this. There’s actually just two different ways that we’re going to talk about today. The first way is we’re going to talk about start from scratch. Then the other way is going to be start with a clone of what you already have. Let’s go ahead and dive right in.

The first one that we’re going to talk about is the start-from-scratch version. This is going to be definitely much harder. There’s a lot more configuration. There’s a lot more set up and things that need to be done. But this one, I feel, is the better of the two options.

Yes, it’s going to take you a little bit. But it’s going to kind of get rid of all that junk kind of floating around on your website. There may be some database tables that you’re no longer needed that are kind of cluttering up things and whatnot. To start from scratch, you’re going to basically just set up your site from scratch and only add the things that you need.

Here’s how I tackled this problem last year. Basically I started with a fresh version of WordPress. I downloaded it from the repository and I got it set up locally on my computer using DesktopServer, and I removed all the themes and plugins that I didn’t need. I got rid of Hello Dolly because I don’t use it, and I got rid of all the extra themes that come with WordPress. You know the 2013, 2014, 2015 – all those plugins? I got rid of those.

Then what I started to do is I started to build my theme. When you first get started, when I was building the theme I didn’t necessarily need any content on my website, so I was okay with just kind of a blank thing, and I just let in the sample page, the sample post, the sample comment. I just left all that kind of stuff there, so I could really focus on getting the visuals, getting that design to look exactly like I wanted it to. I was building that theme out. I was getting everything laid out. I was getting the templates. I was doing all of those things.

You can also do this if you are buying a theme, or purchasing a theme, and setting those up with all their configurations. You can go ahead and just start doing that with the default content that’s already it that –with that base installation. You don’t need to worry about getting the data in there quite yet.

The next thing I would recommend as you’re doing this? Go ahead and add the plugins that you think you may need for the site. Remember, only the ones that you need. You don’t need – look at your list that you have on your old site. Maybe some of these other ones you can use Jetpack for, instead of a third-party plugin, or whatever that case may be.

I know that when I transitioned from one site to another, I think I went from maybe 35 or 40 plugins down to like 20, or even maybe it was 30 to 12. I forget what it was exactly, but I cut down on a lot of plugins, and I was only using the ones that I wanted. When you install those necessary plugins, you may want to have two windows open: one with your old site and one with your new site. Copy over the configurations maybe with the SEO plugins, the caching plugins, stuff like that. Make sure that they’re set up exactly the same.

Now the next thing that you want to do is once your theme is kind of taking shape, and you’re starting to see some things and visualizing, now you want to get in some of our current content. Remember, we’re not going to import everything because that’s just going to kind of mess things up. But what we want to do is we want to migrate certain tables into this new version of WordPress, or this new site that we’re working on. Some tables are like the WP underscore posts. We want to get the post meta, the comments, comment meta.

Even if you are running a store, you want to make sure that you’re pulling in all of the store products, sales, all that kind of stuff. We want to pull all this information in, just to make sure that we have a really good solid foundation of – this is what the majority of the content on the site is. Now you may have to do this a few times. I know that I had to do this a dozen or more times. Because as I got closer to launching, or the launch got pushed farther and farther back, then there was more and more content created on my main site that I had to massage and bring back. We’ll get to that step in just a second.

We want to import all that stuff, so we can start looking at it, making sure it looks good, and that we’re doing all the testing that we need to. We’re looking at it on our mobile devices. We’re looking at it on different size screens, and doing all that good stuff. Then when you’re happy with it, now it’s time to launch.

This launch process, I think, is pretty pain free. It doesn’t seem like it’s too big of a deal, and we’ll talk through that here right now. What we want to do is we want to upload our new theme to our website. What we can do is actually if –I’m trying to think here –you could just go ahead and upload it. I recommend doing it via FTP. You can just drag it into your folder where you have all of your stuff inside your hosting package. You could probably do this by uploading your theme to your – inside the WordPress dashboard, and you get that all set up. Or basically you’re just importing that. Just get that stuff imported, okay? Make sure that that theme file is on your server.

Then when you want to add any plugins that you may have added – you’re not quite ready to delete any plugins yet – but add all those extra plugins that you may have added that you’re not using currently on your website. Now here’s kind of where the tricky part gets. I would recommend creating a new database and import all your new data that’s hosted on your local website, or your development server, wherever that is. The reason I say that is because there’s a good chance that something could go wrong and you want to reverse this right away. You don’t want to overwrite your database, and then have to overwrite it again with a backup or anything along those lines.

If you create a brand new database, nobody’s ever going to know that you’re launching this brand new site until you do the very last step. The step is to go in and change the details inside the WP-Config file. Basically you want to just change it and point it to the new database, and you put a new user name and a new password in, and your site will be live. It’s as simple as that. Then you can go in, and you can uninstall any plugins that you may be using, and you can remove your old theme. You can do stuff like that, once you’ve checked to make sure everything’s working well, it all looks good, and things like that.

Now before you do that, again, I want to make sure that you have your data in sync. If you’re doing this all in one day, it’s not too big of a deal. You’re not going to lose a bunch of comments or a lot of orders, or things like that if you have an e-commerce site. But if this is done over the course of a few days, or even months like mine was, I used a plugin called WP Migrate DB Pro. I was able to easily pull in the database tables for those certain areas, so then I’d always have the latest and greatest posts and pages on my local site.

Then when I was ready to go, like once I had them all – both sites were equal. Both had all the posts and all the posts on both sites. Then what I was able to do is, I was able to just – I was confident when I took that development site, and I put that as a brand new database, and I knew that my content was brand new. When you do this there’s only going to be a little bit of downtime, if any. There may be some caching involved with some people. They may see the old site for a little bit.

That’s how I would go ahead and move a website from one place to another, or create a brand new website with all the current data. You don’t want to necessarily re-write all your posts because that, of course, would be silly. So that’s the best way that I can think of that you could re-launch a brand new website and with minimal, minimal downtime.

The other thing that you could do, and this one is a much simpler option. This option is you could configure it over your current layout, and your current themes, and currently whatever you have. The only thing that you may have a problem with in this version is there may be some performance hits, just minute performance hits because there may be some extra settings and things in the database that wouldn’t get wiped out by continuing to use the same database. It isn’t a big deal, but it’s something to think about and consider.

What I would do is, I would go to my current site. I would go in and I would use the free plugin duplicator. You can create a complete clone of your site. Then if you are using DesktopServer, if you have the full version of DesktopServer, you can actually import with a duplicator. You can go ahead and set up a site, so now you’ve got your local site that looks identical to your live site.

Then what you do is, you can go ahead and you can configure your theme. You can add new plugins there. You can do whatever you want on your local site or your development server, and you can get everything set up exactly like you’d like it to be. Then when you’re happy with it, you can take that theme, and you can FTP it up to your themes folder. You can add it via the dashboard.

Then you activate your new theme. Then if your theme has settings panels, like if it’s a maybe one of the WU themes, or something that has a lot of settings and configuration inside the WordPress dashboard, you want to make sure that you either export those and import them into your new site, or you do a side-by-side comparison and copy and paste, and copy and paste, and copy and paste, until your live site looks exactly like your new site, or your dead site looks exactly like the live – one of those things. I’ve got them confused. When your both sites look the same, then you know everything is set up and configured properly.

Again, there’s a lot less steps in that process. But it’s also a very great way to do it. It’s a very simple way to do it. That may be the easiest way. Maybe technically if you don’t want to get into a lot of moving tables around in the database, and copying, and pasting, and moving stuff around, this is going to be the recommended way to do that type of a refresh to your website. That’s kind of what I wanted to share with you today.

Those are the two different ways, so you can pretty much nuke and pave. You can start all over. Then you can run concurrent websites. Believe me; I did. My development for yourwebsiteengineer.com took about four months because I wasn’t doing it full time. It was in nights and evenings, and I had a new baby. It was kind of hard. There was literally times where I was like, “Okay, I’m almost ready.” Then it would be two or three weeks, and then I had to import all my content to my dead site again, make sure everything looked good.

Then I could take that brand new database, and create that new database on my hosting site. It was kind of a pain and a headache for a little while. But I feel like, for me, it was much better because I’d been using the same theme for five years. There was a lot of extra stuff that was in the database that I wanted to get rid of. That’s the reason that I chose the nuke-and-pave route.

The last thing that I wanted to share in this episode, if you’re interested in learning more about either DesktopServer or WP DB Migrant Pro, I’ve got links to those on the Resources page. You can find links to them in the show notes as well. Both of these tools will help you more efficiently build your websites. They’ll help you move them, modify them, make them go and do exactly what you want them to do. Those are my two absolute recommended tools. They are something when the renewal comes up I don’t even flinch. I just go ahead and renew them because they are so that important to me.

That’s what I wanted to share with you this week. Thanks so much for tuning in. I’m trying to do a little bit more batching of shows this week and creating videos that go along with these shows. Be sure, be on the lookout for that as well. Let’s see how well and how long I can actually keep this process going. If things go well, I’m going to try to create a video of how to do this – very simply, of course. That way you could see what I’m talking about in these podcasts. That’s all I wanted to share with you this week. Take care and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Leave a Reply