Website 101

I’ve given this “lesson” many times over the years, so it’s high time I post it here so it’s preserved and readily available. This begins with “the 3 things you need to have for a website” and then takes each of those a couple of steps further.

The Basics: 3 things you need for website:

  1. Domain name: These tend to cost around $15/year, plus/minus a buck or two. If you want to go the totally free route, then several online web hosting companies offer you free websites with free subdomains. A subdomain is a domain “under” a domain, and appears as a word before the main domain, such as or mycoolwebsite. That’s ok, but not very professional looking — and I’m surprised sometimes to run across a business website that appears quite professional, clearly wants to look professional, yet uses a free subdomain web hosting solution, instead of spending a few $$$ a month to have a “real” domain — that is, an actual domain registered to them, rather than just a subdomain.
  2. Web Hosting account: This is whoever you’re paying to host your website. If you’re paying more than $7 – $10/month, you’re paying more than you need to be… If you’re unhappy with who you’re paying now, we can talk about this… Most hosting companies —all the biggies— are about the same on basic tech stuff, all that “99.9% uptime” talk… so in my opinion the one thing that is so important and separates the good from the great, is this: Do they have 24/7/365 toll-free phone support and also 24/7/365 online chat support, and are they both US-based in-house (rather than being transferred to Bangalor or Saigon or wherever, after hours)? I use HostMonster and BlueHost; they’re in Utah— and in fact I think these two companies are actually the same company, and they each offer that level of support, all in-house (i.e. people who work for them, not 3rd party out-sourced support), and they have always been great, never not solved any issue quickly… and they’re very reasonably priced…
    I recommend Blue Host ( because they have all you’d want from a web hosting company, and offer very good tech support: 24/7/365 toll-free phone and chat support. Their phone support is always US-based, techs working at their Orem, UT headquarters; their chat support is outsourced to Asia after hours, but I have never had an issue they were not able to solve. And, if you use my “affiliate” link, I get paid for the referral — which will earn you an hour of my time helping you get started!
  3. Finally, Content: The actual words, images, videos, etc. that comprise the content of your website. This of course is the “biggie” that will take most of your time…

Next: Websites these days must be “responsive” i.e. “mobile ready”

  • Your current site was probably built years ago, and while mobile browsers know how to handle any website ok, you may have looked at your site on a smart phone and realized how much better it could/should look…
  • There are 2 basic ways to build a website: static or dynamic:
    • Static means each page and the whole site is built basically by hand, and changes likewise are all done “manually”… (There are of course lots of software tools, but the idea is the same.)
    • Dynamic means you’re using a “content management system” (CMS) and most CMS use a database on the backend, and then code to assemble pages from the database. PHP-MySQL is by far the predominant technologies used… All decent CMS tools now include mobile-ready responsive design options, plus they tend to be much easier to update and maintain by regular non-geek people, like restauranteurs, artists, small business people… I highly recommend going that way. (See for more on this.)

Go WordPress!

  • WordPress (WP) is the world’s #1 most popular CMS, by orders of magnitude over everything else. Like most of the other top CMS tools, it’s free open source software, maintained by a veritable army of geeks who love to code — and fix and improve code… Check out to learn more; check out to see more of what they give away free to the world, as well as a bit of how they support themselves to do so…
  • Check out my portfolio at to see some of the sites I’ve built and/or rebuilt; some I still maintain, others are in the hands of their owners… See for my blog posts about WP; haven’t posted anything in a while… See to see some amazing examples of what can be done with WP… And if you happen to be BMW, NBC Sports, or Facebook, you might want to consider WordPress VIP Services.


25 Cool Websites Built with WordPress

The folks at Elegant Themes have again done the work for us: check out their recent (Jan. 8, 2016) post sharing 25 cool websites built using WordPress: The sites are:

  • Gisi Design – a German brand company website.
    Highlights: Runs on the X Theme – ThemeForest’s most popular WordPress theme; beautiful transitions and animations
  • Who Is Leon? – a personal site for a UI/UX developer in Dallas, TX.
    Highlights: Innovative transition effects are coupled with an elegant flat design to create a cutting edge effect
  • Mercedes-Benz – one of the world’s largest brands that has its international site running on WordPress.
    Highlights: A slick and high-end looking custom theme; highlights the images and videos of its cars.
  • Katy Perry – One of many huge celebrities that use WordPress for their websites.
    Highlights: Parallax scrolling visuals, with large background images that change as you make your way down the page. Social media has a big focus here too.
  • Fair Ivy – A gift subscription service
    Highlights: Uses another of ThemeForest’s most popular themes, The Retailer; a clean and elegant look that’s easy to navigate.
  • Outward Bound Croatia – an outdoor adventure organization
    Highlights: Uses the Integrity theme from; gorgeous imagery.
  • Happy In My Skin – A wellness therapy website
    Highlights: Uses the Renew theme from; a look that’s calm, serene and spa-like while highlighting just the essentials.

And 15 more… The Elegant Themes article includes screenshots so you can see what these sites look like as well. Check it out!

100 Best FREE WP Themes (WPMUDev)

Once again, the folks at bring us a great resource: they spent many many hours scouring through the WP database of free themes, and identified these 100 best themes. Rather than copy the whole article, or even partial (where do you draw the line?), I’ll simply share with you the list of theme titles. I highly recommendc you check out their article, at For each theme, they offer a brief summary, a list of key features, a screenshot, and links to the demo and download pages at

So, here’s the opening paragraphs of their article, followed by the list of themes, followed by their closing and some comments in which people suggest a few more excellent free themes. As they say, it can take hours and hours to dig through the theme database, so use their article as a handy shortcut.

The WordPress Themes Directory is a truly fantastic resource, offering thousands of themes for download at no cost. However, the sheer volume of themes contributes to the repository’s less user-friendly side. Of those thousands of themes, many will not be up to the standard you require. And with somewhat limited search and filtering tools, it can be extremely difficult to find the right theme for your WordPress website.

Fortunately, that’s where this resource comes in. We’ve taken the time (a long time!) to trawl through the directory and carefully selected what we consider to be the best 100 free WordPress themes available. So rather than settling in for the long haul on, take a few minutes out of your day to peruse the 100 best free themes you’ll find right here.

Of course, this list is completely subjective. If you’ve come across a theme that hasn’t been included, do let us know in the comments.

  • Accelerate
  • AccessPress Parallax
  • Adventurous
  • Advertica Lite
  • Alhena Lite
  • Baskerville
  • BoldR Lite
  • Book Lite
  • Bota
  • Bushwick
  • Business One
  • Casper
  • Catch Flames
  • Catch Kathmandu
  • Circumference Lite
  • Convac Lite
  • CW Magazine
  • CWP YouIT
  • DailyPost
  • Decode
  • Discover
  • Discovery
  • Edin
  • Enigma
  • Enlightenment
  • Espied
  • Esteem
  • Fashionista
  • First
  • FlatOn
  • Food Recipes
  • Foodeez Lite
  • Garfunkel
  • Geekery
  • GK Portfolio
  • Griffin
  • Hathor
  • Health Centre Lite
  • Heavenly
  • Hemingway
  • Hiero
  • Highwind
  • Hoffman
  • Hueman
  • Iconic One
  • Ignite
  • Influence
  • Interface
  • Invert Lite
  • Isis
  • Isola
  • Klasik
  • Klean
  • MesoColumn
  • Metro CreativeX
  • MH Magazine Lite
  • Minamaze
  • Moesia
  • MyWiki
  • NewsFrame
  • Pictorico
  • Pink Touch 2
  • Point
  • Quality
  • Quark
  • Radcliffe
  • Radiate
  • Rambo
  • Rams
  • RokoPhoto Lite
  • Ryu
  • Saga
  • Sampression Lite
  • Sauron
  • Singl
  • Sketch
  • SKT Full Width
  • Snaps
  • Spacious
  • Sparkling
  • Spasalon
  • Sporty
  • Start Point
  • Storefront
  • Striker
  • Superhero
  • Syntax
  • THBusiness
  • The Box
  • Tonal
  • Tracks
  • Travelify
  • Unconditional
  • Unite
  • Untitled
  • Virtue
  • Weblizar Lite
  • WikiWP
  • Wilson
  • Zerif Lite

In Closing

Just as almost every round-up post is incomplete, there were some beautiful themes that didn’t quite make the cut. You’ve got to draw a line somewhere, right? However, any of the themes highlighted above would make a great choice for your own website.

But did we miss any? What free WordPress themes do you love to use regularly that we didn’t include above? Let us know in the comments below.

  • Hi Tom, thanks a lot for including our popular magazine theme – that’s much appreciated! 🙂 We also have some other nice free WordPress themes available:
  • Thank you for all the hard work and research. I teach a WordPress class at my University and will share with my students today. I have always cautioned about the use of “free” themes, but I trust the recommendation of WPMUDEV.
  • Thanks for including 4 of our themes Tom. We have a few more free themes available that we have equal love for!
  • No mention of GeneratePress? 100+ 5 star reviews and close to 200,000 downloads?
  • I just set up GeneratePress and put it through its paces. It’s VERY good. Great features, and almost as much code flexibility as Genesis, for instance, with its many hooks. btw, to clarify, I also noticed no demo, then I realized that their entire site for the theme is running it! So in a sense it’s a particularly real demo. 🙂
  • I have my own list here:
  • Thanks, Tom! 🙂 I like AccessPress, too.
  • Also, this very adept coder has a couple really nice freebies:
  • Ah, gotcha! Been working on a demo, just haven’t ‘officially’ launched it yet. You can see it here:
  • The KLASIK theme does not appear to be free:
    Or am I missing something? The free version of Klasik is available for download here:
  • You might want to include a free framework like the Weaver series (weaver II and xtreme), or a very clean theme like Vantage from siteOrigin.


Facebook in WP

Integrating social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) into your website is so important these days, if you want to optimize your SEO (Search Engine optimization)… and this is as true for WP-built websites as any other websites… So here are a couple of recents posts from one of my favorite sources of WP advice, Elegant Themes:


An After School Class at EAHMS: Web Design Using WordPress

I am so very busy in my new job (Academic Coordinator, comparable to Ass’t. Principal) at E. A. Hall MS, I really should not add more to my plate… but I am a fool and I can’t resist, so I am teaching a 1 day/week class in the after school program, on Web Design Using WordPress.

WP Themes 101

For my presentation on WP Themes at the Santa Cruz WordPress MeetUp, Wednesday October 22, 2014


Free vs. Premium vs. Custom:

  • Advantages of free themes:
    • FREE!
    • Many more plugins since they’re so widely used
    • Community Support
    • No-cost experimentation
  • Disadvantages of free themes:
    • Not unique
    • Some are poorly coded (check download/update/usage stats)
    • Lack of features
    • Lack of support
  • Advantages of premium themes:
    • More features, attention to detail
      • Tough competition means theme developers are working hard to make theirs the best…
      • Custom CSS option means no need to hassle with child theme!
    • Better support
    • More reliable
    • More unique
  • Disadvantages of premium themes:
    • $ – $$$
    • Since not part of repository, therefore not “vetted” by them, you’re less sure of quality, issues, etc.
    • Downside of feature-rich is too feature-rich: may be overloaded with lots you’ll never use.
    • May not update automatically (either in WP dashboard or WP Remote plugin).
  • Advantages of custom themes:
    • Unique
    • Exactly what you want
  • Disadvantages of custom themes:
    • $$$ – $$$$$ — typically quite expensive
    • Not likely to be updated without additional expense… repeatedly…
    • May not be as full-featured as either free or premium themes used by many…

What to look for in a theme:

  • Responsive!
  • Recently updated
  • No malicious code (see end of article above for a few tools to check for malcode)

 Where to find themes—and where not to:

  • Free: themes (which are what come up from within WP dashboard) – these have all been “vetted” by WP team, so not likely to have malcode or other major issues.
  • Premium:
  • Do not go searching the web and installing themes from just anywhere! Because WP is the #1 CMS, with tens of millions of WP-built websites around the globe, it is also a top target for malware… Make sure your themes are from reputable sources!

Child themes:

  • WP gives you full access to style.css and all the files that make up a WP site, including theme files. You can customize a site by editing those files directly—but the problem with that approach is those edits are likely to be lost when you update WP or your theme!
  • A child theme allows you to customize an established theme (free or premium) by adding a unique style.css… You can also add custom footers, headers, etc… as much as you want. Since they are your own unique child theme, they will not be overwritten when you update the “parent” theme or WP.

P.S. I just have to share: WP Remote plugin & service:

  • Free plugin available via WP dashboard or at
  • An invaluable tool if you are managing multiple WP sites. Here’s how it works:
    • Create an account at Get an API key.
    • Install plugin on all your WP sites. Activate it and enter your API key.
    • Now you can login at and update WP, plugins and themes on all your sites from one “dashboard”! Awesome!
  • They also offer premium services, including back-up (that can back-up multiple sites all at once, similar to the updates)… I have not bothered to spend the $ to use their premium services.

What else? Q & A & Discussion

Thank you!

And here are some additional articles about WP Themes:

Free v. Premium:

 Theme lists:


Hide a page or post title

Sometimes you don’t want the title of a page or post to be displayed, but you still want to give it a title. Here’s how, thanks to the great folks (Joe Foley in this case) at (

  1. Create the page or post, with the title you want. Publish it.
  2. Look at the code of the page, and find the id for the page/post , and the class of the title (graphics from WPMUDev):finding-post-idwordpress-page-title-css-class-code
  3. Now insert the following code into the stylesheet:
    If it’s a page:

    .page-id-1826  .entry-title {display: none;}

    If it’s a post:

    #post-1773 .entry-title {display: none;}

Here’s the result (image again from


Some themes (such as the popular Responsive theme) have ways to add custom CSS built in; if so, use that. If not, the proper way to add custom CSS is to create a child theme and edit the stylesheet for the child theme. You can directly edit the stylesheet of the theme itself (Appearance > Editor > Stylesheet – style.css), but the problem with this approach is that, when you update the theme, your custom css will most likely be lost, as you are likely to download and install a new stylesheet as part of the theme updating process. vs. yet again, the bloggers at Elegant Themes offers us important and helpful information about the world of WordPress web design.This article offers many great insights into both and, and how to use each.

Since we here at Agora Media Services are all about helping you create your own websites, and since you usually want your own domain name, we’ve been big fans of installing WP within your own webhosting account, and using as your source for themes, plugins and documentation. However, using is also a great option — especially if you don’t care about a unique domain name. You can create a blog in under 5 minutes and for free, with a domain name of And for $18/year you can host your own domain at However, I’ve been a bit confused about what you get for $18/year, and whether in fact you are likely to end up wanting/needing to pay more than that for some features you may want — all of which come free with your own WP install. (As they state, “ can get pricey if you upgrade. When you start off with, it’s totally free. However, if you want to unleash some more advanced features, you’ll need to pull out your wallet. And the more you want, the more pocket change you’ll need. That’s the big downside of using it. “)

The post includes lots of information, including:

  • An hour-long video in which Scott Berkun “explains the fascinating inner workings of how is made and used. It’s great for a ‘behind the curtain’ look at the company, and its direction. And yes, he explains what the historical difference is between the open source version of WordPress, and the version.”
  • A 50-minute long video “Why WordPress?” about, from WordCamp Seattle 2013.
  • vs A Definitive Guide For 2014 (from the folks at
  • and (WordPress Support) (from the makers themselves)
  • A great many screenshots and clear descriptions of what you can — and can’t — do with each approach to using WP.

Check it out!

20 Best WP Themes in 2014, and more

Once again, the folks at Elegant Themes offer an informative review of some of the best themes out there. In addition, the article includes a nice overview of the pros and cons of free themes vs. premium themes, as well as “freemium” themes, which they define as “the Digital Love Child Of Free and Premium Themes.” “It is a free theme (generally) from a premium theme shop.”

The 20 themes they recommend as “best” are:

I do recommend that you read the article at, because the author (Ariel Rule) offers a nice few paragraph summary of each theme. And even the comments thread is informative. Check it out!