Development Web

How to Properly do a Website Setup – My Checklist

Written by Dimitris

Ever wondered if you should be using something else in your website that could make a difference? Have you ever read something that gave you a light-bulb moment… like… oh my God… why did I not do this before?

Well here is my list in semi-random order. I will omit obvious steps like purchasing and setting up a domain name or very specialized ones like adding a social bar.

Setup a new cPanel on a VPC

A clean workspace is very important if you want to be serious about your sites. Both for practical and security reasons. My old HostGator account is a complete mess. The task to clean it is on my to-do list for about 10 years. But I do not really have the energy for it. I just have some small sites there anyway.

Choose and Install a CMS (Obviously)

I will keep saying this a lot. My CMS of choice is currently WordPress. It used to be Joomla but for various reasons, I decided to make the switch. A post will follow shortly explaining the reasons.

Whatever system you choose, just do not neglect to update it asap to the latest stable version that is under a longish support plan.

Configure Web Site monitoring

This is not about traffic statistics, but actual service monitoring. It might sound unnecessary, but once you have a few sites up, it makes your life much easier having a way of centrally checking for uptime, update availability, and even performing updates, audit checks, and automatic backups. For Joomla sites, I like My Joomla. I still have a subscription there for the few sites that I am still maintaining on Joomla. For WordPress, I have not found a solution yet that I like.

Configure and automate backups

This is the single best thing you can do. Not only for your site but for your entire work. It will not only give you peace of mind for accidents and malicious acts. But it will also protect you from your own mistakes, allowing you to minimize downtime.
SERIOUSLY. Do this today. My current choices are Akeeba Backup for Joomla, Updraftplus for WordPress and Cloudberry for my home pcs. All backups are stored in Amazon AWS S3 and Glacier.

Install and Configure an advanced security panel

Modern CMSs are nice but are not really optimized. What can make a real difference is a tool to allow you to harden your administration panel, make sanity checks and optimizations, and perhaps offer you hints on how to prevent or avoid problems. My current choice for Joomla is Akeeba Admin Tools and Wordfence for WordPress.

Install a Blank Custom template

During my noob years, like most people, I have been using ready templates (mostly free) and just did minor patching on top of it.
When I started working with real graphics designers and got more serious about stuff, I saw that ready templates (even powerful ones) had a learning curve and usually created slowish and heavy sites. Currently, I am using custom templates I have created, that are based on a minimal responsive blank page with bootstrap, font-awesome and jquery preconfigured. That gives me much freedom to apply directly any changes I want, without losing time looking for ways to hack into complex code that someone else has written.

I still have a few sites using a 3rd party template, but these are exceptions (this site for example)

Decide on an SEO strategy and install any necessary tools

WordPress works nicely out of the box, but I like using Yoast SEO. For Joomla, it is something that needs some more thought. I usually install and configure sh404sef.

Delete CMS fluff

It is quite easy for someone to find out what CMS your are using and target its weaknesses, just by checking the existence of files like readme.txt, preinstalled images etc. For Joomla, I use the MyJoomla feature to automatically delete all that stuff, and then I manually uninstall and delete all “factory” themes and all sample images in the /images/ folder.

Enable Two-Factor authentication

Well, this should be pretty self-explanatory. I currently use Google Authenticator (on my phone) for all my sites and services that support it.

Install a sitemap tool

Having a sitemap in both a human-friendy and XML form can work wonders for your SEF. My current choice is XMAP for Joomla, which is now under no support but has been taken over by another developer under the name MAPX. For WordPress I use Yoast.

Register the site with Google Analytics

I don’t think this needs any explaining 🙂

Register the site with Google and Bing Webmaster tools

Both these ensure that the relevant search engines actually see your site as they should, and give you nice hints on how to make things better. They have many weaknesses, but still, they are quite nice.

Install a favicon for ALL devices

Unfortunately IOS and Android are not doing us any favors. Make sure that you have appropriate favicons declared for all devices.

It is a bit late and I cannot think of anything else for now. Did I forget anything? Anything else I should be doing?

About the author

Dimitris