I decided to write this post after successfully relaunching this website in less than 8 hours while writing zero code.
"I remember when" building a website involved coding...not so much these days.
It's easy to build a website with very, very little coding knowledge; like how to make links, change fonts and colors, etc.
Knowing how to code is helpful but once you've committed to a drag-and-drop system, like Elementor, you're better off never touching the code anyway.
Of course there are tradeoffs with no-code website builders. If there's a widget included with the platform that does exactly what you need, drag-and-drop editors are fast and easy.
If you need to make the widget do something, or look a specific way, that it isn't designed to do...things can get very complicated. You can't simply edit the code if you don't like the way something looks, or works, and your options are very limited if you want to alter its design or function.
This is by design. Drag-and-drop editors are designed to simplify the website creation process; so the most advisable course of action is to work within the limitations of the tools you invest in.
Spending a little extra on premium widgets and plugins that extend your capabilities can give you more flexibility, if needed, and ensure that the end product doesn't look "off-the-shelf".
If you've got the right tools at your disposal and all the copy and images you need to fill every page with content, building a website in a day is not only possible -it's easy.
Using my recent website relaunch as an example, I'll discuss all the necessary steps in quickly finding, quality-checking, installing, and customizing an Elementor-enhanced WordPress theme for your website.
Which theme is right for you?
There are literally thousands of WordPress themes to choose from, and most of them are complete crap, so it's important to know how to find reliable designs.
At this point I exclusively use Envato's ThemeForest to search, preview, and purchase high quality WordPress themes built with Elementor.
Finding the right website theme is a bit like finding your soulmate, if you look for perfection, you're likely to be looking a long time. However, there are many great themes to choose from if you're willing to A) pay the price for a good theme, and B) you're willing to accept its limitations.
How to find a good Elementor WordPress theme:
#1: Trust good sources (like Envato)
Searching and previewing professionally-made themes in a WordPress marketplace like Envato's ThemeForest before making a purchase is essential to finding a quality theme.
To protect their customers, Envato performs quality checks on the themes in their marketplace and provides support if you have a purchasing issue, or need a refund.
Alternatively, you can go direct to theme developers, but your mileage may vary. There are some very good options, like the Genesis theme framework, but I prefer buying through a neutral third-party for quality assurance.
If you're not a coder...stick with a trusted network, like ThemeForest.
#2 Look at reviews and related discussion
Research other buyers experiences with the themes you're researching to see what you're getting yourself into. A good theme will have documentation, a support forum, and plenty of other users.
No downloads / users? Not sure I'd sign up to be the first one...
Do a quick Google search for "[the theme name]" and support. If you can't easily find forum threads where users are getting their questions answered by the theme's developer; you may struggle to get answers if you have issues.
#3 Search For Niche Themes By Keyword
The bar for premium themes is quite high these days, and any theme you're considering purchasing should contain all the features you need to build the site you want.
To find an Elementor-compatible theme, search the marketplace with a query like, "Elementor [your niche] theme" where [your niche] is a keyphrase that's relevant to your business (agency, freelancer, or personal, for example).
Want to sell things on your site? You'll want a theme designed for e-commerce.
Are you a blogger, a publication, or a business? The design considerations for each are very different.
Of the thousands of available themes, rest assured that there are at least a few dozen designed to suit your specific needs.
#4 Review all the demo content and configuration options
To compete in the marketplace, WordPress developers create extremely flexible themes with many bells and whistles (options) that allow you to custom your site, often in dozens of different ways.
Review every template and design configuration in the preview / demo of any theme you're considering thoroughly.
It should go without saying that if a theme doesn't do a good job of demoing all its features and design configurations, it's probably not a very good theme.
How do you know if a theme is any good?
Flexibility, which usually amounts to having lots of options, is a great indicator. Also, if the theme's demo text is full of spelling mistakes, it strongly suggests that the developer's quality control was lacking.
While buying an expensive theme simply because it's expensive is a strategy for failure, I certainly wouldn't recommend trying to save money on the theme you select. Good themes range $25 - $65 dollars, with exceptions above and below that I'd mostly ignore.
Google the name of any theme you're considering to see how many people are discussing it. The more the better.
Documentation can be very useful when evaluating themes. It should be easy to find it with a quick search of "[theme name] + 'documentation'". The documentation will likely include screenshots, and potentially a video, of the set up and configuration process.
A list of everything you need to download & install
Once you're ready to purchase and install your theme, the process is fairly straightforward. But, there are a few steps you'll need to take before installing your theme.
These must be installed before you can install an Elementor-compatible WordPress theme:
And these are some very highly recommended additions you should consider (mostly free, some paid):
- Elementor Essential Add-ons
- SocialWarfare (social sharing, share counts, OG metadata, etc.)
- Google XML Sitemaps
- Google Tag Manager For WordPress (if you use Google Tag Manager)
- HubSpot All-In-One Marketing plugin (if you use HubSpot)
- Official Facebook Pixel (for custom audiences / retargeting)
After you've installed the first three items, and any of the recommendations that make sense, you're ready to install the theme itself. If you've purchased it from ThemeForest, it will be in your account ready to download.
Once downloaded, install the theme using the WordPress admin dashboard, under the option Appearances / Themes.
Installing your theme's demo content
Any of the themes you find on a marketplace like ThemeForest will have demo content to help you understand its various options. You'll typically need to import the demo content immediately after installing them in your WordPress backend.
Be sure to watch any set up videos and documentation for the theme, since missing a critical step may cause you to have to reimport the demo content and start over.
Many themes also require certain plugins which will have to be downloaded before your content will appear correctly.
Work within the constraints of the theme
When it comes to customizing the theme for your specific needs, it's important to work within the constraints of the theme. Use it as it is designed to be used or you risk wasting any time you've saved by investing into a drag-and-drop theme.
In practice this means working with the widgets included with the theme you purchased, or Elementor-compatible add-ons, and customizing their appearance using only options in the visual editor (i.e. not touching code or stylesheets).
It's easy to extend an Elementor-based theme with new pages / templates / etc; that's why I recommend it. But there's a difference between trying to add content to a theme and trying to make it do something it's not intended to do.
If something's not working, move on...
The point of working with drag-and-drop themes is to be quick, so time efficiency should always be the priority.
Keep focused on delivering an end product (with haste) and remember that any one element on a single web page doesn't make or break the functionality of the rest of the website. There are always alternative ways to tell a story / make a point / convey information and getting hung up on any individual component of your website is counterproductive.
And it's easy to do. I don't want to know how much of my life I've spent chasing impossible-to-fix website bugs and design quirks.
Cascading Stylesheets (CSS), the "language" that controls the way web pages are visually rendered by browsers, is imperfect and complex at the best of times. WordPress websites will often incorporate CSS from the theme, a child theme, and dozens of plugins and libraries that are used behind the scenes.
It's a bit of a mess and there are frequently conflicts between resources and changes to CSS may result in wide-ranging implications. It's all too easy to get stuck solving even minor design issues created by these conflicts.
Rather than wasting time, quickly abandon any design that causes friction and either find alternative widgets / features or change your design to work within the constraints of the theme.
Evaluating premium widgets and plugins
Good looking websites cost money. This shouldn't be a surprise, and starting the project with a budget of at least a few hundred dollars will ensure you can make progress quickly.
Be prepared to pay for the WordPress theme itself ($25-$65), the "Personal" version of the Elementor plugin ($49), and potentially a few Elementor add-ons with the specific visual elements you need (pricing tables or image carousels, for example).
The number of downloads / users of these premium upgrades is the best metric to examine when evaluating their quality. People find out about new plugins / add-ons through referrals and coverage in blog posts (like this one), so a volume of users suggests they're doing something right.
Search for the plugin / add-on in Google to find reviews and other social proof; in particular, look for blog posts explaining and recommending its use.
Stick with the most popular premium plugins and add-ons. Again, work within the constraints of their intended design, and you won't have any trouble producing a slick-looking website in no time (and with no code).
Filling your website with content
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I started my website relaunch project with all the copy and images I needed, so I was able to compile them in a day.
Writing all the copy for your website's content will likely take a few days, at least, and I'm treating this as a separate task altogether.
Filling your new website design with content you've already created, however, is pretty straightforward and simple.
Browse to the page you want to edit in WordPress, hover over its title in the Pages list, and click "Edit with Elementor". Create new pages by duplicating any of the demo pages provided by your theme (hover over the page name and click "EA Duplicator").
To make edits in Elementor's visual editor you must click on a specific element on the page in the right panel, and then click into the individual fields you want to edit in the panel that appears on the left after you click.
Each widget works a little differently, so take some time to play around with the settings to learn how you can affect the way it appears on the page.
Remember...if you can't make it do what you want quickly, replace the component or change your design to work within the element's limitations.
Phone a friend, to check your work
By the time you're done building your website, you've probably amassed a dozen or so embarrassing misspellings, missed punctuations, and (if you tend to work as late as I do) potentially whole sections that don't quite make sense.
It's all too easy to gloss over your own work when copyediting and miss these details.
Obviously, you should check your own work as well, but beyond that you can (and should) involve a friend or two to give your work a once-over before you launch.
Ask someone you know who's good at selling things to read the copy closely and give you feedback on if it's compelling enough to potential buyers.
Ask a technically-minded friend (perhaps a developer, engineer, or editor) to spot-check your website for things that don't work quite right; broken links, wonky widgets, etc.
Between these two personalities, you can vet a small website in less than 30 minutes, make updates, and be ready to launch without delay.
Launch quickly and fix stuff on the go
Websites are organic, evolving things that are never quite perfect; so don't let perfect be the enemy of good (and timely). Fix the glaring issues like misspellings and bad grammar and then reveal your website to the world.
Anticipate having a slew of suddenly discovered, "emergency" fixes appear within the first few hours of your new website going online.
Don't panic, and try not to work on fixes in your live website -this just tempts the devil to mess with you. Focus on broken content first, then any quick fixes on your list, and then the sticky, challenging issues where something just doesn't work/look the way you want it.
Work in a staging environment. You're going to break more things when you try to fix things and that's fine if all the chaos is happening on your staging website. It's tragic if that happens in front of your live website's visitors though.
Lastly, don't worry about having every last bit of content ready when you want to launch. Most websites have a number of pages that no one even looks at (I'm looking at you "Industry" pages).
It's often better to launch with the core of your most important pages and then add pages as you start to see (from analytics) how people are using your website.
That's "All" There Is To It
In summary, it's simple enough to launch a basic website today that it should not be a barrier to anyone starting a new business or project.
Obviously technical knowledge of websites and web programming is useful, but it's no longer a necessity. By using Elementor and WordPress themes designed for use with it, you can very quickly create a high-end, responsive website in a day (assuming you have the copy and images at hand).
The idea is to start with a good looking template that's already 90%+ of what you need, and rather than coding, use a drag-and-drop interface to make a few small changes to customize the website's appearance to your brand and needs.
Spending a little money on premium WordPress themes and plugins, and add-ons for Elementor, will significantly improve it's aesthetics and uniqueness while also reducing the time it takes to complete and launch your website.
There are drawbacks and limitations to this method, but if time efficiency is your greatest concern, this is undoubtably the fastest (and cheapest) way to produce a functional, good-looking website with limited technical expertise.