Once a hosting service and publishing platform have been decided upon, now is the time to think about the look of the website. This will be very important depending on the purpose of the website. If the sole purpose is just for students, then a professional looking website may not be a concern. However, if the website will be used to dispense information to others or self-promotion in addition to student learning, then a more professional look will be in order.
For a basic look with little room for alteration, a free theme downloadable from WordPress will suffice. The free themes look good, but the problem arises when trying to alter the look to a more professional tone. The free themes are basic, so there are not many frills, and to have access to more design options, plugins must be downloaded which can slow the site. If a basic facade is all that is need with little to no design wanted, go the free route and work hard on the content.
For a more professional look, without spending thousands of dollars, buying a simple theme template is all that is needed. When making TesolClass.com, we used a free theme and could not attain the feel and look we wanted, so we went template shopping for something with a more professional look. After looking for some time, we finally found the best combination of price and quality. The template’s name is Avada. How good can this template be? Well, 44,000+ have been sold since it’s release on August 16th, 2012- that is 14 months before this writing!
There are so many good aspects to this theme that it is impossible to provide all the information. Instead, click on the banner below and then click on ‘live preview’ to spend time exploring all the tabs and options. Trust us when we say, no free template will allow all the functions packed into this one without adding plugins that will slow down the site. Also, this template is responsive, which means it adapts to the screen size- this is great for mobile devices!
The only negative to this template is the slight learning curve involved. Being a total novice at web design when purchasing this template, there were some frustrating moments, but there is a support forum that is very helpful and answers questions in a timely manner. Click the banner below the disclaimer to see it in action!
Disclaimer: TesolClass an affiliate member of themeforest, so if you purchase from this company, we will receive a commission. This commission does not influence any reviews or evaluation regarding the products. Tesolclass strives to provide honest assessments to help educators create a great website for their students.
Plugins are code that help make websites perform needed functions. If you don’t know how to code, or only have basic knowledge, plugins will help make the website perform function properly. There are plugins for registration forms, login, making text boxes, memberships, e-commerce, SEO, and a plethora of other needs. However, be warned, sometimes these plugins can cause sites to slow down, so the more that are used the higher potential for increased load times. Here is our recommendation for essential plugins.
JetPack: JetPack provides a lot of needed functions for a website. It has over 30 different functions installed in this one plugin such as stats, post by email, spelling & grammar checker, social media sharing, contact forms, etc… It will be the most useful plugin. This is included in your WordPress download.
Akismet: Spam comments will be a huge problem for any website. Akismet does a great job of identifying which comments are spam and keeping them off the site. This is included in the WordPress download.
NotCaptcha: I absolutely LOVE this plugin. It works by placing little pictures or animals on the registration form to keep spam robots from joining the site and placing spam comments. Spam robot registration will be a serious problem for any website and this eliminates it completely. I was getting four to five spam registrations a day until I used this plugin. Now, I receive NONE from spam robots. The website says it hasn’t been updated in two years and may not be compatible, but there have been no problems so far. WP-NotCaptcha download
*NotCaptcha: My website crashed out twice in one week while updating QuickCache plugin. In the error report from the C-Panel, NotCaptcha was listed as the reason.. However, the Bluehost technician said this plugin may not be culprit, but decided to delete it. Within six hours of deleting this plugin, the site received six spam robot registrations. To fix this problem, we purchased a plugin from CodeCanyon (see below).
Register Plus Redux: It’s a great plugin to create options for registration. Easily decide how much information people are required to give to join the site. It also has custom fields where information such as student numbers can be entered. Register Plus Redux download
Sidebar Login: This allows a login area to be placed in a widget on the website. A widget goes around the sides or bottom of the content and can display many different types of information. Having the login on the side makes it very convenient for the users. Sidebar Login download
Yop Poll Plugin: Another great plugin that allows the educator to make polls and place them in the content. Create polls with a day and time expiration, or create polls that never end. Very handy when trying to gather opinions from students. Yop Poll Plugin download
These are some of the basic plugins needed, but there are plenty of other plugins that may be useful for a website. Search and find plugins that will enhance the website, but always test each plugin to be sure it does not slow the website down too much.
Note: TesolClass does not receive any compensation for the reviews or recommending plugins. All plugins are free of charge, if money is required for any of these plugins above, then these are not the plugins we have recommended. However, there may be some pro versions of these plugins, but we only use the free versions.
Note: All plugins from CodeCanyon require a purchase. Most range from $10-$20, but some may be lower or most expensive.
CodeCanyon is a marketplace to purchase plugins, scripts, and code. For a WordPress site, it is as simple as purchasing a plugin, downloading to a folder, adding it through the plugin panel, and then activating it. No special knowledge or skills require.
WP Security Manager:
Very simple plugin that works with login, registration, and comment forms to stop spam robots from registering. In addition to these features, WP Security Manager provides protection from malicious IPs, prevention of keylogging, supervision of login activities, and many more. WP Security Manager download
WP Security Manager did not work very well. I would still receive 30 or more spam registrations a day. I do not recommend this plugin at all. When I contacted the author, he said it worked, and send him proof that I was having spam registration. I sent him several screenshots and he never returned my emails after that. The best solution is to go through Google and sign up for re-CAPTCHA.
Responsive WordPress Youtube Grid Video Gallery: A very simple plugin that allows the creation of a video wall for the website. Videos can be embedded on the page, but take up a lot of space. With the video wall, users are able to browse videos and view them effortlessly. Once clicking on the video, the video pops up for easy viewing. Check out our video page in the navigation bar to see it in action. Responsive WordPress Youtube Grid Video Gallery download