December 8, 2020
How to set up a website
This website began life in the middle of 2020 when I realised I wanted a place to publish blogs about some topics that weren’t a natural fit for my Writing for Councils website.
I’m not saying that the way I went about it is the ideal way. In fact, if I was doing it again, I would probably shell out the money for a website expert to set it all up for me, then give me the operating instructions.
Instead I did it the DIY way. First I generated some content and stuck it up on a blogspot site I set up several years ago. This gave me a taste for publishing something new. And I loved fiddling about with the design. I was hooked. But I wanted something more professional than a free site.
If you are starting a blog and you want a WordPress site, consider paying for the technical part – you’ll save yourself a lot of time! Envato Studio is the site I have subsequently used to commission related website services, also WordPress Maintenance support is good option, but there are other freelance website services available through sites such as Fiverr and Upwork.
But if you do want to do it yourself with the benefits of really understanding how your site is put together, here’s what I did. Final warning: you may lose days and nights obsessing over your site!
I bought a hosting plan on Siteground. I chose this service because I already had my business website on this system. However, I have since learned that another good (and cheaper) option is Crocweb, so it will be worth checking that out as well.
I set up a separate hosting plan on Siteground for my second website. However, it would have been a better financial option to upgrade my existing hosting plan (StartUp) to a Growbig plan, which allows for an un limited number of websites.
It was a relatively simple process to import WordPress to this plan and to connect my domain name.
I selected a theme at Themeforest. I’m glad I did this. It has added some swish functionality to my site. But I couldn’t figure out how to get it on to my new site. I paid for Envato Studio (US $50) to import my theme (Blabber) onto my site. This option came up at the time of purchasing the theme, and it was well worth it.
I didn’t spend enough time looking at all the different ‘skins’ associated with my Blabber Theme before selecting the one I went with. I highly recommend taking your time over this, thinking about the key elements and the colour range, and how you might adapt them for your new website.
I spent a lot of time learning how to customise my website. It looked pretty ugly for quite some time. My minimalist streak came to the fore – cutting away a lot of the template pages which it would have been pretty handy to still have access to! So don’t delete any of the templates – just keep them as unpublished pages and layouts in case you want to adapt them in future.
A really good thing to do is to write content away from the actual website. I type mine up in a Word document on a laptop. This ensures tech issues don’t get in the way of expressing your voice.
I made a really good decision to pay for a Canva Pro subscription. I am just scratching the surface so far, but already it has proved its worth. The benefits of the paid version include:
- the effects and the availability of a much greater range of photos and templates
- when you are using a photo in a design, the system identifies a range of colours within the image that you can use in other elements of the design
- you can get rid of background (eg behind the photos of paintings) at the touch of a button.
I paid Cat Rose to connect up my Mailchimp newsletter list with my site. Again, I have no regrets about getting help with the technical aspects of website set up.
Then I left my website in limbo for some time. Work became very busy, and I knew I would need another burst of intense and focused effort to scale the learning curve involved in figuring out how to operate my website, particularly when ‘driving’ a powerful theme like Blabber.
Something I am really glad I did do was continue to create content. Just a piece here and there, doing nothing more than tapping in a first draft on my laptop and saving it in a blog folder until I was ready to do something more with it. This is really important for book reviews, because if left too long, the effect of the book on you fades and you are left with just a plot to recite.
Last month a new update came through for my Blabber theme. I had a brief try at uploading it myself, but quickly decided to pay for it to be uploaded on my behalf. I’m glad I did that. I went through Envato Studios again, for $50 US. It would be ideal to have someone I know to just direct these things to, but it’s okay to work with strangers on things like that. You just need to change all your passwords (again!) when the remote project is completed.
Once that update was in place, I started again. I promised myself I wouldn’t look at design, and that I would just upload the new content. But yes, I did go down a design rabbit hole. I spent a day figuring out how to change colours, how to use some of the widgets, and how to make the site more interesting to look at. It’s hard to describe how obsessive I was on that day, powering through obstacles, trying things out, being prepared to do things all over again if they didn’t work out exactly as I wanted.
The thrill of publishing
My efforts were powered by the thrill of publishing … because that is what I signed up to, that’s what drives my willingness to learn weird tech … the thrill of seeing a carousel of paintings come together, my blogs as a numbered list of recent writing, and my home page transform from something static and boring to something dynamic and engaging.
This website connects my personal writing and ideas with some technical wizardry that I have battled through and learnt. It is a hard-won place to arrive at. And I am sure I will look back in six months and think how basic it was, as at December 2020.
So yes, while getting this publishing platform done for me would have been a better use of resources, paying an expert to do quickly what has taken me so much longer, the benefit of the DIY option is I have a familiarity with my site and what it can do that I wouldn’t have otherwise gained. Along with all the frustrations, I have also had that fabulous experience when I suddenly knew how to do something that had eluded me.