So you want to start a blog? This post will cover the basics on how to start a self-hosted blog (or website) on your own.
What do I mean by self-hosted?
By self-hosted, I mean that you are choosing to pay a company to host your WordPress site for you. This is opposed to having a free blog on a site such as Blogger or WordPress.com. I’ve discussed the differences between Blogger and WordPress here before, but to keep things short and sweet, for the purpose of this post I’m going to argue that it is better to manage your own content and go self-hosted.
Step 1: Choose your domain
You need to select a domain for your site. Your domain is the url for your site. A domain is something like: www.example.com
You can get a domain from a site such as Go Daddy or you can choose to go with your host company (which may or may not be Go Daddy. I actually recommend other hosts for your site). For this tutorial, I will be showing you in step 2 how to use your host for your domain. The benefit of doing it “my way” is that your domain is free when you sign up for a hosting account.
Domains are generally inexpensive. Depending on the demand of the domain you’ve chosen they can range from a $0.99 sale and go way up from there. Granted, seriously in demand domains such as www.deluxedesigns.com can go for thousands (hence why I’m not the owner of that domain!).
This shouldn’t be a complicated step. Simply register to create an account and follow the prompts to choose your domain. Read on to get a new domain for free.
Step 2: Choose your host
Whether or not you are using the same host as your domain, you still need to purchase hosting for your site. Do not skip this step. A domain name does not mean you’ve also purchased the space for your site to be built on. WordPress, which you will install, is not a software and it is not downloaded onto your computer. The files are hosted by a third-party and this is your host.
You have many choices when it comes to hosts. If you have had a negative experience with a host, you’re bound to hold a grudge. Personally, I have never had an issue with my host, so I will base this next step on Dreamhost.
Starting here, create an account.
Once you fill out your basic information, press continue and you will be prompted to enter your domain. You will be asked whether you own the domain already. If you did purchase the domain already, you will select that option. If you do not yet own your domain, select the option to register your chosen domain for free (*with a new account).
Next you will choose a plan. Whether you choose 1 or 2 years prepaid is totally up to you. On the next page, there will be a place you can enter a promo code. Entering code DELUXEDESIGNS will get you $25 off of your plan. Your first two weeks are considered a trial and they are free.
If you chose to purchase your domain through another host, there may be additional steps including pointing the domain DNS to your web host. It is not complicated, but each host interface looks different. I rather explain based on one host so I can provide screenshots and make this real for you.
Step 3: Install WordPress
From a DIY perspective, a one-click installation is the easiest way to get WordPress up and running. This could not be easier on Dreamhost.
Once signed into your dashboard, you will see a highlighted toolbox on the top left side. Select One-Click Installs.
You will be prompted with several options but keep a one track mind and stick with WordPress!
Keep “Automatically Create Database” and UNCHECK Deluxe Install unless you want a whole slew of themes loaded on your site. In my opinion, you want to keep the fewest number of extraneous files on your site.
Within 10 minutes, you will receive an email from Dreamhost telling you that you’ve successfully installed WordPress to your site.
Step 4: Set up your site
Your email will prompt you to click on a link that follows this structure: http://www.example.com/wp-admin/install.
Click on that link (in your email) and follow the simple prompts (for username, password, etc.).
Step 5: Make it pretty!
As a designer, I can’t just stop at having your site set up. At this point, you have a very basic, generic looking site.
See that? I think not! Sure, you can get a generic theme up there to brighten it up a bit. OR, I can introduce you to Genesis, the amazing framework by Studiopress. If you are not looking to hire a designer, I would highly recommend investing in the Genesis framework and a child theme. It’s packed with front-end aesthetic benefits and back-end benefits like SEO maximization.
A child theme is necessary because without it, if you are prompted to update Genesis in your WordPress dashboard, any changes you’ve made to your theme will be overridden. With a child theme, you essentially protect your theme from that. Plus… child themes are what makes your site pretty!!
But there are soooo many good ones.
Swank, as another example? Yeah baby.
There are just so many to choose from!
When you purchase Genesis and a child theme of your choice, you also automatically get access to Studiopress support. You will receive a link to a tutorial on setting up your site to appear like the theme demo.
Step 5: Installing Genesis and your child theme
Since I do not know which child theme you are choosing, I cannot give specific installation instructions (nor would I, honestly. You will receive those once you purchase your theme. I provide that as a service if this is over your head).
In general, I recommend making any coding changes in an FTP such as FileZilla, but again, if that is not within your skill-set, you may follow these steps.
Once logged into your site, navigate to Appearance > Themes > Add New.
Be sure to install Genesis first. Then you may install your child theme. Once both are installed, you may activate your child theme. You do not need to activate Genesis. Just be sure that it is installed on your site. It is the backbone to your child theme functioning.
Step 6: Plugins
Your child theme’s developer may suggest some plugins that will aid in the functioning of that particular theme. As a general rule, try to keep your plugins at a minimum. It is easy to want to add any and all plugins you can get your hands on, but keep in mind that fewer plugins will keep your site loading at a nice, quick speed. The framework is known to be lightweight in coding, so if your site is loading slowly, check with your host or minimize the number of plugins you have on your site. Not all plugins will “play nice” with one another either. Keep in mind plugins are developed by individuals who are not working together and they created them at different times when different versions of WordPress may have been out. Don’t let this scare you out of using plugins. Just keep it in the back of your head.
Here are just a handful of plugins to look into if you are just getting started:
- Akismet, for example, is a great plugin (free, if you move the slider all the way to $0) that keeps spam down
- Simple Social Icons
- Snapwidget.com – a free instagram widget
- Image Widget
- Pin it for Pinterest Images
Step 7: Using WordPress and Genesis
I won’t walk you through using WordPress in this post; however this Studiopress ebook is a great resource for using WordPress. Also, sites like WP101.com or http://wp.tutsplus.com/category/tutorials/wp101-training/ are good for general WordPress tutorials.
With a little playing around, you may be able to figure out how to add your own graphics and really make your site stand out. Of course, that is what I do.
All in all, doing this yourself will save you tons of money and will get you the good lookin’ site you desire!