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Starting a blog from scratch

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. It is not intended to be a tutorial on how to design a blog, rather how to go from the idea that you are brewing in your head to having a self-hosted WordPress blog of your very own on the web (this is also not, unfortunately, a tutorial on migrating from Blogger to WordPress). Full disclosure, I will try not to spam you throughout this post, but I will tell you the way *I* do things and therefore I may include affiliate links throughout.

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. 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.

Like everything else, there is more than one way to do this, but I’m going to tell you the way I suggest to my clients.

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 to approx. $14.99/year. 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.

That link will get you 10% off at Go Daddy.

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.

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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.

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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.

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You will be prompted with several options but keep a one track mind and stick with WordPress!

Here are my preferences for installation:

Select Custom Installation > Select your domain > Where it says / _______ , leave that space blank. That is if you wanted to install WordPress on a subdomain such as example.com/blog. As a general rule, I am assuming you do not have another website so leave this part blank unless you know what you’re doing (in which case you probably find this tutorial useless :) )

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.

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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.php

Click on that link (in your email) and follow the simple prompts (for username, password, etc.).

You should now be able to log into your site! For future reference, you will log into your site here: http://www.example.com/wp-admin

Step 5: Make it pretty!

I am a designer so I can’t just stop at having your site set up. At this point, you have a very basic, generic looking site.

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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!!

So let’s do it. Go to Studiopress and choose a theme. The Foodie theme is a very popular one as of late.

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But there are soooo many good ones.

Swank, as another example? Yeah baby.

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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.

Navigate to Genesis > Theme Settings if you want to select a different color scheme that comes with your child theme.

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 (although I do offer one on one sessions if you’re interested) because that would be recreating the wheel; however this is a great, 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!

 

 

Grandbaby Cakes // New Blogsite Design Launch

Enough time has passed since I have last written on the blog. I decided I would take my first post back to introduce the newest design launch: Jocelyn Delk Adam’s Grandbaby Cakes.

Jocelyn requested a logo update and a complete design makeover for her migration to WordPress.

We went through a few logo options…

rejects

 

Old Logo

Old Logo

header

New, updated photo

 

 
…and ultimately came up with a design that truly captured the updated look that Jocelyn wanted for Grandbaby Cakes.

 

 

 

Now for the website design!

screenshot

Grandbaby Cakes’ new homepage features a slideshow, a subscription bar, customized introduction area, featured post thumbnails and a truncated recent post section.

mockup

The site also features a visual recipe index that allows readers to find past recipes by image, category, archived post, or a simple search.

mockup1

I am really happy with how this site turned out. Now excuse me while I attempt to keep myself from trying out every.single.recipe on her site!

words

http://www.grandbaby-cakes.com

Attack on WordPress?!

WordPress friends: There is an attack on WP sites going on right now! Please don’t freak out but do check out your site and dashboard and make sure that it is not *very* slow or down and that there isn’t anything out of the ordinary going on. My understanding is that bots are searching for sites using the username ‘admin’. There are several recommendations to make sure that your site remains clean and free of hackers now and in the future. Here are some of my recommendations (although I can not take total credit as these are based on the rec’s of others, but I’ve read so many recent articles and talked to so many fellow designers, I can’t source everyone. This is just my summary of others’ thoughts! bahaha)

Keep WordPress Safe

Questions?!

Creating or Adding to a Navigation Bar

One of the most common questions I get is how you can add or edit a page on your menu bar. Barring a custom blog/web design where you – assuming you are a blog user and not a designer – probably should not touch the menu bar without consulting your designer, this is a really simple process. I walk you through it in the video below!

I discuss:

  • How to create a navigation bar and add it to your site
  • How to create a page, category, and external or custom link and add them to your navigation bar (I’m using the terms “navigation” and “menu” interchangeably)

  • Editing the label of the menu item
  • Opening a menu item link in a new window

Feel free to leave your questions in the comments section!

Who knew I could draw thyme?!

I haven’t written a post in a while, so I thought that we should get things up to date around here!

Right around the new year I took an online class to learn some calligraphy. It’s honestly hit or miss and I’m still practicing, but the one thing I’ve been loving is the watercolor and hand painted look.

It seems that designs requests come in waves. Out of my last handful of designs, I had 2 recipe sites then 2 photography sites and then 2 requests for watercolor-esque designs that although different (one desert-related and one herb-related), were similar in that they were both green and leafy images after the same aesthetic (and one that I love).

Try finding a watercolor image of thyme or a watercolor image of a succulent in a terrarium. Try it. Dare ya. So you found one, right? But is it a stock image? Is it editable? Likely not (and if it is, well, you’re better than I am then – email me, we should chat!). I do not like having to rely on the availability of stock images so I’ve been taking that into my own hands (literally!).

Here is a sneak peek at the hand-painted elements that I am working on for one client. Notice the custom succulent in a terrarium? I kind of rock. I’m not saying it’s the best image ever created, but c’mon, it’s not bad. Better yet, my client loves it!
That is a subscribe bar in mustard yellow and just try to find that font anywhere online-ha! This design will also have hand-painted social media icons and we’ll just have to see what else.

sneak

A snapshot of hand-drawn elements for an upcoming launch.

My client requested specific font and color choices so my job for this custom header design (below) was really to make everything flow…and to find the right thyme.  Actually, I did find a stock image for thyme, but it was not easily editable and it wasn’t the right look anyway. So I went to it and created it myself. And I kind of like my design more than what was available on the Internet. Who knew I could draw thyme?! Hidden talents over here, folks.

header-1

Custom header with hand-drawn elements

And now for my latest design launch.

I have always believed that the design is half of the beauty to the site but the content makes up the other half. Lauren from Lauren Gay Photography contacted me to get her over from Blogger to WordPress and to redesign her site. I took just a quick glance at her photos and I instantly knew that together the design and content would make a beautiful site.

I think we rocked it.

Lauren-PE

Style board for Lauren Gay Photography

Style board for Lauren Gay Photography

So that’s just a bit of what I’ve been working on and there is lots more to come! Thank you for allowing me to create and have fun creating for you.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, DeluxeDesigns friends!

New Year's Eve Printable

Enjoy this free printable (be sure to click on the link to download rather than just print the image as it won’t fill the page otherwise). Thanks for such a great year & see you in 2013!

Limited Time Offer // Basic Theme Customization

Several new themes have become available for the Genesis framework in the last few months. When you get a custom design through DD, you receive many unique template changes that meet your functional and aesthetic needs and desires. In creating new packages for my new site which is slooooowly in the works, I have created a basic customization package of Genesis themes.

As I will not be unveiling my new site or packages for some time, I wanted to open up this opportunity to anyone interested. For a limited time I will be offering a BASIC THEME CUSTOMIZATION PACKAGE and this would not be enticing unless it is offered at a discounted rate, so that is what it will be!

For a limited time, for $205, you will receive:

  • Select your favorite Genesis child theme from Studiopress (includes Community themes)
  • Receive installation and customizations including:
    -Setup of template to achieve the same arrangement of the demo
    -Uniquely designed header or insertion of your existing logo
    -Colors
    -Navigation setup
    -Webfont installation
    -Background
  • Note: Your site will have the same functionality as the chosen theme’s demo, but will still be visually unique to you.
  • Turnaround time is much quicker than a custom design and no wait list.
  • The price of the theme is included in this package; however you may still want to purchase it for access to support.

Visit the themes here for demos or see some of my favorite themes (ok, I have many!) by some fabulous designers below! Just send an email to Julie@deluxe-designs.net if you are interested in this limited time offer. This rate will not last, so hurry!

mompreneur

This is an e-commerce ready theme!

craftiness

glitter

innov8tive

modernblogger

vintage

New Launches // WordPress Designs

Ashley is a personal friend of mine whose old photography blog was on Blogger. In moving forward with upgrading her design to WordPress, Ashley also wanted to merge her Flash website with a WordPress blog (a blogsite, if you will…smart girl!). Ashley takes amazing photographs and it was vital that we showcased her work! White space was important in this design and we incorporated the circles from her logo all over the design.

In order to really bring the photos to life and to not lose the slideshow effects from her Flash site, we incorporated a fun portfolio grid to the site. Visit Ashley’s site to see the final product!

 

My most recent design was Adrienne’s site at La Vita è Bella. Adrienne had her site designed last Spring and wanted a new design that she would love long-term (aha pressure!!!). She wanted something that reflected her better. I read Adrienne’s blog and decided she needed to simplify.

See, Adrienne and I would totally be friends in real life (if you use Pinterest as a base for friendship. And why wouldn’t you?!). 

So I took Adrienne’s requests as well as her aesthetic interests and put them into a mood board.

And then created a blog template incorporating her new design.

Simple. Beautiful. Remember (or know now…) that La vita è bella means “life is beautiful”, so Adrienne got a design that reflected that message.

New launch // A Delightful Home

And delightful it was to work with Stacy on her blog’s redesign. Peaceful, natural, clean, simple, and inviting were the words Stacy used to describe the aesthetic she wanted to achieve.

Looking at her Pinterest inspiration board, I knew I wanted to go with a canvas textured background, handwritten script (as she requested) and you know, why not some watercolor?! I’ve never used wreaths in a design before, so I wanted to try my hand at seeing if I could make that work here.

Pinterest boards really help me SO much. It’s a virtual moodboard. A styleboard. Call it what you will, but it gives me insight into what you like and might want to see on your site.

Using a soft color palette, the design elements requested and incorporating lavender (both the flower and color), a truly pretty – deluxe, if you will - design was created.

The subscribe button, the social media icons, torn paper edges, and choice of hand-written fonts, were all elements and customizations that I think fit this design so well. I am really pleased with the outcome of Stacy’s blog and invite you to visit it live.

New Launch // Marie Kelley Photography

You probably know by now how I feel about watercolor, but if you don’t, I’ll reiterate that I love it. I love it on canvas and I even love it in web design. So when I’m approached to design a site that has watercolor elements, I jump at the chance! Of course, when Kelley asked me to design her site with the watercolor look, I was all over it!

We started out with the ever-helpful Pinterest inspiration board

The color scheme was to be sea foam, peach, gray, gold and white. Um, amazing. Loved it.

From her inspirations, some fonts were considered for her logo:

And after working on the site design a bit, those options turned into this:

Kelley wanted her site to be clean and crisp, yet appeal to the younger generation (being a senior portrait photographer) so there had to be pops of color. A crisp white background in combination with the watercolor header accomplishes just that.

And some custom watercolor social media towards the bottom of the page to tie in the look:

It almost looks like the header blends in with the first photograph in her blog, doesn’t it? That’s how you know the design matches the blogger’s style! I had a great time designing this site and I think Kelley and her readers will enjoy it as well!