Getting Over the Beginner’s Hump With WordPress

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I’ve thought long and hard about how to instruct someone to create a WordPress blog quickly and cheaply.

After witnessing some very smart people trip, stumble, and fall while trying to get their blog up-and-running, I realized that no amount of sage advice on my part is going to make the process both quick and cheap, especially if you’re new to the world of building blogs and websites.

Do You Want a Blog … Or a Website?

Many of the members of Wealthy Web Writer are building web copywriting businesses. You tell me that you don’t want a “blog.” You want a “website.”

I couldn’t agree more. You want a professional website through which you can demonstrate your expertise, explain your services, and show your portfolio.

You want prospective clients to visit your website, be awed by your talents, impressed by your website wizardry, and to hire you on the spot. Right?

In your mind, you want a professional website and not a blog.

Here’s what I think …

In the old days (two or three years ago), blogs were sites you built to spill your guts. If you saw the movie Julie & Julia, you know what I mean. Businesses didn’t have blogs.

For the most part, “real” businesses today still don’t use blogging. They use “Content Management Systems” to produce a steady stream of content on the Internet that provides value to their customers, and gives their customers a way to freely share their views.

Well … WordPress is a Content Management System. You can have a professional “website” in which you describe your services, and share your experience and expertise.

That is, you can have a highly-polished home page that looks and feels like a professional website to any visitor. That home page can link to a “Sales Page” that isn’t cluttered with sidebars, to an “About” page with a video of you, and to your “blog,” where you share your ideas and thoughts.

The best part is that all of this can be done under one roof — WordPress.

Understanding the Basics

WordPress uses “Themes” to display the content (your home page, About page, articles, etc.). There are thousands of Themes available, and each has a very different look and feel.

The best Themes aren’t free. They’ll cost between $60 and $250, but they’re well worth the investment.

Most Themes use a standard blog format. That is, the home page displays the latest “posts” (articles). Since WordPress has gone more mainstream, more Theme developers are creating “professional” Themes that use a “static” home page.

You can see some examples of these professional Themes at www.iThemes.com. You’ll see that the home page might have a place for a picture (or video), and links to pages that describe services.

These Themes also have what are called “Widget” areas, where you can add text of your choosing, links to the latest articles, or a list of upcoming events. What you can put in a Widget area is only limited by your imagination.

The time and expense of creating a WordPress blog comes from the Theme you select, and how much you need to customize the Theme to get it to work for you.

The “Free” Themes are the hardest to work with because all customization requires knowledge of PHP programming and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). If you don’t want to learn PHP or CSS, then choose a Theme that more closely meets your immediate needs and offers “non-programmer” customization.

That’s why I tend to recommend the Themes at:

There are other quality Themes available, but these are the ones with which I am most familiar.

Getting it Done Quickly

This approach will cost you a bit of money — anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand, depending on what you want done.

The most expensive way to create a new website with WordPress is to hire a web designer to create your Theme. That’s what we did with the Wealthy Web Writer site because there wasn’t a Theme available that met Rebecca’s goals.

By the time you’re done with a custom-designed Theme, you will have spent $1,500 or more. Ouch.

The next option is to shop around for a high-quality Theme that offers some customization capabilities. Most of these Theme sites will have a user forum. Sign into the user forum and ask if anyone familiar with that Theme can help you with the customizations you’d like, such as creating a custom header, changing the background, font sizes, colors, etc.

You can also go to www.elance.com, www.rent-a-coder.com, or www.guru.com and look for an experienced programmer who can help you with your customizations.

Expect to pay between $250-500 for this kind of assistance.

Getting it Done Cheaply

If you’re low on money, but have the time to work on your website, here’s what you can do:

1.  Start with a quality Theme.

This is your professional face. You can get a free blog up-and-running at www.wordpress.com or at www.blogger.com. Even Yahoo! and Google have ways for you to get a free blog or website up quickly.

The problems with these free approaches are that the Themes are okay at best, and you have zero to little control over the customization. You also lack the flexibility that you have with a standalone WordPress installation. You won’t be able to add plug-ins, change the design, or have control over what goes where.

Plus, you’ll often have advertisements displayed on your web pages!

A good Theme should cost you around $70-$130. If this feels like too much, then see if you can partner up with other people on the WWW forum. Many of the quality Themes come with “unlimited” licenses so that you can install the Theme on as many blogs as you wish.

If you form some “teams” on the WWW forum, you can work together to buy a Theme (one copy), then help each other customize the Theme for your various websites. The WWW forum is a great place to team up with others to get your websites up–and-running, so I hope that you’re actively using it!

2. Pick a Theme that most closely matches your needs.

Worry about the details of the customization later. Right now, just pick a good Theme that already does most of what you want, such as a nice home page and blog layout. The less customization you have to do, the better.

3. Get your own domain name and hosting.

Websites have to be “hosted” somewhere. Blogger blogs are hosted by Blogger. If you get a free blog at www.Wordpress.com, they host it for you.

If you want www.yourname.com, then you’ll need to get your own domain name and host it somewhere. There are many good hosting companies out there. I happen to like www.hostgator.com and www.bluehost.com. I tend to stay away from Godaddy (the cheapest) because they use non-industry-standard systems, which can sometimes play havoc with WordPress.

Many hosting companies will pay for your domain name (for one year). Expect to pay around $5-7 per month for hosting, and about $9 per year for the domain name.

Now, here’s a neat trick if you’re teaming up with other WWW members on limited budgets. For about $90/year, www.hostgator.com offers you a hosting package with “unlimited domains.”

That is, you can buy one hosting package as a group, and ALL of you can host your independent, individual domains as part of the same package. Everyone will have his or her own unique URL (www.yourname.com), and to the outside world it looks like you’re completely on your own.

If you already have a website and want to convert to WordPress, you can install your blog in a subdirectory of your site (www.yourname.com/blog), and play with it to your heart’s content until you’re ready to go live.

Then, I highly recommend getting the Backup Buddy plug-in from www.iThemes.com to move your blog from the subdirectory to the main site.

4. Install WordPress and your (un-customized) Theme.

Go ahead and install WordPress and your Theme. Then, go ahead and feel completely overwhelmed when you look at the home page, especially if you use a Theme that has a “static” (professional) home page instead of a standard blog format.

You will feel overwhelmed … guaranteed.  I still do, and I’ve done this dozens of times.

First things first. On paper, decide on the “Pages” you want to include on your site: About, Services, Contact at a minimum.

Create those pages in WordPress (“Add New Page”). Then, simply modify your home page to point to those pages in the main navigation area.

5. Customize the home page.

Okay, now things get a bit trickier. You may need to customize the header. The DIY way is to download the free program at www.Gimp.com (works just like Adobe Photoshop) and follow one of the hundreds of tutorials available online.

Then, decide what information or images you want to display in the various “Widget” or other areas the Theme gives you on the home page.

Make it simple. Don’t try to change the design, and use your copywriting genius to fill in the blank spaces with something … anything, just to get your home page done!

6. Add a few articles.

Go ahead and write a few articles and add them as “new posts” to your blog. Add a “Widget” to your home page that lists the latest blog posts.

Now you have a professional website up-and-running.

What Happens Later

After you’ve got your site up with the basic, un-customized Theme (with the possible exception of the header graphic), you can go back later and change the colors, font sizes, and more.

You can add custom page templates that look like sales letters or landing pages (sans header, sidebars, etc.), add videos, and even add a portfolio of your work.

You can then add a Forum board (Simplepress — the same as used at the Wealthy Web Writer), and even a complete social networking site, complete with groups, chat rooms, and more (Buddypress). The good news is that both of these “plug-ins” are currently free.

The main thing is to get past that initial shock when you’ve installed WordPress and your Theme. Take it one step at a time, be sure to take a lot of deep breaths, and keep plugging away at it.

Again, by choosing a Theme that most closely matches the end result you want, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and money.

Want More?

If you’re ready to get your own professional blog up–and-running, you can watch a recording of the webinar I did for Wealthy Web Writer. You can watch the recording here.

In the webinar, I walk through the creation of a new blog — live! You can watch as I run into a couple of complications, and read about the solution in the copy that’s included with the video link.

As a Wealthy Web Writer member you also have access to the 18-part video tutorial I provide on building your first WordPress blog.  Access the video tutorial here.


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Sid Smith

This is Sid's Biographical Information (to be updated later... just testing)

3 Comments

  • Yeah, let me just say I don’t love wordpress. I have a content site with SBI that I do love and keep comparing the two though I know that’s the proverbial apples and oranges…

    I finally outsourced the header and nav bar customization b/c I didn’t want to spend 10 hrs. figuring it out. A fab investment I do think. But now I can’t figure out how to change the font size (I know the header html) for the general layout and I’m just not thrilled with the appearance.

    Could you include some basic code? (I know a very little html 101) in one of these tutorials? (I haven’t gone through them all so sorry if you have already…) Thanks! Jen

  • Great idea Jen! I’ll add an article on basic html to our production schedule. Thanks!
    Heather

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