How to Start and Design a Blog|Website
Starting your own blog or website is an exciting thing, but it also can be challenging. How do I know this? Because I started 2 of them at the same time! Crazy, I know. Needless to say, there were probably more downs than ups in the beginning, but I made it through and now hopefully I can help you prevent some of the challenges I faced. Starting your own blog takes work, and maintaining it takes dedication. If you stay with it, though, it can be one of the most rewarding things you’ve done.
I created “Bloggers Resources” to pass on what I’ve learned so far, and make it easier for you to navigate through the deep waters of blogging. What works for everyone is different, but if anything else, I hope my ideas will get you thinking and start you on the road to success!
from Life Of A Shooter’s Wife™
Have you ever been told you have a real talent for something? Do you like to cook, decorate, shop? Maybe you’re a writer and want to have a space to showcase all your articles. Are you are self-employed and need a website to showcase your services and goods? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then starting your own blog could be just the thing for you!
Great ideas are best when shared, and having a blog to showcase them is easier than you think. A blog will give you a home: a place to put down roots and showcase the fruits of your labor, while giving others a place to explore what it is you’re offering.
I started Life Of A Shooter’s Wife™ completely on my own and with no prior web design experience. After a lot of thought, research, trial and lots of error, I chose Bluehost, WordPress, and cssigniter to manage and design my blog.
from Life Of A Shooter’s Wife™
Great design is one of the most important parts of your blog. It will be the foundation for your business and all your ideas, so you will want it to be easy to look at and easy to navigate. If you have those two things covered, you’ll be able to retain and build your readership faster.
from Life Of A Shooter’s Wife™
Now that you’ve found a theme that will best convey your message, it’s time to put all the puzzle pieces of your blog together. All themes come with basic functions, so in theory you don’t need to do much to get your blog up and running, but of course you won’t do that because you will want to customize it. This is where Plugins come in.
Plugins are Add-ons that can personalize and make your blog more interesting. They are external software programs and they do just what the name implies; they “plug in” and add extra functions that aren’t already built into your theme. I compare it to buying a new car; it’s available in a Standard Package, but if you want things like heated seats, a rear backup camera, leather interior, more horsepower, you’ll need to add them to the Standard Package. This is where Plugins come in. They enhance the functionality and appearance of your blog. If you want to show videos on your blog, you’ll need a Plugin for that. If you want to have a newsletter, you’ll need a one for that. And if you want to optimize your visibility on the internet and in search engines, you’ll definitely want a Plugin for that. The possibilities are endless, so don’t feel like you are constrained to a theme “as is”. Remember, your theme is a template waiting for you to add your own personal flair to it.
WordPress offers a variety of Plugins for different themes, so make sure whichever ones you choose, it says it’s compatible with your version of WordPress. There are other companies who also provide Plugins and Widgets, but just make sure it’s compatible with your version of WordPress and the theme you have chosen. If they aren’t, not only will they not work, but they could negatively affect everything else on your blog.
Bluehost is a great hosting company for starting your own blog and is ready to use with WordPress. They have many options and are affordable. I chose to go with their WordPress Optimized Blogger Package because I wanted to have my own Dedicated Server, which then came with it’s own Technical Support Team. If you sign up, they’ll even give you your Domain Name for FREE.
UpdraftPlus is a backup Plugin for WordPress sites. It’s super easy to use and has the ability to perform scheduled or manual backups. And with lots of customizations available, you can even choose your backup source (S3, Dropbox, Google Drive, Rackspace, FTP, SFTP, email, and more). Although you may already have this with your hosting company, it can never hurt to have more than one backup system in place. I currently use 3 different systems. Better to be safe than sorry!
WordPress Themes is a great place to browse for your blog’s theme, or just gather ideas. If your on a budget, no worries. They have thousands of FREE themes that are customizable and work great for just starting out. You always have the option of upgrading to a Premium Theme in the future.
cssigniter is where I found my “forever” theme. I knew the theme I started my blog with wasn’t working quite right. It didn’t look right and it was difficult to navigate. After searching through hundreds of WordPress themes for months, I finally found the Olsen Theme. After changing my theme, the traffic to my blog more than doubled! Proof that how you design your blog is so very important. There is a FREE version of the Olsen Theme, and it’s great if you’re just starting your blog. I opted to upgrade to the paid version so I could also have Technical Support.
Blogger Importer is needed if you have an existing blog using Google Blogger, and have decided to change over to WordPress. You’ve probably spent a lot of time on your current site, and the last thing you want to do is start from scratch. This nifty Plugin will allow you to smoothly transfer your current blog and it’s contents to your new WordPress site. Just make sure you back-up your old site first so you don’t lose anything.
Google Analytics Dashboard for WordPress is something you’ll use on a daily basis. when you sign into your WP Admin Account, this will be the first thing you see on your Dashboard. This hardworking Plugin will tell you about the traffic that is coming to your site. How many visitors, number of page reloads, traffic sources, it will even allow you to block an I.P. address if someone is harassing you. It’s a great way to track your sites traffic in real-time.
Akismet is a great tool to use for managing spam on your blog. Let’s face it, the last thing you want to spend your time on is filtering every comment that’s made on your blog. This awesome Plugin does it for you, and sends them to the spam graveyard so you never have to see them. I use the FREE version, but at only $9.00 per month for their Premium Version, it’s still very affordable.
MailChimp is an easy way to have readers sign up for any subscriptions you might have for your blog. Whether it’s being notified by email about new postings, or through a regular Newsletter, it’s to use. And with options to connect to all your other Social Media Sites, it can be a very efficient way to reach your readers. They have a free option too! So unless you plan on blasting out more than 12K emails a month, the free plan is great for starting out.
Smush is a definite must-have! It does exactly what its name implies, it “smushes” all your image files down so they take up less space, improve your blogs performance, and boosts your SEO rank. In layman’s terms, it makes your site load faster and all your pictures more visible in general web searches.
InstaShow is my favorite for displaying and connecting readers to my Instagram account. I have tried others, but this one gives more options for customizing. The pro-version is a one-time fee of $19, so upgrading won’t break the bank.
PDF Embedder is great if you are going to have things available for your readers to download. Examples would be forms to fill out, informational booklets, invites, etc. This Plugin lets you embed forms directly onto your blog with out having to use any third-party services, and it will automatically resize them for you. I use this for Match Bulletins and Signup Forms for shooting matches that are posted in my blogs Calendar.
Coming soon by Supsystic. I love this Plugin! I use this when I need to do maintenance on my blog. It enables you to display a “Coming Soon” image that will you greet your readers when they access your blog. You can even customize it with images and details of when your site will be up and running again. You can even display a countdown timer. It’s much more professional than getting that annoying “this website cannot be reached” notification.
Date and Time Widget is just that. A simple little gadget to display the date and time anywhere on your blog.
Code Canyon offers a variety of digital products for bloggers, such as Themes, Plugins, CSS, eCommerce, and many more.
Envato Market offers a variety of digital products for bloggers, such as Themes, Plugins, CSS, eCommerce, and many more.
wpbeginner is one website that you definitely are going to want to save to your favorites! It has been my go-to-guide for almost everything. Anytime I have a question, I look here first. With great tutorials and references, it’s a great place for bloggers to navigate the ins and outs of WordPress setup, and is presented in a format that’s clear and easy to understand.