Lesson 3: Setting Up Your Blog
In the previous lesson, we discussed some options for hosting and choosing the right platform for your blog. By now you should have chosen a host and hosting plan, one-click installed WordPress (or another platform of your choice), and you are prepared for the next step. In this lesson, we will discuss how to get started with WordPress, how to choose a theme to begin your website, and the necessary plugins to keep your website running smoothly. This lesson focuses solely on WordPress, though you can apply this information to other platforms as well.
Getting Started With WordPress
WordPress is a powerful platform for any website. It does not matter if you have no experience in web development, you will be able to create a beautiful website in no time. However, knowing the basics of HTML, CSS, and web development will take you further in customizing your WordPress website. If interested, learn HTML and CSS here. You can also learn more about the WordPress Codex to understand more about the platform and how you can customize it.
In this lesson, we will not discuss these topics as they could be their own posts and this content would drag on. They are also not necessary for creating your site right away. Things that will be helpful when dealing with web development for your website will be discussed throughout the remainder of this post. Now it is time to start your WordPress site.
The first thing we need to do is choose a theme. What do you want your website to look like? What impression do you want your website to give users? The theme is an extremely important choice when creating your website, and you should give it some good thought. However, a theme can be replaced later with little difficulty (it may get difficult if you customized your theme at all), but more on Child Themes later.
WordPress has some choices for free themes that are worth a test before you choose them. When on your WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance -> Themes and you will have a small list of the WordPress themes available to you for free.
- Twenty Fourteen
- Twenty Fifteen
- Twenty Seventeen
There are several others you can search that are free, but there are also premium themes that you can explore. In fact, many people prefer to purchase a premium theme for the regular updates that the creators provide to help protect your website.
Updates are important to do each time they are available for the security of your website. However, if you customize your theme at all in the Appearance -> Editor tab of the WordPress dashboard, you will lose all of that progress. That is why if you want to make any changes to the code of your theme, you should create a child theme.
If you want a premium theme, we suggest that you look at OpenCart Themes to see the different themes that they offer for different styles of websites. For example, if you want to create an eCommerce website, they have a specific theme for that. If you want to create a social network using the BuddyPress plugin, they have a theme for that as well. Which brings us to the next topic regarding what you want your website to look like.
Once you have a theme, it is time to customize your WordPress website. To do this, go to Appearance -> Customize. From here, you will see your active theme. You are also able to change your website’s title, tagline, icon, colors, background image, menu, and many other aspects of your site. Be sure to take some time to go through each tab to customize your website.
Next, let’s customize our site further through the Settings tab.
- Settings -> General – Choose your time zone, language, how the date will read, and when the week starts for your site.
- Settings -> Writing – You can take a look at this section, though we do not do much customizing in this tab.
- Settings -> Reading – Here you need to decide what you want your front page to display. Do you want it to show your latest posts or do you want a static front page? If you choose a static front page (like we did with To the Nations Worldwide), you need to choose which page will show your latest posts for your blog. You can also choose how many posts display on the page and much more.
- Settings -> Discussion – From this tab, you can manage the comments section of your website and how you want them displayed.
- Settings -> Media – In the Media tab, you can decide the image size of the photos you upload. Though in this tab, we do very little customization.
- Settings -> Permalink – In the Permalink tab, you choose how you want your link structure to look. For To the Nations Worldwide, we chose the month and name structure to show our readers the year and month that each of the posts were created and the name of the post. There are several other options to choose from.
Plugins allow for additional functionality and can be installed onto your WordPress site with the click of a button. These plugins can also be customized according to your preferences. Plugins allow you to create the website that you want your users to see with little technical knowledge. Choosing the right plugins for your site is important. To add a plugin, go to Plugins -> Add New on your WordPress dashboard.
Here are some free plugins that we recommend:
- Yoast SEO
- WP Super Cache
- Compress JPEG & PNG Images
- Easy Watermark
- Instagram Feed WD
- Meta Slider
- Itro Popup Plugin
- Super Socializer
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This topic will be discussed in a later lesson, but you should know that this plugin will help you improve where your website rank in search engines. This is a must have for any WordPress website.
Have you ever clicked on a website and exited after waiting to long for it to load? Do not make that same mistake with your website. Making your website as fast as possible is important for keeping people on your website. WP Super Cache allows the temporary storage of information so that it does not need to be called from your server. This results in a faster load time. WP Super Cache is recommended by Host Gator if you chose them as your host.
Do you want your website to be a social network? BuddyPress is a powerful plugin that allows just that. Have users sign up to your website and create a profile, add friends, join groups, and so much more! This is the same plugin that To the Nations Worldwide uses to power its network. In addition to BuddyPress, be sure to search additional plugins that add to the BuddyPress plugin.
This plugin will allow you to create a forum on your website. It is extremely easy to setup and use.
Will you be uploading images to your blog? Most likely you will be. Make sure that you are not uploading images that are large. This will slow down your website. Use this plugin to compress those images to a much smaller size. You will never notice a difference in the image quality.
Watermark your images to show who they belong to. This plugin will place a watermark anywhere on your image. Be careful though, you will want to test it on one image to get the right size, position, and opacity before uploading the watermark to all of your images. Otherwise, you will need to replace all of your photos. There are no undo buttons on this plugin.
Another plugin for photographers, this will show your Instagram feed on your website. Simply input your Instagram information and insert the shortcode into one of your pages or posts.
Want an image slider to display on one of your pages? This is an excellent plugin to show off your images in a custom slideshow.
If you want to show your users something, offer a giveaway, or ask them to sign up to your email list, use this plugin to show a pop up on any page.
Create sharing and like buttons for any social media platform on any page or post of your website.
This plugin creates a point system for your users. This pairs well with the BuddyPress plugin to provide points for any specific reasons, including: visiting pages, creating an account, or sharing the website with others.
Turn your website into an eCommerce platform or create your very own marketplace within your website with this plugin.
Plugins are an incredible way to customize your website without spending several hours learning and coding or hiring somebody to do it for you. There are thousands more free and paid plugins that can be used to create a unique experience for your visitors. Be careful not to add too many to your website. If it is possible, learn to code it into your website by yourself. If you add too many plugins, your website will load slowly. Try to have less than 20 active plugins at any given time (this number also depends on the size of each plugin).
We should now have chosen a theme and begun to build a list of plugins to add to our WordPress website. Your vision of what you want your website to become is slowly building into reality. I urge you at this point to get to know your theme and plugins. Go to Appearance -> Customize and start creating the look of your website. As you add plugins, they will be added to your right sidebar of your WordPress dashboard or under the Settings tab. You can also get to know what you can customize within each plugin.
Lesson 1: Why Blogging?
Lesson 1: Creating Your Name
Lesson 2: Choosing Your Host and Platform
Lesson 3: Setting Up Your Blog
Lesson 1: Writing Content
Lesson 2: After You Write
Lesson 1: Blogging Resources
Lesson 2: SEO
Lesson 3: Social Media
Lesson 4: Advertising
Lesson 5: Monetizing
Lesson 1: Continuing with Your Blog