If you are interested in designing and publishing you own website you may find the following useful.
You should know that when I was in college, back in the 1980’s, I did study programming. I learned a number of computer languages and wrote some small programs. I had a Commodore 64 and I did write some ‘machine language’ programs for it. I tell you this so you will know that I do have a basic understanding of computers. However, I’m not a professional programmer.
I have been writing, mostly short stories and essays, for a number of years. When I retired I decided to publish some of my writing in a blog on the Internet. I tried WordPress.com and discovered that I wanted to have more control. So I took a class at the local community college on how to use WordPress.org. In addition, I was ‘volunteered’ into being the liaison between my church and the website designer/publisher for our church. That provided some experience in website management and a bit about design. Let’s say I had a small inkling about what I was getting into. Let’s say a ‘very small inkling’… 🙂
The first thing you should know is that this is very time consuming. It also requires monthly maintenance at a minimum. Daily maintenance is best. So, plan to put some time into this.
I remember being surprised at the number of “free” software tools available. Yes, they are free. However, they would prefer you to buy the support they offer. Also, the price of entry is low. The price of continuing can get expensive. Your domain and the company that provides the servers for your site are also priced low to start. Make sure you know what the price of renewing your contract will be.
My original problem with WordPress.com was the advertising. They put the ads in rather disruptive places. And I did not like the content of some of the ads. But there was a second problem: the menu. So, when I moved to WordPress.org, I searched for themes that had a menu system that met my needs. I liked Cryout Creations themes. Their menu systems on some of their themes worked rather nicely.
There’s a true “learning curve” in the design and implementation of a website. First there’s WordPress. They do things in specific ways. Then there’s the theme. That modifies what WordPress does. And then there’s additional software tools called “Plug-Ins” and “Widgets”. Finally, there’s your vision for your website. And you, as the designer, must merge all of these things.
Let me back up a moment: WordPress is one of a number of “Content Management Systems”. There’s Joomla! which is used by the company that designed and manages my church’s website. There’s Wix, which a friend uses for her website. And Go Daddy, etc. Then there’s the company that you buy your Domain from. And another company that hosts your website. I bought my domain from NameCheap. I use SiteGround as the host. The “host” is the company that owns the computers (servers) where my website is physically located. So, a website owner/designer must work with a number of companies: I just mentioned three. I already mentioned the company that supplies the Theme. And then there’s all the Plug-Ins & Widgets. It can get a bit complex.
Or you can do what a friend does: he set up a very basic blog site on WordPress.com. And all he does is post (publish) his writing. Just the essays he has written. No pictures. No menu. Just the text he has written. WordPress puts the most recent post at the ‘top’ of the page. Visitors to his website must scroll down through all the posts to see what he has written.
I did not want to do that. I’ve got a decent amount of content. It’s varied. If you want to find it again, I want you to be able to do that. Besides, I want the framework that surrounds my writing to enhance what I’ve written. Just as the color, shape, material and thickness of a frame enhances a photograph, the website enhances (or detracts) from the content of the site.
The Cryout Creations themes were not the first ones I tried. I checked out a number of themes from a number of companies. The themes from Cryout Creations looked decent. I really had no idea how to judge that. But I was happy with the appearance of my website. In addition, they offered the basic theme for free. That way I could test it before I had to purchase it. And instead of purchasing the theme, they sell their support of the theme. Many companies do it that way. But not all. Again, make sure you know what you are buying.
I have mentioned WordPress, NameCheap, SiteGround, Cryout Creations and other companies. The ones I chose were chosen for a variety of personal reasons. The best choice for you is the one that meets your needs. Unfortunately, that can be difficult to define. That definition includes who your audience is, the nature of your topic(s), the amount of time you have to devote to managing a website, and all sorts of personal preferences. I mention the companies I chose because they have been, for me, good choices. But I took a lot of time to research and test, read reviews, et cetera.
There were other reasons for leaving WordPress.com. One was that I wanted my own domain name. At that time I could only get “my-site.wordpress.com” and I wanted to be independent. What I did not realize until I started the process was that picking a domain name can be difficult. I wanted a name that reflected the intentions of my website. That part was relatively easy. The confusion came when I was faced with picking a “TLD”. This is the “Top Level Domain”. Every URL has one. They are the “.com” or “.org” or “.game” or “.eu” that follows the actual name of the domain. You can pay a lot for a TLD. Some of them are very, very cheap for the first year. Make sure you know what the renewal price will be.
There are good reasons for using WordPress.com. One of them is support. They have a team that can guide you through the rough spots. Also, you mostly deal with them. At WordPress.org there is a forum. But you have to know what you are doing. Support comes from the WordPress forum. And the companies that supply the themes and plug-ins also provide support. Most of the free support comes after they take care of their paying customers. So it may take a while. I’ve learned that it is best to study the documentation. But even then I sometimes cannot see the forest for the trees.
This is a continuing document. I will return to it frequently to add more to the story.