Alright. So. NEW SERIES! Get excited!
I feel like I keep having the same convo over and over again with blogging newbies or ladies interesting in starting a blog.
Honestly, why does anyone start a blog?
For me it was to serve as one voice for the modern midwesterner–fight back against all the people who talk shit on the midwest. It frustrated me to hear people talking about us being backwards, cheese-obsessed hicks (though, of course I love my grilled cheese), when I know how many interesting, healthy-cooking, ceramic-making, good-food-baking, doing-cool-shit folks are rockin’ it out here.
Which is why I want to show you how to properly establish your own WordPress blog (if you don’t already know how to). And not just a “buy a URL, try it on WordPress” type post. I mean a legit step-by-step info post. That’s why I’m starting this little “Creative U” series–to share all the digital knowledge and know-how I’ve learned over the past few years during my freelance and personal projects. Hopefully it can help you start a business or blog, or just learn a few new creative skills.
Hope you enjoy! And if you have any questions or need anything answered, please leave them in the comments section and I’ll try to get back to you boo.
create a unique name
If you already have a name or run a business, you can skip this step. If not, don’t take naming your biz or blog lightly. This will be your calling card. I’ve had 2 other blogs before midwest love fest and learned how quickly you can outgrow a blog name. Of course midwest love fest isn’t a prescriptive name (which is kind of how I wanted it to be, since the midwest lifestyle is just that–a lifestyle, which is how I wanted this blog to be), but if you know the precise subjects you want to cover, try to come up with a unique, yet semi-straightforward way to explain that to any new visitors.
For example, if you’re a plant enthusiast who also likes baking and that’s what your content will mainly feature, you could try pipingandpeonies.com. Alterations or rhyming names are always especially memorable. Just make sure to check if your URL is available first, and avoid any names that will kill your search results (anything that starts with “GOO” …is probably not going to be best, as Google kind of owns the combo of those 3 letters) or are similar to any other already-established blogs.
purchase your name
If you’re running a hobby blog and don’t necessarily plan on making it a business, this may not be necessary. But if you’re running a business or want to run your blog as a business in the future, make sure to secure your name legally.
I’ll mention Blogger because it’s technically an option, but I don’t know anyone who’s on Blogger who hasn’t transferred over to WordPress. Blogger is a Google-based application, and while it’s great if you’re starting a diary-like blog, if you’re running a blog you want people to see, Blogger isn’t so good. It provides limited customizations and outdated UX (user design).
WIX is a step up from Blogger, but was still considered one of the early, easy blogging options. That said, I now consider it a tad outdated. Though they’ve made recent improvements (Wix’s themes look a lot cleaner and more professional), visitors to WIX sites can always tell they’re WIX sites because of the recognizably clunky design. And if your visitors can name the platform you’re using to host your blog, it detracts from the blog itself.
Squarespace has beautiful advertising and beautiful UX. Plus, I love what they stand for–clean, creative and professional-looking websites that anyone–from those with no experience to web experts–can set up. Squarespace and WIX are similar in that way: they’re very plug and play.
If I had to choose between WIX and Squarespace, I would choose Squarespace because WIX (IMO) is still too behind the times. However, Squarespace is pretty damn expensive. Frustratingly, the easiest way to set up a site on Squarespace is to purchase the URL through Squarespace. And the only way to host the site is through Squarespace. This is great for some people because it’s very simple and a total “all in one” service, but if you want the ability to buy and host your site however or wherever you want, you’re SOL. Additionally, Squarespace only offers a certain number of templates to choose from and the templates are not very flexible. So if you ever wanted to go in and add something down the line–good luck.
Alright, now that I’ve at least addressed WordPress’ competitors, I’m going to be blunt: I’m very passionate about using WordPress and this is why: they offer thousands upon thousands of design options + flexible editing (if you ever grow your blog and want a professional designer to step in, you can easily do that) + flexible hosting (since you can either host through WordPress or another domain service like A Small Orange). IMO, this makes WordPress the best option for anyone who wants a clean look, with the flexibility to grow and change everything from the look to the hosting service (ps obvii WordPress doesn’t pay me to say this, I just really believe in the “product”…thoughhh I wish they’d pay me for all the times I talk them up!).
set up hosting
If you’re going ahead with WordPress, you’re going to want to choose a bomb.com hosting service. I’ve used two different hosting services between six different blogs, and personally recommend A Small Orange. My perception is that it’s a bit of an indie hosting service, or at least that’s how the company makes me feel. They’re available at nearly all hours of the day and have personally helped me set up WordPress on the backend of my blog. Because, yes, even I still get quite confused when it comes to all that cloud/server business. Plus, their options are relatively cheap (keep an eye out around the holidays, when they’ll be more likely to throw around sales and discounts), my hosting runs smoothly (much smoother than previous hosting services), they have clean UX and they run tons of great sales throughout the year.
installing wordpress on your server
Okay, now that you’re hosting on A Small Orange, let’s get crackin’ on the install front.
Don’t be intimidated by this step. Use A Small Orange’s WordPress Install Guide and WordPress’ Installation page. And never hesitate to chat or email your hosting service’s customer service–no matter how you host your blog, they should be a good asset.
And because I’m not a total asshole, here’s a couple WordPress installation guides from a few other popular companies:
finding + installing a wordpress theme
Now the fun begins! I’m kind of a theme whore. Swear, I change up my theme like once a year. There are just so many options to choose from, it’s hard to commit to one.
That said, I’ve searched HIGH and freakin’ low for good quality themes, and here are a few of my favorite places to check out if you’re in the market:
- Theme Forest : this is a big one. If you want a variety of themes, an easy/reliable payment process (and a variety of prices), check out Theme Forest.
- Creative Market : this is another major site to check out. Both Theme Forest and Creative Market source themes and graphics from different designers and developers, which means both are worth a look-see.
- Studiopress : Super sleek options are available on this site, which basically means I’m obsessed with it. This might’ve been where I also found Foodie, which is the best theme I’ve found for sharing, collecting and organizing recipes (HIGHLY recommend for food bloggers–it was the last theme I used, before getting antsy and updating to this one).
- Etsy : Yes, Etsy is another great resource for finding WordPress themes. The only downside I’ve found is that the development isn’t as sturdy, which means that the themes aren’t always as flexible or don’t work as smoothly as themes from more established sites.
Once you’ve chosen and purchased a theme, the developer will provide you with instructions and support to help you install it. However, speaking in general terms, you will download the theme to your computer. Then, go to your WordPress dashboard > Appearance > Themes > Install Theme and upload. From there, you can experiment with “customization” to get a few colors and such changed.
I know that’s a TON of information, but I swear that’s the nittiest, grittiest part. It’s all … smooth-ish sailing from there on out, ha. In my next post I’ll dive into the WordPress Plugins I recommend you download first, and a bit of the HTML + CSS coding you can easily do on your own to better customize your sidebar.
Per usz, let me know if you have any questions or thoughts in the comments below.