Building a website… Part 1

Posted: February 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

Hello all. Recently I have had a request to go over the process of making a blog, such as this one, again. Some of you may have read my previous posts on this subject, but for those of you that have note, I can’t help you. I just spend about five minutes looking for my previous articles on this subject, with no luck. That aside, I have decided that it is a topic worth revisiting. In this series I plan on covering how to set up a blog on WordPress, as well as how to create your very own website using HTML, CSS, and maybe even a little JavaScript. Part 1 will cover setting up a WordPress blog.

The first thing you need to do, before even opening your browser and going to WordPress.com, is to decide what you are going to blog about. For example, I knew that I had plenty to say on the subject of computers and all things related to them, so I created this blog so that I share my thoughts, knowledge, and views with other people. Now you may have come here looking to create a website about your life, and because of your topic, you do not think that you need a theme. You do. Even if you plan to write about your life, or what you do in your backyard in the summer, or just plan to make random posts, you must know what your topic is. Once you have decided what your topic is you will be able to stick to that topic more easily, other people will be more likely to read your blog because there is a constant theme that they are interested in, and most importantly, it will help you think of things to publish. How? If you have a set theme, or topic that you have decided to write about, the chances that you will sit staring at your screen wondering what to write about go down dramatically. So in summary, a good, clearly defined theme that is present in all of your posts will not only help you come up with posts, but also bring readers interested in the topic you have chosen to your blog to read what you have to say.

Next, you must consider a domain. The domain, commonly known as the web address or less commonly as the URL, is what readers will type in to get to your website. The actual significance of a domain name relative to the success of your website is certainly arguable, but in my opinion choosing a domain name is a crucial step. For example, let us take a look at the domain I chose for my blog, MyiPC: myipc.wordpress.com. The “.wordpress” suffix added to my domain will be ignored because all blogs created at WordPress, unless you register a paid domain instead, are automatically appended with it. “myipc’ is meant to be read as the title of my blog is written, “MyiPC.” The second part of the name, “iPC,” is a parody of the ongoing PC vs Mac argument. By appending PC to the hallmark “i” that Apple prefixes all their products with, my goal was to not only add a little humor to the name, but also express some open mindedness. I could have registered with a name such as “pcsarethebest” (PCs are the best), but in doing so it is my opinion that I would have gave some readers a prejudice with which to read my posts with. Let us look at another example. The other day I was reading browsing through the various category’s of websites on WordPress, and came upon one website that piqued my interest. After reading the article and leaving a short comment to the author, I happened to glance up at the domain; The domain of the website was simply the author’s username. There was absolutely no connection to the name, the title of the blog, or the content within the website whatsoever. The final reason I will present in favor of my point of view is for returning users. Generally the most emphasis placed on any single element in a blog, and especially blogs created using WordPress themes, is the title. Besides the content of an article on your website, that is what a casual reader is most likely to remember. But what if this reader wants to come back and leave you a nice comment, or send your post to some friends? Well unfortunately the poor reader doesn’t remember the URL of your website, and has recently ran CCleaner, effectively wiping almost all traces of ever being at your website from his or her computer. So now what? The one thing your reader remembers from your website is the title, the big, black letters framed against a white background are still burning in their mind. After hopping over to Google and doing a search for your title, nothing relevant comes up. Dispirited, the reader who wanted to come back to your website and spread the word about it closes the browser window and never sees your website again. That story is all too common among those who do not choose a title and domain well. My personal recommendation is to choose a title that you feel describes what you will talk about in your posts, and then if not make your domain exactly that title, at least model it after the title.

Now that you have chosen both a topic to write about, as well as a title and a desired domain, head on over to WordPress.com and click the big orange button that says “Sigh up now.” In the next screen you will be asked to enter your desired domain name (labeled as “Blog address” on the form), as well as create a username, password, and enter your email address. Fill out the fields, and click “Sign up.” A confirmation email will be sent to the email address you entered on the previous page, which you must click in order to activate your blog.

Once activated, your blog will be very basic. The basic theme consisting of two columns and a title will greet you should you decide to check our your website before following the steps below:

Delete the “Hello World!” post, manage posts, and edit pages.

Nothing says “Hi, I’m a beginning who just started at this” more than leaving the “Hello World!” post up, and unfortunately some readers will leave after seeing it. Every WordPress blog is forced to have one by default, so the first thing you should do is delete it. To do so, look to the left side of the screen. You should see a horizontal bar with a variety of menus and links. Click the button labeled “Posts”. Upon clicking the button, you will be redirected to a page in which all of your posts are displayed. Hover over the name of the post you want to edit (in this case the “Hello World!” post). A few links should appear under the post name, one of which in red labeled Trash. Click it. Congratulations, you have now deleted the annoying default post!

When you inevitably become ready to write a post, go to the “Posts” page again and click the “Add new” button near the page title. On the next page there will be space to write your post, no matter how long it ends up being.  You will have the option of saving your post as a draft, previewing it, or publishing  it. The names of the buttons are self-explanatory, so I wont bother explaining their functions. You can also edit posts from the “Posts” page. Simply open the page, mousover the post you would like to edit,  and click the “Edit” link that appears under the name.

To add, edit, or delete a page, you must go through a similar process. The only difference is that when working with pages, you must go to the “Pages” window. A link to it can be found in the bar on the left side of the screen.

Change your theme, add widgets, and customize the title.

The next thing that you will want to do is change the theme. Some people prefer a simplistic theme, and I can appreciate that, but even if you plan on keeping the default theme I would suggest following along throughout this step in order to have the knowledge to change your theme in the future. To view all the currently available themes, click the button labeled “Appearance,” located a few items under the “Posts” button you clicked earlier. You will be brought to a page at which you can choose any theme you deem suitable for your website. Since this is your first time, I would recommend ordering the themes from A-Z by clicking the “A-Z” link underneath the “Browse Themes” heading. You can click the “Preview” link underneath the picture of each theme to see a full-size image of what you site would look like with that theme.
Once you have found a theme you like, click the “Activate” link underneath its image. This will change the appearance of you website to that theme.

Customizing the title of your blog is very important. A title is most likely what readers will see first upon navigating to your blog, so choose wisely. To change the current title of a WordPress blog, click the bottom button in the sidebar where you found “Posts” and “Appearance,” the button labeled “Settings.” From the Setting page you will be able to change your site title, as well as add or change a site tagline (a brief description of what your website is about), and timezone. When finished, click “Save Changes.”

Adding Widgets is not necessary, but it can improve the look of your blog as well as improve the usability. To customize the widgets displayed on your blog at any given time, go back to the page where you picked out a theme and click the “Widgets” link. If you cannot find the link, it is possible that your theme does not support adding widgets. The next page will allow you to go through available widgets and place them on a sidebar, header, or footer, depending on your current theme. After dragging and dropping a widget to a sidebar, header, or footer be sure to click the “Save” button to save your changes before moving on.

 

This concludes the first part of the “Building a website…” series. You have learned how to:

1. Choose a descriptive title that will help you stay on-topic as well as guide readers to your blog
2. Customize your new blog to make it your own
3. Add, edit, or delete posts

Happy blogging.

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Comments
  1. […] again with part 2 of the ‘Building a website…’ series. This articles predecessor, Building a website… Part 1, covered creating a blog at WordPress.com. In this second article in the series I will talk about […]

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