Today, I am happy to say that my new website is coming along. I predict that before next Sunday, I will have imported this blog into my self-hosted WordPress site, with fingers crossed as to it happening seamlessly.
A week ago, I expressed my frustrations about learning how to develop my WordPress site. There were countless frustrations this past week too. But I read piles of information, and I now seem to have crossed a line, and am actually having fun with it.
I’ve been keeping a loose diary of the evolution of my knowledge. Here are some of the things I learned, and have done, in the past two weeks, with all my cries of frustration edited out!
Page background and Homepage Slider: I started out thinking I could get a background image from Cutest Blog on the Block or Shabby blogs. When I didn’t find anything suitably professional, I learned about a wonderful website with tile-able images and spent a considerable amount of time choosing a half-dozen I liked best out of hundreds of possibilities. I chose a background color and then spent a considerable amount of time selecting a couple hundred images from those that I've been collecting over the years for a possible slideshow on the homepage.
The images will serve as a placeholder until I have book covers to advertise in that spot.
The images will also be used in blog posts. Highly targeted in style, they will help to create my brand.
As to the page background, I eventually decided not to use a tile-able image, after all. Tile-able images are small, but even so, they slow page load speed. I’m now using a solid color background with a subtle overlay instead, and it looks quite nice.
I had intended to change the images with the seasons, which I still plan to do. Instead of changing the background image each time, I’ll simply change the color.
So now I’m all done being concerned about the use of color on my site!
After that, I swiftly learned that choosing colors and images to create my brand was hardly scratching the surface of everything I needed to know.
For example, what theme to choose? I had no prior knowledge of WordPress themes (free or premium), and so I needed to do my homework and zero in on the type of theme I wanted. That’s a little like deciding whether to buy a Cadillac or a Ferrari or a Jeep.
Not only do you need to decide on your theme, you need to decide on the framework beneath the theme. Frameworks are akin to engines. I looked over the engine possibilities and knew that for me, it was between Thesis and Genesis. After doing a sufficient amount of reading, I decided on Genesis.
Then I decided I like Elegant Themes by Studio Press, all of which come with a Genesis framework. Of the 69 choices, all of which I bought for $69 total, I found four that I really liked.
My next step was to buy a domain name and decide on a web host. Who to go with? GoDaddy? BlueHost? Numerous other possibilities? I decided to go with BlueHost, and I committed to them for one year.
I have since learned that these are considered third-party hosts. They are cheaper than going with WP Host or several other premium hosting sites, but at the cost of page load speed.
You want your website to load, ideally, in less than TWO seconds. If it loads from TWO to SIX seconds, you should look for ways to increase load speed. If your site takes longer than that to load, you seriously need to make some changes. The easiest but most expensive way is not to go with a third-party host. For me, that would mean going from paying $72/annually (with BlueHost) to $360/annually with WP Host, for example.
My site was loading at 2.77 seconds, and I wasn't about to change hosts, so I decided to read about to how to increase load speed without going with a more expensive provider. Most suggestions involved nothing more than installing a variety of (free) plugins to my WP website. I was able to get load speed down to 1.77 seconds.
I must admit, also, that load speed is quite variable, even when taking measurements only a few seconds apart. So I’m not going to worry about it anymore. I optimized my site. My speed is just fine.
Back to the themes: I bought a domain name, chose a host, and downloaded WordPress (from WordPress.org) into my BlueHost C-Panel. Then I imported my four favorite themes into an empty shell of a website. I quickly decided I liked the Chameleon theme best, and began populating it with useful plugins, and also customizing it.
Here are some of the things I needed to learn how to do, and which I have now successfully (after a lot of hair-pulling) done:
- Successfully made and installed a favicon!
- Successfully made and installed my logo!
- Successfully added a live signature.
- Successfully added numerous plugins, after doing a lot of research about plugins. (Plugins improve back-end functionality in countless ways.)
- Successfully added several widgets. (Widgets are similar to what we use in blogger when we populate our sidebars.)
- Wrote up quotes for the homepage, although am not yet finished with the design of the page.
- Wrote the About page, and the Contact page.
- Learned how to create blog posts in WP. (Lots of options there.)
- Burned a feed with Feedburner and signed up for Google Analytics.
- Created and installed clickable social media icons and linked them to their respective SM sites.
Where I’m at now: I am now learning how to use shortcodes. (These don't exist in blogger, and I'm not sure yet how, or even if, I will use them, but they look very interesting!)
Other things I've done:
- Spruced up my labels and then created categories in WP that are the exact match. I still have 49 labels, but I should be able to nest some of them, and add tags, in WP.
- Dumped 100 blogger posts, as they were not in line with where I want to go with my new website, i.e. my brand. (I’ve done this several times over the years, as my blogging M.O. has evolved.)
- Got stats on all posts, grouped by labels, for information as to which labels have been the most popular over the years.
There is still much, much more to do, and my husband’s question rings in my ears: Why am I creating a website, when my blogger blog is just fine? He’s not concerned about the expense, as it’s been minimal: less than $250 (as opposed to hiring it done, at a cost of $2500 or more). He’s more curious about why I've gone to all the trouble.
There are several answers:
- Most published authors have a bona-fide website, as opposed to a blog, as it looks more professional. My "given" was that I would choose a website.
- As to whether to hire it out or do it myself, I wanted to do it myself, and not only because of the money savings. I wanted to be able to make any changes and not have to rely on a web designer who would charge for his services, and do it at his convenience, not mine.
- As to why I'm doing it now and not after signing a book contract, there will be too many other considerations needing my attention at that time.
- And,when all is said and done, I love taking on new challenges. I love the process: learning, experimenting, experiencing failures (hair-pulling!) and successes (the satisfaction that I figured something out).
So, Mike and everyone, that's why I am doing it, even though I have a perfectly fine blog.
How was your week?