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Starting a simple website or blog is relatively inexpensive. You can often find cheap or inexpensive products that give great results. This is one of the reason so many entrepreneurs begin with internet-based businesses.
One of the reasons starting a website is inexpensive is because so much of the basic foundational building blocks can be found for free. Honestly, this is why I started a blog. I knew it was an inexpensive way to build a small side business that I could do in my fringe hours.
Although I don’t make a ton of money off my blog, I’ve loved the process and will continue even if I don’t make tons of money blogging.
To start a basic website, you’ll need to do the following:
- Purchase a Domain (Typically $3-12 annually)
- I recommend reviewing this article as you search for names – How to Choose a Domain Name For Your New Internet Based Business
- Set up a Hosting Account (Typically 3-15/month – Will increase as your traffic increases)
- I’m using SiteGround. You can read more about why I use Siteground in this post – Siteground vs. Godaddy: Tips When Transferring Your Blog Hosting Platform)
- Choose a Theme (Typically $40-100)
- See below for more info then you probably want or need.
- Create a Logo/brand for your site (Free to hundreds of dollars)
- Check out – How to Create A Great Logo
Obviously, there is a bit more to it than this, but these are the four foundational pieces you need to start your first website. Once you get started you are going to find a whole new exciting world just waiting for you to discover.
Why Choosing The Right WordPress Theme is so Important:
If you are brand new to website development, your theme is the groundwork for your blog. The theme you choose will determine the basic look, feel, and flow of your blog.
Themes were created for people like me who have no desire (or skill) to learn to code. A theme sits on top of the code and allows an end user to plug and play their website without a ton of technical knowledge.
Choosing the right theme is significantly more important then I realized when I first started. I’m cheap, so I grabbed a free theme and went to work.
It didn’t work.
There are great free theme’s available, but few of them are designed for extensive manipulation. They are designed for simplicity and will rarely allow you to create your perfect vision.
One of the few things I recommend for new internet entrepreneurs to spend money on is a good theme.
I’ve spent many wasted hours trying to jury-rig themes to do stuff they just weren’t designed to do. There are thousands of WordPress themes available in the $40-100 range that will easily work for a beginning website.
It is easier to choose the right product from the beginning rather than try and make a square peg fit into a round hole.
Prior to picking a WordPress website theme, I recommend doing the following:
1. Visually layout the look of your website.
I know this sounds basic, but take a piece of paper and draw out the menus, structure and look. Decide where you want to place your posts, your pages, widgets (the little side boxes you see on websites), and advertising.
I highly recommend looking at 10-15 blogs you like to get ideas. Bookmark them and then carefully review what you like about each site. Then pick the best part of each website to build your dream vision.
For example, I really like lots of white space and clean lines. I like menus that are on the top of the page and easy to find. I’ve always preferred my widgets and ads to be on the left of the page with a nice logo/tagline on the top.
So the exact look and feel of this site.
On a side note, keep in mind I’m not a designer. I’d love to pretty up this blog, but since it is a side project it isn’t in the budget yet.
2. Review your blog flow
The flow of your website is related to how the pages and menus actually interact with each other.
If you are new to website creation then you may not realize that most websites are set up in two ways.
Pages are designed to showcase a specific product or service and tend to be stationary. Once they are created your rarely updated or change them.
Categories are designed to facilitate content sharing and are typically used when blogging. The blog pages you see aren’t truly pages, they are a composite of all of the posts written for a specific category.
So for example, when I publish this post, it will automatically be placed at the top of my front page. Then if I categorize the post as “Blogging” it will automatically become the first entry on the page that is labeled Blogging.
This category system allows you to easily organize your blog based on the segmented interest of your overall blog.
You can easily see how this works by looking at my current menu.
My blog is titled Daily Successful Living and is a resource for overwhelmed moms who are struggling to manage their finances and family life while starting a side hustle. My categories are – Personal Finance, Parenting, Becoming a Mompreneur & The Fun Stuff.
Basic websites typically have the same structure. Everything you do should be to improve the reader’s experience. You want your customers to find the information they need quickly and easily. A well-organized website makes this process simple for your end users.
With my first blog, I just threw everything together and then four years later had to spend hours cleaning up my mess and recategorizing everything. Don’t make my mistake, plan out the structure of your website before you begin production. It is going to change and that is okay, but if you have a good structure the change will be significantly less painful.
I recommend 5-6 main headings, as you grow your website you can add additional subheadings as you develop your voice.
3. Determine your logo and site colors.
This is the area, I really struggle in. I started this blog 4 years ago and still don’t have a designer logo for this site. I’m just too cheap to spend the money right now. However, if you are going to be successful I do recommend having a professionally designed logo with a brand template.
For additional information on logos check out How to Create a Great Logo.
One of the best resources I’ve found to choose colors is through Canva. I highly recommend their post 100 Brilliant Color Combinations and How to Apply them to your Design.
I’ve changed my colors multiple times and the main thing I recommend is to find colors that speak to you. Don’t follow the popular colors (they will change), but find colors that make you happy when you see them.
You’ll want contrasting colors that stand out when viewed from a distance.
Remember that any graphic you create may be viewed on a cell phone, so you need colors that will pop out. Most designers recommend having a mix of light and dark colors.
I personally use four colors for my blog. I like the flexibility multiple colors give me when creating graphics.
It sounds so simple – Pick your theme. Honestly, this is the hardest part and will take you more time than you expect.
These are some of the questions you should be asking prior to purchasing a theme.
- When choosing a theme, review a variety of companies. Read their disclaimers and read reviews on their products. If possible do a small test drive of the theme. Most copies offer some type of satisfaction guarantee.
- The major theme companies provide multiple examples of each of their themes in use by real customers. Depending on your goals it may even be worth contacting some of their existing customers to get reviews.
- At a minimum, you need to make sure that your theme is responsive. This means that the theme will automatically adjust based on the size of the device being used to view the page. 40-50% of my traffic is from mobile devices and I assume most websites have similar numbers. Having a responsive theme is critical for the look and feel of your site.
- Does the Theme company have good customer service?
- At some point, you’ll have issues with your theme. It is just a matter of time. Make sure there is a living, breathing person you can contact when the inevitable happens.
- What is included with the purchase of the theme? Can you use the theme infinitely? Do you get updates? Can you use multiple themes from the same company?
- How user-friendly is their product? Will you need to do any coding? Can you make basic changes yourself?
- For example, with my Themify themes, I can easily adjust the text, color, and size of my heading. This means that all of my headings will automatically change on all of my posts based on my master template.
As you are going through this process look back through your notes from steps 1 & 2. You need to be looking for themes that will require little to no modification to achieve the look and feel you envisioned in step 1.
If you are a non-technical person this is very, very important. Trying to force themes to match your vision can become very time consuming and if you aren’t careful can get expensive. Trust me when I say you don’t want to waste your time trying to get into the backend coding on your theme.
I’ve used themes from the following companies over the last 4 years. Some of these have been through work and some on my personal blogs.
- Studio Press (Genesis Framework)
- Restored 316 Designs (the theme I’m currently using is Refined)
On a very general level, the Studio Press Genesis theme seems to work better if you have basic programming skills. You can literally make Genesis do anything as long as you know coding.
I know a very, very limited amount of code and most of my coding is based on copy/paste. I look at the code for something that works and then can figure out how to adjust it. It is time-consuming and never works quite right.
This is the main reason, I started to use Themify for my themes.
Themify themes are designed to avoid the end user having to code. I’ve literally used code 3-4 times on my Themify themes and it is always for minor tweaks rather than major fixes.
The best part of the Themify system is their Builder Tool. This feature allows you to customize virtually any page. You can create any type of layout with live preview on the front end.
This means you can create multiple page columns with sub-columns on any page. The builder system allows you to create a text box, then a video box, then a graphic box and then place them anywhere on the page. The functionality is amazing.
I am not a technical person and yet have managed to create three blogs that although not top of the line, look pretty decent for a first time blogger with no coding skills.
If you have already started your website and are contemplating a switch I recommend having your hosting company add a .dev/testing site to your account. This allows you to test out the theme without accidentally breaking anything on your site.
I’ve switched themes a couple of times, it typically takes 3-4 hours of work to make sure that all of the pages look correct. It isn’t hard to do, but you’ll always run into little tweaking issues that need to be resolved. Keep in mind, I don’t have crazy elaborate websites. The more complicated your site the more difficult a theme change will be.
Having a testing environment makes this significantly easier since you aren’t making changes to a live site that may have viewers.
Your Theme is the Foundation of Your Blog
People are more likely to read your content if they like the way your blog looks. They will continue to read your posts if they can easily find related content that interests them.
Related Post: 6 Guidelines for Writing Quality Content
Don’t underestimate the power a well-designed theme will have on the look and feel of your blog.
K – so let’s get real for a few minutes. I see a lot of first-time bloggers and entrepreneurs become fixated on having the perfect website. Yes, you want a nice looking site and yes a nice looking site will increase the user experience.
However, your content is what really matters.
I’ve seen some pretty ugly websites with amazing content that I revisit again and again. I could care less about how they look if the content answers my questions and fulfil a need.
So don’t get so focused on creating that perfect website that you forgot what really matters. You are the special sauce that makes your website, blog or product unique. Find your voice and your entrepreneurial efforts will pay off in ways that will amaze you.
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