Hi, everyone! Welcome to part 2 of my how to start a lifestyle blog series. If you missed part 1, you can read it here. For today’s post, my husband Gary (who does website development and consulting on the side) is going to walk you through all the technical steps of setting up your own lifestyle blog. Take it away, Gary!
Throughout this post, I’ll be describing the steps that take your vision from paper to reality. I’ll go ahead and warn you that we’ll be discussing a few technical details here, but don’t worry – I’ll do my best to make this as simple and easy as possible.
I’ll start with some definitions, just to make sure we’re all speaking the same language. The best way to think about a website is to compare it to a house. Let’s assume that there are four steps involved in moving into your new house:
- Build the structure of the house
- Fill the house with your stuff
- Paint and/or decorate the house
- Give people your new home address
When it comes to websites, it’s really that simple:
- Hosting = structure of the website
- Content Management System = how you fill the website with your stuff
- Site Theme = look and feel of your website
- Domain = your website’s address
One more thing before we get started – as I’m sure you know, there are a few costs associated with this process, but I’m willing to bet they’re less than you expect (you’ll learn more about this below). Regardless, I sincerely recommend reading the entire post before you start making purchases.
Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s talk about how we can make this happen.
01. Choose a hosting platform and content management system.
There are many factors to consider when it comes to hosting, including storage space, bandwidth, features, support, and price. Instead of going deep into the technical details, I’ll make this simple – my favorite providers for hosting are GoDaddy and Namecheap. In my experience, these providers provide the best solutions for anyone looking to start up a lifestyle blog. The specific plans you should be considering are GoDaddy’s Economy Hosting ($12/first year with promo, $95/year after) and Namecheap’s Value Shared Hosting. Here’s your pricing breakdown:
- $12/first year with promo (includes domain for one year! see step 4 below)
- $95/year following the first year
- $7.50/first year with promo
- $39/year following the first year
Before we go any further, let’s briefly discuss your content management system. The most widely used content management system in the world is WordPress. Though WordPress is used for many different types of sites, it was primarily built for bloggers. Therefore, there’s really not much to discuss here – WordPress is going to be your best choice as the content management system for your blog. Both of the hosting platforms I mentioned above include a one-click installation of WordPress (yes, it really is that easy). However, if you have any trouble at all, both companies also include 24/7 customer service to help you set up your blog.
Though hosting seems like a huge complex ordeal, it pretty much works like this: you purchase a hosting plan, set it up, and never really worry about it again. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – we still have to figure out and declare our address across the web.
02. Acquire your domain name and social media handles.
Though certainly not required, I’d recommend using the same name for your domain and all social media handles (this is a great way to be consistent in your branding). To find what’s open and available, you’ll want to use a domain checker and social media name checker. I’ll go ahead and warn you, if you chose a not-so-unique name in step 2, this may be a very difficult process. Regardless, once you land on a name, you’ll want to go ahead and register the domain. I’d recommend going with a standard .com extension for your lifestyle blog (this is the most common, effective, and inexpensive route).
It just so happens that both of the hosting providers I mentioned above (GoDaddy and Namecheap) are also very reputable domain providers. Again, though not required, I’d definitely recommend purchasing your domain and hosting from the same company – it will make your life (and setup process) much easier. The pricing breakdown for domains is as follows:
GoDaddy (.com domain):
- $12/first year with promo (includes hosting for one year! see step 3 above)
- $15/year following the first year
Namecheap (.com domain):
- $10/first year with promo
- $12/year following the first year
I’m assuming you guys understand how to grab your social media handles, so I won’t describe that process in this post. Similar to the hosting platform, your domain is mostly set-it-and-forget-it (you won’t need to touch it once everything is set up).
03. Choose and install a theme.
Here we go – you’ve now arrived at potentially the most complex piece of this puzzle. As mentioned earlier in this post, a WordPress theme is essentially what defines the design (user-interface) of your entire site. There are literally millions of themes to choose from, and a simple google search for “WordPress themes” should take you to as many different shops to browse as your heart desires (personally, I’d recommend Themeforest). From a pricing standpoint, you’re looking at somewhere between $30-100 for a nice, high-quality theme, though there are a few decent free themes as well.
I want to briefly prepare you for a situation you’ll definitely run into during this process. You’ll find a theme that you love, make the purchase, and install it on your site, which is a great start. However, you’ll quickly experience a sense of panic once you realize that your site looks nothing like the theme you bought. When this happens (I say ‘when’ because I’m certain that it will), take a breath and relax. Every theme requires some level of setup to get it looking like you saw in that awesome demo. You received exactly what you paid for – you just have some more road to travel before you arrive at your destination.
I’ll start with the bad news – the setup process varies in levels of complexity for almost any theme you buy (no two themes are alike, even if they’re from the same company). The good news is that most companies offer some sort of tutorial to guide you through the process. Be on the lookout for these details when choosing what theme to purchase (some companies even offer free installation services!). At the end of the day, this step truly is the biggest hurdle to jump in starting a lifestyle blog. Unfortunately, it’s also the most unpredictable, which is why you’re not seeing too much information about it right here. Many people end up seeking professional help for this vital step (see more on this below), but with enough time, commitment, patience, and Google-searching, you can figure out how to get your site design looking exactly the way you want it to.
I wish I could tell you everything you need to know right here in this post, but the fact of the matter is that this is a complex process which requires a lot of time and effort to learn. If nothing else, I hope this post gave you some hope in seeing that you can actually do this and provided you with enough info to get started.
Though I’m the last person seeking self-promotion, Carrie is insisting that I include the next few lines, so I’ll roll with it. I’ve learned all that you read above by building and managing websites for myself, other individuals, and commercial businesses over the last two years (in case you’re wondering, I actually built the site that you’re on right now). I can’t say that I’m a master at this (I’m not sure if anyone really can), but I can say that I’m passionate about helping people bring their web-related dreams to life and that I’m quite good at it.
If you’re looking for professional help with anything related to web development, marketing, or starting a business, I’d love to learn more about your needs. You can reach me through the “Contact Us” page on this site – just let Carrie know that you’re looking for my contact information.
Thanks for hanging with me through this novel of a post. See you next time!