Building a web site – the novice approach

Hours of sweat, swearing and frustration, but ultimately success.

I thought one of my first blogs should be about the site itself whilst its fresh in my mind.  Now I’m no technical wizard.  However, I’m no technophobe, or complete computer Luddite either.  Although, I admit I am the sort that will end up shouting and swearing at the machine when something doesn’t work the way I expect it to, especially after umpteen goes and a few hours of trying.  And yes, usually to find I’ve missed some small piece of instruction.  Of course there’s always something that doesn’t look quite the same on your own system – know what I mean?

smallerpath_edited-1But where do you start.  I admit I dithered for some time.  How do you choose a host?  What web site package do you go for?  How should it look?   Like most people, I guess I started by looking at other sites.  At least you can then get an idea of what works and what doesn’t.  There are many that helped me see how I didn’t want it to look.  And of course some that had me thinking ‘how will I ever achieve that’.  So, yes it was confusing to start with.  But there is help out there.  ‘The CreativePenn’ is a good place to start.  Not least in the advice of, ‘get on and do it, get it out there and keep it simple.  You can always update and change the site once you’ve got the basics running’.  I also took the advice of choosing WordPress (not that I had any other ideas of my own).  I then found a series of youtube videos that convinced me it wasn’t that difficult (   Then, when I continued my looking around I found other sites which used WordPress which cheered me along my way.  This one is both relatively simple and looks good   This one which showed me what can be done.  .   Something to aim at longer term.  Then there’s this – it lists ten creative writing blogs including the Creative Penn.  As of Jan 2017 this has now been updated with 15 helpful links

The actual building was less daunting that I thought it would be, although not without its frustrations.  Having followed the video’s and scratched my head for a while I a stuck a pin in a list of ‘how to’ books and came out with  ‘WordPress for beginners’, by Dr Andy Williams.  Against my ‘default setting’, I worked through it diligently from beginning to end .  I’m sure there are other guides equally as good, but this worked for me.  It got me to grips with things like plugins (some excellent, essential, suggestions), short cuts, widgets, sidebars and the like.  It also lead me to consider things I wouldn’t have thought of immediately myself such as, security, preventing and dealing with spam ( a big problem?) and making my site and blogs gets noticed by search engines.

One big piece of advice I didn’t read and that I discovered to my cost was make sure that you are on a Linux hosting package. tearinh hair At first I signed up for a Windows package (not knowing any better).  After some frustration trying to download WordPress the hosting service did it for me.  Only later, after everything got sooo….. slowww…, and some complaining, did they tell me it would work better on Linux (that’s help lines for you).  So I took a back-up and changed.  I then couldn’t load the back-up and had to start again.  And yes, it does run better on Linux.

Of course WordPress does have its foibles and sometimes it’s still trial and error.  One plug-in interfered with my down loading photographs and I had to go through deactivating and reactivating them all to find it.  But having done that and reactivated it, everything worked fine.  That is until, after another few hours frustration,  I discovered there seems to be a pixel limit on downloading a photo (is this right? or is it somthing to with my hosting package?).  Also, I’ve written everything in word then cut and pasted.  WordPress shows things like ‘bold’ on the entry screen, but not when you view the actual site.  So you have to go in and un-bold, then re-bold everything (why?).

Overall, if you’re thinking of having a go at making a site, do.  It’s not that difficult even if it’s not a frustration free process.

So, this my website and it’s a start.  It’s far from perfect at the moment.  So, I’m sure it will evolve over time.  And I’m not proud, so tips and help are welcome.  I’m looking forward to seeing where this site  takes me and what I’ll discover along the way.  I hope you’ll take part.  As I said in my first blog, that way we can all learn something.

Ian Martyn

Author: Ian Martyn

Science Fiction Writer

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