10 Tips for starting a website
When I decided to start Journey of an Architect in early 2016, I remember how excited I was to share my work with the world and to learn something new. At the time, I completed my milestone goal of passing all of my exams to be a licensed architect and it was time to start a new adventure. After lots of brainstorming, I decided that I would set out on a journey to design 30 theoretical projects by the time I turned 30 so that I could develop a personal approach and perspective on architecture and design. This would be the purpose of Journey of an Architect.
From the time that I started my blog to now, I’ve designed 12 projects and I have 18 more to design by May 2020. After sharing my design process for my projects and ideas on the professional practice side of architecture, I’ve had the opportunity to meet other bloggers and have discussions with architects about my work and ideas. It’s amazing to be part of an online community of like-minded people who support my work as I do theirs.
However, I remember the first few months of learning how to setup a website, design the interface, optimize images, and setting up my own email as being one of the most difficult things I had to learn on my own. Therefore, the excitement that I had at the onset of Journey of an Architect quickly turned into anxiety and regret.
A year and a half later, I’m excited to let you know that I now spend very little time on figuring out how to do something on my website and more time on my 30x30 projects and sharing my ideas on the professional practice of architecture. In retrospect, all of the issues that I encountered at the beginning of my blog were a part of the learning curve that all new website creators and bloggers encounter.
If you’re thinking of starting a website or blog, this post was written for you. I’ll go over several main ideas that you need to figure out as well as the steps for building your website; from creating an account with a website hosting platform to selecting a template on WordPress and tips for managing your website. If I were starting this website over again with what I know today, this is the process I would follow.
1. Know your reasons for starting a website
Before you start a website, you should take time to brainstorm the purpose of your website. This is essential because it will give your website clarity and help you focus your content within a specific niche. I remember when I started Journey of an Architect, I had and still have many ideas that I want to pursue and share on the blog. However, if it’s not aligned with my 30x30 projects or the professional practice of architecture, then I typically don’t share it on the blog.
To help you brainstorm the purpose of your website, here are some questions that you should answer. Are you creating a professional website for your business? If so, your website will be straight forward because it’ll be built around your business’ mission statement.
Will you be starting a personal blog? If so, what will the content of your personal blog focus on? Is there something that you’re passionate about, have a routine around, and could talk about forever? If so, start there because you’ll have so much content to develop and share. Most of all, you’ll have the drive to continue managing your blog after a year and hopefully a decade. My biggest advice here is to never start a website that focuses on something that you’re not passionate about.
2. Compile and develop content for your website
Once you’ve identified the purpose of your website, it’s time to compile any imagery, videos, or writing that you already have and save them to a central location on your computer. Don’t worry if you don’t have any related content for your website. Instead, take some time and brainstorm ideas for your website’s primary pages and initial blog posts that you can start developing content for today.
Personally, I recommend developing content for your website before you take the next step of paying for a website host and domain name because you might realize that either you love where your website and blog are headed or you need to reconsider the purpose of your website. If it’s the latter, don’t give up and don’t feel like you’ve failed. You’ll eventually find something that you can develop an infinite amount of content around.
As you compile all of your content for your website in a specific folder on your computer, I suggest taking time to organize and sort out the folder so that you can keep track of all your content. Keep in mind that maintaining a website or blog will inevitably result in lots of image and word files. The sooner you get your content organized, the more efficient you’ll be at running your website in the future.
3. Find a great website host
Now that you have a clear purpose and a folder full of content, it’s time to start your website!
First, you’ll need to find a website host which is a company full of servers that store your website’s content and puts it online for the duration of your plan. In most cases, the website host also allows you to purchase a domain name, which is the name of your website as it appears in any browser. Thus, finding a great website host is important because they’ll be the ones keeping your website online and providing you with any additional tools for making the website a success.
Personally, I’ve been using Bluehost as my website host because I’ve found their pricing options and customer service to be top notch. I also love the fact that Bluehost makes the website building process very easy by taking you step by step along the way, helping you install the website building platform, WordPress, and bringing you up to the point of making your first post and launching your website!
If you’re interested in using Bluehost as your website host and want to skip ahead, click here for step by step instructions on signing up with Bluehost.
4. Understand what comes with your website host’s plan
When you begin researching website hosts, make sure you carefully look at their pricing options and what comes with each plan. In many cases, a basic plan will come with the ability to host 1 website on the account, a limited website space, one website domain, sub domains, and potentially email accounts. As you move up in plan prices, the quantity limitations go away and you get additional protection for your website.
For Journey of an Architect, I went with Bluehost’s plus plan which provides an unlimited amount of websites, space, domains, emails, and email storage. This was important for me because I wanted to make sure that I could have multiple email addresses that ended with my domain name (i.e. email@example.com).
Keep in mind that when you decide to purchase a webhost’s plan, you’ll probably be given an option of paying in full for a year or more at a time rather than paying month to month. I chose a 3 year option with Bluehost and paid in full.
5. Make a list of potential names and check if they’re available
Now that you’ve identified a webhost, it’s time to come up with a name for your website or blog! Your domain name (www.(domain name goes here).com) is important because it’s what people will type in their internet browser when searching for your website. For this reason, my advice would be to come up with a name that aligns with your website or blog, is easy to pronounce, simple to remember, and avoid the use of numbers because people won’t know if they should type the specific number or spell it out (i.e. “1” or “one”).
Keep in mind that whatever name you want to use for your website needs to be available. As you’re coming up with a name for your website, be sure to check the availability of the domain name by searching on Bluehost’s domain checker. In most cases, if a domain name that you wanted to use is already taken, Bluehost’s domain checker will give you a list of other available domain name that best matches the original one!
6. Create an account and purchase your domain
After finding an available domain name, go through the remaining process for creating an account and payment. At this time, you’ll probably have the option of selecting how many years you want to pay for upfront as well as add-ons for your website such as a site-back-up and security options. Review this step carefully and if you have the option, consider adding domain privacy to your package. This will prevent website building companies and marketers from getting access to your personal information to solicit you with information.
7. Find a website creator that works for you
When you’re done signing up for a website host, you’re now able to use your domain name and start building a website! Where do you start? That’s a great question.
If you decided to go with Bluehost, you’ll be brought to a website theme page where you can select a pre-made template for your website or blog. Bluehost does an amazing job at seamlessly installing one of the world’s largest website building platforms, WordPress, on your website in minutes. The theme that you choose comes from WordPress and there are hundreds of thousands of them out there!
As you’re looking through the different available templates, search for ones that will show your content in the best way possible. For photographers, you’ll want a visual template with lots of image locations, sizes, and a full screen image. Architects who are showing their work will want a combination of images and text to briefly explain their work. Writers may be interested in a theme with less images and more text.
Aside from WordPress, there are other website creators like Squarespace and Wix, but these platforms will have an additional cost. Using these website creators is simple because all of their functions are intuitively laid out in a plug and play way. The best way to describe the difference between a website creator like Squarespace to WordPress is that it’s the same as comparing Apple’s iPhone to an Android. The iPhone takes away some personal control, but makes it intuitive to use while the Android gives full control over phone customization and has a learning curve.
8. Personalize and make the website yours
After selecting a theme that works with your content, start setting up your primary pages on the website building platform that you decided to use. If you’re using WordPress, use the page tab and add your content there. If you’re using Squarespace, you can either follow the layout of a template page or you can start from scratch and drag and drop imagery or text wherever you want them to go on your website.
Take your time with setting up your website so that you can show your content in the best way possible. You want the front page of your website to give your audience quick overview of what your website or blog is about. It should lead your viewers somewhere by providing links to a different page or a series of blog posts.
9. Launch your website
When you’ve setup all of your pages and initial blog posts, you’re ready to launch your website! All website building platforms have an option for you to go live with your website. Find this option and open your website to the world! Congratulations!
10. Simple tips to follow for your website
My first tip is to develop templates and a process for writing, editing, and finalizing your content. As you start repeating the same process over and over again, you’ll save a lot of time by using a template for blog posts and a process for modifying images or videos. Second, Google the term Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and make sure that your pages and blog post descriptions are engaging and precise. Lastly, reduce your image file sizes so that your website’s pages and posts load quickly. You can do this by using software such as Adobe Photoshop or a free online service like Tiny JPG.
As you continue building your website, you’ll learn so much about how to get your content noticed and how to optimize your website for speed. Although you might move slowly at the beginning as you learn the different interfaces and tools, you’ll eventually find your stride and be able to publish blog posts within half an hour to an hour and continually update the look of your website.
For more information on starting a website with Bluehost, click here for a step by step tutorial. I wish you the best of luck with your website and/or blogging adventure and remember to have fun!