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I think I am every tech support guy’s worst nightmare.
Literally every email I send to any tech help begins with “I apologize in advance because I am not tech savvy.”
And more than once when calling support I’ve had to say, “I’m really sorry I’m crying.”
Yeah, they have got to hate me. But, I get it done. Let the lesson here be: If Susan can do it, I can do it!
I’ve had a number of people ask me about the tech side of the blog, so I thought I’d put together a post for anyone who might be interested in starting a website of your own, or to share with someone who’s thinking of it.
Blog, Business or None of the Above
There are lots of reasons for creating a website. Starting a blog is just one.
- A simple site to advertise and sell a product or business is another.
- Maybe you want to create a site for your church or another organization.
Whatever your reason, I’m here to say again…if I can do it, so can you.
Resources and Inside Tips
Don’t expect it to be easy
Be prepared to face a huge learning curve. Unless you can afford to hire your own personal tech support guru, that is. But know this…the internet is full of tutorials and step by step instructions to do pretty much everything.
This post is not one of those.
The reason is not because I don’t want to provide that for you, but because I am not an expert. Honestly, I could follow a YouTube tutorial to accomplish a task and if I had to complete the same task a few hours later…back to YouTube.
Tip: Get really good at typing “How to…” in the Google search bar. Don’t just read one tutorial. Check out several and be sure they’re all saying the same thing. Then find the most user-friendly one and just take it step by step.
Don’t isolate yourself
Regardless of the kind of website you are looking to start–blog, business, church, or other– you will get frustrated enough to want to quit. Probably at least once a month.
Take a breath. Say a prayer. Then push through.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is finding people who have done or are doing what I’m doing and connecting with them. My husband is a dream and is incredibly supportive. But he can only listen to me vent about technical blog frustrations for so long before I get the glazed look.
I’ve been dying to go to a blogging conference but haven’t felt good about the cost. So I was thrilled to find one close to home this weekend. The MN Blogger Conference was one of the most productive things I’ve done for my blog. I was kind of giddy all day to be around people who speak my language and get what I’m doing. No glazed looks!
Not only did I learn a tremendous amount, but I found out about lots of new resources and networking avenues that I knew nothing about. Best. Blog. Day. Ever.
Tip: Facebook is a great place to look for groups of like-minded people to connect with. And keep in mind that if you discover that a group is not the best fit for you…you can leave.
Don’t go Blue
Lots of bloggers I found when I was looking to start The Sparrow’s Home advised using Bluehost to host a website. I followed their advice and regretted it just a few months in.
I’m guessing that Bluehost offers a high affiliate payout, which is why so many people recommend it. I would wager that none of the people advising it actually use it themselves.
Let me be brutally honest with you. Bluehost was GREAT when I was getting my site set up. Very helpful. Extremely helpful. At the first sign of a problem, however, they were terrible. After receiving possibly the worst customer service I’ve ever received, I emailed them 7 times to get additional help. Seven times with exactly zero response.
In my blogging network groups, I’ve heard story after story like mine. (But if your brother works for them and you want to give them a go..do it!)
I waited out my year contract and then switched to A2 Hosting. Let me tell you…with my lack of technological savvy–I was terrified of navigating the switch of hosting. It was super easy and they walked me through every step.
In regards to customer service…I’ve gotten a timely response every time I’ve had a problem or a question and have been totally satisfied with my service overall. It’s my plan to stay with them long term.
There are lots of hosting companies out there. Check them out, and find the one that you feel comfortable with. I researched, then narrowed my list, then chose.
Tip: In the shared hosting at A2, the Swift Plan is more than sufficient (it’s the middle one, and very affordable).
Don’t be too quick to choose a theme
Assuming you’re using WordPress, you’ll be starting with Genesis as your main theme and then selecting a child theme to work in. The child theme is how you personalize your site. You’ll find both Genesis and a large selection of child themes at StudioPress.
Spend some time on this decision. Be sure to thoroughly navigate the sample site. Check out all of the various pages, fonts, widget areas.
Remember, though, that your site doesn’t have to look just like the sample. You can personalize it tremendously. This is where you get to be creative!
Tip: If you’re the kind of person who thrives on change, or if you know you’ll be doing a number of websites, at StudioPress you can purchase access to all of the themes at a reduced rate.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
I’ve created a couple of sites from scratch with A2 Hosting and it couldn’t be easier. It had been over a year since I started The Sparrow’s Home, and I had completely forgotten how I did it (I told you…I am not technically minded). The tech support at A2 was phenomenal in helping me get started. They helped me download WordPress and responded quickly to any questions I had. And I had a lot.
Your networking groups will be a great place to ask questions, too. I ask and see others asking questions in Facebook groups all the time.
I was over the moon that at the MN Bloggers Conference this weekend, they had a support room available all day with tech support. (And I didn’t even cry once!)
Tip: If you’re not sure what’s causing your problem…reach out to various tech support options. Anywhere that has email support. Even if their product isn’t causing your issue, they might be able to point you in the right direction. Sometimes they’ll dismiss you and sometimes you’ll get lucky and find someone who will help you.
Don’t clutter your site
Ads. Pop-ups. More ads. Promos. Social media follows. More ads. GAH!
Not only does too much clutter on your site make navigating difficult for your readers, but it’s annoying! My general rule of thumb is that if a site’s content is hidden by ads or repeated pop-ups…I leave immediately. No recipe or article is worth that hassle.
Pay attention to any text that’s over images, too. I’ve been to loads of sites that are all but impossible to read. Very few sites that are not visually engaging will keep readers.
Think: Easy to read. Easy to read. Easy to read.
Look at your site from your reader’s perspective. Do you like staying on sites that are cluttered or feel like you’ve just walked into one giant advertisement? Choose a feel for your site and stick to it. And unless your feel is “infomercial”…keep the ads to a minimum.
Tip: No music either. I get that you may think you’re ‘setting the mood’ for your site, but no one likes this. #1, it startles me when I’m working in the quiet of the late night hours. And #2, if I wanted to listen to music, I’d have music on. This is another thing that makes me immediately close a site.
Finally, after all these “don’ts”, I have one giant “do” for you:
DO give it a shot! What have you got to lose?!