Self Publishing — Blog Post #2
I found all of this overwhelming. My GoDaddy package included ‘DNS Management’, but I didn’t know if I needed that or not. Yes, I know what DNS means, but I don’t know when or if my website would need it. I have a lot of experience with commercial software and I felt overwhelmed. I have real sympathy for someone who is not technical trying to make all this work. At the same time, I can offer that if you take it one step and a time, and rely on books that are for beginners, you can do it. I had a lot to learn and the only way to get through it was to start and keep going.
I had never used WordPress before so I decided to start with a book. I have done software support for decades and I am still amazed how much trouble users get themselves into because they refuse to even try to understand the software they are using. I looked at many books on Amazon and settled on WordPress To Go – How To Build A WordPress Website On Your Own Domain, From Scratch, Even If You Are A Complete Beginner, by Sarah McHarry. There are many ebooks available and I can’t tell you specifically how I chose this particular one. From looking at the Table of Contents it seemed to cover all the things I needed to know. This book didn’t try to explain how WordPress works, rather how to get it setup on a new hosted site. That is what I needed to do first, before I worried about all the features of WordPress.
The book started with registering your domain, which I had already done through GoDaddy, how to install WordPress, how to log in and out as the WordPress administrator and how to design a WordPress website. There were examples of adding a page, a new post, and how to deal with ‘widgets’ which are add-ons to add specific features to your site. I read all of this, even though I didn’t know if I needed to add images or if I would need any text widgets. I didn’t know what I didn’t know or what I would need to know. It didn’t take long to get through this e-book, which was good, I needed to get going, not read the definitive tome on all things WordPress. One of the last things covered was how to choose and change a WordPress theme. I didn’t know what a theme was.
A WordPress theme is like a template that defines how your site will look. There are lots of themes available, many for free and many for all price points. I decided to start off with one of the free templates that came with the WordPress software. I used this to work through the examples in the book.
Since I had decided to have my website hosted by GoDaddy, instead of on the WordPress site, I had to take care of more things on my own during the installation. GoDaddy provides the ‘cpanel’, which I had never heard of, to install WordPress. The GoDaddy website provided the help I needed to get the install done. With WordPress installed, and using one of the free WordPress themes, I started to setup my website. I wasn’t really happy with it, and I decided to go looking for other themes.
I quickly found many themes, all claiming to change my life forever. There are themes that claim to be best for small businesses, restaurants, charities etc. I started to lose focus, there were just too many choices. I looked at other author websites and noticed some things I didn’t like. Many times, it quickly becomes obvious that the author was using a free website on the WordPress website and was using a free theme. These author websites look too simple, like the author it making it clear that they don’t want to take the time to build a website of their own, they just want to do the minimum because someone told them they had to. I remember Jane asking me, “do you mind being online?’ I thought it was an odd question at the time since I am online all day everyday taking calls from angry customers in my day job. I was starting to see what Jane was really asking. Are you, as an author, willing to do what it takes to have a real website that has real content that takes a lot of time online? Without realizing it at the time, this was one reason I wanted to pay for hosting of my own site, to not use the free hosting at the WordPress site. I wanted my site to look more serious, a platform for an author that is willing to do more than the minimum online
While I was looking at endless themes, I noticed that some had lots of pictures. I liked these a lot. I found that some of these themes were called ‘magazine’ themes. I would stop and spend more time at sites that had large pictures that moved. I didn’t know what that was called at the time, but I liked it. I found vendors that sell themes and found a vendor that had a theme that presented an image for each of the latest three blog posts, and rotated the images every few seconds. I purchased the theme, downloaded it, created several test blogs, uploaded some images and I couldn’t get it to work. I reviewed the demo of the theme on the vendor’s site, but I couldn’t figure it out. Not to worry, my purchase included technical support. I emailed and posted in the forum on the vendor’s site. No response. Several days went by, still no response. I was pissed. I went to PayPal and started the process to get my $39 back. Suddenly the vendor responded. This is sleazy. I was told that because he was on vacation, he hadn’t seen my emails or posts. He? Yes, the vendor is one person, and when they go on vacation, you, the valued customer, can just wait until ‘he’ returns from vacation. Weak! I assumed I would now get some technical support, but, ‘he’ decided to immediately refund my money! I was relieved to get the refund, but puzzled that anyone would be so unprofessional. There is a lot of crap online.
Now that I knew what kind of theme I wanted, and what kind of ‘technical support’ I did not want, I went looking again. I had wasted several weeks on the vendor that was on vacation, so I was more careful this time. I quickly found more vendors of magazine themes. This time, I looked for vendors that had support forums and I reviewed the questions posted, the responses from the vendor and how long it took to get the issues resolved.