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7 – How to Website for Dummies

Hello hello. It’s been a while since I’ve made a post. I don’t have a particular reason why not, other than the fact that I was juggling way too many projects at the same time so I didn’t have time to work on my game, or website, or anything else really.

But fear not! The post is here, and this summer I’m will be mainly working in a farm, which means I will have all the energy left to do mental stuff, mainly working on my game.

This post however is not about the game, this post is about how I made this website, the pitfalls, and some useful links. I’m writing this post a few months after I’ve set this page up so some things won’t be too detailed, but I will be talking about things I wish I knew before settings this up.

Naïve Beginnings

Before this website, I had a Google Blogpost website set up. And I can say that was sooo much easier than hosting and making a ‘proper’ website. I personally switched to a personally hosted website to ‘make it look nicer’ but also I simply wanted to see how hosting a website ‘normally’ works and to gain experience. It was worth it in the end but it took me months of on-and-off effort to get here, so don’t take it lightly.

Another option was to use Github Sites, which lets you do a lot more customization and is also specifically designed for programmers to make portfolios, so try that out first to see if it is good enough for you!

First Hurdle: Which Hosting?

Before going into this I knew about WordPress and how it powered so many websites and how it’s so easy to use etc. etc. But I still needed to find a place to host the website, which was surprisingly hard. There a so many hosting providers (Bluehost, HostGator, where just a few I looked into) and they all have their own whistles and bells. I’m definitely not knowledgably about this, so I won’t compare them at all.

After reading too many articles though, I personally decided to use Hostinger, which had a nice price and looked dependable. So far I’ve been satisfied with what they provide and it was mostly painless, so I do recommend them. You should know though, hosting yourself is expensive. I personally picked the 4 year option and paid about $125 total, which is not too bad.

All these providers have a ‘looming deadline’ though. They all provide great prices when starting out, but if you look into it after you are all cozy with your website it seems you will need to pay much more to extend your hosting. I’m still far away from that day, and I’m currently simply hoping that by then I will have a proper job and will be able to afford it. It is important to know about it though.

Second Hurdle: Themes? Plugins?? Editors???

Because I heard a lot about WordPress, I was confident that after I paid and had the WordPress setup in my h-panel, then the rest should follow easy… I was quite wrong.

There is this thing about the web, it is all a huge mess. I did previously dabble with pure html css, and also php and javascript before, so I know how simple making a website should be, and I thought WordPress was a sort of Oasis where you would have all these drag&drop components and everything would magically work. However that’s not how it is. there are so many different ways to do the same thing, and none of them quite work intuitively in the first try.

So the first thing I needed was to find a ‘theme’ to set the look of my website. Easy right? It’s like picking a theme for your phone to change how the buttons look like… or so you think. That couldn’t be more farther from the truth.

Picking a theme is more like picking your coding language, your game engine, your 3D library, etc. What’s in your theme determines what ‘building blocks’ you get in your website. WordPress do come with a lot of ‘generic’ building blocks, but they are very very basic, and if you want even a simple mobile responsive website, they won’t be enough.

So you will just get a highly rated theme right? Just look at some pictures and pick one right? No. I tried working with about 10 different themes, but none of them really agreed with me. Also even though most of these themes are ‘free’, they actual useful features are not. And the ‘free’ versions of them were so clunky I didn’t want to spend money on any of them.

I searched far and wide. I read forums, I read blogs, but none of them recommended one good theme! In the end I found salvation in this website:

I literally picked the top one in that website “Neve”, and it’s been working perfectly!

Also there are a lot of ‘advanced editors’, and one of them (the trial version) even comes with WordPress by default. I also tried a few of those, imagining maybe I just wasn’t using the themes right and I needed an editor, but they were also really clunky and useless for me. And it’s not even about paying for them, because I also tried their ‘full version trial’, but that was also not really useful.

Really this whole process made me lose hope in modern technology once more. Like that one talk from Jonathan Blow, I can’t believe how complicated it is to have a simple website set up that is fairly customizable.

Maybe it’s just because WordPress is free, and others like Squarespace and the like are much more sleek. But I doubt it at this point, because “WordPress powers %40 of the internet” and I can’t believe 40% of the internet is satisfied with this user experience.

Third Hurdle: Making Things Look Nice?

For this one I don’t have much to say. I played with a lot of settings and playing with sliders and hitting publish enough times made me arrive at somewhat presentable website. I can say that some of the things I did (like the yellow circle in the landing page) have some very tricky section within section within section mess. But it works, and I won’t be touching it for a while.

I found out everything in the “Otter” package is super useful, and that is the main thing I’m using all over the website. I also tried a few others but none of them are as customizable and as intuitive.

And that’s it for my website rant. Here is a short step-by-step guide to set up a website like the one I have here:

  1. Decide if you really need to host your own very customizable website or the free alternatives are good for you.
  2. Pay for hosting. I personally use Hostinger (not affiliated)
  3. Install WordPress (it really is a one click operation)
  4. Pick a theme, ideally from this website, but you can pick other ones at your own risk.
  5. Base your website from one of the provided templates and see ‘how it is done’
  6. Get used to being frustrated with every small thing, and being dissapointed
  7. Optionally get ‘Otter’ (it may automatically come with Neve)
  8. Have your very own personal website!

Thank you for reading! A new post about Made in Mars will come hopefully soon! Until then, take care.