What You Need To Start

Getting Started

Before you get into designing pages and picking colors for your new website, there are a few things you need to get started. In this lesson we’ll look at:

  • Where to host your website
  • Getting and installing a WordPress theme
  • Where to find free images to use on your website and blog

Web Hosting

The first thing to figure out is where to host your website. This can be a challenging decision because there are so many choices and the prices for web hosting vary so much. For example, you can host your website for as little is about $5/month or you can pay $50/month or more. To make the decision easier, let’s take a look at some of the features you’re going to want.

Generic vs Managed Web Hosting

The 3 things that generally differentiate the web hosting plans out there are features, power, and price. The most important one for building a WordPress website is going to be features. There are generally two different kinds of web hosts for WordPress websites. There are basic/generic web hosting plans that are really inexpensive and leave a lot of work like security, backups, and maintenance on you. Then there are managed WordPress hosting accounts that are more powerful, more secure, and take care of a lot of the technical issues for you. If you choose a managed WordPress hosting plan it will make launching your site (and keeping it running) much easier.

Flywheel WordPress Hosting

We host all of our clients’ sites as well as our own sites (including this one) with Flywheel. Flywheel is the best blend of features and affordability. They take care of a bunch of really important things that you would otherwise have to try to implement on your own with plugins and 3rd party services.

Here is a quick list of some of the main reasons we host with Flywheel.

Tuned For WordPress

Flywheel only hosts WordPress websites and their servers are tuned specifically for WordPress. This means they have all the technical bases covered such as file permissions for uploading plugins, handling WordPress security, site backups, and more. You can also get helpful and knowledgeable support. If anything goes wrong, they know how to fix it because WordPress is all they do.

Backups

Flywheel keeps regular off-site backups of your entire website. This is something that’s very important and is probably not included in the price you see on other cheap, generic web hosting packages. Backups are built-in and super easy to work with on Flywheel. Simply click on one of your backups and restore it. The restore process is really quick. So, if you need to restore your site, you’ll be back up and running in just a couple minutes.

Any time you need to update your plugins or you’re going to make a big change on your website, you can create a backup on demand before you make the changes. Otherwise, Flywheel will make regular backups for you so you don’t even have to think about it.

Security

Another huge benefit Flywheel brings to the table is security. They provide free SSL certificates for all of their sites. They also monitor failed login attempts to block out bots and bad guys if they attempt to log in to your WordPress dashboard.

Staging Sites

If you have a lot of work to do on your website, like maybe you’re going to set up a new homepage design for a Black Friday sale, you can spin up a staging site where you can work without affecting your live site. You can take your time, try out different things, show your staging site to your coworkers, etc. Then, when you’re finished making updates, you can publish all your changes to your live site with a single click. I can’t underscore the value of this feature enough because you just don’t want to be making large scale changes directly on your live website. Staging sites come free as part of your plan with all Flywheel hosting packages except their Tiny plan.

Our Recommendation

I recommend that you sign up for the Personal Plan. It’s $30/month or, if you sign up for a year, you can get 1 month free at $330/year. This will get you all of their features including staging sites on a very fast and reliable platform.

WordPress Theme

Now that you have your web hosting account set up you have WordPress installed and you’re ready to start putting things together. The first thing you need is a WordPress theme. The theme is the part of WordPress that determines how your website looks. In other words, it’s like the clothes for your website. There are tons and tons of themes available. To get the most flexibility out of your website so you can have the most control over how things look we highly recommend that you use the Make Plus Theme by The Theme Foundry.

The Make Plus Theme costs $99 and is more than just a theme, it’s actually a page builder. That means you get the power and control you need to build the exact page layout you want. This is very important for the other things you will be learning in this course, especially when we get to email marketing. You will want to be able to create something called a lead magnet which is essentially an email sign up form where you give away something of value for free in exchange for the person’s email address. This could be a coupon, and ebook, a tutorial, etc. We’ll cover this in much more detail in our upcoming email marketing course.

We have an entire course showing you how to work with the Page Builder Tools that are provided in the Make Plus theme. So, for now, go ahead and purchase and download the Make Plus theme. It comes with a 14 day money back guarantee. So there is no risk. If you don’t like it you can return it for a full refund.

You will want to download the following 3 things:

Installing Make

Make comes in 3 parts. Here’s a quick explanation of what each part is.

Make Plus Plugin

First, install the Make Plus Plugin that you purchased from The Theme Foundry. This is the plugin that brings extra features and builder tools to the free Make Theme.

Purchase Make Plus Plugin

Make Theme

The Make Theme is a free WordPress page builder theme built by The Theme Foundry. This is the foundation that provides the base level page builder tools that you will use to build your website.

Download Free Make Theme

Make Child Theme

Occasionally there are updates to the Make Theme. If you add some custom tweaks directly to the Make Theme, those updates will be lost when you update the Make Theme. By installing and using the Make Child Theme, you get a place to put your own custom work that will stay in place when you install the updates to the Make Theme. It is sort of a technical thing, but you just have to do it once, then you can forget about it.

Download and Install Make Child Theme

For now, we’re just making sure we have all the things you need to get started. In the next lesson, we’ll look at how all this stuff works. Right now we’re just setting the stage.

Images For Following Along

There are generally two ways people are using these lessons. Some people like to take the concepts they are learning and apply them to their own website. So, rather than making an exact copy of the website we build during these lessons, you can take the ideas but use them with your own images, your own colors, and the exact pages you need for your website.

Other people learn best by following along step-by-step and building an exact copy of the Fit Band website. If you’d like to have your website look exactly like the website we will be building in these lessons, you can download the images we are using here.

Download images for the Fit Band website fit-band-images

Free Images For Your Website

Pictures make or break your website. The difference between making a good first impression with your website or a bad one is usually based on the pictures. Fortunately, there’s a great website where you can get unlimited free pictures that you can use on your website, in blog posts, in your emails, Facebook posts, or anywhere else you’d like to use theme. All contents are released under Creative Commons CC0, which makes them safe to use without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist – even for commercial purposes.

Pixabay.com is an enormous library of free images and videos you can use anywhere. Here are a few tips to help you find great images for your website.

Safe Search

Be aware that there are some nude (not pornographic) photos on Pixabay. If you would prefer not to see those types of images, you can enable Safe Search in your Pixabay preferences.

First, search for something like dogs. On the search results pages, click the gear icon on the top right, then check the Safe Search option.

Once selected, Pixabay will remember this option for the rest of your searches. If you use a different web browser, or your on a different computer, or if you have cleared the cookies on your web browser, you will need to re-enabled your Safe Search option. So, to be safe, it’s a good idea to check to make sure this option is selected when you first start searching.

The Search Tools

The search tools are pretty self-explanatory. If you click the All Images option on the left side of the search box you will see some additional search settings.

If you have some specific requirements for your images you can set up some search filters.

Orientation

The orientation filter is pretty nice because when you’re designing for the web you often need short, wide images. Selecting the horizontal orientation can be helpful in finding images that work well for headers, banners, and featured images for blog posts.

Finding Related Images

Sometimes you want to find a couple images of the same person or, perhaps, additional shots of the same setting. All of the pictures on Pixabay are contributed by individual photographers. Often times the photographer will have taken a few pictures of the same landscape or of the same person. So, if you find a picture that you like, and want to see if there are any other similar pictures, you can click through to see all of the images contributed by a particular photographer.

For example, suppose you like the picture with the blond woman on the black background and you’d like to see if there are any other photos of her. Hover you mouse over the image and click on the photographer’s username in the bottom left corner of the picture.

That will take you to a page show all the images uploaded by that particular photographer.

When you find an image you’d like to download, go ahead and sign up for a free Pixabay account, then you can download as many images as you’d like. Just click the picture, then click the green download button.

Other Sources For Images

We have talked a lot about Pixabay and you can find a lot of great, free images there. If you can’t find quite what you are looking for and you’re willing to pay a couple dollars for some high quality photos. Here are a few other places (some free, some paid) where you can go to find some images for your website.

Find Your Homepage Image

You may already have a photo in mind for your homepage. It may be a photo of you or it could be a picture of your product. Custom photography is always better than stock photography as long as the quality of the image is good. If you have low quality pictures, or no pictures at all, head over to Pixabay and find an interesting and engaging photo to use for your home page. Keep in mind that you will want a short, wide picture so we can use it on the homepage header area of your website. We will pick a color from that image to set the color pallet for your website. We’ll be diving into colors and page layouts in the next lesson.

Getting A Logo For Your Business

You don’t have to have a logo to get started. You could just choose a nice font for your business name and use that as your logo. This is great for keeping costs down while you’re getting started.

If you want a professionally designed logo, take a look a 99designs. I’ve used them to design logos including the logo at White Harvest.

Summary

Great job gathering together the stuff you need to get started. At this point you should have the following things.

  • Your web hosting account with a WordPress site installed
  • Your WordPress theme
    • Make Plus Plugin
    • Make Theme
    • Make Child Theme
  • A couple pictures (either your own or from Pixabay)

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