*This page contains affiliate links from TSOhost and StudioPress – because I LOVE THEM. If you buy something through those links, I get a commission. Which would be awesome. You also get 10% off your hosting though! Learn how I built my travel blog below 🙂
I built my first travel blog in 2009 when I set off on a 2 month trip across the USA, ostensibly to write my dissertation.
Since then I’ve built several more websites, changed them around, used many different themes and plugins and eventually settled on the two I use now. KitiaraPascoe.com for my travel writing and journalism, and TheLiteraryLifeboat.com for my copy and content writing business.
When years ago it took me weeks to create a website, now I can make a useable, good looking site in under a day.
In this post you’ll learn how to make a site like this one, which tools I’ve used and which tools I don’t think you need to.
The Bones of KitiaraPascoe.com – How this Blog Works
This blog is a self-hosted WordPress blog.
What does that mean?
WordPress offers two types of blog; WordPress-hosted and Self-hosted.
A host is where your website is stored. Kind of like a bank. The bank stores your money but you can access it whenever you like.
WordPress will host your website but that means you’ll have .wordpress in your URL. That doesn’t look too professional, so if you ever want your blog/website to look professional, or just cleaner, use self-hosting.
Self-hosted WordPress sites means that you own your own domain name (URL) and your site is hosted elsewhere (which you pay a hosting company for) but you still get to use the WordPress framework.
Why use WordPress at all?
I think WordPress is the best framework for individuals include sole traders. Self-hosted WordPress sites allow you to choose any compatible theme (more on those below) and is incredibly customisable.
Even if you need a heavily customised website and don’t know how to code, chances are you can do it yourself or pay someone who can.
Support: WordPress is so widely used that there are guides online for literally any problem you come across. Articles for dummies and Youtube videos for the tiniest issue can be found easily.
The website WPBeginner is probably the single most useful website for this. Google your problem and that website will have an easy-to-follow answer, even if you think you’re clueless when it comes to website building.
Steps to Getting a Self-Hosted Website/Blog
- Choose and buy your domain name
- Choose and buy your hosting
- Direct your domain name to your host’s servers
- Install WordPress through your hosting panel
- Login to your new website
- Choose a free theme or buy a theme
- Install your theme
- Begin to fill out your website!
#1 Choose and buy your domain name
I’m not going to go into how to choose your domain name suffice to say that make sure you’ve written it down in lowercase so you can see how it looks to others. You don’t want any weird words to be formed by joining two words together to discover it makes something rude and obvious.
I use NameCheap because I think they’re generally a more upfront company. They alert you when your WHOis Guard is going to expire (and often give it to you for free at the start) but they also alert you to the UK-specific privacy protections.
- Privacy here like WHOis Guard (global) and Nominet (UK) means that your name and address doesn’t show up when people look up your site info.
Everything on the NameCheap website is easily laid out and you can access your DNS settings quickly. If you already have a domain name and want to transfer it, you can also do that easily and I’ve transferred domain names from GoDaddy to NameCheap before.
#2 Choose and buy your hosting
Hosting is important as this is where your website is stored. Choosing a hosting company that has a good reputation is definitely the way to go but also choose one that has excellent support and helplines.
You’ll install WordPress onto your website through your hosting control panel on your host’s website as well as doing other things like setting up an email account with your domain name.
This can all get a little confusing, so having a host company who will actually respond to your questions quickly is essential.
I use TSOHost and have done for several years. I cannot recommend them highly enough. They get back to me usually within about 15 minutes and are incredibly helpful, even when I’m asking really stupid questions.
They’re also UK based and very affordable. Like…a total bargain. I’ve never experienced downtime from their servers and their website is really easy to use.
Get your 10% TSOHost promo code by using the word ‘Kitiara’ and honestly, you’ll fall in love with them too.
Nothing is nicer than people who make your website life easier.
#3 Direct your domain name to your host’s servers
This is not as weird or hard as it sounds.
So you own a domain name – let’s use kitiarapascoe.com. Now you need to tell that domain name where it directs to. I.e. your website.
Your website will be stored on your host’s servers. These are name servers. When you sign up for hosting, you’ll receive easy-to-understand guides on how to do all this including what name servers your host uses.
Alternatively, you can just Google ‘[Host company] name servers’
You’ll need to go onto your domain name seller site, i.e. NameCheap, log into your account and click on your domain name. Then you’ll be able to access the DNS settings for that domain name.
Delete the name servers that are shown (which will be NameCheap name servers) and replace them with the two or three that your host has given you.
Now your domain name points to your host servers and your website!
#4 Install WordPress through your hosting panel
This is really easy through the TSOHost control panel on your account. You are walked through it and if you have any trouble, there are abundant support pages. I’m sure it’s similar for any other hosting company.
#5 Log into your new website
Your host will give you the log in details for your website which you can change once logged in. For WordPress, your login will be DomainName.com/wp-admin.
Once there the first thing to do is create a user profile and password which can be done on the ‘Users’ tab on the left hand side of your WordPress dashboard.
#6 Choose a free theme or buy a theme
Your WordPress theme is essentially what your site will look like. WordPress provides a handful of free themes which you can use immediately. These will be find if you just want a small personal blog.
However, if you want to turn your blog or website into a business or create things like portfolios, sales pages, product pages or anything more complex than simply writing a few posts, I advise you buy a really great theme.
Why? Because you’ll get so much more flexibility with design, customisation and useability.
If you buy from StudioPress you’ll also get a whole user guide for your theme plus security, support and mobile responsiveness (good layout on mobile, tablet, desktop etc).
I have used free WordPress themes but I quickly changed to StudioPress.com .
This website, KitiaraPascoe.com uses the Wellness Pro Theme from StudioPress. I love this theme because it allows me to showcase multiple types of things on my homepage (and it’s looks beautiful).
This theme allows plugins like StudioPress’s Author Pro, a plugin specifically designed to sell your books. It also displays blog posts really nicely without them being the main focus of the website.
I love the use of white space to separate the different sections and overall it’s a really clean look.
The user guide for this theme is excellent and I had no trouble creating the site as it is today.
StudioPress uses a framework within WordPress called Genesis – which is also a StudioPress creation. Genesis is the underlying framework for StudioPress themes. It’s the frame of the building and the theme is the walls, windows and appearance. But it’s Genesis that provides the structure.
Genesis can be bought from StudioPress and it’s truly worth it. Because it’s a paid for system (but a one-time payment), it’s regularly updated, its security is excellent and you get great support.
Your only problem with StudioPress is picking your theme because scrolling through them is highly addictive. Some are third party but work on the Genesis framework which is the main thing.
#7 Install your theme
If you use a free theme, you can choose it right from the Appearance > Themes from your WordPress menu. Just pick out of the four or so free themes and click Activate.
If you buy a theme you’ll need to install it.
If you’ve bought from StudioPress, you’ll be sent everything you need along with guides for how to install and make the most of your theme. It’s written for people who have no idea what they’re doing. I.e. it’s very straightforward.
You’ll need to install both Genesis and your Theme which is easy and can be done from Appearance > Themes too.
Once you’ve installed both, you can activate your theme.
#8 Begin to fill out your website!
Now you can begin filling out your website. The theme will have already created a certain amount of structure on your site but you can add more and change bits around using widgets and plugins.
From your WordPress dashboard you can do everything, from creating pages and posts as well as menus and uploading images.
You should also now be able to type your domain name into your URL bar and see your site!
#9 Next Steps
WordPress and the Genesis framework are both very intuitive and comprehensively covered in articles all over the internet. There is simply no problem you could come across that hasn’t been written about with an easy step-by-step guide to help you solve it.
From here you can play around with your site before giving anybody the URL. Experiment with widgets, get a backup plugin and link your site to Google Analytics so you can track visitors from day one.
Thanks for reading this guide and I hope it was helpful. If you want to use any of the services and companies I’ve written about, using the links I’ve provided will, in some cases, give me a commission if you buy anything. Which would be awesome.
Got any questions or do you already run a site with a theme you love? Let me know in the comments!
If you want to take a look at WPBeginner’s video guide to starting a website, it’s below!