How to start a WordPress blog

So your thinking about starting up a WordPress blog. You may or may not know what you need or where to begin. In this guide I am going to go over some key points to starting up your very own WordPress blog and give you some advice from my own experience.

What to consider before starting your WordPress blog

Hosting

This should be your first course of action, after all your not going to be able to do very much without somewhere to host your site. I have tried or worked on most of the main hosting companies that are around today from godaddy, dreamhost, bluehost, hostgator and many other hosting companies.

From experience I can tell you that for starting out there are only really 2 hosting companies to choose from.

Web Hosting Buzz – they have servers that are specific for WordPress and also provide VPS and Dedicated servers which makes growth simple as you just have to ask to have your server upgraded to something bigger.

Hostgator – Another highly recommended hosting company and one which I’m currently using. Again there support is really amazing, they are always happy to help and their servers are very stable and simple to use with cpanel.

Ok so you got your hosting all sorted. Next you will need a theme.

Themes

Your choice of a theme is equally as important as your choice of hosting. The fact is there are 1000’s of themes to choose from and sometimes it can be really difficult to choose if you don’t know what your looking for. So here I am going to outline a few themes of that I would happily work with and what to look for.

What to look for:

Weight – now you might be thinking what do you mean by weight.

You want to look for a theme that is well coded and light. There are too many themes out there that have far too many features which most people don’t use, but they still load in the page. Preferably you want to have control over what loads and what doesn’t.

JavaScript – choose a theme that either has very little JavaScript or gives you the option to enable or disable it from loading.

CSS – some themes give you a lot of options to change colors on the fly or via an options panel. Make sure that the theme stores those changes in the database or rewrites a CSS file. What you don’t want to see is an entire CSS file written directly in to the html. Most themes have a preview option and you can test this by right clicking and viewing the source code.

If you see something like this: AVOID IT

<!DOCTYPE html>

<html dir="ltr" lang="sv-SE"><head>
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" />
<title>sitename</title>
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="sitename RSS Feed" href="http://www.sitename.com/feed/" />
<link rel="alternate" type="application/atom+xml" title="sitename Atom Feed" href="http://www.sitename.com/feed/atom/" />
<link rel="pingback" href="http://www.sitename.com/xmlrpc.php" />
<link rel="stylesheet" href="http://www.sitename.com/wp-content/themes/style.css?9d7bd4" type="text/css" media="screen" />
<link rel="stylesheet" href="http://www.sitename.com/wp-content/themes/scripts/prettyPhoto.css?9d7bd4" type="text/css" media="screen" />
<link rel="stylesheet" href="http://www.sitename.com/wp-content/themes/print.css?9d7bd4" type="text/css" media="print" />
<!--[if IE]>
<link rel="stylesheet" href="http://www.sitename.com/wp-content/themes/ie.css?9d7bd4" type="text/css" media="screen" />
<![endif]-->

<style>

/*--FONT COLOR STUFF--*/

.cn_content h2 a:hover,  .catName span,  #shareThis .stButton .chicklets,  .posttitle a:hover,  .entrytitle a:hover,  h1 a:hover,  h2 a:hover,  h3 a:hover,  h4 a:hover,  h5 a:hover,  h6 a:hover,  a {
color:#0a67b3;
}

/*--BACKGROUND COLOR STUFF--*/

#commentform input[type="submit"],  input[type="submit"],  .navigation .wp-paginate .current,  .selected:hover,  .selected,  .cn_item:active,  #sidebar .widget_tag_cloud a,  #wp-calendar a,  .cancel-comment-reply a,  .reply a { background-color:#0a67b3;
}

/*--BORDER COLOR STUFF--*/

.selected:after,  .cn_item:active:after { border-color:transparent #0a67b3 transparent transparent;
}

/*--SECONDARY SIDEBAR STUFF--*/

  @media screen and (min-width:1270px) {
 #wrapper,  #topBanner {
width: 1150px;
}

#header .marketing-news {
display:block !important;
}

#content:after {
background: url(http://www.sitename.com/wp-content/themes/images/divider.gif) repeat-y 824px 0;
display: block;
width: 100%;
content: "";
position: absolute;
top: 0;
left: 0;
z-index: -1;
height: 100%;
}

#secondarySidebar {
display: block;
}

}/*/mediaquery*/

/*--CUSTOM CSS STUFF--*/

.banner-rotate {
	display:none;
	}
</style>

It’s alot of inline CSS and this is just the wrong way to update changes made via the wordpress admin panel in terms of CSS. HTML stands for hyper text markup language and simply put its a reference page. Like the foreman of a building site telling his workers where to go.

What you should see is something more like this:

<!DOCTYPE html>

<html dir="ltr" lang="sv-SE"><head>
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" />
<title>sitename</title>
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="sitename RSS Feed" href="http://www.sitename.com/feed/" />
<link rel="alternate" type="application/atom+xml" title="sitename Atom Feed" href="http://www.sitename.com/feed/atom/" />
<link rel="pingback" href="http://www.sitename.com/xmlrpc.php" />
<link rel="stylesheet" href="http://www.sitename.com/wp-content/themes/style.css?9d7bd4" type="text/css" media="screen" />
<link rel="stylesheet" href="http://www.sitename.com/wp-content/themes/scripts/prettyPhoto.css?9d7bd4" type="text/css" media="screen" />
<link rel="stylesheet" href="http://www.sitename.com/wp-content/themes/print.css?9d7bd4" type="text/css" media="print" />
<!--[if IE]>
<link rel="stylesheet" href="http://www.sitename.com/wp-content/themes/ie.css?9d7bd4" type="text/css" media="screen" />
<![endif]-->

<link rel="stylesheet" href="http://www.sitename.com/wp-content/themes/custom.css" type="text/css" media="print" />

Now in stead of seeing lots of inline CSS, you have a reference calling the custom.css.

Ideally you would want as few CSS and Javascript files as possible, the less the better.

Avoid Themes that use Timthumb

What is Timthumb?

Timthumb is a php based image resizer, simply put it makes your images the right size and does it all automatically.

So why should you avoid it?

There are alot of free themes that use timthumb as well as premium themes, I’m not going to list everything that is wrong with timthumb here but this one should send your alarm bells ringing.

It allow hackers to upload and execute arbitrary PHP code in your timthumb cache directory.

Now I know that timthumb has been updated since to timthumb 2.0 and many security issues fixed but it doesn’t solved the next problem and the fact that many themes still use the old version of timthumb.

Optimization

As someone who makes a living optimizing sites, I have come across timthumb more times than I care to remember. It is one of the biggest performance lags on your site.

  1. It creates Query strings per image.
  2. It doesn’t allow for correct image dimensions to be added. (unless you modify your theme templates)

Both of these points are vital and considered High priority in terms of optimization by Google page speed and Yslow.

Check out my post about optimizing images and why dimensions are important.

So what themes would you recommend?

Thesis – This is site is built on thesis and so far I havn’t found a better theme to work with and for good reason.

  • It is fast and easy to use.
  • You have complete control over it.
  • You can select what javascript libraries load on what page
  • It is super light and comes with just 2 CSS files or 1 if you want to stick to just changing your design via the display options.
  • It is perfect for those who know nothing about coding, but also for those who do.
  • You have a golden opportunity to customize your site in ways most sites can’t using a variety of custom hooks already in place, need to add something below your nav, easy use a hook. Don’t be scared of hooks there super simple to use.
  • Probably the best support forum I have ever come across, got a problem, head over to the members forum and post your problem, there are plenty of people on there who will go the extra mile to help you. Godhammer will become a familiar name to you as well as Girlie, pbarron all of which will be more than happy to assist.
  • Built in SEO which from my own experience has allowed me to not even think about it. I have never gone out of my way for SEO on this blog and the current trend in rankings and traffic are all very positive. Ranked 173, 759 by Alexa at the time of writing.

Here are a few sites that are built on Thesis, some you might be surprised about.

Pat Flynn’s – Smart Passive Income

Ebay Motors Blog

Paypal Blog

Krispy Kreme Doughnits UK

and another 50,000 plus sites running on Thesis.

I thought about listing a few themes to choose from, but then I thought I might as well just give you a more detailed account of the best theme/framework for creating a blog or whatever you want to mould it in to. So if your serious about blogging then get Thesis now. Thesis 2.0 will be coming and when it does prices will rise but so will the expectations of what a wordpress blog should be.

Remember free themes come with no guarantees, thesis gives you unprecedented support for life. Purchase once create a million designs.

Thesis Theme for WordPress:  Options Galore and a Helpful Support Community
With that said, you have the two main tools to get you started on a WordPress blog.

All you have to do now is write good content and promote it. Let thesis take care of your SEO.

Subscribe to our email list for the next edition of starting a WordPress blog. Part 2 will focus on other products based on experience that will help you build the site of your dreams.

Meet the Author

Matthew Horne

Matthew Horne is web developer who specializes in optimized development. He also builds custom solutions instead of reverting to plugins. Matthew Has a strong understanding of PHP, JavaScript, jQuery.

19 comments… add one
  • Garen Sep 14, 2012, 4:32 am

    Hey Matthew,

    Remember that if you go with BlueHost and your blog gets very popular you are going to have to switch to a VPS or Dedicated server. So if you don’t have the technical know-how you might want to go with Hostgator because they offer shared all the way up to full managed dedicated servers.

    One thing that you didn’t mention that I think is essential is installing a Wordpress backup plugin. This can be a safety net incase something goes haywire or you get hacked (it happens from time to time) and really does put your mind at ease to have a backup plugin installed.

    Garen

    • Matthew Horne Sep 14, 2012, 1:09 pm

      I would agree with that. But blue host do offer a transfer service to one of their recommended vps servers and partners.

      This is guide is the first part of a series, so the next series will talk more about other requirements and products based on need.

      Personally it is easy enough to backup from cpanel, and from experience I have known backup plugins to corrupt the database.

      Part two will be coming soon.

      Thanks

  • GoWebBaby Sep 14, 2012, 9:50 am

    Really helpful post for the beginners.
    Thanks.

  • bbrian017 Sep 21, 2012, 7:58 pm

    Hi Matt, I’ve been on Godaddy now for 6 years but I have heard some really great things about Hostgator! I also loved to use Nick from Elegant themes for my theme on my personal blogs. Your knowledge on CSS just blows my mind I honestly have little to no clue some of the stuff you’re talking about here. Regarding SEO I’ve always use all in one SEO pack but from latest reviews I’ve heard a lot of really great stuff about Yoast. I haven’t used it yet but have been considering changing and trying it out.

    • Matthew Horne Sep 21, 2012, 8:02 pm

      Hi Brian, I like hostgator because they have never let me down and i terms of upgrading from shared to vps and dedicated it’s really simple. In terms of themes, your theme choice is just as important as your host choice, both are essential for building a stable yet quality site. Yoast is a good plugin, better than All in one I would say, All in one has been known to have some issues on some servers with queries and requests ect.

      • bbrian017 Sep 22, 2012, 11:42 pm

        You know one of the largest pains with Godaddy, When I wanted to upgrade to 8 gigs of ram I had to actually move to a new server ti’s rather a joke… Instead of easily upgrading my ram I ad to move all my sites. What a pain that was.

  • Larry James Sep 24, 2012, 4:11 am

    My current web host does not provide me with Cpanel. I do have a control panel of course but it is a different brand, and Cpanel seems to be the best one. I have looked at both Bluehost and Hostmonster, and they both seem like very good web hosting companys to me. They both say I can host unlimited domains but I am not sure about that. You say you are currently using Hostgator, have you had any issues with slow loading times when hosting mulitple domains on Hostgator?

    • Matthew Horne Sep 24, 2012, 2:19 pm

      Unlimited is never unlimited, on shared hosting, its a bit of a myth that you can throw up as many sites as you want and everything will be ok, shared hosting is designed for low resource intensive sites, or just one medium site with minimal resource usage. Shared hosting isnt designed for running a business on. I had to move to VPS last month, 2 months after this site was launched to keep up with traffic and continue to provide people with a speedy site.

  • Adeline Yuboco Sep 24, 2012, 2:14 pm

    Awesome post, Matthew! You really covered all of the basics here. It’s the first time I’ve heard about Timthumb. Great that you mentioned about it. It’s something that people that are looking to start up their own blog in WordPress should be aware of.

    • Matthew Horne Sep 24, 2012, 2:17 pm

      Thank you, yes Timthumb is the lazy way of adding image resizing to a theme and it comes at a big cost. Timthumb will bog down your site if its image heavy and often people blame the host, but in most cases its the theme or plugins, or simply having too many plugins for the tasks their site is going to achieve.

  • Guppu Boss @ iPhone 5 Cases Sep 24, 2012, 3:40 pm

    I am planning to migrate my blog to wp. I have hosting but yet not prepared for it. You have coverd many steps. I am just looking for a suitable theme then will be wp user 🙂

    • Matthew Horne Sep 24, 2012, 3:43 pm

      Hi, selecting a theme is a difficult task and it all depends on your needs, you could buy a premade theme using something like woo themes or theme forest, or you could use thesis like I do and have a go at making a site. Thesis is very light and fast, which is what I find very important for a theme.

  • Aidy Sep 24, 2012, 6:05 pm

    Never been great at coding but thank you for the refresher! I considered the Thesis theme a while back for my site but it didn’t have the media aspect I was looking for. That may have changed by now. Great write up, always good to learn more when it comes to configuring website and understanding just how they work!

    • Matthew Horne Sep 24, 2012, 6:07 pm

      No problem, thesis isnt for everyone, but if your looking to learn a bit more about web development its perfect for that. But I love the fact that it can be molded in to pretty much anything, thesis 2.0 is coming soon I hope and I can’t wait to see what its gonna do.

  • Tuna Sep 27, 2012, 10:32 am

    http://Unshit.com – A practical tool for speeding up your website, helping you to receive more search engine traffic and making your ads perform better.

    • Matthew Horne Sep 27, 2012, 1:51 pm

      Lol, you know I almost marked this as spam, but i thought it was funny so I accepted this one.

  • Pauline Taylor Nov 28, 2012, 12:14 pm

    How can I add wordpress with my website.?

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