Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Make your own website for free (or really cheap)!

"But how?  I didn't go to one of your fancy internet schools!  I don't know my elbow from my html!"  
Fear not, blog reader--that is why there's! (And other similar dotcoms but for the sake of space I'll just talk about WordPress.)

Read about it here or come to my class!
DIY Websites with WordPress at the Ginter Park Branch Library
Wednesday, December 18th @ 5:30
Can't make it today but wish you could?
Give us a call and I'll try to schedule another class in the future: 646-1236.

Creating your own website to promote a small brick-and-mortar business or a web store in an online marketplace, or to share your art, music, or words with the world is well within your reach.  You don't need to know any code or shell out a ton of money to have a professional, attractive, functional website that can grow with your needs, skill level, and your business.  WordPress, simply put, is a blog (sort of like the one you are reading now).  Blogs are basically just websites designed to display the most recent content first in the form of "posts". Static "pages" can be added and set as the homepage, moving the blog off the the side.  Pages can even be nested creating sub-menus if your template allows it. Go to any website you can think of and navigate the menus.  You can do that on your own site.  Here is an  example of a well done website for a small business:

These blogazines (I may have just made that word up) definitely weren't free but are worth showing here as an example of what is possible:

So, how to get started?  Go to  Click "get started".  Do this:

Create your account log-in, and don't worry about the blog address because you can change it later. You're almost there! Once you're in you can pick out a theme.  There are 120 free themes to choose from. The theme is the pretty part; it determines the look and feel of your site. Consider your audience and your content.  If you feature a lot of photos and very little text, look for a theme that emphasizes photos like this one.

If you are promoting an auto repair shop you will probably want a static homepage that prominently displays your phone number, a list of services, and a map of your location. Think about what information your customer is looking for and make it easy to find. The above theme might confuse someone in search of a reliable mechanic.

So, what's next? Get to know your dashboard. That's the control room for your whole website. There you'll be able to create pages, add content, change your theme, write and edit blog posts (basically just do all of the things) there. I set up a "sandbox" to demo changes for the purposes of the class so it will look different all the time:

The theme I have chosen is pretty well suited to my content, what little of it there is, but I'm not wild about the background color so I think I'll change it.  It's nice to know that the theme can be changed easily at any time without sacrificing my content.

When creating a page or a post you may notice a tab labeled "visual" and next to it a tab labeled "text".
The text tab is where you can edit (some of) the HTML--that's the language that tells a browser how to display content.  The great thing about WordPress?  You don't have to know it at all. You can learn just a little and make some changes in there if you like or you can leave it alone and trust WP's code.

WordPress can be ALL free, "pretty cheap", or "reasonably priced" depending on how much space you need and how much control you want. You can purchase upgrades à la carte or as part of a plan. 60$/year gets you video—the free version does not support video. 99$/year gets you a custom domain, more space for photos and video (about 13 GB), and more control over site appearance. Even more money will get you even more, if you can imagine that.  Want a custom theme?  It'll cost you but it's an option.

Want even more control? Teach yourself a new language! The folks at and have just about all you need to learn code like CSS or HTML in your spare time. It might even be fun.

Final advice: Put a cat on it. (People love cats.) (The internet has lots of funny cats.)

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