Having Your Own Website, Part 1: Learning to Speak “Website”

It’s best, before you start your own website, to state in one or two simple sentences what it will be for.  You can always change, add, or subtract from that, or have more than one purpose, but starting a big, ongoing project without some goal or direction is a good way to drift or get lost.

Hosting your own website amplifies your presence

Hosting your own website amplifies your presence

People are more likely to become regular visitors to your site if they can identify its purpose(s).

Hosting your own website is fun and empowering.   Many people are terrified of the idea, and see website management as a mystery only specialists master.  I did until I got started with help from a friend.

Once you have a web address (URL) and access to your own website’s dashboard (control panel), you can start posting simple content right away, learning new, fancier devices as you go along. No single procedure is hard, but there are a lot of them, and it’s best to learn them a little at a time.

Learning Website Language

The hardest part of starting my own website was learning the foreign language of websites.  In addition to non-words like HTML and URL, that people use without knowing what the initials stand for, perfectly good English words like widget have meanings in website language that have nothing to do with their English meanings.

Blog, for example, is a made-up website-only word for the basic unit of content on a website. According to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition, 2011, it’s derived from weblog, and first appeared in print in 1999.  It’s now accepted as standard English, not slang, dialect, or special jargon.

The dictionary says a blog is “an online personal journal with comments and reflections that often includes hyperlinks, another website word that means a way, embedded in the blog’s text, to reach a related web page or blog by pushing a button.  They’re called links today, not hyperlinks.

 The Language Barrier Delayed Starting My Website

Before Corinna West got me set up, started, and solving problems on my own, I offered to pay several website developers. “How much would you charge to build me a website?”  “How many pages?” they’d ask.  “What’s a page?” I’d answer.  I never heard from any of them again.

I still don’t know what a page is, or how many I have on my website, but I go from page to page all the time with the push of a button.  I couldn’t tell you what a widget is, but I know where to find my list, and how to add and remove them on mine.

Like all foreign languages, the only way to learn this one is to use it, and you quickly learn the words you use every day.  The same is true of computer programs.

Starting Your Own Website

To launch your website, you need a platform (website program), a theme and name for your site (web address, URL), a service provider (SP), a user name and password.

 

Wordpress logo

WordPress logo

WordPress is the platform we use and recommend.  You can download it from the Internet free, and don’t have to pay every year to renew it.  It’s the most popular platform among webmeisters with no training in website management or computer science because it is easy to learn and use.

Your service provider must register your URL and make sure it’s not being used by someone else.  Give your site a meaningful, descriptive, memorable name, like www.wellnesswordworks.com, www.kenbraiterman.com, or www.madinamerica.com (Robert Whitaker).

SP’s charge for this service, but Corinna West has a limited capacity to be the SP for her most dedicated Wellness Wordworks volunteers and bloggers if their site at least partially furthers Wellness Wordworks’s goals. So before you pay a service provider, ask Corinna if you qualify, and if she has the capacity, to set you up.

 Choosing a Theme and Front Page for Your Own Website

Your theme is your own website’s permanent design.  Once you have a registered website, user name, and password, do a Google search for WordPress themes.  Gazillion designs will appear.  Some you must pay for, but there are thousands of free ones, and you only need one.

A simple WordPress theme, They get much fancier than this.

A simple WordPress theme, They get much fancier than this.

Your theme should include pictures and images, preferably your own, your biographical information, or a link to a page that has it.  It’s a good idea to post links to websites you recommend, and ask the hosts to link their sites to yours.  That will increase your traffic.

If you are going to divide your content into categories — a very good idea — your front page shoule list what they are, with buttons that will take visitors to a list of everything in that category only, so they don’t have to comb through all your copy to find what they care about.

Look at a lot of themes and front pages of a lot of websites to see what people do with theirs before you choose a theme and set up your front page.

Your User Name, Password, and Dashboard

Your user name and password, which your SP gives you, which can change any time, give you access to your dashboard.  You need them to log in every time you go into the dashboard.

Access to the dashboard is all you need to edit your blogs from start to finish, or save them in the queue, post them, or schedule them for a future day.Part 2 in this series explores the dashboard in depth. 

Hacking and security are issues on websites, so your password should be a combination of at least 10 letters, numbers, and keyboard symbols easy for you to remember, but impossible for anyone else to figure out.  User names and passwords are case sensitive on the Log In screen.  If you do get hacked, change your password, which is quick and easy to do.

I suggest you write your blogs off line and keep those copies as a back-up.  Then, copy, paste, and save it on the dashboard.  Then add art, summaries and descriptions, search engine optimization, tags, key words, embedded links, a headline and subheads, and everything else your raw copy needs to become an attractive, much-visited blog on your own website.

What would be the purpose(s) of your own website?

Part 2 is an overview of the dashboard.  Part 3 covers editing and search engine optimization (SEO)

 

Wordworks Blog Author: Ken Braiterman

Ken Braiterman, Wellness Wordworks board chair, has been an activist, news reporter, opinion writer, and columnist since 1968. From 1997 to 2009, he was New Hampshire's leading advocate for recovery-based mental health services. He is an advanced Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) facilitator.

Comments are closed.