I remember when I created my first website back in 2001. A very simple site with a few flash games and links to useful pages. Getting a website up and running then was a lot harder than it is today. I wish I had a guide like this to show me how to start a blog.
There were few resources for how to actually do it, WordPress was still a couple of years away from being developed and everything had to be set up manually. I actually bought a book, a physical book, as the Kindle hadn’t been invented yet. This took me through the steps on registering a domain and uploading my files via FTP to a webserver.
Things are a lot simpler these days with 1-Click installs, a wide variety of content systems to choose from and cheap web hosting. However, even though things are easier people still put off creating their own blog. I get asked all the time by people and fellow software developers how to start a blog. Many saying “I really should get round to doing that” but never do. A blog can be a great way to get exposure as a software developer, give back to the community and even make money.
So on that note, stop what you are doing and bookmark this page now. If you have half an hour spare, stay here and we will go through the steps now and you will have a website setup by the time you finish this post.
As I mentioned above there are a variety of content management systems (CMS) to choose from. You don’t need a CMS if you are happy to dive into a code editor to write a new post and then upload it via an FTP client. Even if you are comfortable with that, I wouldn’t recommend it. That little extra effort will almost guarentee you will never get around to writing more than a few blog posts. With a CMS writing a new post will be as easy as writing a Word document. I am going to focus on WordPress in this tutorial. Mainly because it is the most popular of all the CMS’s, it is what I use and it is highly configurable.
Creating a blog can be broken down into these 5 steps which should take more than 15 minutes to complete:
- Picking a topic.
- Finding and registering a domain name.
- Finding a web host.
- 1-Click install of WordPress.
- Customising the site to your style.
Step 1: Picking a topic
Your blog can be about anything you want, your dog, your cat, your kids, your love of origami paper, anything. However, unless you are purely writing for yourself as an online journal you are probably going to want to pick a topic to write about.
Generally people aren’t interested in the inner details of your day to day life. It is also not good to write about lots of different things. For example, say you wrote a great post about origami and some of the things you have made. Another origami enthusiast might find your post and be excited to read more. They browse around your site and read the next post which is about Mexican food, the post after that is about horse riding. You see unless they happen to have exactly the same interests as you, they will go off and find another site that does cater to their needs.
However if your site was dedicated to origami and the next post was about where to buy the best origami paper they are more likely to bookmark your site and come back again and again.
Step 2: Finding and registering a domain name
I have included the word finding in the title of this step, as the one thing that is a lot harder since 2001 is finding a domain name. The majority of domain names are already taken. Many of them are taken but are for sale with a high price tag.
NameCheap have a good domain search you can use which can be a fast way to find a domain and get suggestions. Hold off buying the domain just yet as I can get you one for free in step 3.
If your lucky YourName.com may still be available, in which case I suggest you snap it up now even if you don’t plan to use it yet. If you have an idea for a blog name then try it it may still be available. I would avoid hyphens in domain names, it may allow you to get the name you want but people won’t remember the hyphen.
You should try and get a .com or regional domain name (e.g. .co.uk) as these are easier to remember, then the new ones such as .club.
Domain names can usually be bought with your web hosting but they can also be bought seperately. Some web hosts even throw in a free domain name to save you the hassle buying elsewhere (keep reading for your free domain name).
If the web host isn’t providing a free domain name then it is worth shopping around for a better deal.
I buy all my domain names from NameCheap. Domain names are available instantly after being bought and they provide dynamic DNS for free which is great for pointing a domain to your Raspberry Pi sitting at home.
Step 3: Finding a web host
You will find there is a huge number of web hosts to choose from. There aren’t many however that are reliable companies that you can trust with your website. The reason I mentioned above about buying a domain separately is because of how many times I have moved web hosts in the past. If you don’t fancy shopping around for a different web host every few months you might want to stick with this one:
Bluehost is one of the biggest web host in the world and they serve a staggering number of sites across the internet. They have a famous 1-Click WordPress install and optimised WordPress hosting to make sure your site is secure and fast. They also offer 24/7 support and a 30 day money back guarantee. If you are just starting out their lowest WordPress plan should be enough unless you plan on hosting lots of photos and videos.
Bluehost are one of these web hosts that throw in a free domain name when you sign up which is worth using if you don’t have one already.
Of course there are plenty of other web hosts around but I haven’t used them so wouldn’t want to recommend them on my website.
You can follow the instructions below step by step and you will have your site set up in no time.
Step 4: 1-Click install of WordPress
This step is going to be more than 1-Click as we need to signup for an account but you will see as we go through the steps how easy it is.
Go to Bluehost and from the menu choose hosting > shared hosting. There is an option for WordPress hosting but it is a lot more expensive even though WordPress can be installed on the lower plan.
From there, scroll down to the hosting plans. Plans start from $3.95/month and this comes with 50GB storage, a free domain name and the ability to have 5 domains and 25 subdomains on the same plan.
You probably only need the Basic plan so click the big green Select button and we shall move on to the signup screen.
The signup screen will give you 2 options “new domain” or “i have a domain”. We are going to choose “new domain” so we can make use of the free domain name offer. Type in the domain name your found in Step 2 and click Next.
If your chosen domain isn’t available then you will get given a few alternatives to pick from.
Once your domain is picked you will be taken to the account creation page. You can either sign in with Google here or fill out the details the old school way. You also get to pick what additional addons you want. These range from domain privacy protection to site backups. You don’t need any of these to begin with but it might be worth signing up for one at a later date.
Below that is the payment information.
Once complete you will be sent to a congratulations page like the one below. Here you will need to set up your password.
You should then see the Bluehost dashboard. Bluehost actually installs WordPress by default so if you go to your new domain you should see your new site. If not you might have to wait a little while for the DNS to refresh which can take up to 24 hours.
You will be sent an email with instructions on how to login to your new WordPress site. Remember to change the password once you are in!
Step 5: Customising your site
So many tutorials stop before you get to this point but I think it is an important step. At the end of the day, it isn’t really your blog until you have made your mark. The main way of doing this is by installing a theme and customising the options.
Not all themes are made equal and how much you can change a theme will largely depend on the quality of the theme. Paid themes will allow you to change all colours and other styles while free themes might be more limited.
The recommended free themes you can browse in WordPress are quite good but will also be used by thousands of websites already.
If you are a developer or a personal blogger you might want to take a look at the DevUp Theme. This is my theme made by developers for developers that is currently being used on this site. Of course there a hundreds of good paid themes. Have a look at Creative Market for other premium themes.
If you have downloaded a good theme you should find the customisation options under Appearance > Customise. There, you should be able to change most if not all of the colours used as well as a few layout aspects.
So in 5 not so long steps you should now have a blog set up and ready to go. That is the easiest part done. The hard part is writing useful blog posts every week. That is something I can’t help with but pays off if you are persistent.
If you enjoyed this post on How to Start a Blog you will like what I have in store over the next few weeks. I am going to focus a lot on blogging, how to secure your site, how to get more traffic how to make money and even how Google works. You can subscribe to my email list if you want to get your website off to the best start.