(THIS POST PROBABLY CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. OUR FULL DISCLOSURE POLICY IS REALLY BORING, BUT YOU CAN FIND IT HERE.)
Starting a blog? Congratulations, you own a confusing screen that does nothing!
But seriously. You’ve purchased hosting and installed WordPress. You own what will become your blog. It’s hard to imagine it right now, but truthfully, you might have just set out on the most exciting path you’ll ever take. Making a living from home. Doing what you WANT to do with your life or making a difference in other’s lives. EEK! (No, not right away. But everybody’s gotta start somewhere.)
(If you haven’t purchased hosting yet, you can get a 60% discount on hosting with siteground here.)
First of all, for real, congratulations on starting your blog! But um… now what?
This is the part where, when I started my first “blog”, I just sat there and stared at WordPress and clicked around a bit before I eventually admitted defeat.
But you’re not gonna do that. You’ve got blogging to do, so let’s get doing it.
The number one thing to remember when you are OVERWHELMED by trying to set up your blog is that you can do this, there is a way, and you will learn the way. When you get frustrated, take a break, re-group and then come back to it. Trial and error is awesome. (Now I should say something inspiring about someone famous who had to make a light bulb 417 times before he ever discovered he could build theme parks. And now that same guy has sold a billion copies of his book that no one was originally interested in, “Theme Parks are worth the effort”. But you’ve heard it before and the moral of the story is, if you want this make it happen.)
SO, now what?
You’re logged into WordPress. You’re staring at your new “dashboard”. This is home.
It’s time to pick a theme. But what’s the best wordpress theme?
Or, what’s “theme” at all?
The theme is the way your blog looks. The colors, the fonts, the layout and the functionality make up the theme. Your theme is also probably the first massive frustration that you’re gonna run into. (You’re officially on your own, no Siteground chat to hold your hand here.)
Choosing the best WordPress theme for your blog feels like a BIG deal.
The single most important thing about choosing a theme is to ensure that you choose a theme that is RESPONSIVE. This means that your blog will automatically adjust to fit on the screen of a mobile phone or tablet. 80% or more of blog reading is done on a mobile screen, and if your blog doesn’t fit on that screen no one will be sticking around to read it.
The next most important thing, perhaps, is to remember that while the theme you choose does matter – you want people to take you seriously – it does not matter as much as you think right now.
One day, it will be imperative that you get your site beautiful and functional. However, if you get massively hung up on this right now, your blog might never even get off the ground. Remember, the vast majority of blog post reading is done via mobile – clicking into and out of a post from Facebook or Pinterest etc – and these readers will never even see your home page. Just food for thought.
Free Themes – pros and cons and how to install ’em.
There are thousands of free themes available, and if you are just trying this blogging thing out as an experiment or you are just making a family newsletter blog or a personal fun blog, then a free one is probably fine. You can access and install TONS of free themes right from your WordPress dashboard.
I’ll show you how! But first, a few things to know about free themes. For starters, they are free. Don’t expect tech support from the designer. (That’s only fair.) Second, try to choose one you are pretty happy with as is, because you will be on your own for customization. I really don’t suggest you go messing around with the coding of your theme trying to make it look different. That is one great way to break your blog.
→To install a free theme, go to “Appearance” about half way down the left hand side of your dash board, and click “themes”.
→ (This is my themes area, you won’t see those Divi themes in yours. That is the theme that my blog uses.) You can access the free themes by clicking the WordPress.org Themes button.
→ These are the free themes available for you to use! If you hover over one with your mouse, you will see options to read the details and preview it, or install it. If you know you wanna go with a free theme, click the install button on the theme you have selected to get started.
→ Once the installation is complete, click activate! You now have an active FREE theme.
Paid for themes – if you want a little more option for customization, need tech support or want to start out with something a little more professional looking.
(The following links * are affiliate links! If you purchase anything through these links, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you. IF you do make a purchase, I STRONGLY recommend that you then also become an affiliate so you can promote the products as well!)
I tried a few free themes, and I was SO discouraged by the way I couldn’t change anything about the way they looked, especially knowing that there was no tech support. I loved some of the beautiful themes available for purchase at Creative Market*. (Just FYI they do great FREEBIES every Monday, so it’s always a good idea to set up an account there, even if you’re not buying anything now).
I felt the problems with a free theme weren’t totally solved by buying one individual theme that still required me to code to change things. Yes, you will probably get some tech support, but it will be limited. The designer is still only getting a one time fee. If you have some computer confidence and are a little bit adventurous, maybe purchasing a theme from Creative Market* is the way to go for you!
Another exceptionally well reviewed theme company is Genesis Themes*. Many, Many successful bloggers use and love Genesis Themes*. (I have not personally used them, but I trust the bloggers who recommend them!) If having a totally custom theme or changing a bunch of things isn’t what interests you, you’d probably be very well off to buy a theme from Genesis and use it as it is! That would be a very easy way to have a great theme.
What I’m using (- the best WordPress theme as far as I’m concerned!)
I am not computer confident. But I knew I wanted the option of customization. I wanted my blog to look the way I WANTED IT TO LOOK. (Right?) I stumbled across the answer to all my theme customization coding problems one day, and I have never looked back. I bought a membership with Elegant Themes* and downloaded their Divi theme. (With a membership you get access to over 80 themes. So there’s lots of choice.)
But I don’t care about the 79+ other themes. Divi is absolutely amazing in that instead of coding everything into place, it works on a drag and drop builder, where you can place modules instead of code. Yes, there’s still a learning curve, but essentially the text book is written in plain English instead of CSS. (CSS is some sort of code.) And it’s a membership, so it comes with tech support. You know how I love tech support!
There is a training video for every aspect of Divi. You just sign in and watch. This changed my whole blogging world. I honestly don’t know if I would have been able to achieve what I have achieved so far if I hadn’t purchased Divi. Having a membership to Elegant Themes* and installing Divi took away all my technology troubles when it came to themes.
Not only did Divi give me the ability to be able to build and change my website however I want without worrying about coding, it also means that I have a 100% designed by me blog – with no coding! There is no other blog in the world that looks like mine. Which I think is kind of cool.
(UPDATE: I have since moved to the EXTRA theme, with Elegant Themes*, which is built with Divi but it has MORE customization options! Woohoo! The BEST WordPress theme EVER!!)
If you purchase a theme (from any company) it will come with installation instructions. The installation can vary a little depending on who you purchase it through, so I can’t walk you through this part. But I can say, with Elegant Themes*, I had no problem following their instructions and installing Divi.
Quick tips for anyone considering Divi: A child theme is a great idea for any theme you download and use. This basically means having a “copy” of your theme running so you can make changes to the copy without hurting the original. Often you have to make your own child theme. (I dunno how!?) If you join Elegant Themes and download Divi, they already have one created for you to use! Just follow the directions below AFTER installing Divi to install your child theme.
1-Download the Child Theme (https://www.dropbox.com/s/n11cbiohvi7pw … i.zip?dl=0)
2-Go to Dashboard => Appearance => Themes.
3-Click on Add New.
4-Click on Upload Theme.
5-Choose the zip file, you have downloaded from the link above
6-Click on Install Now button.
7-After the installing was completed, click on the Activate link.
Note that if you do choose to go with Divi (or EXTRA), DO NOT BUILD YOUR POSTS WITH THE DIVI BUILDER. It is better to keep your posts builder free, as then you could change themes with little effort in the future if you wanted to.
You picked a theme and got it all installed. Now what?
Here’s where this how-to-blog series gets really series-y. Most blog tutorials will leave you here, with a friendly wave, they will say – “Go blog! Be successful!”
But I know you still don’t have a blog. You STILL have a confusing screen that does nothing. Even if, with your theme installed, it is a HUGE step closer to being the blog you want it to be. You’re still just at the beginning.