This used to be easier.
There are excellent tools available in 2022 which were not around, let’s say, seven or eight years ago. There are plenty of YouTube videos on “how to start a blog.” WordPress page builders and template (or kit) builders, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editing, funnelling, plugins that promise the world and often deliver, and recently, the addition of WordPress’s built in block editor.
However, as someone who first used WordPress about twelve years ago, I am actually finding it more difficult to settle on the design elements and produce actual content. Yes, I am rusty, and yes, things have changed – but, in my opinion, not everything has changed for the better.
I’m going to gripe a little in this post. There will be opportunities for positive reviews for some of the tools I’ve found and stuck with, and even positivity for those I’ve purchased and ditched. Buyer beware.
My number one gripe
It’s directed at the WordPress plugin repository, and also to the developers of the plugins themselves. Almost every plugin now will promote itself as free, and in the notes, more often than not I have found no mention of “upgrade to pro features” etc. Not only that, they come with bundled nag screens, links to their affiliate’s plugins (which are also promoted as FREE, but are also limited in their functionality), and I find myself deleting plugins more than rating them or even leaving feedback.
This will change in the near future, I’m sure. WordPress needs to treat the plugin repository as Apple does their App Store. This will not only ensure security of the plugins, but will ENSURE that before you download a plugin, or theme, that all “premium” features or “in app purchases” are detailed before you bother downloading it. This will give a chance for new developers on the up and up to introduce better, fresher versions of old plugins, compete with the misleading star review system and “installed on 1,000,000+ WordPress sites” dialogue.
Again, there’s one plugin I’ve purchased a subscription to – ONE, that is absolutely 100% worth it, but I will review it in another post as I don’t want to associate its name with all this griping. But gripe, I shall.
Are page builders the answer?
Apart from my new found receding lack of interest in web design, and a massive career priority shift from eight years ago when I was designing WordPress sites professionally, there’s another reason why I am finding it much more time consuming to set up this site and this blog the way I want it. Page builders. They promise the world, and often are pretty cool, but man — when there’s some quirk, or it doesn’t save a page properly, or generally misbehaves, it sucks. A lot. I look at my page source and cringe at how BLOATED my simplest page designs are. So many class id’s and a plethora of CSS files indexed with UNIX time queries, I’ve found I simply have to use WYSIWYG these days when in the past, I’d have my beautiful custom CSS saved in a notepad document, mirrored to my WebDAV/FTP; loaded with one call.
Save your money!
Which brings me to another point, and one I will explore in my next post on this subject – how to save time and money in WordPress. After six weeks or so working and experimenting with this site and blog, what would I do differently? What are my 8 biggest mistakes when starting a blog? My biggest mistake this time around was this: I forgot that individual themes are infinitely more affordable, via services such as Envato’s Theme Forest, and you really only need to customise one CSS file for your entire website. The result is a less bloated site, which may have responsivity issues, but will be easier to clear up in your CSS file – you’ll be able to find general CSS code out there not tailored to say, Elementor, or Divi, or SeedProd.
That’s my big recommendation if you’re wanting to build a blog in 2022. Find a theme you like for $20 or $30 and use one CSS file to tweak it. You’ll save a fortune, and without WYSIWYG, I don’t think you’ll fret as much about getting your design *perfect* – as if any such thing existed.
That’s my segue way into perhaps the most important “what not to do” tips in designing your blog and website. Do not sweat the design. I’m very guilty of this myself. I set the site up how I think I want it, but design blindness sets in, and I reformat everything. Then I think of a new idea, and that side-tracks me even further.
For me, and perhaps you’re in the same position, this is not only a blog but my self-promotional website, so of course, design is important – SEO, etc, and yes, that all takes time … but, of course, content should always come first, even though I feel quite hypocritical in saying that!
Bogged down in the technical
I’ll make a further post about the technical aspects too, if you’re looking after those, as I am. CDN’s (content distribution networks) like QUIC; I cannot WAIT to review CloudFlare (it’s not a good one but it needs to be shared!); self-hosting versus using WordPress.org, PHP problems, cache issues etc, that’s all for another post.
The take away here is this: Don’t sweat it. And if you do, know that you’ll have a s**t-load lot of content on web design, web development, and reviews of related WordPress add-ons to share with your new audience.
And one last thing, remember to have fun. In everything that you do.