Note: in this article, I am sharing my enthusiasm for my WordPress theme Divi and my hosting provider Siteground.(and also for my emailserviceprovider Mailerlite) I am an affiliate for all three of them. This means that I earn a commission if you purchase the theme or the hosting via the links in this post—if you do so, thanks for supporting me!. That said, my enthusiasm is genuine, and even if I wasn’t an affiliate, I still would have written this article, and it would look exactly the same ;-).
Why I built my own website (with Divi)
I have been very busy working on my websites lately. I have been launching a course about collage making, so I had to create some new web pages on my website. One for announcing the course, and one for creating a page for the free video series that I’m hosting in the next couple of weeks (feel welcome to subscribe!). And I have been publishing a book in Dutch – and I’ve made a website for that tooe.
Doing so, I realized again how happy I am that I have built my WordPress website myself. Because I invested time in building my site, I know how to handle WordPress, and I also know my WordPress theme Divi from the inside out. I can make my own WordPress pages within minutes—or at least within much less than an hour. It makes me feel independent and flexible.
It has not always been that way. A long time ago, a dear friend of mine built my website, for free. He did a wonderful job, but when I wanted to make adjustments, I always felt reluctant to ask for help. He already had so much on his plate!
Also, I had a small, Dutch internet provider at that time. Time after time I got so frustrated with them when I had a problem with my site. They really drove me crazy (and I probably drove them crazy, too!). I remember one time when I had been on the phone with them for two hours because my website was down, and I did not understand why (and they didn’t either). They were mad at me because I took so much of their time, and I was completely stressed out because of the same reason. After that two-hour phone call, I swore that I would not do business with them anymore. I changed to another hosting provider: Siteground, an international, English speaking—or actually chatting—provider. Changing was a bit of a hassle, but I never ever regretted it, because they handled most of the migration, and they have been super friendly, patient, and eager to help every time I asked. A completely different experience than with my former provider.
Okay, back to the reasons why I think building your own website is a good idea.
The only costs that I had were the costs of the Divi theme (and of course the ongoing costs for the domain name and hosting, but I would have had to pay for them anyway).
I decided not to choose a free website theme because I knew I would be in it for the long run. I wanted a theme with a good support team behind it, that had no sloppy or outdated coding, and that would be updated regularly. So I carefully searched the internet for the most beautiful themes around, and—as I said— I fell in love with Divi.
If you build your own website, you get to know WordPress really well. So, if you have a new idea for a product or if you want to let your audience know about something important, it’s easy to create a new page with that information on it. If you let a website developer create your website, chances are that you haven’t become comfortable with WordPress. In that case, you might seriously postpone making necessary changes to your website, because then you have to ask your website developer or somebody else—that you might have to pay—to do it for you.
Of course, this does not need to be true. Nowadays many website developers will explain to you exactly how you can build and adapt your own pages. Nonetheless, feeling comfortable with WordPress can make you more relaxed and confident when you want to make a small or big change to your website.
You can develop your website at your own pace
Many people—understandably—postpone hiring a designer, because then they have to tell him or her what exactly they want, who is their audience, what is the content, what kind of atmosphere they want on their website. The designer might ask for a mood board or something of that sort. And because people often are not clear on that, they find it difficult to take that first step.
If you create your own website, you can develop your ideas as the go. In my case, I always got clearer on what I wanted to convey through creating the page and seeing what the text looked liked on the screen. Of course, I first worked on the text in Word or Google docs, but when I had the first draft, I entered the text in WordPress to see how it felt. This way, I went back and forth until I was satisfied.
For me, that has always worked so much better than creating the content first and implementing it afterwards in the concrete website. For me it was like ‘learning on the job.’ By starting to work on my website, I discovered what it it was that I actually wanted to say. This might not be true for everybody, but for me, it certainly was and is the case.
How do you build your own website?
Now I would like to share my thoughts about how you can build your own website. Even though I can’t give a complete and detailed manual in this blog post, I want to give an overview of the different steps that you need to take:
1. Get a domain name
If you’re an artist, you might choose your own name. But also you can choose a name that conveys the essence of your art, your business, or your message. It’s totally up to you.
2. Choose an internet provider
If possible, choose a hosting service that will help you with small WordPress problems, so you don’t have to consult a—possibly expensive—Wordpress specialist whenever you have a minor problem. Also, it’s very convenient if the Internet provider helps you to set up WordPress for you. Since I’m not very technologically skilled, I was glad that I could hand over the WordPress installation to Siteground. That said, you also can do it manually. See for instance this manual.
What are the important features of your ideal provider? Consider the following questions:
- What is their level of support?
- How friendly are they? For me this was super important. I suggest connecting with the support desk with a question and finding out how you are treated—that’s what I did.
- What are the business hours of their support desk? My former web host only had ‘office hours’ and a long waiting line which caused a lot of stress when I encountered a problem at the end of my workday.
- How long do you generally have to wait for an answer if you have a question?
- What language does the support team speak, and do you master that language? English is not my native language, but because the people of the help desk answer my questions via chat or mail, this is no problem. If they would literally speak to me, it certainly would be a problem, since I can’t follow technical language in spoken English.
- Can they answer WordPress related questions for you? For me this was essential. I feel comfortable with the use of the WordPress platform, but I’m not skilled enough to handle the small technical problems that can arise.
- What is the price of their products, and how does it compare to other hosting services?
- How many websites can you host on one account? For instance, I chose Sitegrounds ‘GrowBig’plan, because I have two websites in the air. It might be cheaper to choose a hosting option where you can host more than one website, instead of purchasing a different hosting account for every website separately.
- Do they specialize in WordPress?
- Do they handle the migration for you (if you transfer from another hosting provider)?
- Do they make daily backups?
- Do they have a security service against hackers and malware? I use an extra security service from my hosting provider (and pay for that on yearly basis). My Dutch website has been hacked once, and that was such a traumatic experience that I never want to go through that again. Still, it’s always wise to install a security plugin also, this does not need to be complicated.
3. Install WordPress
Some hosting providers will do this for you. If they don’t, you can do it yourself. See for instance this manual.
4. Find a WordPress theme that you really like.
There are a million beautiful and well-coded themes out there, so take the time to find a theme that speaks to your heart. As I said, I fell in love with Divi because of its clear design, but I also liked that it comes with a page builder, which is a drag-and-drop building-blocks system, that makes it very easy to set up a web page.
If you are looking for a theme, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you want to get a free theme, or pay for a premium theme? If you are willing to pay for your theme, how much?
- Does it have a simple design? Complex layouts or flashy animations will distract your visitors from your content and will make it difficult for them to find their way around.
- Is it responsive? Responsive themes adjust their layouts across different screen sizes and devices. This is not an option anymore these days since a lot of website traffic is generated via mobile and handheld devices. Still, there are a lot of themes out there with a fixed layout, and make sure you don’t opt for one of them.
- Is it browser compatible? Make sure your theme runs well on different browsers, for instance on Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc. Don’t forget to test on different browsers on mobile as well.
- Do you want to use a page builder? A page builder is a WordPress plugin that allows you to create page layouts using drag and drop user interfaces. Many premium WordPress themes come with their own page builder. Note that if you work with a page builder, it will generate a lot of code, which might require a cleaning up if you want to change themes. For me, the pros of using a page builder certainly outweigh the cons, since I love working with a page builder, and I don’t intend to switch themes.
- What kind of support do you get? One downside of using a free WordPress theme is that there might not be a support desk or detailed documentation when you run into trouble. Then you will have to figure things out on your own, or you might have to pay a third-party developer to solve even the smallest problem for you. If you purchase a premium WordPress theme, check out their support desk
5. Upload your theme to WordPress.
If you use Divi, you can find documentation about uploading the theme here and uploading the Divi Builder here. It’s much easier than you think! Theme uploading procedures from other themes and page builders will be similar.
6. Create your first page
If you are on the backend of WordPress, click on ‘Add New Page.’ This first page can be very simple. Mention your name, something about yourself and your art. Add a photo of a painting. Let people know how they can contact you. That’s it.
You can choose to add a message like ‘More coming soon’ or so (in Divi there is a block that’s called a countdown timer—you can even set up a certain date and time that you want to launch the rest of your website). But you absolutely don’t need to.
Don’t force yourself to create the whole website at once. First, claim some space on the internet, so everybody can get to know your digital home base. Later on, you can grow your website and add more pages. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
When you have done these first four steps, you can sit down and relax. You have made it on the Internet! Once you’re ready, you can take the next steps.
7. Add a call to action on your first page
Ideally, you want to be able to send an email to the people that like you and your website and want to stay in touch with you. For instance, it’s nice to be able to contact them if you have an exhibition, or if you want to give them an update about what’s happening in your studio. Or maybe you developed a product or service that you want to offer (think about an online course or art coaching, for instance).
In order to do so, you want to collect email addresses from your fans and interested visitors, and therefore you need an email service provider. I’ve been using Mailchimp for ages, and I’m very grateful that I’ve been able to use it for so long. It’s free uptil 2000 subscribers. But lately I’ve gotten very frustrated, because I can’t do certain thing that I really want to! So I’m in the process of switching to Mailerlite. It’s free up till 1000 subscribers but it gives you much more possibilities, which is worth it, I believe. You can always create a free account, and try it out. You can always delete it if you don’t like it.
In order to grow your email list, you might think of adding an incentive to your call to action. You can offer your subscribers a small downloadable present, for instance a printable piece of your art, or anything else that they would value.
If you want to offer an incentive, you have to upload your ‘present’ to the Media Library in WordPress. In order to do so, you navigate to ‘Media’ on the backend of WordPress, click ‘Add New,’ click ‘Select Files,’ select the file that you want to offer your subscribers, and upload it from your computer. This way, you create a download link in your Media Library that you can paste in the welcome email that you send your subscribers via Mailerlite. This might sound complicated, but if you try it out it isn’t all that difficult.
8. Add more pages to your website.
- an ‘about me’ page, so people can get to know you and your art better,
- a gallery with your paintings,
- a page with other products (like online courses, or coaching, or whatever you may offer for sale),
- a blog with interesting content for your readers,
- a contact page.
Enjoy creating your first website! It’s a fun and rewarding process, so I really encourage you to get started.