It’s taken a while. I bought the domain name a year ago and then decided to keep my writing blog where it was at Writing a River on Blogger. Then, when I did decide become a grown-up writer with her own url, I ran into a few of those things known as “technical difficulties.”
Okay, let’s be honest, most of those technical difficulties had less to do with computer malfunction than operator incompetence.
The good news is that I have learned so much about how to set up a blog in the last few weeks and can now share my new knowledge with other writers who feel equally overwhelmed by the vastness in this tiny corner of the computer world.
Usually I’m good with vastness. Sea and sky are completely unfathomable, but by the ocean, or under the stars, I fizz with energy, love and peace. (And yes my love of sea and sky is reflected in this blog’s design.) But put me in front of a numbers, symbols, codes and technical words though, and the thought of trying to understand the unfathomable feels exhausting and terrifying. At least it did until a few days ago.
If you are a writer who would like to blog, and you think themes are ideas explored in literary works, then the world of blogging will be just as baffling to you as it was to me not long ago.
That was me just a few weeks ago.
I thought I could handle it, largely because I thought my daughter could handle it. I thought all I had to do was squeal at her when I didn’t understand what to do, and she’d work her magic and get my blog looking beautiful.
That theory had flaws –
- My daughter knows CSS, but she doesn’t know WordPress. She knows how to create themes on Tumblr. There’s a differences or two (or two thousand.)
- The theory didn’t account for me making a mistake before we’d even begun.
I have another WordPress blog, Inquiring Parent, that’s been hosted by Go Daddy for a year. The hosting came free with a blogging course I took. When that year was almost up, I started exploring other hosts, thinking I might change.
My first mistake was checking the renewal date of my domains but not my hosting account. I assumed they were the same. I was wrong. Last year, after getting the hosting deal, I must have procrastinated for a couple of weeks before I bought the domains. So the renewal dates didn’t tally and hosting’s expiry was looming.
Moving a blog to another host takes time, particularly if it isn’t already set up on cPanel. I’d never even heard of cPanel, and had no idea if my blog had one or not! By the time I’d figured out it didn’t, I had less than a week left till expiry day! One company I contacted said it took at least a week. You could say I felt a little overwhelmed.
In the end, I decided to stay with Go Daddy, upgrading to a package that allows up to five blogs. While this saved having to transfer Inquiring Parent to a new hosting company, it still needed move to a new server. A very patient man at Go Daddy’s Tech support talked me through this task.
I now know what a cPanel is! (It stands for Control Panel – now that took a lot of figuring out didn’t it?)
Because I planned to have 2 blogs on the same account, this nice man explained that I needed to pick one as the primary blog. I don’t think that’s the technical name for it, but the important part is I chose this domain. After all, it is my name, so it made sense. Transferring Inquiring Parent before I’d set up this blog possibly made less sense. (In my defence, I had been “live-chatting” or phone-chatting to blog hosts for days, and with time zone differences most of these chats went on till late at night. Plus, just looking at that cPanel had me in a mild panic.)
Still a few days later, I thought I knew enough to set up this blog on my own. I remember very clearly looking at the button that said: Enable Multi-site, and saying to myself, “I must not click that.”
Apparently, I went ahead and clicked it anyway.
I’m can’t tell you all the problems of having an unintentional multi-site, but I do know that it makes following instructions for how to add anything to your blog mighty confusing! When you have a multi-site you become “network admin,” but you are also a user. So there are two dashboards – the network and your blog’s dashboard.
I didn’t realise my mistake straight away because I thought this strange dashboard titled, “Network Admin,” must be something to do with having two blogs on the same cPanel. I was a little puzzled when I couldn’t reach Inquiring Parent’s dashboard from my Network Admin, but then I’ve spent most of the last year staring at Inquiring Parent’s dashboard feeling puzzled. Without Fabulous Blogging’s post on Categories and creating menus, it would still have two tabs on its menu bar. (This might be hard to believe, but really, I am intelligent. It’s just that until a few weeks ago I was scared I’d do something wrong and destroy my blog!)
Still, I soldiered on, trying to decide on a theme. My daughter tested out Weaver II, available free for WordPress, but we couldn’t get the look I wanted, so I decided to spend some money. We narrowed it down to Prophoto, Genesis or X, a new theme from Themeco. I was close to settling on Prophoto, even though it was by far the most expensive, when we took another look at X. This theme is unusual because it has several designs built into one. Each framework is referred to as a “stack,” and when we went back for another look, Themeco had just launched a new stack: Ethos. That’s what you see on this blog!
The technical hitches weren’t over – the biggest headache was trying to create a full-width header. As you can see, it’s there, so we succeeded! My daughter created the image, and when it didn’t fit, I spent a week messaging back and forth with Themeco’s support. (Partly it took so long because of differing time zones.) When I didn’t understand one of the replies, I rang Go Daddy’s staff. I’ve heard less than wonderful things about Go Daddy’s tech support, but, honestly, my experience is that these guys are close to saints!
My blog is no longer a multi-site, and today, all by myself I managed to find a solution to a problem with a cool feature on the Ethos Stack – the Topic Filter. Go over to my home page and take a look! Click any topic and without having to leave the page you will see the list of posts, all with thumbnails and extracts. Click a different topic and you’ll see a new list. Another cool feature is being able to make the bands of colour I’ve got in this post. I even managed to figure out how to do that just by following instructions and figuring it out!
In my next post, I’ll do a full review of the Ethos stack, and explain the problem I had with the filter and the easy solution I found!
Then, for those of you who have technical abilities akin to my own, over the next few posts I’ll be explaining why a cPanel isn’t as scary as it looks, as well as suggesting ways to avert a few blogging disasters. Explanations will be in plain English and with pictures.