How To Build a Beautiful Blog – It’s Simple, Promise

I have to be honest here. When I started my first blog a little more than one year ago, I was completely overwhelmed. I had no idea what I was doing, I couldn’t put a theme together to -literally- save my life. I did try, though. I spent so many hours just trying to figure out how to add my header properly, and I almost gave up.

Then I found a designer-(bless you, Najmah)- who was amazing. She helped me get my blog where it needed to be so I could actually push myself over that hump of demotivation that I was experiencing from my epic fail at my DIY blog design. I learn best by example, so once I was able to actually see where everything went, I started to figure it out. It was a process, sure, but now it feels amazing that all of that hard work allows me to help others build a beautiful blog, from the do-it-yourself kinda gal to the go-ahead-and-do-it-for-me type of lady.

How to Build a Beautiful Blog. Define your purpose, choose a name, find hosting and select and customize your theme. www.SimpleandVanessa.com

So how can you build a beautiful blog from scratch, minus the hiccups?

First things first, take a deep breath and relax. if you are anything like me, you probably have scoured the internet for hours on end, reading article after article. Looking at theme after theme and drooling over branding packages that are just out of your price range. Now, decompress and…

Make a Plan

The famous cliche, ‘Beauty is only skin deep’ totally applies to blogs. Why spend hours of your precious time to build a beautiful blog if you have no guts to go with it? Now, I am not saying you have to have tons of posts here before you launch. Rather, think about the purpose of your blog. Why are you starting it? What is your message? Who do you want to read your blog? What would be your win?

Need a little help? Read this article from The Nectar Collective: How to Choose Your Blogs Niche + Focus. 

If you want to make money or just enjoy having a your creative corner in the online community, whatever the case may be, define your purpose. Make a plan. Outline your goals. Determine your budget and figure out what you want to have for your blog. Then, you can move on to…

Name Your Blog

This is so important, seriously. Take it from someone who made probably 100 branding mistakes before actually settling on something I loved for my business. Your blog name is likely the first point of interaction with a reader. You have to be super creative here, keeping your goals (remember, we just made those) in mind.

What I suggest to you, if you are struggling with finding an awesome blog name is to get a blank piece of paper. Draw a line down the center and write your two main topics over each column. Next, write down any word you can think of that relates with each topic. No matter how silly you feel, whatever comes to mind write it. Revisit the list and start pairing words and playing with them. Once you have a few options you really like, write them on a clean sheet of paper and revisit it later. Think about it more, and eventually you will get yur ‘aha’ moment and will find one that represents you and your new brand perfectly.

Blog Clarity also helped me out on this: The Guide to Choosing a Blog Name You Won’t Regret

Find Your Blog a Home

There are several different options out there for hosting your blog. Depending on your budget, you can go the free route or you can pay for hosting. But what’s the right choice? If you absolutely have not a penny to spare on your blog, you will have to settle for a freebie like Blogger or WordPress.com and own it, like a boss, and then upgrade to a self hosted platform when you are ready. Just keep in mind, if you want to be a business blogging babe you are limited with what you can do as far as monetizing and, word on the street is, you don’t even own your own content. Just some food for thought.

If you do have a few (maybe more) pennies to spare, you can grab your custom domain and settle in comfortably in a forever home. I 100% suggest WordPress self hosted because the possibilities are endless. You can customize and add virtually anything to your blog with no worries of having to move it again later, plus you can sell your info products or courses using different plugins and use ad networks and affiliates to your hearts content.

There are tons, yes I mean TONS of hosts out there. Some are super expensive, others pretty cheap but super unreliable. I started of with Godaddy.com, because their WordPress Starter Hosting was only $1 per month and it included a free domain, plus a free domain email (what a SWEET deal!). I was really happy with my hosting at Godaddy and never had any issues with downtime and customer service was always amazing, however once renewal came I faced some sticker shock at $7 per month and an extra $5 per month on a custom email.

So, I kept hearing little bits about another hosting company, A Small Orange, that was affordable and reliable and for less than $3 per month, you can get WordPress hosting and unlimited domain emails. I had to see it to believe it, so I had to check it out, and am so very happy that I did. I have built a clients blog using their hosting and have transferred my first blog over to their platforms. Not to mention, their customer service is absolutely phenomenol. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that their branding is natural and super cute.

You can grab an awesome hosting package AND get support setting up your domain and WordPress using their live chat feature, don’t be shy. Oh, and type in ASO15 in the promo box when checking out for an extra 15% off,!

So now that you have your hosting figured out, it is time to…

Get Dressed Up

If you chose a WordPress self hosted (which is really worth it, promise), there are so many beautiful themes to choose from. Depending on what type of budget you are working with, you can go the free, cheap or expensive. When you choose a theme, you have to revisit your goals. What exactly is it that you want to get from your blog? Are you hoping to turn it into a business? If so, you may need a theme that offers Woocommerce compatibility. If you just want a pretty and simple blog to allow your photos and content to shine, you can go with a more simple theme.

On a budget? Learn how you can quickly save up for the blog of your dreams HERE. 

You also have to consider your skill level on this. There are some really gorgeous themes out there, but most don’t come right out of the box. Without the know how, or the budget to hire a designer, you will spend hours frustrating yourself over the look and functionality of your blog. So, if you are a beginner I suggest a simple yet beautiful theme that is easily customizable.

Angie Makes themes are beautiful and fairly simple to set up, and she even offers a Freebie, Mary Kate, which you can grab HERE with tons of other goodies. Pretty Darn Cute design and Restored 316 has lots of beautiful themes ranging from beginner to advanced DIY. I would be silly to leave out Creative Market, which also offers some amazing themes for WordPress, and if you want something ultra simple and really affordable yet beautiful, have a look at Studio Mommy.

Need some help picking the right theme? Send me a quick message, we can figure it out together. 

And now that you have a theme, it’s time to install, woohoo! Once you download your theme to your desktop so you can find it easily, leave it zipped and navigate to your WordPress Dashboard. 1. Hover over Appearence and select Themes. 2. Select upload new theme, select the zipped folder and upload. 3. Activate. Now you are ready to really make it beautiful!

Simple-and-Vanessa-Theme-Screen-Shot

Now, it’s time to customize and you are almost ready to debut your beautiful blog you have built to the world! After installing the theme, you can now navigate to the customizer. You can do this by clicking the box I highlighted with teh number 3 above, or by going to Dashboard>Appeareance>Customize. You will find yourself here…

Simple-and-Vanessa-Customizer-Screenshot.png

This is the fun part, lovelies! Now, you can start personalizing your theme to match your brand identity with your own colors and fonts. All you have to do is just click each box, and it opens up to allow you to select your options. Really, it’s that easy! So you can upload your logo, add your social buttons change around your colors and fonts. Just play with it and have fun!

Just keep in mind, depending on the theme, some offer different customization options. Themes like mine and others from Restored 316,  Angie Makes and Pretty Darn Cute have some work that have to be done in the background such as building sliders, adding media and buttons, and all the other bells and whistles. So if you want to keep it simple suzie, grab a theme that is specified as an out of the box or easily customizable theme. Once you are happy with how everything looks, don’t forget to click ‘Save and Publish’

Now, its time to set up your widgets for your sidebar. You can usually do this from the Customizer, but I find it easier to do in the dashboard. Even though they sound intimidating, widgets are super friendly. All you do is drag and drop, rearrange and add all the fun details. To access your widgets, go back to your dashboard, find Appearance>Widgets and you will come to this page…

Simple-and-Vanessa-Widgets-Screenshot.png

See, I told you this was so simple! Just simply select the widget you want to use from ‘Available Widgets’ and drag and then drop it into it’s cozy spot on the post or page sidebar or in the footer. Just save your changes and navigate to your blog name in the top left corner and select ‘Visit Site’. It will take you to your site and you can view your new fancy Sidebar and Footer, and make changes until you love it. I keep mine super simple, but typically you can add an About Me section, Social Follow Buttons, a Subscribe Form, most popular posts, a social media widget, or whatever else you think will enhance the reader experience.

Have NO idea what to put in a sidebar? Rekita Nicole shares 9 Tips to Improve Your Design + Attract More Readers. 

Now, on to pages. Guess what, gorgeous? You are almost done, just have to add a few pages. Adding your pages properly can be done in just a few steps, so easy peasy. First, you want to navigate back to your Dashboard. Select Pages and then Add New. You will name the title of the page and update the permalink. You will also choose the type of layout you want for your page, some themes offer a wide screen with no sidebar, blog page or page with sidebar.You can then begin adding content, for say, an About Page. You can Add Media like a photo by uploading it into the media library and choosing it to display on your page. Once you have added everything to your liking, click Preview Page and then Publish if it all looks good.

Simple-and-Vanessa-Add-a-Page

You will complete the same steps for all of the pages you intend to have. Once happy, navigate back over to Appearence>Menus. This is where you will decide what shows up on your nav bar and in what order. On the right, you will select which pages you want to add to your menu by checking each box and selecting Add to Menu. You will then rearrange the pages and make your subpages accordingly by dragging the box with the page name slightly to the right and dropping. **VERY IMPORTANT! If you want your blog to show up as your Home page but still want the Home option in your Nav bar, you have to create a Custom Link and Label it with your blog url and ‘Home’. You will then drag this to the top of your menu. The last steps, scroll down until you find ‘Save as Primary Theme Menu’ and checl the box. Save, wa-la.

Simple-and-Vanessa-Create-Nav-Menu.png

Ok, and now I promise this is the last step. To be sure that your blog page shows as your Home page, if thats what you want, you will head back on over that that lively little Dashboard and select Settings>Reading. At the very top, you will see ‘Front Page Displays’, select ‘Display Latest Posts’. You can also choose how many of your posts will display on your home page, and if the posts will be just a summary or the entire post.

Phew. Holy Moly. Are you still with me? If so, pat yourself on the back dollface! You just learned how to build a beautiful blog. So what do you think? Do you have any tips you would like to share to make the process even easier? I would love to check out what you created, so feel free to leave your blog link in the comments section, I would love to see!

10 Comments

    • Hi Maria 🙂 Naming a blog seems so simple, but really its super important. I always play around with different names, write them down, see how they look and when I keep going back to one, I know I have found ‘it’. I went through 2 other names before finally deciding on the one I love for Simple & Vanessa 🙂

  1. This is absolutely amazing, masha’Allah! I really enjoyed reading this and loved it so much because it’s very detailed and thorough. If I were new to blogging I would’ve found this very useful! Jazaki Allahu khayran sister Vanessa for sharing these tips, steps, and advice with us. Looking forward to your next tutorial in shaa Allah! Keep up the good work dear, you’re doing a great job at it. 🙂

    • Thank you so much Fatima 🙂 I think it’s necessaery to go back to the basics sometimes and remind ourselves of where we started, and share teh wealth of information we have required with others who can benefit. Masha Allah, you are so amazing and it wamrs my heart to read such thoughtful comments.

  2. this is the best tutorial for non-techy bloggers I have ever read. I love that you included the page screens with steps. I wish I had had this when I started my WordPress site. Everyone thinks WP is so easy and forgets these simple steps that you included. I actually have a list of notes from when I started my site that I was going to turn into a post too. Great minds think alike. lol

    • Hi Tricia! I am so flattered 🙂 I always try to make things simple because really, WordPress can already be overwhelming so I wanted to un-complicate things! It is definately difficult, especially when you have hosts that say you can have your blog up and running in a few clicks or when you are dazzled by the beautiful themes.. until you upload it and nothing looks the same. I am glad you enjoyed the post and yes great minds do think alike!!

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