For the WordPress newbies, rookies and first timers out there
If you are newbie like me and are new to WordPress and know absolutely nothing about it but want to have your own website for your photos, paintings or other artworks – I will do for you what I could not find anywhere on the web when I started down this path a month or so ago. I will describe step by step how I built what I have hosted here as well as cite the sources I found and why I chose the products. You can then choose to either replicate my site with your own content or customize your site knowing what issues to think about. There is information out there on the web but going through it was a headache and caused many starts, fits and restarts – frustration in other words. I am not compensated by any of the companies I recommend below. Just trying to give the newbies a real chance to what should have been super simple process much less the frustrating then the one I went thorough to get here.
Web Hosting (Domain & WordPress installed)
I have to admit right upfront that I wanted a reliable web hosting company that was also pretty inexpensive. Why? I had a cheap host that raised my previous personal website prices 100% when the pandemic hit. I cancelled my host and vowed to never use just a cheap host ever again. Instead I chose the largest web hosting company in the world – Amazon Web Hosting (AWS) and chose their least expensive hosting plan. It is called AWS Lightsail. Your hosting costs are always reoccurring. AWS Lightsail costs $42 per year. The Youtube video which follows will outline how to setup your AWS host, buy your website (domain) name and the video closes with how to setup WordPress on your new AWS host. I chose the .net extension as it is $1 cheaper a year than .com ($12 vs $11) for my domain. This YouTube video covers all of this and a bit more:
Now if you followed the videos instructions you will have your own domain (website) and it has WordPress setup on AWS for a cost of $53.
WordPress Theme – WP Astra
Since WordPress is free you could theoretically limit your costs to just the $53 per year. I don’t recommend this as a first time WordPress user. I tried several of the “freemium” themes and all that I got was totally confused and wasted a ton of time. The freemium themes don’t provide any direct support for questions. You can try registering for the the free theme forums where their users can volunteer to answer your questions. I saw unanswered questions and even when they get answered it took days if not weeks to get that answer. I can’t work like that. I only have weekends to work on my website. I then tried paying for two of the top rated premium theme products. I was able to send in email questions but their answers either didn’t address my question or the instructions didn’t match my installation so I had no idea what they were telling me to do. One even gave me simple one to three word answers. Their support seemed annoyed I was asking any questions at all. I began to think I couldn’t customize my website to the specifications I had in my mind. And don’t get me wrong – my specs weren’t like OMG horrendous. They were: (1) a non-blog WordPress theme (2) with a basic black and/or white color theme (3) which displays my paintings large as can be. Since I am am showing my paintings – why would I choose to have them tiny and difficult to see. Fortunately the two premium WordPress theme companies (and I won’t mention their names but both were listed in the top 10 all time most deployed WordPress themes) had trial periods and refunded all of my money.
In the end I chose the free WP Astra theme (https://wordpress.org/themes/astra/) as it accomplished the non blog theme in black and white due to a recommendation from the gallery plugin product I chose. It also had a full width page template but without the recommendation from Modula support I would never have known how to find what I was looking without a ton of trial and error (and I already had been through a bunch of trial and error). To install the theme. Download the theme to your hard drive and then (see example image below) go into your WordPress Dashboard and (1) click on Appearance (on left side) and (2) then when the page loads click Blue text Add New. It should load click activate and it is installed.
Because it was a suggestion from WP Modula support this saved me from living with a website that wasn’t the design I really wanted. But since Modula is a gallery plugin – they got what I was looking for immediately unlike the premium all in one themes. So let’s go to that section before we do any housekeeping chores.
WordPress Gallery – WP Modula
Since all I am really trying to do is display my paintings in the best way possible, large, clear, crisp, fast etc. I found and chose WP Modula (wp-modula.com) for my gallery plugin. I knew it as soon as I saw their product. Because I had totally struck out with premium all in one themes – I opted for the premium version with Modula. I was not expecting but I received a concierge service which none of the other premium products provided me. Modula on the other had one of their support people email me day one saying they were my concierge service and to ask as many questions as I wanted to. What an enormous difference in support quality! Anyone new can use the concierge service from Modula. I heartily recommend them for the newbie and no I was not and am not compensated in any way for saying this.
On top of answering my gazillion questions he provided me a huge tip. I asked for a simple theme which would allow me to display my paintings as close to full-screen as possible. All the other ones mashed them down to less than a third the size of the screen. Cristian recommended a free theme: https://wordpress.org/themes/astra/ and after that I could finally start customizing my WordPress site. Before that none of the videos matched my installation so I had no idea where to click when trying to follow their instructions. The other themes also conflicted with other elements and so all I got were tiny images and paid more for them than I did for WP Modula.
To install Modula’s premium products – pay for them and then download them to your hard drive. Go into your WordPress dashboard and click on Plugins on the left side. Then at the top click on add new and then upload and install. Activate and you are ready to start customizing your website. I have as you can see. I first built the first gallery on the homepage (WordPress calls your homepage your Frontpage) and then seeing how well it worked went back to what I should have done – and so should you the housekeeping chores. Later I will add more information as to how I configured the Modula galleries as I lay them out. But first let’s do some important housekeeping chores.
Housekeeping Chores (will save you a ton of headaches)
Going through all the starts and stops – my WordPress installation got so corrupted that I didn’t know if it was a product failing or what. With all the things I had done I resorted to loading a plugin that reset (nuked) my entire WordPress site (WP Reset). I had to nuke my WordPress site not once but twice before I finally did what I should have done at the very start.
Backup – I got a free version of the backup plugin (UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore). And yes after installing it I have already had to do a complete restore. So do this as soon as your theme and Modula gallery plugins are installed.
Contact form – I downloaded and installed the free plugin WPForms Lite. Link to video for beginners how to build and install the contact form on my website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YR9ANKSaXU
Mail – they say you can use a company Zoho. I couldn’t get it to work instead I just used a free gmail email instead. But if you want to send and receive emails using your own domain name here is the video that has the instructions for this free service working with your AWS Lightsail host. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJY4CN7ZoVY
For now I am going stop here for now – once I have some other basics running on my website I will provide more information on this newbie page. I am sure you see all the logos for the products I use on my webpage – that’s not an accident. It is for you all you rookies.