If you are interested in starting your own digital publication or starting a professional blog, chances are you will need a developer to customize the look and feel of a template you may have purchased or a template you picked up for free. While templates are a good starting point that offer the UX/UI experience you want your readers to have, they are by no means a perfect fit in their functionality.
This is one of the few times you will hear me say this: For a digital publication or blog WordPress is actually a good option. Yes, that's right, WordPress is a good option for those in the business or 'words'. It is not a good option for those doing pretty much anything else. Now, does this mean a custom CMS with a custom UI isn't better? No it does not. Anytime you go custom, it is most likely better, however most people (unless you are a big company) don't have the funding to start from ground zero. It is a very costly endeavor.
If you want this thing up and running for under $300, you have to be lean and utilize all the free resources at your disposal, and seeing as though WordPress is free, it is a logical starting point for any digital publication or professional blog.
Now, to ensure that WordPress is what you need, let's take a moment to asses what your specific needs are. For instance, this blog is not a Wordpress blog it is a Ghost blog. Ghost strays from the Wordpress way of doing things by cutting the fat that Wordpress carries. Ghost is a content driven blog without the vast plugin model that Wordpress has developed over time. Ghost is headed in a developer friendly direction, so apps and plugins are likely in the the future, but right now it is content, content, content. This may very well be what you are looking for if you are just planning to write without really any added fuss. Monetizing a Ghost blog at this time seems much more of an undertaking than monetizing a Wordpress site. You can host a Ghost blog using Digital Ocean's one click install, but you will have to know what you are doing if you ever want to upgrade the platform to the latest release.
Setting Up Your Site
If we are going to keep this thing under $300, we need professional, inexpensive hosting. Where your publication will live. As I previously stated, Digital Ocean has a one click install for Ghost blogs. They also have a one click install for WordPress. I am an outspoken supporter of Digital Ocean, which is really due to the fact that they provide so much flexibility over the sever environment. It is easy for a developer to manage source control and access to your Wordpress theme. They also offer servers starting as low as $5 a month (but if you really plan to drive traffic to this site, you will want to start with their $10 a month plan and then scale up). That's the real beauty of Digital Ocean, scalability. This is however, a more complex approach to hosting than let's say Just Host or another cPanel based, shared hosting solution.
You need scalability if you are to grow an audience and drive meaningful traffic to your site, and because WordPress is written in PHP, a server side scripting language, the more people coming to your server, the harder your server must work to execute the code in order to render the HTML to a user's browser. Other server side languages have reduced this strain on the server by pre-compiling assets before the user makes another request after the initial one. The magnitude of code contained in a WordPress installation is perhaps its greatest drawback. It is a little heavy.
So with a hosting plan in place, you are ready to install WordPress. I suggest you read this article that I wrote for people new to virtual machines, or VMs for short. If you have absolutely zero experience in a Linux environment, I suggest we wait on setting up the server, and simply create your account at Digital Ocean and move on to the next phase of developing your site. You need a template.
Choosing Your Template
In order to pull this off you will need to accept that your design will not be exactly what you envision. You have to compromise. This really isn't a big deal considering the volume of premium themes on the Envato Market. In particular, ThemeForest. Here you can find really high quality WordPress themes that you can begin to shape into your final site. Most premium themes cost $56. Read the reviews!!! There really could be nothing worse than buying a theme that is poorly coded and that is not documented well.
Now, with $10 a month and $56 dollars we are siting on $66 towards developing a professional looking site for our digital publication or professional blog.
The Magic of UpWork
We are on a budget and I am making the assumption that you want the installation of your WordPress site handled by someone with experience. So this is key. You have a Digital Ocean account and you have entered payment details for this account so that a new VM can be created for your site (oh, I almost forgot: I assume you have a domain that your site will live at, whether it be blog.something.com or somethingelse.com). The domain we will handle later. Right now we need someone to install our site on a VM.
UpWork is a global marketplace where freelancers of all industries and countries gather to exchange professional services. If you have a need you can simply post your requirements and you will receive bids on your job by people from all around the globe. This is the key to keeping your numbers down. However before you go off and hire somebody to complete the customization to your theme, you really need to outline what functionality is missing and what exactly you want.
For instance, if you take a look at a theme I modified personally (you can check it out here), you will see I have several types of posts. Mainly the gallery post type and the regular post type are used for articles. What I didn't have when I started was a way to show text and links related to a gallery image for every slide. So I went to UpWork, and found someone who made substantial changes to the theme, without me both breaking the bank and eating at my time, which was better served elsewhere. So make a list. What do you want? What don't you have that you feel is essential to the operation of your site.
Now that you have a list of things you want added or changed, hire someone on UpWork and allow them to make the modifications that you either cannot make, or simply don't have the time to make them yourself. You should spend no more than $200 on these modifications.
We have reached the end of this little how-to (kind of a how-to, but nonetheless we are finished), it is time to whip out the calculator for this super mathematical explanation to the aforementioned steps.
Disclaimer: I am not a journalist, I do my own fact checking, and if I missed a number stated previously in this article, then please forgive me for my oversight. However in the interest of wrapping this up, you just got yourself a customized web site with a well-maintained CMS for $266 +/- some fees here and there.
So you don't have to be well funded to get off the ground. You can start your vision now and you don't have to spend $10,000 to get it done.
Remember this is for a digital publication, namely a fancy blog. If you want a web application, mobile application, or custom software solution, you would have to contact someone like me to dedicate the hours to building from ground zero.
I wish you all the best in your search to speak your voice among a very loud and crowded place we refer to as 'The Internet'.
Subscribe to Cameron Banowsky
Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox