How I built my first WordPress website – without any coding!

By Anjuli Gopalakrishna (@anjuligo)

Girls in Tech is committed to knocking down barriers for women entering STEM fields. And we believe education is the catalyst for making real change. Global Classroom combines our passion for education and our support for women in STEM, with a FREE 8-week course to learn how to create a website with WordPress.

Find out more and apply here. Applications close Wednesday 18th October.


 

It was 2008 in Bangalore. I quit my full time corporate job as Merchandising Manager at a Global Apparel company at the peak of my career, managing a team of 10 people. My second child was 6 months old and travel for work was interfering with my ability to breastfeed. My decision to quit was taken in a ‘split second’, while pumping milk in a public washroom of an International Airport!

 

Time for change – and a website

I decided to give back what I had learnt to the industry that I understood so well. I became a self-styled trainer for merchandising in apparel industry supply chain. I got my first break based on reputation and goodwill I had earned during all those years of managing a delicate balance of buyer and supplier relationships.

I needed a website for my newly found enterprise, and a blog to establish thought leadership in this new space I was venturing into. I knew nothing about IT back then – a friend put me in touch with a web developer who was willing to help me to set up a basic, static website for free. I gave him content and he built it for me, then gave me some training so that I could manage subsequently on my own. I learnt about File Transfer Protocol (FTP) – the standard way for the transfer of large number of computer files between a client and server on a computer network. I learnt how to download a free Core FTP server and to update my content as and when I wrote a new blog post.

 

Starting over again

Fast forward to 2014 – I left behind my successful training venture and a side hustle running hands-on STEM workshops for kids with Kynkr, and moved as a trailing spouse to Singapore. I was lucky to get a job within a few months of landing in a new country. I became formally certified as a trainer and facilitator with the Advanced Certificate in Training and Assessment (ACTA) at the Institute of Adult Learning Singapore (IAL).

Life then served me a freak accident – I broke the bone at the base of my foot, the metatarsal. While still in cast and crutches, I lost my job as trainer and consultant at a fashion industry training center. It was during this dark period of my life that I gathered up a lot of my courage and resilience to get back on my feet both literally and figuratively! It took me 8 months of being confined to cast, crutches, and a wheelchair; followed by many a physiotherapy session and hard core physical strength training from a sports rehabilitation expert to stand strong again.

I was not satisfied with just standing any more though. I wanted to be able to sprint after my long confinement! A deep desire to reinvent myself got me to actively seek transformation. I wanted to change my basic website built so long ago to a newer and snazzier version. I was even willing to pay a professional web developer this time round!

So once again I started meeting the ‘techie’ folks. I must admit the task of dealing with developers was not easy. We simply did not understand each other well and did not speak a common language.

Debashish came to the rescue – referred through my husband’s network, he was in finance before becoming a self-taught techie. He was building websites for Spanish companies to earn a living there, and I found him very inspiring indeed!

 

Diving headfirst into WordPress

What set him apart from so many developers that I talked to in the past was that he did not try to sell to me at all. He took time to understand my needs first and even offered to coach me on learning the backend of WordPress. He taught me the difference between a WordPress.com and a WordPress.org site – The former will have a URL with WordPress in it, for example https://anjulig.wordpress.com/, while the latter would have my own domain name http://www.anjulig.com/ .

He said, “If you are willing to put in some time and effort, you can learn to do it yourself. Give yourself a few weeks to explore and tinker and if you are not able to handle it, then I will give you a formal price quote and do it for you.”

I thought it would be hard to find such people who are willing to teach you the very skills that they are making a living on and gained much respect for him. I jumped at the opportunity and learnt to first install the latest version of WordPress on my PC. He introduced me to the open source community and awesome forums which have answers to all your questions. Some examples are WordPress’s own support forum and documentation.

There are real people out there, who are willing to share their knowledge with you. You should be a true seeker, acknowledge that you are a newbie and show that you are willing to learn. This was a whole new side of tech for me. I became part of many such online communities, and was amply rewarded for my curiosity and deep desire to learn!

 

Shopping and troubleshooting

WordPress comes equipped with a few free themes Twenty Fourteen, Twenty Sixteen and now Optimizer.

While these are enough to get you started, I wanted something snazzier. I was guided by Debashish to search for themes in the Envato Marketplace. I did my research and picked Avada WordPress Theme – a fully responsive theme – which means that you website will automatically adjust and resize itself for different devices – desktop, tablet or mobile -with easy drag and drop functionality. It’s claimed that even non-coders can use it easily to make websites.

Next, I joined their support community on Facebook, Avada Users Group. I haven’t seen a more thriving and helpful community. It was “Ask and you shall receive!” – a kind of wish granting platform for me. I was guided to a free demo video on a step-by-step guide to use the theme in WordPress. I followed the steps and there I was, building my own website one step at a time.

If ever I got stuck, I asked the community. All kinds of questions – dumb, silly, sometimes smart! It worked like magic. I remember I got stuck once where my content boxes were not appearing uniform in size. I asked, and a fellow angel from the community shared some CSS code to copy and paste in the custom CSS column. I did it. And there, it worked like magic! All my content boxes nice and uniform!

CSS or Custom Style Sheet is a language that describes the style of an HTML document. CSS describes how HTML elements should be displayed on a web page.

You can see from the snapshot below how I managed to build it all up one question at a time.

This is how I learned the ropes, gradually. Today I can say that I am proficient enough to manage and run my own website. I manage my own C Panel. C Panel is a web based hosting platform and a control panel to manage all things related to your website. You can create emails, set or change passwords, control permissions, take backups. Basically it’s an all in one control center for your website.

You learn as you do things. I have so much confidence today that I am willing to offer it as a service to others. I have built a solid network in the techie community and the WordPress support forums to fall back on should I get stuck.

I could go on and on – each day, I learn something new and grow a bit more. I hope my story will inspire you to take the plunge into the beautiful world of WordPress CMS. It’s not as hard as you think, and I say it from experience.

I am also signing up for this course brought to you by Girls in Tech Global Classroom. You should too! And hey, proof is in the pudding they say. Do check out my website www.anjulig.com. It’s a constant work in progress!


Anjuli is a seasoned apparel and fashion industry professional and consultant; she is also a trainer, digital media practitioner and influencer. She is super motivated by the digital disruption sweeping the universe at large, and believes Digital is a mindset. She is energized by innovation and currently obsessed with curating and executing the best fashion-tech events for clients, as well as bringing together the most inspiring thinkers, innovators and business leaders to initiate conversations around digitalization, technology and innovation in the industry. 

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