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Building your actor website for cheap – Part 2

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Photo by Mr Allan Amato

Photo by Mr Allan Amato

Hi, welcome back to Verona yelling about the internet and saying swears.

Last time I rambled on about how being an actor is expensive and the gist of it was that you should save some money by putting together, and managing your own website, that it should be simple, clean, on brand and that it’s not that hard to do.

This is not to say that you won’t experience some challenges, and your ambitions will probably continue to be bigger than your abilities (rimshot!) but if this tutorial is the difference between a $2400 website bill, and a $100 website bill and a few clumps of hair, then I think we can both agree you look better with a mohawk (nearly everyone does).

We’ve already covered your domain name, hosting, and your content, so now we’re going to Choose our Theme (this is what our website looks like) and then get everything set up.

4. WordPress Themes

A “theme” in WordPress is a group of files that create the design and layout of each page.

It’s a series of page templates that guide what should go where (top/middle/bottom/sliders on the homepage), some CSS files that say what color, fonts and positioning to use, and some images, javascript and other WordPress things that create what is effectively a finished website. Many even come with “dummy” data that you can install and it will automagically create the pages and posts to make your version match the demo version.  (some people find this easier than following the set-up instructions from scratch though please read them!  RTFM!!!)

WordPress themes are written in a combination of html (for structure), php (for database magic), css (for colour/style) and javascript (for fancy moving bits and pop ups and scrolling and magic like that)

Themes can be custom built per project, but in our case we will find one that’s already completed and simply install it, then set it up.

Where to find themes
ThemeForest.com
WPZoom.com
http://www.themezilla.com/
http://themefuse.com/

 Although you can download free themes across the web, though I would recommend purchasing a premium theme from any of the sites mentioned above, they usually range from $8 to $45, and come with extensive documentation that will help you set it up.

Typically pre-designed themes include colour and style options in the administrative dashboard, so you can be a bit creative and tailor the theme to suit your brand. This will usually be some sort of Theme Options page that has a colour picker for text colour, link and/or button colours, maybe background colour and other elements like that.  It won’t be as perfect as something that was custom designed, but you only paid $30 for it so be grateful.

How to choose a theme:

When browsing themes it’s easy to get caught up in the sample graphics and elements the authors put in their demos. It’s in their best interest to present the most optimum version to potential customers, so we have to use a little common sense and try to separate our initial attraction to a theme from the practicality of what we need for our site.

You can preview how the themes look and work, usually through a LIVE DEMO (or just DEMO) link, and click around the menus and pages to get a feel for what the built in options are.

Most themes have a list of page templates, as well as an example of ShortCodes.

(Shortcodes are shortcuts that give a non technical person a bit more control over placing or laying out content. Many plugins use shortcodes so that you don’t need to mess with the php templates to make their magic appear. When it comes to themes shortcodes are typically used to create columns, tabs, button styles and other pre-designed elements that you might want to call in the page. Short codes look something like this [ tab ]This is a tab[ /tab ] when placed in the page, but appears like a tab when a user views it.)

Consider your content

How many photos do you have?

How many videos do you have?

Are you going to blog regularly?

How long is your bio?
Do you have enough photos that can be cropped into the correct shape to benefit from a slider on the homepage?

Can you repurpose a PORTFOLIO section for a press section?

DO NOT choose an overly complex theme that requires a ton of information.

Try and picture how YOUR content from Step 3 will fit into the theme demo.

If you choose a magazine format (like the one here on MsInTheBiz.com) you’re going to have a bad time, but if you find a simple, clean layout that doesn’t require endless columns of text you can be confident that your 300 word pitch will fit in, without leaving an additional 5 sections empty, and bare.

You can always add MORE but it’s hard to elegantly reduce a complex theme (unless you’re a coder, which you’re not)

Here’s an example:

Good theme for an actor website: http://wp.metrothemes.me/me-wp/home2/  – http://themeforest.net/item/page-one-responsive-vcard-cv-resume-wp-theme/full_screen_preview/6312321 – http://demo.sacredpixel.com/wp/profession/

Bad theme for an actor website: http://labs.saurabh-sharma.net/themes/newsplus/wp/

Q: Should I use a One Page theme instead of a traditional, multi page theme?

A: One pages are cool, and very hip these days and are a good idea for actor websites because they don’t allow you to put too much on one page, they often print well, and keep all the main information accessible and simply organized, like a very long resume on the web.

HOWEVER, if you want to track if people are clicking links on your site, viewing your photos or your video pages they won’t offer much data. Google Analytics will only appear once, rather than once for each page (or section, as it were) so you’ll only get a general overview of your traffic.

5. Installing WordPress (on our webhost)

Many hosts, including GreenGeeks and HostGator have an auto-install feature that creates the database and installs all the files for you.  It’s convenient but I hate it. For starters it creates an admin user called “admin”. Guess which username is the most exploited, easiest to hack?

I’m going to teach you how to do it the techy way. Again, it’s not that hard.

On the other hand I pay someone to do my laundry so if you’re just really busy with whatever bullshit you do every day and you wish you had the money to just pay someone to do everything for you, then fine, just use the stupid auto-install… I charge $300 to remove malware from your site and assign a new default username.

 

5a. Create the database

1. Log in to your cPanel (it looks something like this though maybe not exactly – you get your cPanel login from your webhost)

00-CpanelScreen

2. Click MySQL Database Wizard icon under the Databases section.

3. In Step 1. Create a Database enter the database name (i like to use wordpress) and click Next Step.

4. In Step 2. Create Database Users enter the database user name ( I like to use wp) and the password. Make sure to use a strong password. Click Create User.

5. In Step 3. Add User to Database click the All Privileges checkbox and click Next Step.

6. In Step 4. Complete the task note the database name and user. Write down the values of hostname, username, databasename, and the password you chose. (Note that hostname will usually be localhost.)

Make a note of your database name, user name and password. You’ll need them in a second.

 

5b. Download the WordPress package

Now let’s install wordpress the old fashioned way.

If you haven’t already, go to http://wordpress.org/ and Download and unzip the WordPress package

5c. Upload the WordPress files to your host

When you signed up for your webhosting you should have received a welcome email, or two, that included your “FTP” login information. That’s the username and password you need to connect to the host so that you can add files to your website

FTP Credentials look something like:

ftp.veronablue.com

username: VeronaBlue

password gr43na!f_0

There’s many point & click programs available for FTP (short for File Transfer Protocol)

Here’s a couple you could use

Mac: TRANSMIT, Cyberduck, FileZilla
PC: FileZilla, CoffeeCup Free FTP

Once you’ve connected to your host, open the WordPress folder that you unzipped and drag and drop everything inside (from index.php through to xmlrpc.php).

If your host has a public_html folder you should browse into that first.

Uploading the first batch of files may take a little while depending on your connection.

When it’s done uploading go to yourdomainname.com/wp-admin (please replace yourdomainname.com with YOUR domain name eg Veronablue.com or AngelinaJolie.com or whatever your domain actually is!)

 

6. INSTALLING WORDPRESS (fanfare!)

The next part is super easy but it has a lot of screens, so bear with me as I walk you through what is about to take only 30 seconds of your life to actually do, but takes like 4 pages to explain.  Grab your database notes,  we’re going to do the famous 5 minute install.

If you haven’t already go to yourdomainname.com/wp-admin and check to see if you put the WordPress files in the right place. If you did you’ll see the following screen. Click the “Create a Configuration File” button.  02-ConfigFileNeeded

You’ll see a reminder page that tells you to make sure you have all you database info.  Make sure you have those notes handy, and then click “Let’s Go!”

Enter your database name, username, password, host (probably localhost, so leave it) and then I like to change the table prefix from wp_ to something else just in case someone accidentally tries to install wordpress again. In this case I chose ms_ for ms in the biz but it doesn’t matter what you choose. When you’re done Click “Submit”

03-WorpdressInfo

 

If all your info was correct you will see a page that says all your info is correct and we can finally install (I know, you’re like, wtf we haven’t installed yet??) Click “Run the install”

04-RuntheInstall

 

Welcome! You have successfully installed wordpress… oh wait, no you haven’t. There’s another step, that has another install button, which is confusing, but you’re doing fine. You learn to ignore this strange redundancy after a while.

 

Choose a site title (you can change it later) – I usually start with the domain name

Choose an admin user name. DO NOT CHOOSE ADMIN. Choose your name, or yourname.admin or anything, just not “admin”

Choose a password.  I hope by now I don’t need to explain about common passwords
If you don’t have a cache of secure passwords you use regularly try generating one with this passphrase generator. In any case the little password box should say STRONG and be green.

Enter your email address, a real one that exists, you can change it later.

Keep the privacy box checked so Google finds your site.

Click INSTALL WORDPRESS (FINALLY)

If your browser offers to remember you password, I usually click it.

05-UserInfoScreen

SUCCESS! You are done. Wordress is installed.

06-Success

 

If you go to yourdomain.com (whatever you actual domain name is) you will see a default wordpress installation

07-DefaultSite

So now we’re going to set up our WordPress site, and theme.

Here’s a bunch of things to do now

  • Login at yourdomain.com/wp-admin, use the username and password you created in the installation process

  • Click the grey SCREEN OPTIONS tab at the top right, a panel will slide down > Uncheck everything. You don’t need any of these default dashboard things. More will appear when you install plugins but these ones are useless.

  • Click Settings > Permalinks > Click the circle next to Post Name.
    If you are going to have a blog click Custom Structure and paste in /%category%/%postname%/     > Click Save Changes

  • Click Settings  > Discussion > Uncheck “Allow people to post comments on new articles” for now so you don’t get spammed to death

  • Click Pages > Delete Sample Page  by hovering over and click Trash > Click Trash at the top > Hover over Sample Page again and click Delete Permanently

  • Click Posts > Delete Hello Word  by hovering over and click Trash > Click Trash at the top > Hover over Hello World again and click Delete Permanently

  • Click Plugins > Delete Hello Dolly. It’s a stupid plugin that comes with the WP install.

  • Appearance > Themes > Install Themes (tab at the top) > Click Upload link (at the top) > Browse your computer to find the zip file that contains the theme you purchased.

    • NOTE: Most themes come in a zip file that contains documents, design files and an ADDITIONAL zip that has the theme in it. You want to upload the secondary zip file.

  • Activate your chosen theme

 

7. Set up your theme (you forgot we were using numbers, didn’t you)

FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS THAT CAME WITH YOUR THEME.

I can’t emphasize this enough because each theme is unique, and even the most experienced developer can be left scratching their head, confused, because they neglected to follow the instructions. Not every theme author thinks the same way we do and so they sometimes have made weird decisions about the order things need to be done.  Other times it’s just way easier to follow the instructions.

If the theme has a dummy.xml file or sampledata.xml file that they recommend you install, do it, because it will create all the pages and custom areas for you and you can always delete them, or change the titles later if you don’t need that stuff. They should instruct you how to do this, but if not you should click TOOLS > Import > WordPress, install the plugin as prompted, activate it, and then Browse your files and upload the dummy data. DO check the box that downloads and imports the media files (these are images and stuff)

The pages you probably want to create are HOME, RESUME, VIDEOS, PHOTOS, CONTACT and maybe PRESS if you’re fancy.

Q: I installed the dummy data and I’m using that as a guide to create my site but my photos page isn’t mydomain.com/photos, it’s mydomain.com/services, which is the page I appropriated. How do I change that?
A: Easy!

  • Login.

  • Click Pages.

  • Click the page you want to change the URL for.

  • Click the little EDIT button that appears next to the permalink, which is at the top of the page right under the page title.

  • When you click edit, the box will become “live” and you can change the text.

  • Change it and then update the page. Voila, a new permalink.

08-Permalinks

Trouble Shooting

Setting Permissions on your wp-content folder

WordPress requires some level of access for things like downloading updates, or adding media (photos, videos, etc).  If this happens, use your FTP program to connect to your host again, browse to wp-content and then change the access permissions on the uploads folder (check the documentation for your FTP program on how to do this. On a mac with Transmit you just cmd-i to get the window to pop up. The command if you want to Google it is called “Chmod”)

Next time I’m going to talk about PLUGINS and customising your theme for easier use. (resume creation is the best part, like woah, but pretty advanced.)

Spay and Neuter your pets!

-Verona*

If you’ve made it this far and you still loathe the idea of putting together your own website, or just don’t have the time, I am available for hire. All that stuff I said about you being a pain in the ass probably still applies but now that I’ve chastised you for it I know you’ll get your shit together before approaching me (or anyone else) to help you with your site.

If you want to see more of my work you can check out CODEBLOO.com

Recent actor and industry websites include JacquelineSteiger.com, http://nadejdak.com  VeronaBlue.com (obvs), EditMonster.net and http://www.johnwaynestockandsupply.com/

All sites include a step-by-step user manual, and 6 months technical assistance in the case that the user manual doesn’t cover the change.  I am more than happy to simply help you choose a theme, install it, modify it, help you with your content and make it live. If you have your content and photos ready, and have 2 or 3 themes chosen that we can talk about I can literally have your site up in 1 day and it’ll run you like $500.  A fully custom website is over $2000 so that’s a good deal no? Get in touch at Verona@codebloo.net

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About Verona Blue

Actress & Web Developer - Verona Blue is originally from Toronto but arrived in Los Angeles by way of London where she received classical conservatory training in voice, movement and text. She excels at weapons and combat, and is extremely easy to find at an airport. Realising her niche was strong, but limited, she grabbed the bull by the horns and started creating her own opportunities with a group of new, creative friends and colleagues. Her first film (and reel!) "Elizabeth" won Best Editing and was nominated for Best Actress at the Indie Horror Film Festival in Chicago. With a professional background in web development and extensive experience working on film related websites, she has a lot going on. It's exhausting.