Create a free website in 5 minutes
(Link to this same story on WordPress)
There are two kinds of tech lovers. The first is the ‘Use it, forget it’ kind. They adore tech but have no clue how it works, and have no desire to know. A lot of Apple users fall into this category, and Apple actually capitalised on it with their ‘It just works’ advertising.
The second is the ‘Use it, fix it’ type? They love their tech just as much as the first type, but they also love to tinker with it. A good example of these nerdy types are the Android users who love to tinker with their phone, customizing, modifying, rooting, overclocking and God-knows-what else.
I’m the first type of tech lover, which is why I have never tried to build a website. One look at a website designer fiddling around with CSS or whatever that weird-looking code stuff is, tends to send me scampering for cover.
It’s also why I write on Medium. All I need to do is type in my story in my browser or app, drop in images, choose a few tags, and hit publish. The platform does the test, publishing the blog for me with the kind of simple, clean look and feel, which really appeals to me.
This is why I usually avoid popular sites, and that includes WordPress.
I know techies will be amused to hear I find WordPress complicated. But the level of difficulty at Medium is my level. And the fact that Medium has become so big means there’s a whole lot of tech-phobic folks like me.
Unfortunately, Medium has a serious problem. It treats writers from poorer countries like unpaid slaves. So I have been looking for alternatives to Medium, and get over my phobia of creating websites.
Anyway, I was talking about this the other day with a friend who’s into building WordPress websites. He was horrified to hear how Medium not only refuses to pay writers from India like me, but adds insult to injury by using a paywall to block my readers from seeing what I write for free on Medium.
My friend advised me to try Wordpress again. He said they have made things a lot more simple. And they have apps where you can actually create an entire site on a mobile device. What’s more, there’s a free option, which WordPress claims can be set up in five minutes.
That intrigued me.
Two Levels to creating a website
So I paid a visit to wordpress.com to try to understand the deal. Turns out there are two levels to creating a website.
The first level is the free website, which is just a blank website with a dedicated URL. But it’s your website, in the sense that only you are allowed to add your content (up to 3GB), customise design within certain constraints (which can be removed for a price), add more pages, and so on. This is what can be created in five minutes.
This second level of generating content, putting it on the site, customising site design, etc, is not within WordPress’ control. It’s up to us to generate content, and do the rest, and will obviously take a lot longer than five minutes.
Thing is, it isn’t part of this story. So I will cover that in a separate post.
How free websites are possible on WordPress
WordPress recovers the expense of giving you free goodies in two ways. The first is by posting ads on your site. The second is by hoping to eventually convert you into a paying customer, who will be offered even more goodies like a lot more space, additional design flexibility, your own custom URL, linking your own domain and so on. Paying customers can also generate income from their site by putting up ads as WordPress does not put its own ads on paid sites.
Trial run to test WordPress’ 5-minute claim
Having just updated my iPad (2018 basic model) to the new iPad OS, I was keen to explore its capabilities. I also wanted to record how long it takes me to create a website, and post it as a story here. However I wanted to do a trial run first, to see what the obstacles were, and be ready for them. So I created a site on WordPress, and timed it.
I found it took me nearly half an hour to create the site, partly because I got bogged down in the email signup process. All usernames I came up were taken, and there was the complication of figuring out a display name and password, etc. Secondly, though the new iPad OS is versatile, it’s going to take some time to learn the new gestures and commands, and get up to speed.
However, I think it can be done in five minutes with a little judicious planning to avoid running into the above-mentioned obstacles. So I decided to formally test it out.
I have recorded the process with screenshots, and posted it as this story on Medium and WordPress, which is what you are reading.
If you are interested in creating your own site in five minutes, just follow the steps I have done below and I’m sure you will be able to do it too.
Step 1: Keep your signup email ready
You will be asked to verify your email during the signup so I suggest you keep that email inbox open in a different tab to speed up the process.
I lost time trying the new secure email ID signup from Apple ID. WordPress rejected it, saying they needed a working email.
Also, don’t use an email that’s linked to a WordPress website. That will defeat your objective. You will be asked to log in to your existing WordPress site, and be emailed a ‘reset password’ link if you have forgotten your password.
I plan to use my iCloud email . So I’ll log in and have that open to verify my email without delay.
Step 2: User name, display names, and passwords
I usually get stuck while doing things that require a name as this blog undoubtedly will. So I need something that’s unlikely to be taken, is easy to recall and therefore preferably a coined word.
Umm… how about the5minuteblog?
‘5minuteblog’ will be my user name.
‘5minuteblog’ will be my display name.
‘5Minuteblog$’ will be my password as it has a number, symbol, caps…
That should work. If it doesn’t, I’ll change it to ‘5’ to ‘6’ or ‘7’… it’s not really relevant as it’s just a test site, which I may delete once the test is done.
Step 3: Device
My goal is to prove the site can be done on a mobile device. Besides, like I said, I need the screenshots for this article. Might be fun though, as I have been wanting to try out the iPad OS split windows and other stuff.
However, I must confess it’s better to create the site on a desktop if you have one. They are generally more powerful, easier to use, faster than a mobile device. Besides they don’t have the quirky issues of mobile devices that can bog you down. For instance, if I choose ‘Select all text’ command on this post which I’m typing on Medium’s mobile app, only the para I’m typing on is selected, and not the whole article. I have no idea why it happens but it drove me nuts till I figured out a workaround. You have to work on your Medium post in a web browser. iPad OS has that way become much better, as the iPad’s browser almost anything you can do on desktop browsers can be done on the.
Step 4: Home Page and blog posts
This one has complications but we’ll cross that river when we reach it, which would be after creating a website, and before uploading content. That will be part of my next story.
Creating a website in five minutes
Ok, let’s get started. First, we google for wordpress (the .org doesn’t have a free version as far as I know so we stick with the .com)
I open a split window so I can easily access my inbox in my mail app. We are good to go. The clock starts now.
WordPress asks for my details. I paste in my email ID but ‘5minuteblog’ isn’t available. I have to go up to ‘8minuteblog’ before I get accepted.
Learning to type fast on iPad OS will take time. The floating keyboard is terrific for swipe & type, but it keeps maniacally zipping around the place, and sometimes obsuring what I’m typing. Maybe I should have stuck with the full-size keyboard. Too late to start again.
Finally, it’s done, and I tap the red ‘Create your account’ button.
But I have lost two valuable minutes.
The email pops up as expected in my mail app.
I open the email, and it opens a new tab in my browser signifying my email has been verified. There are four options, and I choose ‘blog’ in the original tab.
The WordPress sigup process goes through in my original tab. Interesting, as the verification happened in the other tab. This means WordPress is able to tell what’s happening in other tabs. Must be how Facebook snoops on what we are doing.
I close the email window as we will no longer be needing it. Meanwhile, WordPress wants me to give my blog an address, and I stick with 8minuteblog, at which it gives a whole lot of options. WordPress would obviously like me to take one of the paid versions. But I locate the solitary free version and select it.
Again, WordPress tries to push me towards the premium Rs 350 version. Probably if I build up enough traffic, I will switch to that plan and figure out what ‘monetize your site with ads’ means. But for now, I hunt for the free version, and finally find it buried in small type at the top.
As the site loads, my eye is on the clock. It goes from 12.42 to 12.43. I start slowly counting. 1–2–3–4–5–6. At the count of six, the words, ‘Your site has been created’ appears.
That’s it. The site was up and running in 5.06 minutes.
You can verify this time via the system clock on my screenshots above. The process starts in the first screenshot, and the site goes live in the last one. Had I been on my Mac instead of on my iPad, I could have done it under 4 minutes.
5 minutes and 6 seconds
That was all it took me to create the site. And if I could do it, so can you.
It feels like an empty victory though as there’s nothing on my website. What would be really nice is if I could post a story on my new WordPress site in five minutes. So that’s what I did next. To read about it, click here.