January 18, 2021

10 Life Lessons I Learned Building My Own WordPress Website

by Magna Gopal

Welcome to the new and improved design of my website! πŸ™‚

Before the launch of this site in January 2021, I had never built a site or knew anything about building websites. This was a huge project that had been weighing on me for over 2 years. I always thought I would have to go through a web developer and a designer, but I’m glad to say, with the help of Divi, YouTube tutorials, and the input of a few friends, I was able to build this site on my own.

It took me 5-6 weeks spread out across 5 months to go from conception to launch. It wasn’t all easy. In fact, there were many days that I gave up and wanted to desperately reach out to someone to take over the reigns, but I’m glad I didn’t. Not only did I learn a lot, but I now have the freedom and flexibility to make changes as I please. No need to ask and wait for someone else to do it.  Woo hoo!

Old Website

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New Website

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That being said, here are a few lessons I learned along the way. Though I came across these lessons building my site, I think they can be applied to any project, big or small.

If you have any specific questions you’d like to ask about my website building process, or want to share your own experience with building a website or another project, let me know in the comments.

5 Lessons To Improve Your Productivity

1. Create a Master Document of your main elements

When building a website, you want consistency. You want pages to resemble each other in layout, font style, font size, color, alignment, and many other factors. Having a document where you can track all of this information have it readily accessible will save you a lot of time. When I started building my pages, I spent way too much time opening other pages to copy over the settings that I liked. Having a master document would have saved so much time.

In addition to being a time saver, this master document can also serve as a stress reliever.  If you accidentally change things on a page to something you don’t like or accidentally break it, you can always revert to your original settings, permitting you know what they are.

2. Google is your friend

There is so much information available online.  The same questions you would ask a friend, you could start by asking Google.  If you don’t know what to ask, you might discover the right terminology through Google’s search results.  This way, if you absolutely must ask a friend, you can be very specific with your question thus saving you both valuable time.

Important note when using Google and to save yourself time and avoid frustration, make sure you check the dates and relevance of the tutorials you find.  Tutorials created 5y ago, though detailed with many views, might not be applicable to the versions you’re working with today.

Magna Gopal working
All hands on deck. Or in this case, all devices on the table.

3. Find a place where you can’t escape from work

Note that I’m not saying find a dedicated place TO work but one where you can’t escape it.  I work from home a lot and there are many tasks that I can do from home with ease, but while building this website, I learned that when I HAVE To do something but feel stuck, I find all sorts of other things to distract me: TV, comfy couch to take a nap, opening and closing the fridge multiple times, and eating even if I’m not hungry.  My website has been the biggest project that I needed to finish and the one I avoided the most when possible. To make progress quickly, I had to find a place where I could work without easy access to my most common distractions. For me, that ended up being a local coffee shop/communal work space.

Additional tip: Try not to recreate your home space in your new work space.  When I worked at the coffee shop, I often fasted through my work hours. I drank a lot of coffee but didn’t let my table get cluttered with anything else that didn’t relate directly to what I was working on.

“Test your ideas against different perspectives, preferences, expectations and different levels of expertise.”

4. Take a break

I know. This is the most cliche piece of advice to give to people working long hours on a a project, but it’s also one of the most important. There were days that I spent an entire work day watching YouTube tutorials, testing them on my site, realizing they didn’t work, and ultimately going home having made zero progress. I desperately wanted to continue the work at home, but I would just end up starting from a point of frustration. However, if I went home and didn’t do any work and vegged out with some pizza, wine, ice cream, and/or a TV show, I was able to reset. The next day I would be able to attack the project with a fresh perspective instead of frustration and desperation.

One of those moments where I spent hours working on something only to realize I broke the design on my website.

5. Ask more than one person to take a look at your work

I have a very small circle of people I trust for input. Often, I run things by just one person, make some adjustments and keep moving forward. This is often because I’m working with something specific for a niche audience. However, when you’ve got a big project, it’s worth getting feedback from a few different people, including those who have zero knowledge about your project. This allows you to test your ideas against different perspectives, preferences, expectations and different levels of expertise. The greater the reach, the more important it becomes to make sure your testing and feedback circle is representative of that broader audience.

“Ask for help, but don’t expect it.”

5 Lessons on Creating the Right Mindset

1. Be patient with yourself

So often we embark on a new project or adventure and get annoyed by how much we don’t know. Accept that what you’re doing is new. You’re not expected to know it all. There are plenty of things you’ll learn that you didn’t even know you should know. With time and dedication, you will learn more and things will become easier.

Magna Gopal working
A moment of temporary defeat.

2. Ask for help but don’t expect it

As much as you can learn, and you can learn it all, sometimes, it’s just more efficient to ask for help. The best way for this necessary step to not be an extra burden is to make sure your request isn’t loaded with expectations. The biggest projects in our lives have a lot of importance and meaning to us, but often don’t carry the same weight in other people’s lives, even those who are closest to us. Whenever you ask for help, understand that the person you’re asking might not know how to help you and might not know how to tell you that. That person might not be available in that period because they are dealing with the priorities in their own lives. And there are plenty of people who are willing to celebrate you at the finish line but just aren’t interested in helping you get there. Everyone is busy with their own lives, pursuing their own projects. If they can’t help you this time, it’s ok.

Whatever you do, don’t let that stop you from asking and don’t let that ruin, otherwise, healthy relationships.

3. Stay true to your vision

Piggybacking off the above lessons of asking many people and asking for help in general, there will come a time when the feedback you receive will be more a matter of preference than one of functionality. In these situations, try to stay true to your vision and what you’re truly passionate about. Colors are a perfect example. Some friends didn’t like the colors on my site, not because they don’t like the colors themselves but because they have other colors they prefer over mine. Adjusting my site to their suggestions wouldn’t mean that my site would look terrible, but it would definitely no longer resonate with me. If you have multiple people with the same feedback, then perhaps it’s worth a look.

“It’s not that our barrier to learning has gotten higher, but rather, our barrier to frustration has gotten lower.”

4. You are capable

If I didn’t absolutely need my website to be completed now, I might have just focused on other things and waited until I found a web designer to build it for me. Necessity and urgency forced me to reckon with the fact that if I wanted it done now, I would have to do it on my own. I was scared. I didn’t know anything about building a website. Even with an intuitive and relatively easy-to-use theme builder at my disposal, I still didn’t know where to start. What do I put on that blank page? I wanted to give up quite a few times because I realized I didn’t know anything about what I was trying to do.

We’ve all been there and we will all be there again, but if we look at our past, we often realize that everything we thought we couldn’t do, we eventually did. It might have taken us longer than we expected, but we learned, we persevered, and we rose to the challenge. This undertaking is no different. You are capable today, just as you were every other time in your life.

The learning curve might feel steep as we get older, but only because we’ve become proficient at other things. It’s not that our barrier to learning has gotten higher, but rather, our barrier to frustration has gotten lower.

Magna Gopal Two Thumbs Up
My cheesy grin of accomplishment. =D

5. Finally, nothing is fixed

It doesn’t matter how many hours, days or even years you invested into something, there’s always an option to change. Life is constantly evolving and changing. You, what you do and what you create are no exception. If you like what you created? Great! Keep it. If you don’t like it? No problem. You can change it. There are still so many things missing from my site and I will get to them slowly. For now, I am happy with what I’ve created.

Starting any big project from scratch isn’t easy. But having the right process and mindset in place can significantly lighten the load and give us an opportunity to actually accomplish what we set out to do.

Mpowered Reflections:

  • What are some projects that you want to work on but aren’t sure if you can?
  • Which of these lessons do you think could help you the most in starting or finishing those projects?
  • How do you like the site? πŸ™‚

SHARING IS CARING!

If you enjoyed this or know someone who could benefit from this information, please share and tag me so we can continue the discussion. Β You can also show your support through Ko-Fi.

10 Comments

  1. Manny

    I can TOTALLY relate to escaping work while I’m at home, sometimes a task is demanding and/or long, and I think to myself let me just rest for a little bit before I jump into THAT .. hahahaha. I agree that going to a place where you are momentarily deprived from having all your usual “home” distractions can indeed increase productivity and efficiency …

    Reply
    • Magna Gopal

      It’s so easy to get distracted when you’re looking for distractions. Thanks for commenting, Manny! πŸ™‚

      Reply
  2. Wade Ramos

    – I embarked on a journey to write fiction books. I had many different stories in the past but I haven’t been able to developed them further. Also to create a dance choreography is one of those projects I’m entangled with too.

    – Be Patient with myself and to be confidence I’m capable of are the two I have to revisit in the future. I also have something similar to one of the productive lessons #1, to avoid derailing the story and to have the skeleton of one of the stories through a journaling file has helped too. I can extract value from all of them as well.

    – I feel comfortable navigating through the site now. πŸ™‚πŸ‘πŸ½

    Reply
    • Magna Gopal

      Thanks for sharing some of your projects, Wade. I hope you return to those and complete them one day. Glad that the lessons resonated with you and that the site is easy to navigate now. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  3. Juju

    Yesss i love the β€œstay true to your vision” at time we are easily influenced by our friends and family; can sometimes steer us away from our vision. Very important factor. πŸ™ŒπŸ½

    Reply
    • Magna Gopal

      I know you can definitely relate to this as creative. I’d hate for someone to influence you away from the beautiful things you create and the style you possess. Thanks for reading and commenting! πŸ™‚

      Reply
  4. Sabrina

    Perfectly put down. Proud of you doing this by yourselve and pushing through especially in a year that was draining on top. Awesome job and great learnings! Yes we can if we put in the work and learning! And so much more appreciation for what we did by ourselves.

    Reply
    • Magna Gopal

      Absolutely! And so much more to share. I’m glad the site is done and I can now get on to the content creation. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  5. James Daza

    Cool article. I’ll. Check out the new website. Congratulations on such a great accomplishment. πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • Magna Gopal

      Thank you so much, James! πŸ™‚

      Reply

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