Ideas are limitless – everyone has a great business idea that they know will make a fortune if they only have the ability to get it out there.
I’m hoping to convince any reader that hasn’t been swayed by the siren song of WordPress and open source yet that getting started with an idea doesn’t need to take a lot of time or capital, nor a team of developers on payroll to do your work for you.
And if you can learn something from my journey and how I pulled this off then you might discover something not only about yourself but also the near-limitless possibilities with WordPress.
Let me encourage you today…
I detailed on my own blog about an issue with a client’s spam queue while doing a database migration, and put a little bit of how it wreaked havoc for a few days while I got that issue and others that stemmed from it under control.
While writing, I wanted to make a nice image to go along with the theme of the post. I instantly jumped to J. Walter Weatherman’s “And That’s Why…” lessons, which you’ll understand if you’re an Arrested Development fan, and probably be completely confused by if you’re not. Regardless, while looking for a suitable image I realized that andthatswhy.com was an available domain name, and I knew that I had to have it.
I’m not much a fan of buying domains up just to have them (despite all evidence to the contrary), so I wanted to think of something clever to do with the site before buying it. I settled on the idea of a WordPress User Meme Generator to expand on the idea.
I was inspired in part by The Toolbox, which Sasha Greif documented launching in ten hours last year. My site is far less than half as useful as that, so I was hoping that I could hit the goal of launching it with less than five hours of work.
Could I do it? Could it be done? I decided to throw caution to the wind and see for myself.
How I Got Started and Executed My Plan
I need to make a note here: I didn’t build a website in under five hours. I built a website with hundreds of thousands of hours of development and the support of countless additional web designers and developers having come before me.
So in other words, when you use something like WordPress, you’re standing on the shoulders of many who have helped make it possible in the past (Thank you!).
I will probably detail some of the specifics a bit later, but in my constrained goal of completing a functional website at a low cost and with minimal technical work, I avoided a lot of additional labor that I might have done on a more fully featured website.
The first thing that I did was list the features that I wanted to include on the site, determine what was feasible for as low of a time and money investment as possible, and sketch up a few layout ideas. I avoided dreaming too big, instead focusing on the core experience of being able to choose a pre-loaded image, adding text to that image, and being able to save it as a post. For fun I decided to create a “Highest Rated” page, with voting on the posts to allow users to rank the submissions of others.
The basic steps were:
- Purchased the domain and forwarded it to the hosting servers
- Uploaded and installed WordPress (ultimately not necessary as I used WP Engine to host, which pre-installs WordPress for you)
- Changed the proper default settings on the install
- Uploaded and set up a pre-built theme (The Genesis child Apparition was my final choice)
- Installed plugins for functionality, including:
- The meme generator, which I found on CodeCanyon via Google
- Forms and stats (Jetpack would work well for these, but I already have a Gravity Forms developer license, so I used that)
- A lightbox to pop up images in the same window, since that’s the main feature of the site
- Social login for users that want to attribute memes to themselves without creating an account
- A ratings plugin to allow the voting system for memes
- Generated a custom post type to manage the types of memes. This wasn’t at all necessary, but made it easier for me to manage on the backend. You can do this easily with a tool like Custom Post Types.
- Made the necessary pages to handle the different post types and views. Again, not required, but I didn’t get out of this completely code-free!
- Changed a few theme styles to match the look that I’m going for
- Promoted to my friends to get some starter content!
In this case, I determined that paying a plugin developer was not only worth a few bucks, but a steal at $12 to get something that I wouldn’t even know where to begin coding myself.
While playing with it I’ve noticed a few things that I would like to see the plugin do, so I’m working up a draft to send over to the author with suggestions. This is another great part of this open community: Users can take an active role in shaping the future of the tools that they’re using through their input and the willingness to help for the sake of product improvement over pure profits.
The majority of the work that I did was pretty straightforward, and involved the lightest of code wrangling. As I mentioned above, most of the custom work that I did was purely for myself, as it wouldn’t even be seen by the end user.
A basic understanding of HTML and CSS will take you a long way in customizing a WordPress site, and some basic PHP knowledge will take you even further, but neither are required if you just want to jump in and work with existing tools.
Parting Thoughts for You…
All told, I spent about four hours total on the site, half of which was spent researching the theme and plugins that I wanted to use and cobbling them together. I did use a few tools that increased the cost of the project, such as the hosting that was donated to me on an existing WP Engine business plan and the Gravity Forms license used, but these could have easily been replaced with free or cheap alternatives.
Remove this, and the site cost me about $21 for the domain registration and meme plugin, and a few hours of my time.
Building something new requires no small amount of guts. Not that I’m brave for creating a silly meme site, but there’s always that moment of hesitation before I show off a new project, worried that the intended audience will not feel the same that I did while creating it. Will the client like the comps that I’ve created? Will another developer find my code buggy and inefficient? Will anyone actually click buy?
This is a trap that I fall into frequently that goes hand-in-hand with fearing to ship. The fear of failure or ridicule can cause a paralysis that can be impossible to overcome if you don’t take the time to think objectively. So what if this is a silly site and so what if no one finds value in it? My life isn’t over and I won’t have lost anything more than the bit of time and energy that I put into trying something new, and the audacity of thinking that it could work.
Don’t immediately talk yourself out of your next big idea. Scale it to a manageable size (for now), and just get started! You’ll thank yourself later.
P.S. Feel free to give the site a try at http://andthatswhy.com/
Your turn to make something neat. What are you going to do with WordPress?