How to build a site in a gazillion steps.

Building games takes an inordinate amount of time, you’ve got to spend a lot of time day-dreaming about possible game mechanics, progression loops, engagement loops and aspects of internal and external motivation (Yes, I did the gamification course on Coursera). That’s why I chose to build this site up instead.

Sane person: But dude, you should be spending your time and money on building good games, not game sites.

Yes, thou doest makest sense! And so I shall! Tomorrow!

For now, I’m just going to list the different things that go into making a simple site such as this, just in case you’re as lazy as me and would have liked some breadcrumbs.

  1. Get yourself a site. You might have made a game or two or ten (ten, really? And you don’t know you need a site?), but how will people know all your products if you don’t let them check it all out in one place. The Almighty Mesh is, well, for a lack of a better word… big. One can rarely find isolated pieces of info, amidst all those big sites and their marketing budgets… the least you can do is give your games a soapbox… a home.
    • You can go the easy way, and get WordPress to host one for you. Should cost you $13 for custom domain registration (www.choose-site-name.com) + $10 a month for hosting.
    • You could get someone else to host it. WordPress loves Bluehost for a reason. I used Godaddy for domain registration and hosting. I’m sure I’ll complain about it sometime in the future, everybody else seems to. But for now, it’s fine.
    • You could go and get yourself some servers, and host it yourself. Why you would is beyond me. You are probably one of those I-want-to-be-the-next-Google types. All I got to say to you is – Think if you really need it. There’s a good chance that you can keep your costs low at the start, till you’ve figured out what you really want to do. That server is always going to be there, or maybe its next generation will be. Save your money till you really need it.
  2. You’ll need email. Godaddy does host some email for you, but you’re probably spoilt by the gmail interface and can’t stand anything else like me. That’s where Google Apps comes in. It’s beautiful for small businesses. Free for upto 10 users, and you share a 10 GB space for mail. And seems very reasonably priced for beyond that. Plus, you get to access all of their amazing products as a business.
    • Email’s a no-brainer. Set up different email IDs for your team, and get going ASAP. You can access this from your mobile too, so woohoo!
    • Calendar can be shared with your team, and the general public if required. Seems very Microsoft Outlook Calendar-like, so it’s very comfortable for spoilt IT folks.
    • Google Docs can be used in lieu for paid versions of Microsoft Office. More importantly, your documents are stored on Google Drive, can be accessed anywhere and has sufficient privacy controls.
    • Youtube for your videos, duh!
    • The Google wizard for linking your web hosting with Google Apps is amazing. You can see a complete step-by-step sequence depending on what your hosting service is. Very professional if you ask me.
  3. Set up a CMS. Since I got a Godaddy 4GH Linux plan, I was able to use their one-click setup from their Hosting Panel to get wordpress installed on this site. It’s freakishly simple! I chose WordPress over Joomla! since stats seem to claim that more people are moving away from every other CMS, to WordPress. Besides, I kept hearing it’s very simple to set up. That’s good enough for me, when I’m just trying to showcase a few games and ramble on like this…
  4. Read the first set of docs. Go through their documentation.  God, these guys have a lot to say. You can easily spend two days drowning in all that documentation and get lost. You’ll learn quite a bit about building sites and aspects of SEO too. Oh that reminds me – games, video games, online games, flash games, amazing games, best games, sooper awesome hifalutin games.
  5. Customize your theme. Finally, follow the steps needed to actually set up a theme. These themes are essentially templates that you can reskin for your usage. I started with the Twenty Eleven theme, moved to Twenty Twelve and finally settled down on the Responsive Theme. Sort of liked the fact that it was mobile friendly.
  6. Add some widgets in. Next you play around with plugins. I was really taken with slider plugins on sites where I saw it, so I desperately wanted to set one up. Doesn’t look so good when you don’t have enough content. So I ditched the Smooth Slider plugin that I was playing around with, waiting till I figure out a good way to make use of it. Ironically, it was the Smooth Slider plugin that introduced me to the Responsive theme.
  7. My final widget set. For now.After throwing some oft-mentioned plugins around, I settled on the following:
    • Enhanced Admin Bar with Codex search – I have no clue what this does yet. But the wordpress tutorials can’t stop singing its praises.
    • Jetpack for wordpress – This apparently has something to do with the wordpress blog. I’m too scared tired to disable it, and see what happens.
    • WP Database Optimizer – This one’s used to periodically clean up your db, which keeps getting filled with junk when you add plugins/pages/themes and remove them.
    • WP Super Cache – After stressing the site with a bunch of plugins and themes, the site got awfully slow. Some sites suggested using this Super Cache to make things just a wee bit faster. Definitely worked.
    • Google Analytics for WordPress – And this one’s the one I’m most hopeful about. I’ve just set it up, and so I’ll get to see which parts of this site get the most attention. Since nobody else knows this site exists except for me, I’m probably going to be seeing where my clicks go. What fun.
  8. Build some content, I say.While all this was going on, I’ve been playing with the aspects of Posts, Pages, Links and Media.
    • Posts are essentially additions to the blog.
    • Pages are standalone locations where you can put some info up. These can have children (single parents though), so you can use this to categorize info on your site. For example, I’m using Games as an uber-page for the individual games… the ones that will get built sometime. I hope.
    • The Media Library is used to upload all your images (It comes recommended that you let Youtube handle all your videos, so just link to it). You then keep linking to your images from within your sites to add some imagery to the pages.
    • There’s a lot more… but you’ll figure it out.
  9. Clean stuff up. Now that most of it is in order, you try to add some semblance of order to this lettered litter.
    • Make a set of parent pages, and child pages under them for a sense of order.
    • Name the list of parent pages as a Menu, and link it in the theme as a Header element for the Responsive Theme (Appearance ->Themes).
    • Customize the header with your logo and text, the call-to-action with some fundoo line, and the surrounding imagery and text with whatever you need the user to focus on.
    • Choose to enable or disable comments on your pages, blog posts and everything else.
    • Run your db optimizer and the cache thingy to attempt and make things a little faster.

 Oh… and all of this was free! Except for the domain registration and web hosting, of course… but maybe some other smart person will figure a way around that.

Yea, that’s pretty much it. While all this is going on, try looking at the same site not just on your PC browser but on a mobile and tablet as well. Just to feel a little better and give yourself undue praise about your recent ‘accomplishment’.

And people, that’s how you set up a basic games site. Your turn now. Happy site building!