Blogging Laid Bare #2: Getting started.

This afternoon, I thought I would continue the Blogging Laid Bare series with some serious basics, how to get started. Many of you might be reading this and thinking, well, I already blog so I’m already started, but there may be some of you wanting to either start a blog or to take an existing blog from a basic blogging platform to something like WordPress. Plus every series needs a beginning right?

Ok so here goes.

1. Buy your Domain
First things first, you need a name. I can’t help you there, but once you’re decided on one (or intact if you have a name like www.florencefinds.blogspot.com which is hosted by Blogger for example and want to become self hosted) you have to buy the domain. Purchase your domain for 2 years as it’s cheaper but it also looks better to search engines. It shows you have staying power. Think about buying your domain with a number of different endings. The ideal would be .co.uk and .com, .net and .eu This is all about protecting your brand. If someone else has the domain you use but with a different ending it leaves you open to it coming up in search engines and redirecting to a site of their choice. Who you purchase your domain from is up to you but I think it’s easier to purchase it through your host if you can, which leads me to my next step.

2. Find a hoster
Imagine the internet like a blank wall. When you find a host you are finding someone who will pin your website or blog up on that wall for everyone to see, on the internet. The amount of wall space you get is often determined by how much you pay, and how much storage that buys you.

There are many hosters out there and the best way to find one is ask around your friends or twitter contacts for recommendations. Compare prices and how many page views you will get for your money (some packages give you a limit and when you exceed that the site goes down.) Look for an unlimited package if you expect high traffic.

3. Choose a platform
For me, it’s all about WordPress. I had used it before when I started Florence Finds but nowhere near to the level I have learnt to do so. It’s powerful and super flexible so you can tweak thousands of pre-designed themes or start from scratch on your own design. It also has loads of widgets that you can drop into your theme (for example the three columns ‘Blogroll’, ‘Your Favourites’ and ‘What people are saying’ at the bottom of the Florence Finds page are all widgets,) and there is infinite variety on what you can choose to include.

The other major hosted is Typepad, which I have no experience of but Annabel over at Love My Dress uses and although she acknowledges it’s glitches, she’s a big advocate of their individual service. (You can read more from Annabels ‘Being self-employed‘ series and particularly her blog redesign here, or shoot her a tweet, I’m sure she’d be happy to answer any queries.)

4. Design your blog (or choose a ‘theme’)
Once you’ve got your domain name and a hosted, you can start to think about how your blog is going to look. The easiest thing to do here is to choose a ‘theme’, basically a pre-designed blog template. Theme’s are often free, or for better, more customisable ones with more options you can choose to pay for one. Exen the most basic often have options, for changing the font colour for example. The most expensive option is to commission a designer to custom design a blog to your specifications. That might take the form of starting with vague inspiration and ideas, or taking a design you have sketched out or planned on the computer to be translated into a custom theme.

Florence Finds was designed by me in Pages (Apple’s equivalent software to Microsoft Word and Publisher combined.) It’s a very simple design and after a bit of reading I started to translate it into reality by tweaking a WordPress theme, Thematic – a widely used theme for starting from the very basics. Eventually reading would no longer suffice and I had to call in an expert – I asked Ian from Swash and Fold to help me and he started again with Twenty Eleven to produce what you see today. If you need help like I did, Ian‘s your man.

5. Get started!
Kind of an obvious one, but you can go on forever tweaking your theme, making it look perfect and obsessing over what people think when you launch. chances are you may not have an instant readership if you’re new, so people will take you as they find you and whilst a poor blog design discourages people from coming back, really it’s the content that is King.

I hope you’ve found todays instalment useful and if you have any questions, feel free to throw them out there in the comments box below. Also, as I said last time if there’s something you would like to see covered in the series, just let me know 🙂

Love,
Rebecca
xo

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14 thoughts on “Blogging Laid Bare #2: Getting started.

  1. Hi Rebecca,

    Found this really interesting and also a reminder that I have many a sad forgotten blog left in the webosphere. Quick question – hosting? Is this different to WordPress? Or can wordpress host and be a platform at the same time? Or would you recommend a separate host? If so how do you recommend finding suitable host?

    • Hi Abi,

      WordPress do offer hosting services as I remember but I was told it’s not great and to look for better alternatives. As I said above, try asking around, the internet, twitter, friends etc for hosting recommendations, the best ones tend to change as they grow etc. You’re looking for fast responses really to queries, as well as a competitive package.

      If anyone wants to know, drop me an email, I’d thoroughly recommend my host.
      xo

  2. Great post! Whilst I’ve been using a self-hosted wordpress for a few months now it took me some time to get to that stage. For anyone thinking of starting up a blog and being committed to it I recommend jumping right in here as if you’re into a bit of technology and customising things to your style you’ll find some frustrations on the free platforms.

    I’m intrigued about using Pages to design your blog! Are you able to recommend where you started reading about translating your design into the blog? Or is that another post to look out for? 🙂

    • I just used Pages to mock it up Laura – the image above is my original design 🙂 Then I started translating that.

      Thematic has a lot of options and once you learn a bit of basic HTML you can start playing around with it. For example the menu bar in Thematic is where mine is, so it was then up to me to make it white, remove dividers between the categories and make the border around it ‘dotted’. I started to hit a stumbling block when I couldnt make the top and bottom border dotted at the right height etc and thats where I got frustrated and called in help, well amongst other things!

      I started google articles on basic html. It’s like learning another language!

      • Ahhh OK! You see I’m new to MacBooks too so lots for me to learn on what you can do on that too.

        Thanks for the google articles tip, I’ll take a look! Feels like I need to clear a weekend to get to grips with it! Really is another language!

  3. Thank you so much for posting this, I’m in the early stages of designing my blog and thinking about the content I want to feature! This is really helpful! Xo

  4. Thanks for the shout Rebecca! 🙂

    Just to clarify on hosting things, there are two options really – free hosting by the blogging platform provider (e.g – Blogger, Typepad and WordPress.com), or self hosted (i.e you get yourself some webspace and a domain with a monthly fee, install the software from WordPress.org, and away you go..)

    The difference between the two is sort of like the difference between having either a communal garden or a plot of your very own.

    Bear with me on this…

    The communal garden is fully maintained by someone else – they mow the lawn, they make sure the new bedding is planted, they go round with the weedol to keep things from getting overgrown, and you get to enjoy the benefits without really having to do much. However since you’re sharing it with other people there are certain rules you have to abide by, you can’t tear up the lawn if you fancy plonking some decking down instead, and you’re limited to the selection of shrubbery the groundsman has decided is best for the garden.

    Your own garden is.. well, its yours. You can do what the heck you like with it. But you have to mow your own lawn, get your hands dirty with the bedding plants, and make sure everything is kept ship-shape. So the overhead on time can be greater, it can cost a bit more to get it the way you like it, but like I say – its all yours, and you can pull it in whatever direction you choose without anyone saying “you can’t do that”…

    Make sense? Or have I just confused things further? I’ve probably confused things. Oh well.

    Anyway, it may be that the first option does all you need it to, you want it to “just work” out of the box, and if the customer support is there then you’re laughing. But it does mean that you can fall foul of sweeping changes to their system designed to “improve” things for everyone, but which knock out some key feature you were relying on.

    Personally I prefer to host things myself and get my hands dirty. But then, I’m a geek 🙂

    • Just to clarify, my Typepad account is not free, I pay a monthly fee and I also pay them for back end support so that I can have a fully customised bespoke design. I’m a geek too and don’t do pre-set designs 🙂

      • Sorry Annabel… yes, you’re quite right of course. Typepad do have an excellent paid service in addition to the free one that allows you just as much flexibility. Not sure how best to crowbar that into my garden analogy… maybe as an allotment? 🙂

  5. Great post! I was wondering, are you planning to write a post as part of this series on the less logistical parts of starting a blog? More of the how to start attracting readers, how to not get discouraged, etc. I myself just started a new blog and would love to read something like that from someone who has a successful blog. Thanks! 🙂

    -Ali

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  7. great post, i can tell i’m going to love this series already!

    i’m already at the self-hosting stage but find i’m never happy with my theme… i know i should concentrate on my content to maintain my readership, but i’m all about the aesthetics.

    perhaps its time to get my purse out and go all out… i’ve never had such mac-envy before!

    enjoying your blog, thanks for taking the time to share!

    MissFeebs

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