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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