I’ve had a number of people tell me that what I’ve told them about my early blogging experiences has encouraged them to consider also starting a blog, and for that reason, and now that I am past my first 100 days as a blogger, I thought that I would summarize how to start a blog, based on my own experiences.
The first things to think about is the the blog provider – I use WordPress, but there are several others such as Blogger (owned by Google) or Typepad (all of these allow you to host the blog on a provided server, or host it yourself on your own server – at the beginning I would suggest to take the easy option and let them host it; you can always change this later); alternatively you can just start a webpage from scratch, with your own URL – an example of this would be yahoo webhosting).
Typepad shows a good (but probably biased) comparison, here, of the three blogging platforms that I previously mentioned (note however that the basic WordPress and Blogger options are free, while Typepad charges a monthly subscription fee). Wordpress seems to have a larger community however, and better support around the web (there are lots of blogs and websites with plug-ins, advice, etc.). Ultimately my choice was based on feedback I received via twitter. I would also imagine that most people starting a blog are not ready to enter into a subscription commitment (and Typepad’s 14 day free trial option is, in my view, just too short to really know whether it is something you want to continue with).
The blog provider will ask you for some basic details (name, email, security check and agreement to terms & conditions), and then you are ready to set up your blog, starting with the URL / web address, and a name for your blog:
- the URL (web address) – this is potentially locked once you start; you can always start another blog, but you lose traction with your visitors if you change the web address (mine is http://matthewbenson.wordpress.com)
- the blog name – this is less critical since you could change it later, but again, probably best not to, so as not to confuse your visitors (mine is “Matt Benson’s Musings“)
Once you’ve set up your blog, there are a couple more things to think about (but you can skip this, and you can also easily change/adapt these later):
- a design layout (called a “theme” in wordpress) – you can usually choose from several colours, different numbers of columns, ability to use your own photos in a banner, etc.
- plug-ins, widgets and extras that you want to include on your blog (eg, I have my ‘twitterstream’, a summary of my blog categories with number of posts, a list of my most recent posts, etc.)
Thereafter you are ready for your first post.
It’s really simple – the platform provides a user friendly interface (a ‘dashboard‘) in which you can type your blog posts (and edit or delete older posts), observe statistics (hits/views on your blog pages), adjust the structure of your blog, etc.. Since the dashboard is online you can access it anywhere (including any draft blog posts that you have not yet published).
Once you’ve tried it out, it’s worth considering what sort of theme you want your blog to be known for (here I mean what the core topics of your blog will be). You can set up the categories for your posts now, or later as you publish posts, but I think it is important that sooner or later you trend towards one or a few core topics (otherwise the blog can come across as a jumble of uncoordinated posts, and may either be uninteresting or difficult to read). Maybe you already have a clear vision of this. I’m still in the early stages of developing my blog, but currently I have a few core topics which are beginning to connect some of my posts, such as MBA and ‘search/information management’.