I already talked about your blog’s inner beauty, but today it’s time to make your blog look pretty and shiny. After all, first impressions matter. This is a big topic, so I’m going to share some now and more later this afternoon.
So…onto the tech shizz!
Choose a blogging platform. You can go with WordPress (what I use) or Tumblr (uh, what I also use ). Choosing between Tumblr and WordPress is really just up to you.
Some benefits of WP: It allows for really good customization with different themes and it offers a lot of awesome plug-ins that do a lot of dirty work for you. (For example, my “Tweet this!” button is a plug-in. I don’t have time to dick around with coding that kind of thing.)
Some benefits of Tumblr: It is easy to use and has a major community aspect to it. The “reblog” feature means things can easily go viral. It’s also better for short posts. Seriously short! Like, a picture, a quote, a link. Short. If you’re wordy, this isn’t a good option.
If you want your blog to look more like a site than a blog (for example, if you’re starting an online magazine or plan to have a lot of contributors for your blog), you can choose a WordPress platform and a magazine theme, but it can be complicated, tech-wise, to make it work. I recommend Weebly for building a great site from scratch; it’s very easy to use and looks professional.
Think About Your Angle and Design Your Blog Accordingly. Instead of trying to please everyone by keeping your topic general, state your position up front and often. It’s important to think about this now because it will effect the next few steps — but you’ll want to think about it often.
Choose a name for your blog. Your blog name says a lot about you, but it’s also not going to make or break you. Keep it simple, short, and easy to remember. Bad: “carlylovesteachingalgebra.wordpress.com.” Better: “carlyteaches.wordpress.com.” Remember, your URL can be short and sweet but you can still put “Carly Loves Teaching 8th Grade Algebra” in your header.
Choosing a flexible title is also very important. Even if you start your blog in a niche, you might want to break out of that niche at some point, or reach a wider audience. (Uh, like I did .) And while it’s tempting to put your location in your blog’s title, remember that your blog is probably going to outlast your lease, so you might not want to get stuck with that. Sure, you could put your location in it (“DebbieDoesDallas.blogspot.com”) but what happens when you move out of Dallas?
Better, I think, to choose words that have double meanings (i.e. something like “Debbie’s Bits” could refer to Debbie’s bits of wisdom, or just her girly bits). I also like alliteration, like “Debbie Does Dudes, DVDs, and Sometimes Dogs.” Then her posts can cover all three of those topics. And this goes back to “stating your position up front.” (In Debbie’s case the position is…doggie-style.)
Decide Whether You Want to Be Self-Hosted. Being “self-hosted” means your URL doesn’t have “.wordpress” or “.blogspot” in the name. So you could be DebbieDoesDallas.com instead of DebbieDoesDallas.tumblr.com. There are a lot of benefits to being self-hosted, and it definitely makes your blog look more professional…but it’s certainly not a requirement. I buy all my domain names through Bluehost and I really love this company. They have great customer service. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Dreamhost too.
You can also buy domain names through GoDaddy, but, to be frank, I hate GoDaddy. Their commercials are offensive and their site is a clusterfuck.
Think About Your Design. You should spend your time visualizing how you want your blog to look. You should also know how much time it can take to make your vision a reality…it can take a lot of time! Still, there are many things you can do to make your blog look good when you’re getting started. WordPress makes it very easy with customizable themes (seriously, Google “free WordPress theme” and prepare to not leave your desk for the rest of the day). Decide what you want the look of your blog to be. Is it clean, bright, white? Is it dark and masculine? Don’t go for the same theme everyone else has either; take some time to find something a little different! This goes back to finding your personal style ; you want your blog’s design to represent you.
Of course, the look can always change, but don’t put up anything you don’t really like, even if it’s just for starters. Sure, you can always change it should always represent you on some level.
Think About Pictures and Graphics. Do you want photos or illustrations? If you go for photos, are you going to buy stock pictures or take pictures yourself? If you do illustrations, do you want to do cartoons or minimalist graphics? If you want a custom header for your blog with a logo, can you do something yourself in Photoshop? Are you willing to hire a graphic designer to create something for you? There are so many directions you can go with this, but the important thing is to think about it first and then to make a strategic decision and stick with it. Don’t be sloppy.
All right, after all that, I’m sure you need a minute…so take it! Think about some of these, read the posts I linked to, and I’ll be back this afternoon with more ways to make your new blog look awesome!