I Blog Hard Part II

by Rachel on June 28, 2010

After convincing you why you need a blog and sharing the important things to think about before you start that blog, today I wanted to share more of the techie stuff about starting a blog!

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.
  • Don’t use Blogger. Just don’t. It sucks. If you’re on it, transfer your blog to WordPress (you won’t lose your posts or comments; don’t worry).

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.

Now read:

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.

Now read:

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.

Now read:

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!

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alicia at Poise in Parma June 28, 2010 at 9:34 am

“Don’t use Blogger. Just don’t. It sucks. ”
AMEN SISTA. I actually started a blog last summer on Blogger. I’m so glad I never kept it up because WordPress is SO much easier to use – both as a writer and a reader. Commenting is IMPOSSIBLE on Blogger, esp. for us Gmail users.

I need to chat you up about self hosting sometime. I already bought the domain name – now I’m clueless on the next steps. Thank God for you being a great blogger resource and posting things like this.


2 Jennifer@ knackfornutrition.blogspot.com June 28, 2010 at 10:00 am

This is such a helpful post!! I especially like the part about not using blogger “just dont.” I feel like I am trapped! I want to transfer to Wordpress but I am anxious because I don’t want to lose all of my posts. Maybe one of your readers can give me some advice?


3 Rachel June 28, 2010 at 10:03 am

@Jennifer — You won’t lose all your posts if you transfer from Blogger! I’ll update this in the post above but here’s a post explaining how to do it. Works really well!



4 Kendra June 28, 2010 at 11:33 am

The problem with switching and the reason that I originally went with Blogger is because of my custom design. I knew that I didn’t want to use a premade design and I could do that for free with blogger. Now that I’ve encountered other aspects of it’s suckage, though, I want to switch but have to rewrite everything.


5 j@nycandlove June 28, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Another blogging platform that you should consider is posterous (http://posterous.com/). It’s really simple and entirely based around email. If you’re new to blogging it’s a great place to start and integrates really nicely with social media.


6 Rachel June 28, 2010 at 1:40 pm

@J — thanks for the tip!! I haven’t personally used Posterous but I totally trust your word!!


7 j@nycandlove June 28, 2010 at 2:28 pm

It’s a tech start up that just got a boat load of funding. You post everything via email, you don’t need to set up an account or anything, and you can syndicate to all the other services you use like youtube, flickr, wordpress, twitter, facebook etc… automatically.

They add new stuff everyday, like pages and new themes. For beginners it’s perfect.


8 Trinidad Pena June 28, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Thanks so much for these blog how to posts! My blog is almost a month old and I’m finding them super helpful!


9 Bridget@PavementandPlants June 28, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Oh I figured out like 3 weeks into my blog I should have made it Pavement and Plants as the site url and left the pounding just for the header. Oh well, live and learn!


10 Trinidad Pena June 28, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Are you going be giving any tips on gaining a following and getting more comments? I know some people… ahem… (me) could use some tips.


11 Trinidad Pena June 28, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Um… Nevermind. I just saw your latest post.


12 Ruth July 6, 2010 at 8:21 am

Thanks for these posts. They have helped me focus more on the point of my blog. It is still a work in process but I am learning.

I left blogger on your recommendation and now I am finding wordpress easier to use.

Thanks again.


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14 AliSue January 28, 2011 at 8:15 am

Thank you so much for this post! I am been looking for a way to make the jump, and this perfect!


15 Sara April 27, 2011 at 2:18 pm

I honestly love you for posts like this. You are genuine and genius :)
Oh, but I love you more for your playlists….for real.


16 Rachel April 27, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Thank you thank you thank you for this. That was a really nice comment and made my day!

PS Was that a subtle hint to post some new playlists? Heard.


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