Last week, we looked at why you should consider keeping a blog. Today we’ll deal with how to get started.
I should probably begin with an admission. I am not very techy. I mean, I can use a computer and troubleshoot the basics — power cord plugged in? Check. — but I really have to take my time when it comes to doing any fancy maneuvers. I do get there in the end, though.
Now, you may think I’m poorly qualified to help anyone get to grips with setting up a blog, but I think in this case not being an expert is a good thing. I don’t assume anyone has a great deal of computer knowledge and I’m not going to load them up with a whole bunch of incomprehensible terminology or 1337-speak. Yes, I totally googled obscure computer terms just to impress you. Look it up here if you’re curious.
We’ve come a long way since Doogie Howser wrote his journal on an antique IBM in 1989. Then, old — well, young, actually — Doog had only the most primitive tools. These days, the sky seems to be the limit when it comes to blogs. You can add pictures, videos, music, colours, and snazzy fonts to even the most basic of blogs. Isn’t that exciting? Oh well, to each his / her own.
You don’t have to spend much, indeed any, money to produce something elegant. There are several free options available to you. Each offers different templates (that is, the way the page is laid out), and picture options. The following are the most popular.
Arguably the king of the freebies. This is my own personal choice. It was the third blogging programme that I tried and I’m a big fan. It’s not perfect, of course, but it’s fairly flexible and will satisfy most needs. I’d compare it to a decent digital camera. You can do the blogging equivalent of ‘point and shoot’, but you can make modifications so it reflects your own personality. Take a gander at WordPress and see what you think.
If you like what you see and want to jump straight in, here’s WordPress’s 5-step guide to setting up a blog on their site: Blog Setup
Advantages: It’s fairly easy to set up and run, though you need to take your time and not rush things because there are so many choices available. WordPress has over a thousand templates, and you can make (limited) modifications to all of them, to make them your own. Once you have the site set up it doesn’t require much maintenance, and you can easily change your mind if you get bored with your initial choices. You don’t need to understand code or websites. You just need patience, some imagination, and an ability to read the site’s directions. WordPress has built-in tutorials to guide you should you get stuck.
Disadvantages: Compared with some other sites, there aren’t as many options for customization. We’re talking thousands, rather than millions. I’ve never found this to be a problem, but if you’re more adventurous, you may want a bigger toolbox. Also, it’s a minor quibble but it irks me: WordPress defaults to US English. I am not spelling ‘colour’ incorrectly, you knuckleheads, stop red-lining me!
All you need is a g-mail account to get started with this blog. It used to be very popular in its day, but it’s grown a bit stale. At least, that’s what my techy friends tell me. I checked it out when I was looking to start a blog some time ago, but found it a bit basic. That was a few years ago, though, so it may have grown up a little. It’s worth taking a look at blogger so you can make up your own mind.
Advantages: If you just want a nice basic blog without too many bells and whistles, this is a good way to go. It’s a good beginners site, if a bit limited. Not everybody likes a huge range of options, so if that’s you, this might be your best choice.
Disadvantages: From what I’ve read, it’s a bit past its prime. While other sites have expanded and offer all sorts of innovations, Blogger remains much as it was. I don’t use it, though, so I may be judging it unfairly.
If your primary purpose in keeping a blog is to chat with friends and keep a record of your passions, Tumblr is king. However, it’s generally perceived as the home of teens and therefore doesn’t present much of a professional image. It is very popular with a lot of people, though, and you may love it. Check it out here
Advantages: Very easy to set up and use. It’s excellent for pictures and graphics of all sorts.
Disadvantages: Generally seen as the province of the young, so not ideal if you want to be seen as a serious professional. It just depends on what you want your blog for.
This is one of those sites that people who love it REALLY love it, and those who don’t are a bit dismissive. For a time it looked like Google+ was the bees’ knees. Then I heard a lot of people saying it didn’t live up to its promise. Take a look at it here and make up your own mind.
Advantages: It really tries to be the go-to blog with something for everyone. Aficionados say it brings in far more traffic than any other site and people are signing up for it faster than Facebook.
Disadvantages: By all accounts, the number of options available can be overwhelming. You have to pre-qualify by having a google profile. The biggest downside, from my point of view, is it doesn’t seem to interconnect with your other accounts such as FB, Twitter, LinkedIn and so forth.
For a Price
I know what you’re thinking: Hang about, didn’t we already talk about WordPress? Yes, but that was the free version, dot-com. This one is dot-org and will cost you (around $10/month). With some 60-million users, it’s currently the largest blogging community on the web. It’s the go-to site for people who blog for a living. You get all the bells and whistles of a WordPress.com site, plus more, and a domain name on top of it.
Advantages: Domain name, professional appearance, links to all your social media sites.
Disadvantage: Could be a bit overwhelming if you just want to post about your favourite colouring books or Benedict Cumberbatch.
If you are a professional, or want to be viewed as one, SquareSpace offers a very elegant public image. It offers a free trial which can be fun, although I personally wouldn’t bother going to the trouble of creating a blog if I thought I might want to cancel it. YMMV. It looks very smart. See it here
Advantages: Elegance and professional image.
Disadvantages: You’ll pay for things you’ll get free on other sites.
More a website than a blog. It offers a lot of options, but you pay for them, even for things you’d get free elsewhere. Link: wix
Advantages: You can set up a very professional looking website with no experience and only basic computer knowledge. As with the other paid blogs, you own your domain name. Very handy if you’re running a business.
Disadvantages: If you’re not careful, the bells and whistles can run into hundreds per year.
I know all of this seems a bit overwhelming. I’d suggest you check out each of these sites over the next week and see how they feel. It’s a bit like test-driving a car. You can do all the advance reading on engines and specs, but until you get behind the wheel you’re not going to know how you feel about it.
We’ll talk more about customising your blog next week, but if you can’t wait to get started, and you have an hour to spare, you might want to watch this blog about setting up a WordPress.org account: Setting up a wordpress.org blog