Well, hello there! Guess you have some content for your blog, and now are trying to figure out what to do with it. I really debated whether to post this one first, or the content related posts (Platforming pt. 1 and Platforming pt. 2) first. Since you’ve got some content, and are thinking about what to do with it, I’d like to hope you’ve come to a good place to get started. I know there’s a whole host of other sites out there that can walk you though the basics, and I honestly do appreciate that you’ve elected to stop by here in your quest for help.
I’ll be basing my comments off the WordPress platform, since that’s what I know best, though the concepts can be applied to other blogging platforms as well.
So, let’s get started.
Designing a blog is little bit like being an artist – you want to know what it hope it will look like after it’s done. So, the first thing you’ll want to do is to go through and spend time looking at the many themes available for your blog. Some will be geared toward writing, others toward photography, some are a good multi-purpose set up, and yet others are geared towards businesses.
If you are just getting started, then you’ll probably want to look at the free themes first, and find a nice basic one that’s appealing to you. This will be the canvas you are drawing on with your content. The way you post your content will be the form of your artistic endeavor. The content itself will be what brings everything to live, like paint does for a painter.
Feel free to go peruse through the multitude of themes Here for WordPress, and see if any of them strike your fancy. I know the ones I have enjoyed (and sadly outgrown) include the Circa and Zoren themes before I wound up here on the Cerauno theme. So, if you find one you like, it may change eventually as you learn more, or grow. We’ll cover changing themes in a later post, don’t worry – it’s a ways down the line. You need to get your site set up and moving first. (And, yes, you can change your theme as often as you like.)
While you are looking at the themes, and thinking about what you want to do with your site, there are a few questions to keep in mind….
- What do you need your blog to do?
- Is this going to be a place where you engage with your followers?
- Is it only to showcase your work?
- What type of functionality do you think you’ll need?
- I know, I know… that pesky “What am I doing with this?” question keeps surfacing. That’s why I said think about that first, not once you’ve started the process of building your blog.
- What do you want to have visible?
- For authors, this point is something that becomes more than a rhetorical question. If you are working on building content for a mailing list, the blog is a convenient place to keep an extra back up copy of the unique content.
- Do you have multiple post series running, and if so, do you need/want them to have their own reference pages? (This may be a little advanced, but keeping it in mind now may influence which theme you choose to go with.)
Now that you’ve got the not-quite-so fun stuff out of the way, it’s time to start on figuring out how to make it all come together in a pleasing manner for you.
Since I am an author, I’m going to narrow down the recommendations I give, since if I tried to cover all the bases we’d be here for the next year on just this part. (And, I’d have a book for you to plow through, just trying to find the information you needed. No fun for anyone.)
As I said, the shell of the blog is the canvas you’ll be painting on. So, let’s get some basic outlines in place now that you’ve picked it out.
At the top of your new site, there should be a menu bar with options for “My Sites” “Reader” and a little flat line in the upper, left hand corner. You’ll want to click on the “My Sites” and open up the customization menu. (You may have skipped this step if you are just picking your theme.)
The first thing you’ll want is to give your blog a name. (See where this one says “Pukah Works” up at the top? ) When you select a name, don’t, and I mean DO NOT!, use just the current book(s) you are writing. Unless you want to have a string of blogs to keep track of for each book (or series), using the name of your current project will limit what you can write about. I know, it’s tempting. But, your blog is going to be the heartbeat of your platform, and so you want it to be something everything ties back into. Choosing your author name, or a theme for your blog’s name is a good choice. (Similar to what I’ve done – my author name is K. Caffee. The characters are the pukah.)
If you want to add a tag line, you can do so, but you don’t have to.
Use the little left-pointing arrow, and go back to the menu. The next option is the background. Feel free to play with this as much as you want to. Just remember, you have to be able to see the posts over the colors you choose. Most of the free blog themes come with a default set of colors, and a limited set of options for color sets. You can get around this to a limited degree, though it takes a little extra savvy to make it work. (No, the background I’ve got is not part of the default on this theme…)
If you want to change the background to something a little more custom, I’ll have a post for that a little further along in the series. (And will link it once it’s up.) For, now, pick from the defaults. Just to get things rolling. Same thing with the font selection, though you do want to keep in mind you want it legible. The easier it is to read (especially the post font) the better. Remember, not everyone has 20/20 vision.
Now that you’ve got the foundation in place, there’s one more thing to think about before you start really adding content. And, that’s what you want to be your “landing” page. This is the page that all the traffic that comes into your blog from elsewhere will land on, unless you have them pointed at a specific post. There’s two schools of thought on this – one school says to have a static page as the landing page. If you’re only focused on selling something, this can be a good idea. Every set of eyes that lands on your page will see what you’re selling, and they can make the decision to buy, or to go onto whatever post it was that attracted them. For an author, I’d not recommend this route. However, a static page CAN be a good idea. Instead of using it to sell your books (The “buy my book” screaming is a real turn off), use it to greet your readers, and let them know a little bit about you on an “About Me” page.
The other school of thought is to have the most current post be your landing page. Depending on your content, this works as well. Especially if you’ve got an easy going post schedule and just one or two post series running.
As you can tell from my own layout, I prefer the About Me static page. I have several series running, and almost daily posts, so for new comers, I don’t want to get them lost trying to find the start of a series. I also keep the posts fairly “hidden” until, or unless, I link them to one of the pages. I do this by choice, because I do have such a varied group of post series. Again, depending on how much time you have to invest in your blog, you will probably only want to have one or two actual continuing themed series at first. As you grow into blogging, and become more comfortable, you can add new content strings along the way.
Go ahead and click “save and publish” (it may just read publish depending on if you’re making changes, or just starting out.) and your layout is now live! You may have to “X” out of the menu to get to your actual blog. When I followed my own steps, I wound up having to do that.
With the decision about what you’ll use as your landing page (and, you can change it at any time easy enough) it’s time to actually do what you’ve been trying to get done up to this point: Put up your first post!
All those posts that you’ve been collecting in the drafts folder? (under posts> all posts > drafts) Click on the draft you want to publish, and look down the right hand side. (There may be variation on this depending on if you’re using the “old” or “new” posting method. I like the old one, so that’s where I’m trying to direct you.) You should see a couple more places you’ll want to fill in: “Categories” and “Tags”.
Add a category for your post – this is like the category you’d look for on a book shelf. (This post is filed in “Writing” on my blog, since it is roughly related to writing things). The tags help refine your content like tags do for a book. WordPress allows 15 total sorting markers (categories + tags), but if you want to guarantee your post shows up on the WordPress reader, you’ll actually want to keep it limited to no more than 14.
Now that your post is flagged for others to find, there is a big blue button that should say “publish” – click it to send your post out into the big blogosphere, and get to work on making the next post, and the next. The more posts you have, the better chances you have of being discovered – same as with writing – the more books you have, the better your chances of being discovered.
That’s it for this session. Happy blogging! Next time I’ll go a little deeper into customizing your blog.