Sunday, April 13, 2008

Blogging

Setting up a web site is a lot of work. Once you get past the process of actually setting up a web site, you have to write something.

If you want very many readers, you have to write a lot, frequently, and regularly. If you want your readers to return, they have to be able to find what you write. And need I say this - if you want readers to return over and over, what you publish has to be attractive and organised.

In other words, your web site has to have Content, Structure, and Good Appearance.

That's a lot of work, and you have to do it over and over. Can you say "Sisyphus"?

As you add content, you have to make the content accessible. As you make it accessible, you have to keep it organised and attractive. Add more content, and you have to make the relevant content accessible from content with a similar subject. And more content constantly requires you to make it pretty.

And hopefully, you have a private life. Or, what do you find to write about? How do you make enough time, to do everything? If your job / life doesn't revolve around web publishing, you simply can't.

The Internet is full of dead web sites, or web sites that should be dead. Web sites which are huge, and badly organised or ugly. Or very pretty web sites, that contain nothing useful. Many web sites started by folks who ran out of time, energy, or content.

Enter Blogging. The initial blog setup is simple enough. You can find more advice in Blogger Help, or in dozens of other web sites. Here, I'll just say - Start from the dashboard, select "Create a Blog", and follow instructions. That's a 5 minute, linear process. Then, learn how to get the URL of the blog, so you can pass it to your friends. Been there, done that.

What you do after the blog has been created - that's the fun part. Still, it's way less complicated, using Blogger One Button Publishing, than it was working with my one web site 10 years ago.

Blogging, using a Blogger blog with a Layouts template, lets you separate Content, Structure, and Good Appearance, and make them independent tasks. You can work on each issue as you like, and when it suits your schedule. If multiple people work together on a blog, each person can be responsible for a different aspect of the blog.

The Content part, which is what you probably should spend the most time on initially, is the easiest to define. Write articles that contain information that's relevant to your reader's needs. Post each article, as written.

The blog Structure should be as important to you as Content. Structure lets your readers, having found your blog and read one or two posts, find other posts related to what they've just read. You need to group related posts, and separate unrelated posts. The blog structure starts with an Archives Index (an includable part of any Layouts template), which lists each post in the blog. The Archives Index is dynamic - as soon as you add a post, it's indexed. That's your base structure, and requires none of your time. Just write, and post.

As you continue, though, you can add more structure, both within the blog and outside it.

Note that, unless you setup a blog that's externally hosted, using FTP Publishing, you'll only have control over the data. With a blog hosted by Blogger / Google, you give up control over ease of setup. You pick a template, and you make posts. That's all that you do - you don't setup folders, or files - that's all up to the Blogger wizards.

If you have an external blog utility, like a Google Webmaster Tools, that requires blog ownership verification, you will need to install meta tags into the template, not named files into the blog root. You'll have no ability to install named files, or to make named folders in the blog structure.

The Good Appearance is one of the most fun aspects of Blogging. Every blog owner has his / her own favourite templates, which are built using Cascading Style Sheets. If your blog uses a Layouts template, you can republish the blog in seconds, giving it a new look, using the "Pick New Template" wizard.

You can add, configure, or reposition accessories (aka "gadgets") within the template, using the "Page Elements" wizard. You can change the colors and text using the "Fonts and Colors" wizard. And each change is separate from the others - you can change to a new template, and a totally different look, without affecting the widgets. Or, you can change the colors in the blog, without affecting the posts content or the template.

I'm not going to tell you which of these aspects are the most important - they all have equal importance. Just setup a blog, and work on the blog, as you like. Use enough balance in each aspect, and some work publicising the blog, and you'll have readers. Then, watch what readers you get, and adjust as necessary. And when you make changes, test the changes, immediately after you make them.

You may benefit from reading the Blogger Getting Started Guide, and the Official Blogger FAQ. And when you need help, read how to ask for advice intelligently, and how to learn from advice provided.

And from time to time, look at other blogs and see what they are doing - maybe you'll see a new feature occasionally. If you see a new feature that interests you, ask yourself how this new feature works. And when you see other blogs that interest you, you can peruse them from time to time, at your convenience.

And that's Blogging, in a nutshell. Now, follow the links, and read the other articles.

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6 comments:

miquinhas said...

Found your blog and it seems very useful for those like me that are not very close to internet issues (sorry my bad english).
Could I ask your help? I have a blog (old version) and wanted to put in it a code that would enable people to go to the older pages (ex: "previous entries" or "older pages"; "home"; etc.) and I have already tried but I was unsuccessful. Does it works only in new blogger version?
Thanks a lot.

Dota said...

I read your post and it helped me a lot.Thanks alot.

roxana's world said...

I am very new to the Blog world...

Can you tell me if I can show off my handmade jewelry, and maybe sell them through BLOG?

If yes, can you please tell me how to go about it?

Chuck said...

Hey Rox,

This is the sort of subject that needs to be discussed in peer support - Blogger Help Forum: How Do I?, for instance.

roxana's world said...

Chuck, thank you for your reply.

I tried to do it in that How Do I... and it won't let me go in...

Chuck said...

OK, Rox,

As an alternative, try my forum Nitecruzr Dot Net - Blogging, where there are a few folks there who can try to advise you.