Setting Up A Blog as a Website Affordably
Choosing what tool to use for blogging can be overwhelming. The line between web site and blog has been almost completely blurred. Most systems give you the ability to customize design and add pages, just like a web site. There are several options out there, but I’m going to focus on two that are easy, affordable, and connect with social media.
A new version of this tool was released in mid-June and comes in two varieties. At WordPress.org you download software that is then installed on your own server. This gives you a lot of flexibility, but requires more technical expertise than you may have available. I’ll be focusing on their other service, WordPress.com.
The WordPress.com version handles the hosting of the site for you and setting up an account is free. After you set up your site you’ll want to add at least two upgrades. For $29.97 per year your blog will be free of ads. The other option you’ll want is a custom domain name. WordPress will charge $14.97 per year to register and renew your name. With this option www.yourdesignform.com will actually direct to your WordPress blog. This costs $9.97 per year if you’ve already registered a domain elsewhere.
You’ll find a large collection of themes which make it easy to personalize your site without hiring a web designer. Their list of widgets for adding RSS feeds, comment tools and more, is extensive.
You can also add widgets that will pull from Twitter, Flickr, and other social media, but you can’t feed from WordPress to these tools with the .com version. This means you still have to log in separately to these other systems, but once you do your feeds will automatically show on your blog.
This is a newer service and an even easier one to get started with. Once you set up your account and verify your email, you can login or send your posts to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can attach images and video and they will automatically convert and display on your site.
Posterous also includes several tools so updates can automatically be made to Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, Vimeo and other social media sites. You can also get a custom domain either through them, or make changes through the company you used to register your domain name. The fee for setting up and renewing your domain each year is $24.99. A cheaper option would be to get your name through another registrar such as GoDaddy, and follow their set-up instructions at posterous.com/help/custom_domain. If your domain renewal is around $12 each year your costs are about $1 per month.
Their list of themes is not as comprehensive as WordPress or TypePad, but their quality is high, and most are free. You can check out some of their examples at http://themes.posterous.com.
Social media linking is very well integrated, and doesn’t require plugins or widgets, just linking your accounts once.
Choosing an Option
WordPress is great if you plan on differentiating your site with a more custom design, or you have technical resources available and are interested in migrating to WordPress.org at some point. Plug-ins are not supported in the WordPress.com version, but export tools make the moving of your content easy. You can browse the over 10,000 plug-in list at http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins.
Although Posterous is more limited, it’s been designed for social media from the start. You get much of what you need to stay connected without adding any plug-ins or features. If you prefer ease over options, this is the best tool out there.
Since both are free, sign up for both without registering for a custom domain and see which one fits you best. You won’t want to have to move your content over to a new system a few months down the line.
Web Site and Blog Tips
Browse to other sites in other industries to get a sense of what captures your attention. Try looking at the company sites for web designers and think about what you like and don’t like about them.
Text and images of your work presented in a clear way and should be your first priority. Your site is not Facebook and it’s unlikely people will be spending hours there. Post your contact info and site links clearly.
Keep your web site inexpensive and simple. Either of these options is pretty close to free, and you can start by slightly customizing one of their design themes. You can always hire someone to create a custom theme and update your site without having to move your content or files, or change your tool.
If you decide to upgrade your site design to something custom, avoid using Adobe Flash. It looks great but it can make maintaining your site difficult or expensive, and can’t easily be indexed by search engine crawlers which negatively impact search ranking. Also, this isn’t supported on a few devices, namely Apple’s iPad and iPhone.
Seth Godin, a web marketing guru, has said it best: Many websites say, “look at me.” Your goal ought to be to say, “here’s what you were looking for.”