Designing a blog: What’s it take?

The Jeffzilla blog is new. Yes, I’ve had this domain for a number of years, and yes, its been used for other projects, etc (and it still is), but this is the first real time there’s been a blog on it. Designing and implementing a new blog can either be quick and simple, or a fairly involved process. For this one, I started off simple, using just the wordpress default template, but have (and still am) modified it quite a bit.

So, here’s a few of the elements/resources that have gone into the Jeffzilla blog, so far….

Initial Setup: Since I use Dreamhost for both my web hosting and domain registration (is that too much info to put out on the web? security?), the installation of wordpress was easy.. it’s one of Dreamhost’s “one click installs”. Additionally, keeping upgraded to the latest version of wordpress should be easy enough in the future, as dreamhost simply has an “upgrade WP version” button next to my installation info in my Dreamhost account. My only concern is upgrades breaking my template in the future.
After the very easy initial setup was complete, Toby helped me set up the template and related files for editing in Dreamweaver (I’m on CS3). I’ve tinkered around with Dreamweaver before, but never really seriously…. This is my first real run at it, and I’m learning new things every day.

Figuring out the design: This is the phase I’m in now. Getting my look is taking a good amount of research and tinkering around. I surfed a whole bunch of blogs, looking at their template, what colors they use, etc etc, getting little ideas here and there. I’m going for a simple, usable, clear design. Some of the blogs I’m taking design cue and just think look cool are:

  • – Robjn is a graphic designer and mixtape genius. Her blog/site is minimal and nice, packing a ton of content into a simple, easy design. Light on your bandwidth, too. By the way, Robjn recently put out an amazing ambient mixtape, available for download here.
  • Other blogs yadda yadda try to act cool.

Now I’m in the phase of figuring out how to make all my design changes/optimizations etc. I’m fairly new to php/css programming, so there’s a lot of learning involved.

Optimizing it: “SEO’ing” the site has been a big concern of mine as well. Since I work as and SEO specialist, I think it would be good for my personal site to reflect all the advice and “best practices” I usually preach. So, I’m going through, making sure I have good title tags, accessable RSS, etc etc etc. One final element of code optimization that I hope to incorporate into the site is compatability with a wide range or browsers/readers. The blog must look good on normal web browsers (Firefox, Opera, Safari etc), however I also want it to be optimized for viewing on cell phones, mobile platforms, bandwidth restricted platforms, etc etc etc.

I’m going to try to track hits on the site using both Google Analytics and Quantcast. I’m experienced using analytics, and know that it delivers good, in depth information. Of note, when I signed up this blog on my analytics account, I was prompted to install a “new” analytics tag.. no more urchin. Apparently it enables some more advanced features… we’ll see how that goes. Quantcast is just taking hold, but hopefully it will catch on.

Posting to it: The most important part! What’s a blog without content?!?! So, to keep myself posting, I have to make it easy. I’m using three methods to post, which will hopefully give me ultimate flexibility and accessibility. First is directly in the wordpress interface, online. This is my preferred method, since I have the most control over the formatting, and can directly upload graphics etc etc. Second is Qumana, which is a blog editor program for Mac. It allows me to compose blog entries “offline”, and post them later. Good for plane flights, etc. Finally, I’ve set up a “post via email” system, whereby I can send an email to a special address, and whatever I send will get automatically posted up on my blog. This is the last ditch effort, but is great for accessibility. If I’m at a locked-down internet terminal and can’t get to the wordpress admin, but have email, I can still post. I can compose messages on my cell phone, so can post from there. And in bandwidth-restricted places/computers, sending a simple text-only email is often the most efficient way to get information out.

So, there you have it, my blog progerss as it stands. Check back soon, as you’ll likely see little changes happeneing as I get stuff setup.

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One response to “Designing a blog: What’s it take?”

  1. Amanda

    Nice meta-post on setting up a new blog. I think you’re right that content is key. And not just ease of posting to it either, but having a clear sense of what kind of content you’re posting for whom and for what reason. (You’d never build a site for a company without that kind of audience analysis, right?). My own blog (which I am deliberately not linking to!) is a stalled work-in-progress, partially because of the issues you raise about the time and work required to do it right.