Do It Yourself! Setting up a blog

I thought it might be helpful to those who would like to setup a blog but have no idea where to start, or even the confidence, to write about the process as I go about setting up westonculture.

I’m doing it organically, so although I intend for it to make money, I’m not doing a business plan and I’m not really setting up many parameters for what it will be or how it’s going to do it. I have a fuzzy idea of what it’s about but other than that the rest is going to happen as I go.

So, here have been my choice points thus far:

1.     Pick a name, anyname

Choose something witty that will adequately describe what the blog is about. Okay, I’m not sure if I have achieved this but I like it and most importantly, it’s good enough to start with.

First Rule: Good enough is good enough.

2.     Register the Domain name

I had to go with rather than dot-com as the dot-com wasn’t  unavailable. No worries. I might turn it into a network, and a dot-net suits my agenda for keeping it personal. I chose not to go with an Australian domain (that ends in dot-au) as I’m not particularly focusing on Australia. Also, Australian domains are more expensive, and they can be a bit pendantic about needing a registered business name that resembles the domain name. Too much of a hassle.

There are plenty of cheap, reliable domain registrars. I chose as it’s cheap (or was before the Aus dollar crashed), easy to administer, and comes with one email account that can be forwarded. Oh, and I already had an account with them and had been using them for years with no problems.

3.     Find a host

If you choose to use a hosted blog, such as blogger or wordpress , then you won’t have to worry about the next few steps. You’ll be able to go there, setup your account and be blogging in minutes. So why would you choose to host elsewhere? I’m not sure how true it is, but I feel I have more control over my files by hosting on an independent server. Plus, I’m not restricted to doing a blog, I can do any type of website I want which might come in handy further down the track.

I already have a host for my business site which allows subdomains and I have plenty of databases spare on that account. So I’m hosting it there. I could regret this further down the track but for the time being it will work adequately.

4.     Choose your blog or content management software

I’m going with WordPress because I’ve used it before and it has plenty of functionality and support. I also considered Joomla and Expression – but just don’t know enough about these yet. It’s important for me to get up and running with minimal hurdles.

5.     Setup WordPress

I’ve setup WordPress before but it was with a different host where they had Fantastico scripts that did all the setup for you. This time I had to go through the couple of steps myself. I used two easily available guides to do this:

·      A Beginners Guide to Installing WordPress written by gav at every day is election day

·      Installing WordPress which is the guide from the official wordpress support pages.

At this stage you will have a very ugly, but functional, blog of your own like this:

wordpress basic theme

wordpress basic theme



Now it’s time to have some fun.

6.   Get a theme and some plugins to pretty-up your blog 

After you’ve installed WordPress then it’s time to pretty it up and getting it doing what you it to do. If you go to the WordPress support pages above you’ll see that there are thousands of things called themes and plugins.

Themes are, like they sound, what’s going to make your blog look pretty. Have a browse through the wordpress themes directory. I was after a very minimal look for my blog – just basic text and photos – so I looked through the directory and then googled ‘mimimal wordpress themes’. I came up with half a dozen that looked interesting. As per the instructions, you download the theme, unzip it (if it’s zipped) and then upload it to the wp-content/themes/ folder on your server. Then it’s just a case of going into the wordpress admin (by logging in on your blog’s main page) and having a look at each of the themes in action.

You can always tweek your theme later, so again, follow the mantra: Good enough is good enough.

Plugins are the little bits of code that are going to give your blog functionality. There are plugins for all sorts of things – from setting up mailing lists to search engine optimisation to avatar generators. Choosing and setting up plugins is a similar drill to that for themes – checkout the wordpress plugin directory. I actually did a google of “best wordpress plugins” and got a list of about a dozen plugins that bloggers think are essential. I’ve only installed a few of them – the add-to-any (feed subscriber, email page); feedburner; and the print page (which went awol on me so I’ve disable it until I can work out why it’s not working properly).

6.     Seriously pretty it up with logos and images

The theme I chose, came with a generic image for the header. It just had to go. So I did up a little montage of my universe to put there instead. (That’s the little cube pictures you see at the top of this page.) Sure, it took a couple of hours but it was sort of nice going through images and picking out ones that were significant to me. Like I said, this is my personal blog so I can be indulgent. If this was a business blog, I probably wouldn’t have such personal images, but then again, maybe I would…

7.     Write something

Anything. Just get rid of that first sample post and comments quickly.

8.     Keep writing

Okay, I’ve had a bit of a problem with that one. I’ve posted two things in a month. Pretty slack, I know, but if this doesn’t fit in to my life then there’s no point doing it.  So, when the posts are ready, they will appear. You have been warned.

Now, go to it. Any questions then just google it. You can do it.