Setting up a new Blog

Q. Reading various blogs every week has given me the desire to share my experiences and ideas. Is it hard to get a blog set up and started?

A. In a word, “No.”

wordpress-logo-stacked-cmykThe Options

There are quite a few places to start when deciding how to begin your blog. Blogger, Tumblr, Google, and Homeschool Blogger all provide free, fairly easy-to-use blog space. My favorite, however, is WordPress.

Who Uses It?

WordPress is a very popular and widely used blogging domain. In fact, some big names use WordPress software for their sites, including the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, CNN, Fox News, CNET and the U.S. Postal Service. My favorite site, of course, is the one you’re reading right now. Yep! This blog is published using WordPress.

DIY

Using WordPress is as easy as pointing your browser to WordPress.com and clicking on the orange “Sign up now” button. Just below the button is their famous 10-step walk-through guide, just in case you’re the type who reads the directions before putting something together. 😉

From there, you choose what you would like to name your blog, your username and password, and finally, the e-mail address you’d like to use for contact purposes. And that’s pretty much it!

DashboardSort of…

Well, actually there is more, but WordPress does a wonderful job walking you through it all. You are initially taken to the Dashboard and the environment in which you’ll work to manage your blog. From the Dashboard, you can see statistics relevant to your blog, as well as recent comments. You should see that you have one post: “Hello World!” This preview post is so you can jump right in, change the title (if you want) and text, and–with a sense of great accomplishment–“publish” your first post.

If you look further down the left column, you’ll see some additional WordPress options, such as adding pages (you can literally have an entire website built around the blog), changing the themes through the “Appearance” menu, adding “Plugins” for additional functionality, and fine tuning “Settings” to have the blog look exactly the way you like. You can also set up automated posts to your Twitter and Facebook pages whenever you publish a new post! (By the way, that option is found under “Settings”–> “Sharing.”)

What If You Get Lost?

WordPress has done a pretty amazing job at developing a robust support community and forum that provides basic to advanced options. It is organized by subject, but if you’re still having a difficult time finding the answer, you can always use the search bar.

Advanced Features

WordPress is fully featured with advanced features “baked in.” One is the ability to host your WordPress blog on a website you already have hosted elsewhere. Most domain hosts include a free installation of the software suite, which makes it easy on you. WordPress has done a great job of helping you administer your blog on the road with free mobile applications for Android, BlackBerry, and iOS. Here’s another feature you’ll find useful if you’re handy with HTML:  You can edit your posts using the HTML editor (to get it looking just the way you like). If you’re really motivated, you can even create custom themes using the built-in CSS editor.

There’s also a brand new feature that’s built into the WordPress hosted blogs (and can be downloaded as a plugin for the self hosted blogs) call Onswipe.  It’s a cool new them that automatically loads for iPads giving it a digital magazine feel.  You can set up the cover logo, launch graphics and colors via the Appearance menu.  Check out Dust Jacket on your iPad!

Calling All Bloggers

If there is a blogging tool you like to use, I’d love to hear about it! Please comment about what it is, how long you’ve been using it, and why you enjoy it. Any additional information such as the ease of initial setup, associated costs, pros and cons, etc., would be much appreciated!

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