Blog as Web SiteSeptember 14, 2009 at 10:40 pm | Posted in Blogs, Internet, Online services, Software, Web Apps, Web Design | 3 Comments
One of the more interesting trends in web sites is the shift towards blog-based sites. Blogs were started more as a journaling tool but their sophistication has gradually developed into a complete platform for easy small web site management.
This blog, for example, is mostly blog oriented with a variety of posts. But it includes the stub of a formerly large site under the ‘Web Ref‘ tab. A variety of other static pages could easily be added. One of those could be set as the “Home” page, turning the blog into a typical web site. A blog without a blog.
Blogs are pre-coded so are much easier to set up and maintain. It’s actually cheaper to use a blog like this than build and host your own site. You can change templates and tune and tweak it on the fly.
I’ve come to recommend a blog platform for most people looking for a small site that is word based. A big reason for this is ease of use. Many people pay to get a web site up then leave it languishing, unchanged. A regular site requires ongoing maintenance. Why not make it something you can do yourself? With WordPress, your time is spent on content rather than code.
Also, visibility. If you set up a new web site on the web today, congratulations. You’ve just joined the other 100 million web sites and trillion web addresses out there. Will you be seen in that crowd? The search engines pay more attention to blogs as they’re expected to update more often. You’re also recognized on other blogs and linked back to yours.
My favorite platform is WordPress. WordPress is open source and is used by organizations that include the United Nations, Ford, Sony, MTV, and many more. Yet with good content, even a one person show can draw big traffic. The current top rated WordPress blog is one man’s Typography resource.
WordPress comes in 2 varieties.
WordPress.com is the free hosted blog with yourblogname.wordpress.com, like this one. You can launch a site in just a few minutes. Choose a name, choose a theme and launch. You can later change themes on the fly as well as the sidebar features. On this blog, I added the Welcome section with Feedburner links, adjusted the sequence of the features, turned Categories and Archives into pick lists, and so on. I picked a theme with a custom banner option and put my own in. I also like the tabs for the static pages this theme has.
For a fee, you can add things like your own domain, a more highly customized look, more space, and so on. The blogs at WordPress.com create a kind of sub-section of the Internet as they’re cross-referenced in several ways. That further enhances visibility.
Technically, WordPress can place ads on your free blog but I’ve only ever seen one once. You can pay them not to but I suspect that only arises if you’re getting a lot of traffic.
WordPress.org is the open solution hosted on your own servers. This allows you to take it into far more customized, commercial, and volume territory. Most web site hosts I’ve used allow you to add or build the site from a WordPress blog directly. Little need for server configuration – just activate it in your Control Panel. But you can also roll your own.
The plugins available for customizing your own blog are immense, from a choice of any theme or layout, to adding eCommerce, galleries, feeds, twitter integration, and more. Presently, there are over 6,500 plugins. But you will need to maintain and sometimes debug some of them. If you’ve ever run into a problem on a blog, this was probably the issue.
If you do roll your own server, you will need to take care of server maintenance and the usual security updates as well.
Another nice thing about WordPress is that if you outgrow your free blog, you can export your posts to your own hosted blog.
Some people are big on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. If you’re a musician, MySpace has advantages. Personally, I’d stay away from Facebook. Some of the others are pure information collection systems. If you want to communicate with the world, communicate with something that’s open to the world. If you don’t want to communicate things with everyone, don’t put it on the Internet.
If you can figure out how to use webmail, you can start a blog. Tweaking the look may take a little more time to fiddle through, just as browsing the settings for webmail. But the basics are easy and quick to learn.