I have an analogue for you, which is how I think of the various bits ‘n bobs you need when starting a blog, or indeed any website, as a blog is no more than a particular form of website.
Think of your blog as a painting you want to create and display to the public. You’ll need paint and brushes, canvas, a gallery to hang it and signage so the public know where it is.
The gallery is of course the internet.
The canvas is what they call a Web host. (Yeah, I know, you can build your own, but who wants to do that?)
The paint is your imagination and the brushes are some form of web page editor.
And the signage? That’s all the links and cross references and contacts you need to make. Just to expand this a tad: when you first put your blog up there, it’s like hanging your painting in the darkest of dark corners in the smallest of small rooms at the furthest end of the most out of the way corridor. But if you build a link to it, it’s like pasting a little arrow to your painting on a wall. And if more and more people also put up links, then there’s more and more arrows, and so more and more viewers will find their way there and – in time – your painting will be popular, and move from its little dark corner into the main gallery.
Yep, I know this analogue isn’t great, but it’s how I think of it.
So, what canvas I using for this blog? Well, for my web host I’m using TDMhosting. Why? Well it seemed to score pretty well in reviews (type something like ‘best blog web hosts’ into a search engine) and I liked the general appearance of the site. Also they’re keen on web chats. Dawdle there for a while and a little chat box appears with an expert ready to help. OK OK, I know they they’re probably (well, certainly) salespeople, but I’ve always been a fan of live chat, and they do seem to know what they’re talking about.
So you sign up (it doesn’t cost much), tell them what you want your site to be called, accept some defaults and you’ve got your canvas. Don’t worry about hanging your canvas in the gallery, that’s already been done.
Incidentally, the actual name of your site is very very important. If possible it needs to be both unique and punchy. Unique because then Google and co should find it and punchy to make it easy to remember. Names like this are hard to find: I thought ‘Toby Zara’ was unique, but I’ve just typed it into Google and I don’t think it is. How did that happen?
Now your picture wants painting. Everything before this is essential but actually fairly simple. To continue the analogue for a short while, you’ve bought your canvas and it’s hanging on the wall. You’re standing in front of it with a load of paint (your imagination) and now you need the means to apply it. That’s where the web editor comes in. For blogs it looks like WordPress is the standard. (Link when I know how) Most Web hosts seem give you WordPress for free, and will install it for you.
I’m probably not going to write a post about using WordPress as I’m so far off being an expert it’d be laughable for me to try and guide you through it in any way. Far better bloggers than myself have written about it, and WordPress itself has tutorials coming out of its ears.
And finally signage. I wouldn’t be too quick and eager to develop this. After all, you probably don’t want people to come and see your painting until it’s in a fit state to be looked at. Otherwise they might bugger off and not come back. So stay in your dark little corner painting away* and then – when you’re ready – start trying to hang signs up so people can find you.
*Exactly as I’m doing now!