Perhaps some does and don’ts

Originally this post was titled: ‘Some does and don’ts‘. But I’ve just changed it to: ‘Perhaps some does and don’ts‘ because the more I get into this stuff, the more I know I don’t know, and writing a set of rules is a tad arrogant. But there’s certainly some good advice mixed up in here. Use your common sense. When I decide the extent of what I don’t know is slightly smaller than of what I do know, I might rewrite all this. If I do I’ll probably call it something like ‘some does and don’ts‘. (just to confuse things). But then, I’ll probably never consider myself enough of an expert to do this!

  • Strongly suggest: before you start using/buying the bits of software and services you’ll need (a webhost, some sort of webeditor, plus extra widgets and themes and God knows what else). Create a new email address and hang everything off that. Many of these want an email address as an ID and if you have a new one, it makes it all easier to manage. And some services make it a real pig to change afterwards. WordPress, take a bow. And if this is potentially some sort of commercial exercise, then link this email to perhaps a paypal account makes it easy to see where tax deductible money’s been spent.
  • After you’ve played around for a while with the editor, and written some posts perhaps, then stop! Sit down and spend a little time working out exactly how you want your blog to look. Have a ganders at other people doing the same sort of thing as yourself. And then design yours on a bit of paper. And – unless you’re a whizz at web development – keep it simple!  Remember the more bells and whistles you want, the longer it’s going to take you to build (or the more you’ll need to pay a web developer)
  • Learn from others! There are millions of websites out there, many of them blogs, and quite a few of those are about writing. And – in turn – many of these have a ‘See how I built my blog in two seconds, and now I have a zillion hits a day!’ bits, where the proud writer shows you how it was done. Don’t sneer. If you met them at a party you’d probably find them charming. Read and learn. PS: No, the irony has not escaped me: this is exactly what I am trying to do (be charming at parties) and probably won’t (I detest parties).
  • Comments. Almost as soon as your website is created, you’ll find comments coming in that look weird: sending IDs have loads of random numbers and the ‘comment’ has nothing to do with your blog at all. They’re spam. Download/install/whatever a tool for screening comments for spam, and to a large extent the problem will vanish. I use a thing called Akismet which is excellent. And/or you can install a plugin that throws up a work-in-progress  screen if anyone looks at your site. That seems to work as well. But at some point you’ll want your site to go public, so you’ll have to turn the work-in-progress screen off.
  • Take a little time to know the difference between themes, widgets, plugins, posts and pages; a good site when you’re starting is Scott Chow’s guide: start a blog in 20 minutes. Oh – and that reminds me – learn how to do links as well!
  • If you want to know how to do something techie with your blog, Google it, but always preface this with the webeditor you’re using, plus the version. So if I want to know (say) how to add an image to the title, I search for ‘WordPress 4.2.1 adding an image to the title’. And then you’ve got a fair chance you’ll get something useful. In the example above, none of it was, but I’ve since learnt it all depends on what theme you have.
  • If you’re looking for help on something, and you find a site telling you how to edit HTML and it makes sense to you then you’re way ahead of me already, and I wouldn’t bother with reading these notes about creating a blog.
  • As you’re creating the blog, it’s useful to have another computer around to see what your website looks like from the outside world. Or if it’s even available at all. I found plenty of plugins, when activated, meant the site couldn’t be viewed from the outside world. Particularly ones that try to force the users to logon. (A useful thing to install while you’re developing, as it prevents the causal browser from accessing your site and leaving comments!)
  • But don’t edit in one tab and view from another tab in the same browser. The one you ‘view’ from seems to pick up your WordPress session (on the other tab) so ─ effectively ─ you’ll be editing the same thing from two different sessions at the same time. Fine unless you get the two confused and end up with a mess. I learnt that the hard way, having just lost a whole post because I wasn’t paying attention.
  • There is a checkbox you can uncheck, which asks for the site not to be indexed by search engines. Doing this might well stop the casual user, although getting the casual user to stumble onto your site is exactly what SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is all about, so I wouldn’t be too worried. But you never know!
  • Always remember: most of the things you’ll want to do have already been done. So look for them, first in the widgets area, then in plugins, then in the help systems and Google. Usually you can solve your problems. However …
  • ……..  some plugins and widgets work with some themes, others don’t …… good luck!

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