First, figure out what you want. In our case, TCG’s social media team was looking for a blog to post updates on, especially in between our big monthly publications like the Bulletin and the magazine. We also wanted a place to pull together content from our other blogs, A-ha! and Teresa’s Travel Blog. We wanted multiple people to be able to post updates. If possible, we wanted to host it on our site. And we wanted to go with a major blogging engine. One of the benefits of going with something widely used is that it’s, well, been widely used. If you have a question about how to do something, it’s a good bet that several hundred other people have had the same question. A quick Google search should send you on your way.
Second, choose a blogging engine. A blogging engine is basically a service (such as Blogger, Tumblr, WordPress, or Livejournal) that will allow you to write, edit, and archive posts for your blog. To the relief of beleaguered Web departments everywhere, there are so many free, high quality blogging engines out there that in most cases, you can simply use one of the ones available, rather than coding your own from scratch.
We decided to go with WordPress. It allows us to do everything that we wanted it to do; it’s well reviewed, and it’s used by both Harvard University, and the LOLcats. Most importantly, for us, we could download WordPress for free, put it on our site, edit its appearance to our heart’s delight, and get it up in short order. What follows is a step by step instruction series of how to create, well, exactly this blog.
Step 1: Download WordPress. This can be done by anybody.
Step 2: Unzip the files, and put WordPress on your web site, using the handy instructions that come with the program. This could theoretically be done by a tech-savvy lay person, but if there is an in house web person around, so much the better. It’s important to note that site you want to put your blog on must meet certain minimum requirements. If you’re uncertain about whether you site meets these requirements, you can check with your hosting company. Some hosting companies already have WordPress installed; so it’s worth checking if yours is one.
If all this unzipping and uploading is too much for you right now, there are a wide variety of free blogging engines that don’t require any more technical knowledge than it takes to sign up for an email account. Their downside is one has less control over them – they can’t live on your site and it’s often more difficult to change their appearance. More on them in a later post.
Step 3: After installing WordPress on your site, you could theoretically begin blogging. You log in, you click on the Posts tag, tell it you want to add a new post, and there you are. Devotees of Microsoft word will be pleased to know that, as in most blogging engines, everything is more or less where it is in Word. If you want bold text, you click on the bold button at the top. If you want bullet points, you click on the bulletin point button at the top. If you want italicized text…you get the idea.
There is an “Edit HTML” option for advanced users, but in order to blog, all you really need to know is how to type. This is true across the board in major blogging engines, and it’s one of the reasons why blogging has taken off in recent years. The internet isn’t just for techies anymore.
Step 4: What is this thing going to look like?
The only problem with inviting people to view your blog at this stage is it doesn’t look the way you may want it to. Out of the box, your blog looks like this. If that looks familiar, it’s because many people who use WordPress never change this design. Let me make a suggestion: change this design. Don’t be unoriginal. There are several ways to change the design of your blog.
The quickest (under 2 minutes) way to change your blog’s appearance is to choose a theme from the WordPress menu. A theme is a set of fonts, colors, and images designed to compliment each other; all you have to do is click on one and say you want to apply it. These themes are free, and a quick online search will turn up many more free themes. There are even people who make their living designing and selling particularly beautiful and elaborate themes on sites like Themeforest. If your blog doesn’t have to look like anything in particular, you’re likely to find a theme that meets your needs online. It’s a relatively simple matter to apply the theme to your blog – either select an existing theme from WordPress, or use one that you download.
If your blog does have to look like something in particular (for example, if it has to match the rest of your site), matters are more complicated. For example, at TCG, we have specific guidelines regarding which fonts, colors, and graphics we use on our Web site, and we needed our blog to adhere to these. Depending on how closely you need your blog to match the rest of your site, and how complicated that site is, you may need to hire a Web person familiar with a language called CSS. Small changes, such as changing the font alone, could be done by a rather masochistic layperson with the help of a guide.
At TCG, we’re fortunate to employ a Web designer, who was able to come up with a hybrid solution using both a theme and original editing. Josh bought a theme called Thesis, made some changes so the text matched the rest of tcg.org, and created a new banner for the site. This hybrid approach might work for other organizations as well – a simple black-and-white theme is like blue jeans. It goes with nearly everything.
And that’s that. Happy blogging!
Katie Barry has been a preschool teacher in Vietnam, a theatre tech in Vermont, and, most recently, a web associate at TCG. When not writing descriptions of herself in the third person, Katie enjoys traveling, theatre, all things international, long brunches, books, and playing with her two kittens. She lives in Brooklyn with Yuki and is learning to swing dance.