In real life, we appear in front of our friends, colleagues, and strangers everyday. To appear on the internet, we write blogs, participate in social groups, write emails, buy stuffs online.
The easiest way to get started actively online, is by blogging. These are the things you can do: Start a blog on wordpress.com or other popular free blog hosting services. Write down what you think interesting or useful, and also that is worthwhile to share. Carefully go through all the options of your blog hosting software. Try out various options to see which one makes your site look better.
To start with blogging, the easiest approach is by reading a book and follow the instructions. This is a good one for starters: “WordPress for Dummies” by Lisa Sabin-Wilson.
After blogging for a while and you feel comfortable, and if you are brave enough, you may choose to host your blogs by a general hosting service. At the end of the dummies book, there are chapters about how to get self-hosted. Self-hosting will be a big venture, don’t do it until you are ready to spend a lot of effort and time. Or to get things managed better, you may convert your free wordpress hosting to a premium plan. If you really want to manage the hosting by yourself, you may also want to read another book, “Drupal for Dummies” by Lynn Beighley. Do some more research before determining how you want to manage your self-hosted site. Check your community libraries where you may find some more interesting books to read.
Once you’ve started, you may consider deeper on how you can improve your appearance. I grab below some tips from the “Drupal for Dummies” book. Though the tips are from a Drupal book, they apply to blogging anywhere on any platform in general.
Design your blog to be delightful and easy. Read this book “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug. It’s not easy to make your blog an easy place for people to surf to. You want your readers feel easy at your site.
Be aware of your audience. Types of visitors to your site may include: Random Visitors – who just runs into your site by accident and will not pay special attention to what your site is about. Researchers – those who find your site especially interesting by searching thus you may want to do SEO for your site to attract more of this type of visitors. And the Direct Users – those are your repeat visitors coming by word-of-mouth, by a link from a friends’ site or community site. Make sure your main page contains featured links to attract the Direct Users. Make direct links into your forums, your visitors can participate in discussions easily. Or make special links to your main product so you will sell more products.
Choosing site features among blog, brochure, community, gallery, news, storefront. Each of these site features have their special aspects that you must pay attention to:
- Blog: Give the visitors a place to voice up. Include comments or forums. Check out smashingmagazine.com for trends and tips.
- Brochure: This type is mainly a static information site that does not change over a long time period. Take a look at nps.gov/grca as an excellent example.
- Community: Often sponsored by a company and used to advertise, usually consists of forums, and most are part of a larger site.
- Image Gallery: A place to share photos and videos. May combine with community feature.
- News: An opposite to community because the content keeps changing. The focus is to publish links which the visitors can click through to read full stories.
- Store Front: For selling products.
This will keep you busy for a while. When you’ve done all of them, what next? – Check back in a few months.