Thursday, May 3, 2012

How do I start my own crafting blog?

I was reading some questions in response to a post over at Above Rubies Studio that several people had about starting their own craft blog and it inspired me to do a post on the topic. 

Blogs are everywhere today and I've actually "met" several people through "blogland" that I still consider to be friends, even though we've never met in person.  That's the beauty of the internet and social networking.  However, it can be kind of intimidating when you finally decide to start your own if you've never done it before.  Luckily, you don't have to be a computer genius to do it (thankfully, because I'm about as far from a computer genius as you can get!).

There are many hosting sites out there to choose from and they have made it very user-friendly for us non-computer geeks.  A quick check of Google for "free blogs" reveals more choices than any human could ever need.  The most popular sites seem to be Blooger (where I chose to create mine) and Wordpress but, like I said, there are MANY more.  One sight, Mashable, published a list of over 40 free blog hosting sites broken down into various categories, so just choosing a hosting site can be more difficult than creating the blog itself!

Many, many moons ago I had a blog on MSN Spaces, however since it's been so long since I've used it, I'm not even sure I can find it anymore!  I remember it being very easy to create, however I think there were some limitations on who could leave comments, etc. (had to be an MSN subscriber or something).

Anyway, when I decided to jump back into the blogging world I did a little bit of research (emphasis on "little").  I have some friends who have blogs so I started with looking to see what hosting site they were using.  Blogger and WordPress seemed to win out (although there were a few others).  Then I went to the homepage for both Blogger and WordPress and looked around.  Both sites have a lot of information about what their site offers and you can even find short video clips and demos.  Basically I chose to go with Blogger because it seemed less "cluttered" to me.  I was also able to explore some of their layouts and page themes and just decided that it seemed easier.  That is just a personal opinion though, and just based on a few minutes on their site.  I'm sure many people could argue the same is true for WordPress, but the beauty of free will is that we all get to make our own choices.  Mine was to go with Blogger.  And just for the record, I do NOT get any sort of compensation for this opinion.  It is just that.  My opinion.

If you go with Blogger, you can "take a tour" on their page and it briefly explains what they offer.  Decided that you want to create a blog with them?  Just click on the "Create Blog" button and you're off an running!  You will get a screen that looks like this:

You have to have an email address, which most of us do, so that's easy.  Blogger is a Google company, but you do NOT have to have a gmail address (I don't and it worked just fine).  Then you will create a password.  Next you will see "Display Name".  That is NOT the actual name of your blog, but rather the little footer that appears on all of your posts.  Therefore, it doesn't have to be related to your blog theme or title (it can be your first name, for instance).  I just happen to like everything to "match" so I chose SWAK Designs so it relates directly to my blog title, but you don't have to. 

The next half of the screen is just your gender, birthdate (I'm not really sure why they need this except that maybe they have a minimum age requirement or something), a word verification (to make sure that you are, in fact, a real live person and not a robot...seriously, they do use the word "robot" if you type the word wrong and they don't think you're legit.  It's kinda funny, but anyway...), and acceptance of their terms.

When you click "continue" you will get to this screen:

This is where you will enter the title of your blog, the name that appears across your header.  This too is easy because they don't limit the number of blogs with the same title.  However, the web address (or URL) is a different story and can be a bit tricky.  You want it to make sense and go along with your blog so it will be easy for people to remember and find, but there obviously can't be more than one blog with the same URL, so this step might take a few minutes.  You can enter a choice and the system will let you know if it's already taken.  Then you will have to come up with something else.  For example, I chose SWAKDesigns first and, of course, it was already taken, so I had to chose something different.  It took a few tries, but I finally found one that worked and my blog was born!

Then you get to play around with the fun stuff.  Templates and colors and fonts, oh my!  If you click on "Design", located near the top right of the screen, you will get to your main "control panel" screen and from there you can click on "Templates".  The templates are laid out and you can click on them and they will change on your screen, showing you what your blog will look like using that template.  Once you find one that you like, you can customize it further by changing the font and color of your titles (but you don't have to).  It will show you your "live view" in a box sort of near the middle of the screen and the button underneath that "Customize" will allow you to do that.  It does take a little bit of playing around to figure out where everything is and how it all works, but you really can't screw it up.  Besides, there's always the "help" button if you get stuck.  So go ahead and take the plunge into the world of blogging!

I hope I was helpful and didn't make it more confusing.  Like I said, I'm no expert, but thought it might be nice to share some of my experiences with you.

Happy crafting (and blogging)!

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