Blogging Made Simple
If you've been thinking about starting a blog and have wondered how to create one with a professional look and feel along with a reasonable level of customization, there are lots of choices.
There's Google's blogger, Typepad or its big brother Moveable Type, Wordpress, Joomla, .Droople and many others. After hours of research along with a significant amount of trial and error, I decided to jump in head first and try Wordpress. The basic software is free, open source and fairly easy to setup. To make things even simpler I signed up for a Godaddy hosting account and selected the Wordpress option. After a minimal amount of setup, I was ready to go, or so I thought…
Wordpress comes with a very limited number of templates that were not very attractive and well below the look that I was hoping for. There are a variety of sites that offer free templates, but I didn't trust their credibility (as support problems, viruses and bugs are plentiful in this arena) and decided to go for a couple of paid options. Both of them were from a company called Ithemes. They offer a number of professionally designed templates for $79.95 each as well as an "All Access" package which includes over thirty themes along with a developer's multi-use license which sells for $499.95. This may make financial sense for some developers; however I chose an alternative route called Builder. For the reasonable fee of $127.00 you can obtain a flexible theme and design structure along with five bonus child themes.
Installation was a breeze, however it took some time and effort to figure out how to customize the sidebars, nav bars, footer, html content, etc. Once I conquered these hurdles, things began to move along swiftly. After a short time, I've become pretty proficient with making layout modifications and other changes without having to modify any code.
Overall, Builder does a good job of making layout updates a relatively easy task, however it is not without its' limitations. Like all Wordpress downloadable themes, specific changes to database driven or hard coded content must be modified in the code, which is not something for the faint of heart.
So what makes the combination of Wordpress, Godaddy hosing and Itheme's Builder software so attractive?
1. Wordpress is free, open source software than can be used to create, update and manage your blog with relative ease.
2. One of Wordpress's greatest features is the ability to add plugins or widgets than can add extensive functionality to your site. For example, within minutes I purused dozens of available plugins offered on the Wordpress site and quickly added: a multi-language convertor; social networking and bookmarking options; features to make the site more search engine friendly and much more. Each of these can be installed or uninstalled within seconds, at the push of a button.
3. Itheme's Builder application comes from a respected company that offers online support as well as a variety of tips and suggestions in its' user forums.
4. It is relatively simple to use and flexible enough to create a wide variety of different formats.
5. Builder's price is reasonable and the quality of the output is far superior to what users can expect from free templates.
6. Godaddy is a premier website hosting company that offers very reasonable pricing (without long term commitments), as well as 24 hour phone support, a large variety of online tools and a vast knowledgebase of information. Advertising on the Super Bowl and having Danica Patrick as a spokesperson doesn't hurt either.
Ithemes is not the only provider of Wordpress templates and related tools, however they offer several excellent options for those that would like to start blogging with a reasonably good and flexible foundation.
If you're going to use open source code such as Wordpress, make sure that you use adequate upper/lowercase passwords with a few numbers thrown in for good measure. In addition, it is very important that you keep your software security patches up to date. Our test site had a basic dictionary type password that was recently hacked and a malicious virus was installed on the site.
This brings me to the next key point. Don't forget to backup your blog layout as well as your database content on a regular basis. There are several free add-ins that make this a relatively simple task. We did, and we are extremely happy for our ounce of prevention approach. Good luck and see you in the Blogsphere!