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Part 2: What do I need to think about before signing up for a blogging platform?
In the previous post, I talked about what a blogging platform even is and how it relates to the different parts of your blog: the content vs the design. Blogging platforms essentially contain both the content and the design and are a way for you to interact with the database so you can write new posts, publish content, and play around with the design.
Now that you know what a blogging platform is, we're going to talk about what you need to think about next. There are several important questions that you need to ask yourself and maybe think about for a few days or weeks before just diving in and starting a blog.
What types of posts are you going to be publishing?
Individual blog posts can take on several different format types.
Individual blog posts can take on several different format types. Are you going to have a text-only blog? A photo- or image-only blog? A blog that's mostly text with only a few images? A blog that's mostly photos with a few lines of text?
For example, if you're going to be publishing a fashion blog, are you going to be posting one photo per post, or are you going to have one post with multiple photos and lots of links and text?
Or, will you go completely another route and only be posting videos, only audio files such as songs or podcasts, or only quotes from your favorite writers?
Even if you aren't sure, it's best to brainstorm the types of posts you envision publishing and make note of them all. And it's okay if it's a mixed bag of post types.
What sort of budget are you looking at?
Blogs can be 100% free or can cost a few hundred dollars per year.
Do you want your blog to be completely free for you, cost you a little bit of money, or can you afford to throw some good money at it?
So, do you want your blog to be completely free for you, or are you able to shell out a few bucks a year, or are you able to put hundreds of dollars toward it each year?
Of course, if you choose to go the free route, your options will be a little more limited, but presentation (design) doesn't have to be sacrificed.
And you can always upgrade.
Here are a few potential blog costs to keep in mind:
- Domain registration. If you want your blog to have a .com address, this will set you back about $13 per year.
- Blog hosting. While each of these blogging platforms are free to use and you can attach a .com URL to them, if you want a more functional blog or more design control, you're going to need to have your blog hosted. What does this mean? Most likely you'll be looking at a self-hosted WordPress blog, which can be hosted through a site like Hostgator. This sounds technical, and can either be something you set up or that you hire a blog designer/developer to set up for you.
- Blog design. A blog design can set you back $0 or $1,000, depending on what you want and which platform you choose.
- There are lots of free blog designs out there (commonly called blog themes or blog templates).
- You can also buy a premade blog theme, which can seem costly but can get you up and running quickly with a custom-ish design (shameless plug: I have a couple premade Blogger templates for sale).
- You can hire a blog designer for a completely custom design, which can set you back anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand, depending on who you work with and the type of result you want.
- Finally, you can teach yourself web design and essentially create your own blog theme. But, the old adage of time is money argues that while spending time learning web design may be incredibly rewarding (heck, blogging is the reason I got into blog design), it does take a lot of time and practice. You just need to evaluate your own interest and capacity in learning to design websites.
What sort of growth do you need?
Planning ahead for the future can be tricky, especially when you're just starting to blog. But, it's important you take a good look at your biggest aspirations for your blog so you can avoid messy add-ons later.
It's important to think about your biggest blog aspirations so you can avoid messy add-ons later.
Think about a house. If you are just buying a house and you plan on living alone, your needs are going to be much different than if you buy the solo-friendly house even when you plan on having 4 kids and 4 canines. In the second large-family plan, it'll be easier to grow in a larger house if you already have a couple of extra bedrooms, instead of moving your family around a few times and trying to make sure things don't get broken or lost during each move.
So, in terms of blogging, if you want to expand your blog one day and offer services, host a portfolio, host a forum, have a membership aspect available, have an e-store, etc, your needs are going to be much different than if you just want to write.
Again, your goals don't have to be set in stone here. Just make sure you're having a honest conversation with yourself and where you would like your blog to go.
The design: What is the purpose of your blog, and what sort of vibe do you want to convey
Being a blog designer, I'm going to try my best not to go off on a tangent or a rant about good and bad blog design. Here goes.
How you want your blog to look is important to your overall presentation. Think about your blog's message, your voice, and its purpose.
How you want your blog to look is important to your overall presentation. Think about your message, your unique voice, and the purpose of your blog. If you're a writer, you probably want your blog to have a readable and minimalist feel, like medium.com. If you're posting photos of your artwork, you probably want your blog to be similarly minimalistic and give your artwork a chance to shine and breathe. On the other end of the spectrum, if you want to write an awesome blog but also showcase the products and services you offer, you want to have a good layout that will allow for sales and conversion.
Again, the design is something that you don't need to perfect before you start blogging, but you need again to have that conversation with yourself about your goals and the purposes of your blog. Think about how much you're going to want to be able to customize your design and what types of parts you'll need (like a newsletter signup box, a link list, etc).
The social aspects: How do you want people to interact with your blog?
There are several interactive social aspects to keep in mind, the most important ones being commenting, sharing, following, and liking. Some blogging platforms make it inherently easier to share a post, while others are better for commenting and on-site interaction, and others are amazing for showing like counts.
Think about how you want people to comment, share, follow, and like your content.
All of these types of social interaction are known as social proof, which is a marketing phrase for saying that people are more likely to like your post if they see that 100 of their friends like it as well. Another example: if you come across a blog that you think you may like, you may be more likely to follow it if you see that a thousand other people are already on board.
So, think about how important it is that people be able to share your post with their friends. Will it be important that there be a meaningful conversation that happens in the blog post comments? Or is it most important that "like" counts display next to each post?
Finally, think about where your potential readers are hanging out. For example, if you're looking to start a casual artwork blog, chances are your peers are busy tumbling posts on Tumblr.
How tech savvy are you?
Yes — how tech savvy are you? Do you want to just write, or do you want to be able to dig in the code and make custom design or functionality happen?
Do you want your blog to be up and running within a few seconds, or a few minutes, or an hour?
Also, like a lot of things, the more complicated it is, the harder it can be to fix. So keep that in mind for not only the initial set up of a blog, but also for the ongoing maintenance of it. It's almost like deciding to rent vs buy: renting an apartment has its limits, but maintenance is easier because your landlord will take care of it. Buying is more expensive, but can be more rewarding. You can knock down a wall if you want, but you're also going to be responsible for any damages you incur as a result.
So, just make sure to take into account your willingness and ability to deal with technical setup and ongoing maintenance.
Just like design, you can allow yourself a bit of wiggle room if you hire or enlist someone to do blog maintenance for you (hire a blog designer or ask a tech savvy friend to help out.)
What to do if you are stuck on some of these questions
If you find you are having some trouble answering some of these questions for your blog or are not sure which direction your blog will go, take a crucial look at some of your favorite bloggers and see what they're doing and how they're doing it.
If they're a popular blogger, there's a chance the basic information will be in a FAQ or About page. Or, you can always straight up ask someone what blogging platform they use, who their designer is, etc. Believe me, most bloggers love to help and will be happy to point you in the right direction to help you get on your way.
Next steps on how to choose a blogging platform
In the next two posts, I'll go into the four blogging platforms I have experience with and will outline how each platform will perform in each of the areas mentioned above. (Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress, and Squarespace.)
If you have questions so far, please ask in the comments.
Cover photo by Ella Jardim