Sunday, January 15, 2006

About page, Site design, and Other Stuff (Starting a new blog - Part 3)

[From: Starting a new blog (Part 2)]

After the relatively harder parts of creating my new blog was over and done with, I was able to take my time with Part 3.

In part 2, I mentioned about adding an 'About' page, choosing a template, and some other "behind the scenes" stuff (claiming my blog with Technorati, adding a blogline subscription button etc).

#1 - About page
I asked myself: "When I visit other blogs, what do I want to know about the blogger?"
What I look out for are as follows (and this is just a personal preference):
  • Who's the blogger (I prefer to tell people who I am, rather than remain anonymous)
  • Why did the blogger start the blog?
  • What's the objective of the blog
  • Any other information that they blogger wants the reader to know (e.g. comment/ email policy)
The About page will get indexed and retrieved by searching engines, so I made sure I used relevant key words that best represented my blog. This will help people who share similar interests to find their way to the blog.

I've also added my email and MSN Messenger IDs. So far, I don't have problems with spam. Gmail does a good job of filtering most of them out. I've not had cyberstalkers either.

While some bloggers choose to say little about themselves, my motivation for blogging is to connect with others with similar interests, or with those whom I might strike a rapport with.

In considering what personal information to provide, my rule of thumb is whether the information is already publicly available. Some good tips provided at this PAGI webpage.


#2 - Choosing a blog template
I tried out all the Wordpress templates provided. Discovered that some templates do not show the categories, while for some templates, certain site information (like the name) do not show up fully.

I prefer simple designs. Not too boring but nothing too wild or fancy that might distract readers from the blog content.

As of this post, Wordpress does not allow the blogs to be customised beyond the templates they provide. Which means I won't be able to do things like add my site counter, change the colours , change the stock image.

But looking at it positively, it means I don't have to worry about modifying the templates too much (since the option isn't open) and I can change the look of the blog at will without having to insert all the codes with each change.


#3 - Creating categories, Blogroll, and additional pages
Wordpress blogs allow you to create categories (you can also rename or delete them). It's a nice feature to organise posts for my reference, as well as let others know what topics I tend to blog about. But for Wordpress, do check what template you select, as some template designs do not display the categories and other information. As to the number of categories, I personally limit myself to 8 at most (anything more than that, I find the blog too cluttered).

I know a few bloggers who have stopped listing a Blogroll (i.e. a list of their favourite blogs/ bloggers). I still put out one for two reasons: (1) It's my own "quick reference" to my favourite sites/ blogs; (2) it's a useful "service" to help connect my readers to other blogs of similar interest or content. Again, I'd limit to less than 10 links in the Blogroll, and provide a link to my Bloglines folder where more links can be found, like this one.

Unlike Blogger, Wordpress allows you to create separate stand-alone pages (which also means it's usually "there", whereas blogposts are archived after a certain time). It's useful if you want to say, list all your favourite links on one single webpage (which means more space than a blog post might provide). In Blogger, the work-around I use is to create a blog post, and then hardcode the permalink to the blog template.


#4 - Other stuff
When I first started my first few blogs more than a year back, I'd try out things like submitting my site to search/ bloggers directories and search engines, claiming my blog with Technorati etc. But nowadays you don't really have to do this, especially when in the case of Wordpress, where you can't customise your blog. In anycase, you might still want to explore services like Feedburner, and try things like creating your Bloglines subscription buttons, like this one: Subscribe with Bloglines

You might also want to sign up to Technorati account and try out some of the features offered, like creating your watchlist and then maybe you'd want to participate in Kevin's TechnoratiTopDog meme.


What's more important is to search and visit other blogs of similar content (in my case, Art Blogs). Leave a comment or two. Join the conversation. It's a way to let people know you're reading their stuff and they might take a look at yours in turn. However, please don't leave blatant "Please visit my site" or "Please Link to Me" comments that, i.e. purely self-serving/ self-advertising comments. It's a sure-fire way to turn people off.