Don’t pay any attention to anyone who tries to convince you to build your own HTML based site from scratch. There is no reason why you would want to do this (assuming your site has more than one page of content to manage!).
The only way to go is to adopt a site management system. This is true whether you host your own site, or use one of the online blog providers such as Blogger. You should only interest yourself in creating great original content that will be of use to people. The advantages of modern content systems are many fold:
- Easy to install and setup a site, you can get started in minutes
- A modern system will separate design and content, you can therefore restyle your entire site with a few clicks of the mouse
- Site wide values can be changed throughout with one update. In the old days a change of site name would require modification of every file, now it takes ten seconds
- An entire team of developers is working away behind the scenes on the next release of the software ensuring that your site stays up to date and secure whilst you concentrate on creating your own compelling content
- Access to an almost limitless number of plugins, gadgets and widgets created by an army of enthusiasts to add new features to your site through simple installation procedures
- Commercial aspects of your site such as affiliate links and ad banners can be manged centrally
What Blogging Software is Available?
There are a number of different options available, but to be honest you can’t go far wrong by going with the market leader.
By focusing on blogging software and not getting caught up in extending it to forums and more, the WordPress team have managed to develop a fantastic tool with an administration back end that makes running your site a pleasure. What does a WordPress site look like? Well Blogercise.com is a perfect example.
I had this site up and running within 20 mins allowing me to concentrate on writing up detailed guides and refining each of the ten steps on an almost daily basis. This is an organic site and WordPress allows me to focus on the one thing that matters, delivering the information to you.
Other online contenders that you might want to look at include products such as Tumblr and Blogger, however if you decide to jump straight into WordPress it is unlikely to be a decision you will regret.
Full Website Management Systems
For when blogging isn’t enough! Blogs are agreat way to get started and you can build fantastic sites around this model. However if you are interested in building a fully integrated community site then you will need to think about a CMS package. These will typically contain a blog style news posting system but will also manage things like downloads, forums, site wide commenting and rating, complex user management and class systems. These packages offer much much more for your website.
I will take you through a couple of popular examples:
- e107 – This is a less known package but is highly thought of by a dedicated community of users. It’s main advantage is a comprehensive core install that will give you great functionality “out of the box”. This and a great administration back end make it by far the easiest to set up and to use on an ongoing basis. With a big new release on the way it is an exciting time for this project and we could well see this CMS surging in poularity.
- Joomla – The current “big name” in the open source CMS world. With a large community and user base Joomla makes for a sensible choice. However there is a steeper learning curve with this product, you need to research carefully to find the right modules and plugins you need to make your site work. Once you are up and running however, there is more scope for enhancing your site beyond the limitations of e107.
- Drupal – This is another well thought of open source CMS, I have experimented with it but found it didn’t have the usability of e107 and if I wanted something more complex then I’d go for Joomla. However many people rate it highly so it seems fair to suggest it.
These are just three possibilities, there are many more and many good choices that may work well for you. Try out a few if you have time, else pick one of the mainstream packages mentioned above.
Integrating Forum Software
Forums can add a lot of value to your site. They can also be a big overhead and cause a lot of problems. So be warned! We will talk more about community building in later steps. It is possible to run a small forum around a WordPress blog, and decent content management systems will have forums built into them as standard.
It is perfectly possible to run a site based around a community forum. This is different from running a site that contains a forum, here we are talking about having nothing else. In this situation you might want to skip installing any other software and run something like phpBB.
The well known commercial package , vbulletin, now comes with a basic CMS package. I do actually own a license of this and have to say the forum software is very good. It is highly configurable and has all the options you could possibly want, even if the admin interface can be difficult to navigate at times. The CMS side of things is OK but not as good as I was hoping, still, it is early days and should improve with each subsequent release.
Paying Someone to Build Your Site
I have purposefully concentrated on two extremes, the free hosted solutions such as blogger, or the do it yourself CMS package install. There is of course a 3rd solution. You could pay for someone to setup your site for you. Is this worth doing? Yes if you are a total technophobe. Yes if you have the spare cash. Yes if you need something more bespoke to meet your sites needs. Yes if you are looking for someone else to build and maintain your site.
However the whole purpose of the Blogercise site is to demonstrate just how easy it is to get a site set up on your own. If you persevere through our 10 short steps you will know as much as some bedroom or offshore professionals. And ultimately the success of your site will depend on your personal drive and passion. With the right effort you will be able to produce a professional looking website that is perfectly capable of thriving in today’s online world.