TechTV | Choose the Right Blog Tool

“In the beginning, weblogs were created by Web professionals or by hobbyists who had taught themselves HTML. If you are one of these people, you will find designing and maintaining a weblog to be a breeze. You already have the knowledge to evaluate and the skill to use any of the current weblog management tools. Even if you plan to code your site by hand, take the time to investigate the available tools; they can greatly simplify the management of your site. But these days most new webloggers do not have a technical background and for them there is a vast mysterious expanse between ‘I’m going to start a weblog’ and ‘There! My first entry is up.’

There is only one rule when selecting any tool or element for your website: choose the one that most closely matches your needs. Since you are just starting out, your requirements should be clear: easy and free. As you gain experience you may want to invest in tools that are more sophisticated than the ones you will begin with. But if your weblogging experiment requires that you learn three complex software programs and a coding language or two, you’ll never get out of the starting gate, or if you do it will be months from now.

So, let’s start at the very beginning. To start you will need a place to host your weblog and a way to update it. When you look at any website, your computer is looking at specially coded files that reside on a computer that is configured to publish Web pages to the world. Your ‘host’ will be one of these computers (sometimes called a server). From this computer your weblog will be viewable by anyone who knows the URL (Uniform Resource Locator), or what you may commonly refer to as the ‘Web address’.

A few weblog management tools offer free hosting. Because all the details will be taken care of for you, one of these services is often the best choice for a beginning weblogger. Now, these services have some drawbacks: because they are free to anyone who signs up, the service may be slow and there may be outages (times when their hosting servers malfunction, preventing you from reading and/or updating your website). These services go through cycles as they become popular, their equipment becomes overloaded, they upgrade their machines, and then eventually become overloaded again. That said, to my knowledge these services all work very hard to provide good service for their users, and many webloggers have no desire to host their weblogs elsewhere.

All of these services have a link on the home page that will take you to a sign-up form. All of them require a user name and password, and maybe an email address. All of them will provide easy-to-follow directions for creating your new weblog. Spend a weekend or several weeknights signing up for a few of these services so that you can see what they offer and exactly how they work. Use Google to search for [“free weblog”] and [weblog “free hosting”] (omit the brackets and keep the quotation marks) to find the services that currently offer free weblog hosting.

Begin by making a list of the services you want to consider, and then go to each and create an account for evaluation purposes. You may be given a list of preferences to select from, or you may jump straight to the posting page. Some sites automatically create a list of recently updated weblogs. If you are given the option, make your test weblog private (which just means that your site will not be included on that list). For all intents and purposes, your site will be private until you publish the URL in a directory or give it to your friends. If you are very nervous about being discovered, title your test weblog with a fake name.

Play around a bit with the posting functions of each service and try out all or many of the available templates to see which one suits you the best. Try updating your new site. Don’t plan on posting anything of importance, just start clicking links and pushing buttons to see what happens next.

Do this with several services until you find one that feels like a good fit. As you look at your weblog management page, ask yourself a few questions about the interface.

* Can you easily identify how to create and delete an entry?

* Can you easily change the way your site looks?

* How do you add the name of your weblog to the page?

* Does this service offer clear instructions?

* Is it easy to find help when you need it?

* Do you need to read the directions before you can actually use the service, or are many of the available functions easily understandable just by looking?

* Are there user forums where you can ask questions?

Put yourself front and center as you evaluate these products. It doesn’t matter if the service looks well thought out and well documented if you have difficulty understanding what you should do next. It doesn’t matter how many other people happily use the service or how many of them think it is simple to use. When you read the directions do they make sense to you? Choose the service that you find easiest to use.”

Source: TechTV | Choose the Right Blog Tool

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