Welcome to another edition of Blogging for Beginners! From this post onward, I will focus solely on WordPress blogs. I talked about whether you should be blogging and how to select the right platform depending on the topic of your blog previously. If you decided to go with WordPress and are a bit confused as to what exactly you should be doing on here, this is the perfect post for you. I will be concentrating on getting the look and feel of your blog right (which may be something you’re struggling with even as a seasoned blogger), but I must warn you that I am no expert and if you feel like you should be focusing on content or marketing, feel free to skip this post.
I’m going to be talking about five main elements in this post. All of these can be found in the ‘Customizer’.
1. Blog Title
This is probably the first thing that springs to mind when you’re thinking about starting a blog and is also in the first step of creating a new blog here (I’m pretty sure choosing the URL comes first, let me know if I’m wrong). While it isn’t essential to match the URL and the title, I would certainly recommend it only because it’s easier to remember. If the URL for the title you have in mind has already been taken, consider small variations on the name. While deciding the title, keep the topic of your blog in mind. You can either be direct (such as X Author’s Blog) or use phrases related to it (like Pages That Rustle). The method I suggest is to jot down a few ideas on paper initially and then read them out loud. Select the catchiest title and ask one or two trusted friends for feedback, but ultimately go with what is most memorable according to you. Title is something that can easily be changed later, but changing URLs, although not impossible, is not recommended. This is why I’d encourage you to spend some time pondering over your blog’s title so that you can pick something that has eternal appeal.
A tagline is not mandatory, but I think it adds a little zing if you do have it. This is more flexible than the title because you can change it as often as you want. A tagline, according to me, encapsulates the scope or vision of your blog while also expanding on the title. ‘Musings of X’ seems to be a very popular type, which has now entered the realm of clichés. To be honest, I did start with that kind of line and the one I have currently is probably the third version. It’s also a common practice to use famous quotes and I find that the appropriate quote often stays with me rather than a random sentence. Since I’m addressing people who want to have a personal blog, tagline isn’t the most important element, but I found the experience of coming up with it quite fun.
This is something that can make or break the impression on your reader’s minds, so I would recommend giving this a lot of thought. In WordPress, there are plenty of wonderful and neat free themes, but paying for one can offer better options and flexibility if that’s what you’re looking for. Before selecting any, preview it on your blog and see if it works with the kind of posts you have. There are different styles in the themes available – single column, grid, etc. Keep in mind the topic of your blog for this one as well. While it might be tempting to pick the most fancy one, it may not always be wise to do so. For example, if you’re going to start a writing blog, make sure that the introduction to your posts are displayed and the font is easy on the eyes. If it’s a photography blog, ensure that your beautiful photos stand out on the page. Try on a variety of them before choosing the best fit. Adding personal touches such as changing the colour scheme, adding a header and so forth can always be done later.
Most themes support a main menu and it basically is this strip displaying the main contents of your blog at a strategic location so that it makes it easier for a reader to navigate your blog. The main pages, categories and tags can go here. For example, I post on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on here, for which I have separate categories. All of them are on the primary menu that is visible just below the header image. If you have an About page or a Contact page, I would recommend having those on the menu as well. You can even put in social links and have the pages, categories and such on a prominent sidebar if you wish. The thumb rule for this is that whatever content is most important on your blog should be easily found through the menu.
I could quite easily dedicate an entire post to menus and widgets because I believe they are essential to every blog, but often overlooked. Widgets are handy pieces of code that do a specific task and usually go on the sidebar or footer. If you’ve looked at my blog, the sidebar portion contains a search bar, a monthly archive of all posts, a list of all the categories and so on. You can think of it as an extension of the menu, containing the items that didn’t make it to the primary menu. Some commonly found widgets are the search bar, archive, links to all pages and social media links. I find that it’s easy to go overboard and put all of the available widgets, but I’d advise you to restrict yourself. When I was starting out, I thought the calendar widget would make a cool addition to my sidebar, but upon reflection, I realised that I wasn’t counting down to any event and since most devices have a calendar built in, it was serving no purpose at all, so I removed it. My recommended procedure is to add all of the widgets that seem appropriate on the first glance and then go over the list a second time, keeping only the ones that are absolutely necessary.
That’s it for this post. I’ll be back next week with all about posts and pages. If you are a newbie and have any questions, let me know in the comments section below. For the seasoned bloggers who are reading this post, do you remember how you decided on the theme for your blog? If so, do share your process in the comments. Happy weekend! 🙂