Building a Blog: Lessons for Communicators
The Text100 Sydney team recently launched a brand new design to its blog.
Developing a full-fledged website is far easier and takes far less time than ever before. Back in 2002, I built my first website for a school project comprising of three or four pages of basic HTML content. I wrote all the HTML by hand and (with a little help from my father) used a bare-bones FTP client to upload the index files to a free hosting domain offered by our ISP. My classmates were intrigued that anyone could actually put webpages up on the Internet, and the process gave me a good chance to spend some quality time with Dad.
Ten years on, the Text100 Sydney team decided to move from our old blog to something new. We hired a web development team and gave them our specifications; they both created the new blog’s current design and offered to host it on their servers (an offer we gladly accepted). Since we were using WordPress on both our sites, importing all our posts and pages to the new design was only slightly more complex than a cut-and-paste job. No coding, no tinkering with firewalls, and no stress.
In 2002, creating a basic website took around four to five weeks and a fair amount of technical savvy. In 2012, you can set up a professional blog within a day, without any specialist technical knowledge. Even complex web portals like e-commerce sites are cheaper and faster to set up than ever before. And with more businesses investing in their social media and digital presence than ever before, having a solid website to tie everything together is a must.
I’ve built up a few habits on which I tend to rely when working on both personal and professional websites:
1. Use a Content Management System: Content Management Systems (CMS for short) basically provide a user-friendly portal through which you can create, edit, and administer your web portal – sort of like word-processing software for the Internet. While there are lots out there, I use WordPress because it’s highly functional yet presents everything in a clean interface which users of all technical levels can quickly understand (particularly handy for blogs with lots of contributors, like ours). WordPress was designed for blogging, but with some basic tweaking it can also be used for “static” websites which don’t regularly post new content. A good example of this is my friend and PC Powerplay journalist Patrick Lum’s site, which he uses for hosting portfolio pieces rather than regular blogging.
2. Invest in the experts: No matter how much white space you use in your design, even the simplest template or layout takes a long time to put together, whether it be from scratch or by editing a pre-existing framework like the popular Thesis WordPress theme. It’s far better to invest some money with a trusted web designer to come up with something which not only works but looks good too. A designer’s value isn’t limited to cost alone, either: the designers we employed for the new blog weren’t cheap, but their ability to quickly meet and adjust to our requirements without any hand-holding made the experience well worth it.
4. Keep it simple! The design and functionality of your site should support your most important asset: the content you publish.
Although we have our fair share of web geeks at Text100, we’re always seeking to learn new skills and concepts which will strengthen us as digital experts as well as PR professionals. While the redesign of our local blog is a relatively small project, it’s just another step in moving our digital presence in line with the work we do for our Australian and global clients alike: we’re walking the talk, in other words. For me at least, the web development process has been smooth and fulfilling – though with slightly less family bonding than ten years ago.
A version of this post first appeared on the newly launched Text100 Sydney blog. Check them out!