Most blogs will have a similar framework that you can change and play around with that lets you add a bit of personality to the site or which uses graphics that reflect the direction you want to take.
The header across the top of the site will usually feature the website name, and can either be a graphic or just simple headline text with a descriptive line beneath.
One thing many website users associate with the header of a website is the chance to click on it and for them to be taken back to the home page, make sure your site does this and readers will not be left wondering why things are not working as they expect.
Usually running down the site will be a thin column, or two, that allows you to feature links to previous articles, your email address, photographs, pointers to other websites, including others you run, and anything else you think might interest readers.
Personally I am a fan of less is more when it comes to the columns, or sidebars on blogs, firstly I think it is important to get your articles and writing near the top of your site, the addition of buttons and rotating images can relegate links to your archive why down the page.
Also with a bit of a techie hat on, many of these buttons, photograph fees and video clips are fed from other website, which you can't control, so should the site be working incorrectly your own blog will try to load these elements and it can mean your pages take a long time to arrive - and your readers are gone.
A permanent page for articles
A key feature about any blogging software is that it creates a page for every article you write, that might sound a bit basic but it is something that many sites don't do.
This permanent spot on the internet for your work means that others can link to it safe in the knowledge it won't move, but also it lets others forward a link to your site in an email to a friend, or simply write it down for a friend.
Categories help you organise
Naturally your writing may cover different subjects within a wider subject so it would help if you could ensure this partition exists on your blog as well.
Well it can through the use of categories, which allow you to put different articles under different headings, and so a visitor can find everything you have written about a particular subject, cutting out those articles that don’t interest them.
And your blog can also archive your writing by date.
So your blog software will automatically generate a permalink for your latest piece, place it in your chosen category and put a date stamp on it and file it under that month or week automatically.
With these people now on your site you want to try and ensure that they feel part of it and let them interact with it in some way.
There is value in comments
The ability to leave comments on a blog site is another feature that makes them stand out from regular websites, but is the feature that most worries people.
Again thanks to your blogging software each article can have a comment feature at the foot so that people can add their own thoughts, leave useful advice for other readers or ask you to clarify something.
But all blogging software will let you manage these comments so you can make sure there is no bad language or plain old spam appearing on your site, and in time your comments can become a valuable resource for others.
Ultimately you can't know everything on a particular subject, so letting your readers add to your article with their own experience benefits everyone in the long run.
Bye bye favourites, hello RSS
Finally with all these new articles going on your blog you want to be able to tell readers when there is something for them to read, without relying upon them to remember to visit or pop your site in their favourites folder.
Again blogging software will have the facility to publish something called an RSS Feed, which is a way for your website to tell other computers on the internet that you have something new for it to check.
If a reader of your site is interested in following what you write they can ask their feedreader to check your site’s RSS feed and tell them when a new article is published.
I'll let the guys at Common Craft help you get your head around RSS feeds and how they work.
So when you next post a piece your new site visitor will get a message in their reader and with one click they can be reading your latest article.
Blogging software has many useful tools "baked in" that let you file away your stories effectively, link across to interesting websites, connect with readers and are attractive for search engines so that you can be found.
And a real advantage is that these features can be left to run automatically, giving you more time to write articles.
Part 1: First steps in starting a blog
Part 2: What to look for in a blogging service
Part 3: The key elements of a blog
Part 4: Sources for article ideas for your blog
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