What defines a blog is a matter of opinion, but in my mind the basic element of a blog is a stream of posts that are usually presented with the newest one first. This reflects the very first blogs that were really online journals.
What makes a blog a part of “Web 2.0″ or an interactive social-media site is the comments. Blogs without comments are still blogs, but they aren’t part of the social media landscape since there’s no way to interact with them.
But blogs have evolved quite a bit since their beginnings, and can now be the center of a multifaceted web presence with sophisticated content management and e-commerce capabilities.
How you set up your blog, the size and number of your columns, the specifications for your type fonts and headings and emphasis settings are all part of the infrastructure of your blog. All together its the bits and pieces, many of them behind the scenes, that make your blog “go.” Let’s make a list:
- Platform—This blog runs on software from WordPress.org. You can also blog on Blogger, Tumblr, Posterous, TypePad and numerous other platforms. I like WordPress because it’s widely used and supported, it’s open source and freely shared, and it’s easy to find resources from training to technical help.
- Header—The area at the top of your blog. On most blogs this is going to be used for a logo, the title of the blog, and where the visual branding is strongest.
- Text column—The main text display area, usually somewhere in the middle of the screen. You can set the width of this on lots of blog software, but keep in mind that the length of your text line has a crucial impact on overall readability. The optimum will show about 10 words per line.
- Sidebars—These are the narrower columns next to your main text column. You can have no sidebars, one or two or three sidebars, really it’s up to you and the limits of your software. Sidebars also hold more infrastructure items likes widgets.
- Posts and Pages—Many blogs, including WordPress blogs like TheBookDesigner can contain both pages and posts. These are handled quite differently by the blog software.
- Pages—These are fixed pages like those you will find on any website. They have a place in the hierarchy of your pages and subpages. Being able to create both posts and pages gives you the ability to create a hybrid site that contains both your sequential, dated articles (posts) and your fixed articles or other content (pages). For instance, most blogs contain an “About” page, and that is a fixed page of content.
A separate type of page is one created on demand by your blog, which is really a content management system. What does that mean? All your posts are stored in a central database, and can be shown on screen in response to different choices a reader makes. For instance, if you use categories to organize your posts, a reader can click the name of the category and your blog software will create a page that displays the most recent posts in that category, with the rest just a click away. These on-the-fly pages are also created by clicking on a tag, or by doing a search for some specific word or phrase. Clicking the headline of any article will create another type of page, the single post page, that shows the entire article and nothing else.
There are many kinds of pages that can be included in your blog.
- Informational pages, like those that describe your services or link to other resources in your field.
- Sales pages, for displaying one or many products for sale directly from your site.
- E-commerce pages, where you sell a whole selection of goods, like an Amazon page of books and products you recommend.
- Landing pages, often used in internet marketing to focus attention on one specific action the reader is supposed to take. These are often stripped of page navigation and sidebars. When the design of the page leaves only the option of taking the action or leaving the page, they are called “squeeze” pages.
- Opt-in pages are a special type of landing page used solely to allow a reader to sign up for a product, a service or some special offer.
Parent/child themes like Genesis create another level of software run by the parent theme that adds functionality to the blog, and also allows you to swap out child themes to change the look and feel of the site. When you get started, it’s fine to stick to a free theme. Just add a header to personalize it and start publishing, there will be plenty of time for all these other improvements later.
It’s important to know the parts of your blog. It will save you a lot of time when you first get started just trying to figure everything out.
Photo by binaryape