Below you will find a whole range of different resources for creating and operating your blog or website. The tools that I am including below are either tools that I use or plan to use in the future.
There are a lot of tools and services listed here, which I have tried to organise into some sort of order which you might need them. In saying this section 1 is for those who just want to get a website or blog online without a lot of trouble.
Almost everything after this first section is going to require a bit of extra work. If you are skipping section 1 you will need to look at section 2, 3, & 4 to get started with setting up your blog. However, remember that these are the tools you can use and doesn’t include how to use them.
Are you looking to get started with your own blog with the least possible effort and expense. I would highly recommend having a look at the service offered by WordPress.com.
In choosing to use WordPress.com over using a self-hosted version of WordPress is to know what you are getting into. I found a great post that highlights some of the limitations and positive aspects here. The basic aspects are that you face many more limitations in the themes and plugins you can use. Along with a lot less flexibility in how you can change the appearance of your website. If you want flexibility and choice I would suggest you look into creating a self-hosted WordPress website.
There are four different package levels available to you, which does allow you to get started for free or very minimal investment. I will just quickly explain each option to help you decide.
The free account will get you started if you are looking to create a personal blog. For people to visit your blog they will enter *yourblogname*.wordpress.com. You get access to some basic features and 3GB of storage space.
With the free account, you DO NOT have the ability to monetize your site. There will be advertisements placed within the site which cannot be removed though.
The personal account option gives you a little more flexibility. For people to visit your website they will use *youblogname*.com. You get access to the same features plus email and chat support with 6GB of storage space.
The WordPress.com ads are removed at this level, but you cannot put in advertisements yourself.
If you are serious about getting started with a blog or website this is the option I would recommend. People can find your site with *yourblogname*.com. You also get access to more advanced features, customisation and premium themes.
At this level, you have the option to monetize your site. With 16GB of storage for your site and access to Videopress service.
If you are looking to create a business website or blog this is the option I would recommend. It is basically the same as the premium package option, but you get a little bit extra, such as unlimited storage space. Including some business focused features as well, such as SEO tools, Google Analytics Integration and removing the WordPress.com branding.
The domain name is the address that people use to find your website. So in the case of my website that is www.joelbrown.com.au. If you are planning to operate the website on web hosting this will be essential. If you are using a free website provider this could be optional, however having it does give a much more professional appearance.
Net Registry – www.netregistry.com.au
Net Registry is the company that I use to register my domain names. This is the name that people use to find your website, for example, joelbrown.com.au. I started using Net Registry because at the time I registered my domain, .com.au domains were limited to only a couple of Registrars.
GoDaddy – www.godaddy.com
Another alternative that I have used in the past for registering domain names. However, I personally find their system to be a little more confusing and cumbersome to work with. But it may be the better option for those outside of Australia.
The website hosting is where all the files that make your website look how it does, and do everything are stored. This is one of the more technical aspects of getting a website running and if you don’t really understand what this is, it is probably the bit you are best to get some advice on.
Crucial – www.crucial.com.au
I have been hosting this website and a couple of others with Crucial since December 2014. They offered some good options for what I wanted from a web host. One of the primary ones was local support, which I have rarely needed. While it is a little more expensive than some of the other options out there, the system works and there have been no problems that I have experienced.
WPEngine – www.wpengine.com (Affiliate Link)
WPEngine provides a premium managed WordPress hosting service. They offer a very specific and targeted service to provide hosting for WordPress websites. The service they provide takes away some of the questions and hassles of hosting your own website. Whether you are running one small website or a network of sites there is a plan that will likely suit.
This is basically the framework for your website. It should allow you to add themes and plugins that will impact how your website looks and works. There are hundreds of different options available, but I won’t go through and list them all. You will only find one option below, and that is because it is what I have used for the past 8 years. For the foreseeable future I expect to be using WordPress.
WordPress – www.wordpress.org
WordPress is a free website script that will greatly speed up creating your website or blog. There are a couple of benefits to using WordPress.
- Being one of the most popular website scripts on the internet means a lot of people available to help when you need it.
- There is a very large range of free add-ons.
- Plus a great range of paid add-ons.
- A large variety of tutorial and how-to guides to walk you through using WordPress.
- All that can essentially help you make the site look and work just the way you want.
Although you can take advantage of a free hosted version of WordPress via WordPress.com, I personally prefer hosting it myself for a little more flexibility.
WordPress Theme’s, Plugin’s & Services
While WordPress does a lot and can easily be used as it comes, there are ways to change the look and make it work better.
Coschedule – www.coschedule.com (Affiliate Link)
If you have trouble staying on a fixed schedule for posting to your website/blog, Coschedule might be a way to fix this. The primary functionality of Coschedule is a calendar to help you organise your posting schedule.
Although I like the secondary function almost better, and that is a social media post queue for each post to help share your posts on an ongoing basis. Which can be created at the time the post is written, added to at any time, and moves with your post if you have a scheduled post that you move to a different day.
Elegant Themes – www.elegantthemes.com (Affiliate Link)
I have been using Elegant themes for a number of years now, for this website and a number of other websites that I have created. They work on a yearly subscription basis or lifetime membership option, which includes 87 themes and six plugins.
WPMU – www.wpmu.com (Affiliate Link)
Traditionally when you go looking to add functionality to your website you need to find a plugin that does the job. The aim of WPMU though is to include every possible plugin you could need wrapped up in one monthly subscription. There is a theme, over 100 plugins, 24/7 support & a lot of information on how to use everything. The biggest benefit is you are not limited to one site, the membership allows you access on as many sites as you like.
I initially signed up for just one plugin, WP Smush, but found many others that are rather useful. WP Smush is a plugin to help reduce the size of images on your WordPress site. When you upload an image to WordPress it automatically generates seven or eight different sizes to use. The conversion that WordPress uses is not overly effective with larger files than necasary. Essentially aiming to increase the speed of your site, while saving storage space. After the initial run of the plugin, this site with around 1350 images, I was able to save 250+ MB of space a reduction of 16.3%.
That is just an example of one plugin out of the 100+ and the positive benefits it has offered me. If I even use a handful and get good results like this it is a great investment.
Yoast SEO – www.yoast.com
There are many aspects to getting your blog running. However, one of the most important is being sure that people can find it. The Yoast SEO plugin helps you to ensure your posts are ready for Search Engines, by giving you an idea what ways you can optimise your post.
Social Media Tools
Another aspect of your website being found on the internet is building a following and sharing your content via social media. However doing this can take a lot of time and effort. While especially, in the beginning, this not something you can entirely get away from, there are aspects you can build to put on autopilot.
SmarterQueue – smarterqueue.com
If you are manually selecting a post and sharing it on your social media each time you need to create a post, there is quite a good chance that SmarterQueue will save you considerable time. When you post an update with SmarterQueue, you have the option to post that update and save it into a library of updates that will then be reused later on. In this way, your content can be shared over and over again (within reason and guidelines) to your social networks.
Buffer – www.buffer.com
Another aspect that I find quite useful on social media is sharing other people’s content. This firstly helps others, which is something great to do. It also can help to get you on the radar of other people on social media. However, curating the content can take time, and I have found that Buffer has really helped me to get this done quickly and easily. I still need to find the content, but queueing it up ready to share is a whole lot quicker.
Other Tools I Use
There are many other tools that can be used in different ways to help keep organised, store information and generally make things a little easier.
Dropbox – www.dropbox.com
Dropbox is a service that gives you storage in the cloud. To date I have only used a free account with Dropbox, as I have fairly minimal needs. It is primarily a method for me to share files with people and keep some documents for easy access between devices. But a free account does give a very minimal amount of space at 2GB. So I am looking to upgrade this in the near future.
Evernote – www.evernote.com
I have been using Evernote for some time now, as a place to store notes for easy searching. It works rather well between desktop and mobile devices. I used the Premium plan and find some of the features very useful. However, there are lower plans available that offer a few less features but still allow you to do the main job of archiving and easily searching notes.
Trello – www.trello.com
Trello is a service that I have been using for a couple of years now. However, it is not a service that I use all the time. It is great for building a workflow of processes and creating lists on the fly. When I am brainstorming I will often use Trello, because it is great to add a lot of points to a list. Than you can go back later and add more information to each item and expand the ideas.
Ulysses – www.ulyssesapp.com
When it comes to keeping writing organised I have found Ulysses to be a very useful app. The greatest feature for me over other platforms for writing is the lack of formatting within the app. You can write using markdown if you like, but otherwise you write and it is just pure text. It makes it rather easy to write on the desktop and later copy into WordPress for example.