Extreme Website Makeover (Part 1)

About once every 2 years I decide it’s time to update the look and feel of Newsome.Org. I’ve been doing that for the past month or so.

I’m good at computers. I built the one I use now myself. I used to be good at software, having written shareware and served as a game designer. But time passes fast when it comes to software and related applications. Now, every time I get into the recreation of these pages, I have to learn a bunch of new technology that has made my pages obsolete in the 2 years since I last went through the exercise. This time, I’ve had to learn CSS, RSS and XML (surprisingly, at least to me, the hardest by far for me was CSS). In the process, I’ve picked up a trick or two that I think makes website creation and management much easier for the technically proficient as well as the technically challenged. Hopefully, my trial and error will benefit those of you who decide to create a new site or update an existing one.


Here, in no particular order, are some things I have learned:

1) Use blogging software, whether you consider your site a blog or not. It automates the creation, addition, editing, archiving and deletion of content. In sum, it makes what used to be time consuming and difficult fast and easy. I use Blogger as a front end (although the pages are actually located on my server), because it is convenient and enables me to add content from anywhere. If you don’t have a server, you can easily set up a site via Blogger- and Blogger will host it for free. If you want more flexibility (and you are good at computers) there are other options, such as Movable Type and WordPress. My advice, start out with Blogger and work from there.

2) Look around for helpful add-ons that make your site more user-friendly. I use Haloscan for my trackbacks (Blogger has no native trackback capability). It’s free and seems to work well. On the other hand, I don’t want my comments hosted somewhere else, where they might be archived or deleted after a period of time, so I use Blogger’s built-in commenting system (in lieu of Haloscan’s) along with Haloscan’s trackbacks. The place to go to see how to do this, and to learn about many other blog add-ons, is the excellent A Consuming Experience blog, and specifically this post. I also use Forret.Com’s free trackback tool to send trackback pings to other sites that I quote or write about. One word of caution- use add-ons that make the site more useful for your readers. Resist the ones that merely add cyber-bling bling.

3) Once you get your site up and running, syndicate it. This makes it easy for people to subscribe to it in their news readers. I use FeedBurner, another free service, for syndication. If you use Blogger, the FeedBurner page has easy step-by-step instructions for getting set up.

4) Add some photos with Flickr. Flickr is simply the greatest photo site on the internet. You can upload photos for free, and show them on your blog via a Flickr Badge. Flickr integrates easily and deeply with your blog, so adding and managing photos is simple. Plus you can share photos with friends and family for free. You can also create sets of photos that are only visible to the people you select- family, friends, anyone or only yourself.

I’ll continue this discussion in Part 2 later this week. If anyone has any additional tips, please add them via Comment or Trackback.

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