It’s time of a change of scenery. I’ve been using this blog template since November and I’m ready to evolve. So I’m in the process of looking at new designs and templates and trying to lay the foundation for this blog to continue to be a valuable resource to professional filmmakers and photographers. Over the next few days I will share some thoughts on what goes into my blog design and strategy. I would not pretend to be an expert on blogging and social media, but after teaching and writing on the subject for five years, I know a little more than most. 🙂 I hope you’ll find my babbling helpful. Today I want to talk about some basics that should go into the planning.
The Four P’s of Building a Blog
Even though I’ve had this blog for quite some time now, I’ll approach this topic from the viewpoint of someone just starting out. Many (if not most) of you also already have blogs. That won’t matter either. The advice I’ll give can be applied retroactively. Or like me, you can redesign what you have.
When creating your blog, it is imperative you determine the four P’s: the people, purpose, payoff and platform.
- People. Simply put, who’s your audience? Mine is professional photographers and filmmakers; and to a secondary extent, small business owners in general.
- Purpose. What is the objective or your blog? This is one area where I think most people are weak. Either they don’t have an objective, or they’re not sure what their objective is. Their blogs meander and the reader has a sense that the blog doesn’t know “what it wants to be.” The primary objective of this blog is to educate and inspire.
- Payoff. What will you get out of it? This is also something you need to be clear about. What will make the time and energy you put into your blog worthwhile. I get four primary benefits from my blog: credibility as an expert in my field, brand awareness, networking, and fringe benefits. In an ideal world I would also monetize the traffic of my blog, and at the right time that may make sense. But there are some specific reasons I choose not to (which I’ll address in later posts).
- Platform. What blogging platform will you use? WordPress? Blogger? Squarespace? Typepad? Tumblr? The options are numerous. I use WordPress.com, not a self-hosted WordPress blog. Tomorrow I’ll talk about why I switched from a self-hosted WP blog to a WP.com one, and why I chose WordPress vs. the myriad others.
Functional vs. Artistic Design
One of the main reasons that prompted me to update my blog design is that since November, I’ve come across three other blogs using this template. This brings up the issue of what I refer to as functional design vs. artistic design. The best analogy to describe the two is newspapers and magazines. Most newspapers, on quick glance, look alike. They have a functional design that has worked for two hundred years. Columnar format, big bold titles, subtitles, and some photos. Individual newspapers may have some nuances that set them apart, but on the whole, they have a similar look and feel. Magazine covers on the other hand, for the most part, look very different. It’s a lot easier to pick out a specific magazine from a rack of hundreds than it would be to pick out specific newspaper (in general). The size, the gloss, the logos, the colors, all play a much larger role in distinguishing a magazine than they do in distinguishing newspapers.
This current blog design (assuming you’re reading this PRE-redesign) has a very distinct look. It’s very artistic (which is why I picked it in the first place; as well as 288,000 other people as of this writing). Because of it, when you come across another blog using this template, your first thought would be “Oh, that looks like Ron’s blog.” However, there are a number of blog templates that are more functional in nature. For instance, WordPress’s “Twenty Ten” theme is one of the most popular used (almost 4.4 million uses as of this writing). I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve come across a number of blogs that use it. But due to the simple, functional nature of the blog, the design in and of itself does not stand out so much as the masthead photo. This simple design focuses your attention on the content. It also makes it easy to navigate. It’s like a newspaper. It’s this simplicity in design and function I want to bring to my blog. (And you know how much I love simplicity.)
Stay tuned for more insight into blog design as I address issues like: having a blog/website vs. blog AND separate website; subscription options; and choosing categories vs. tags. But first tomorrow: why I chose WordPress as my platform of choice, and why I specifically switched from a self-hosted WordPress site to a WordPress.com site.