I’ve been creating websites for years, since I started Tab World Online while in high school. That site was receiving 1 million page views per month before I sold it, though admittedly I knew comparatively little about web development at the time. So today, I decided I’d take the plunge, live in the spirit of the times, and start a blog. I pick up quite a lot of knowledge on a day-to-day basis that I thought would be worth passing along, so in that spirit I’ll share what it took to get this blog up and running:
The first step was choosing a blogging platform. I chose WordPress for two reasons. The first being that it’s probably the most common blogging platform, which I find is helpful for locating themes, plug-ins, and support. The second is that I was having discussions with a potential client about importing his current site from an outdated, cludgy CMS to WordPress.
Then it was time to get the ball rolling, so I followed the WordPress 5 minute installation.
Visiting my newly created blog showed a sample post on a very ugly site (no offense to the default theme creator). It was clear that a new site design was imperative to getting started blogging. I did a Google search for WordPress themes and found one released under the GPL called Almost Spring. I tweaked it a bit to fit my needs, starting with adding the Lumidant logo to the page header, which was easy enough since the header was in a file called (surprise!) header.php.
The next essential step towards getting started was changing the URL structure. By default links looked like:
This isn’t great for search engine optimization purposes and really it’s just not as pretty or as intuitive as the alternative I chose:
I’m not sure why the date and name based option isn’t used as the default, but it can be found under “Options >> Permalinks >> Date and name based”. Perhaps it is to allow WordPress to run on hosts without mod_rewrite enabled. I chose the custom option of just my post name as I believe it will be better for SEO since some search engines prefer posts which are not buried deeply in many layers of directories. I think sites should be designed for people first and foremost, so the shorter URL makes me smile.
I personally prefer tagging to categorizing and replaced the categories with a tag cloud by simply calling the handy function wp_tag_cloud(). I added the RSS images to the theme as well, which can be found under wp-includes\images.
Finally, I thought I’d see how many visitors this new blog would garner, so I installed the Ultimate Google Analytics WordPress plug-in and configured it by going to “Options >> Ultimate GA” in the WordPress admin screen. Among other reasons, this is preferable to simply pasting the tracking code in the theme footer because it allows you to switch themes. Only problem is that when I viewed the HTML output I noticed the plug-in was utilizing the legacy analytics code, so I had to update the plug-in source to utilize the newer tracking code. If you do this yourself, just remember to escape the single quotes in the analytics source with a ‘\’ character:
Undoubtedly, I will continue to make other changes to this blogging layout as I familiarize myself to the WordPress environment, but I’m an 80/20 type of guy and this blog’s close enough to 80% done to share with the world now.