Expectations from Hot Designers

Just like anything else in demand, others are trying to get in line for the same thing. Depending on the size of the shop and how popular the firm is, you might do a bit of waiting before you can wiggle in line. Be sure to allow plenty of lead time if you are seeking a truely custom design, especially if you want more than a simple blog. Elements that are beyond simple include an additional photo gallery, contact forms, etc.

Designers should
  • make you feel at ease and welcomed.
  • instill confidence, and you should feel as though you are in capable hands.
  • be talented, but they should also fit you, as well as your design.
  • be friendly.
  • match personality with your style.
  • make you feel like you are valued.

Even if your desired designer might be in high demand, it does not mean you should be ignored.

Most designers like to work via email and usually respond in a timely manner, but your designer should be willing to chat with you over the phone or meet in person if you are local before any contracts are signed or work commences.

A common practice among designers is to offer design questionnaire either through download or online form. This form usually includes questions on the kind of style you are seeking, the sort of functionality you desired for your blog, how fast you want the design, and how much money you have to spend. This form may be filled at your own pace and allows you to expound as much as you like. While this allows the busy designer to review your request in a straightforward format. The designer will then research on your needs, put up a thorough estimate, then send it to you and await your respond. If the designer is unable to take up your project, you should receive a response indicating so and thanking you for your interest. If you receive no response, do not want them anyway.

Hunt for Templates

A cool thing about templates is their simplicity to change. The fact that they are ready to go and often free makes them ideal for swapping them out on a whim. And the cool thing about blog community is its willingness to share. Many wonderful novice designers out there offer free or reasonable priced templates for download. A template generally includes all the HTML pages, images, and style sheets required for your blog and can be changed as often as you like.

The key to find the perfect blog template is to wade through all of the slightly-irregulars and get to the real, quality pieces.
  • Ask around. One of the best way to find quality designs is to ask. If you come across a blog that has a design you admire, as the blogger who did the design work. You can also look for links to templates or designers that may appear on the site credits, usually at the sidebar or the footer.
  • Google it! As with every questions in the universal, consulting the Oracle of Google, or another search engine of your choice delivers a bounty of resources.
  • Check with your blog software website. Most blog software websites include links to resources for blog templates, or even offer some themselves. You may also check discussion forums for your chosen blog software for links and recommendations.

Templates from off the rack
Each template site or designer has their own set of terms and conditions. Look for verbiage such as terms and conditions, policies, or usage rights and be sure to read them thoroughly. These designers offer templates for your download, so it is fair that you comply with their rules, especially if you are getting the templates for free. Some designers do offer limited support for paid templates, most free templates come with little to no support.

Blog Design Concept

The first thing you should consider when deciding on a new look for your blog is the name.

Domain name
A good rule of thumb is to consider what your domain name implies and then decide if that is the look you want your blog to have.

Blog title
For starters, it is best to keep your blog title and domain name the same or similar, just to avoid confusion and it makes the most sense. Titling your blog something that coincides with the domain name can also help influence your blog design concept. Occasionally, the domain name is just a shorter variation of the title.

Accessorizing with taglines can showcase a blog owner's sense of humor. Some taglines are clever nods to pop culture or self-deprecating one-liners. Others are more direct, simply telling you exactly what the blog is about. Taglines, if chosen carefully, can be a sparkling accessory.

Setting up a Database

General steps to set up a basic MySQL database through your web host:
  1. In your web host's control panel, find the place where you can manage your MySQL databases.
  2. Create a database, create a user, and then add the user to the database. Make sure to jot down the database name, username, and password; you will need these information when installing your blogging software.
  3. Install your chosen software. Each blogging platform comes with explicit step-by-step installation instructions and troubleshooting tips, both with the downloaded software and online.

The exact steps you take to install the software depend on which software you are installing.

Uploading files with FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

FTP is a method used to move material from one computer to another over the internet. In order to install any blogging software, you need to use FTP to upload your software files to your web host in order to complete the installation.

There are two formats to upload files in FTP:
  • ASCII is a character encoding based on the English alphabet and is used to represent text in computers. Most files are moved in this format to ensure they are preserved in an FTP transfer.
  • Binary is a file that typically contains bits of data that are meant to represent something other than textual data. In FTP terms, this usually means images and photos.

Be attentive to your blog software's installation instructions, as they will usually tell you which files need to be moved via FTP in what format, ASCII or Binary.

Pointing Domain to Web Host

A web host provides server space for your website to live. In order for someone to find where your website lives, they need the address, and you need to associate your address with its new dwelling. In technical terms, point your domain name to your web host.

Every registrar is different, but most let you edit the DNS (domain name system), which is a service that translates your domain name into an IP address. When you register a domain name, the registrar holds your domain name in place for you until you tell it which IP address it should point to. IP addresses are held by DNS servers, and the web host you choose has its own set to identify its location. To point your domain name from your registrar to your web host, you have to change the DNS for your domain name to the DNS specified by your web host.

When you sign up for hosting, your web host should provide you with information on what you need to do to point your domain name to their services. If not, they likely have it in the help section of their website.


WordPress is one of the pioneer in the blogging world. WordPress quickly gained popularity and was installed on hundreds of thousands of sites in the blink of an eye. WordPress is an open source project, which means it is freely available for you or anyone who can write code to use and modify. Due to its open source nature, it is always being improved by programmers everywhere, and a handful of web hosts provide installation of WordPress right on your site with the click of a button. Ask your web host or dig around in your hosting control panel for something like Fantastico, which is a program that installs software automatically on your hosting space without making you jump through all the hoops.

Even though it is a free open source project, WordPress is a pretty powerful tool for blogging and managing content. It is customizable, lightweight, and speedy. One of the coolest features in WordPress is the availability of multiple themes that you can change at the click of a button. The Themes Available number dips into thousands, so you can easily find a look that fits you.


ExpressionEngine, which is an extremely flexible and powerfully slick content management tool and blogging platform. It is a publishing system for the simple reason that it is much more than just a blog tool. Its flexibility makes it useful in just about every website situation or project, and it packs a powerful punch as a blogging platform too.

A slimmed down version of ExpressionEngine, ExpressionEngine Core is more of a basic blogging tool. ExpressionEngine Core is a free version for personal use without any technical suppport. It gives you the basic functions of the software, which includes these main components:
  • The weblog module
  • Commenting and trackbacks
  • Search and archiving
  • Spam control
  • RSS

You can purchase the complete version of ExpressionEngine. The full version includes unlimited technical support and provides some highly useful goodies on top of the core program, including:
  • Membership capabilities: Gives your readers the opportunity to register for an account on your site. You can save their profile information, give them insider access to private blog posts, and give them the chance to skip over the comment form on return site visits.
  • A photo gallery.
  • A wiki module: A wiki is an application that lets multiple users post and update information to keep it current, like a reference that is always being updated.
  • A mailing list: You can notify site members or subscribers of new content or make special announcements.
  • A really cool Simple Commence module: This allows you to integrate shopping with your site if you need it.

You will have to judge whether your blog needs ExpressionEngine or ExpressionEngine Core. Either choice provides you a fully functional blog, ready to use after you install it.

Movable Type

Movable Type has garnered widespread use and praise for its contributions to the growth of blogging, as a tool and resource to the blogging community. Started out as a simple blogging tool has grown into a rich and dynamic content management product. However, it still manages to keep the blogging simplicity intact.

Movable Type has a what-you-see-is-what-you-get, point-and-click approach for its setup. Depending on what licensing option you choose, you can run multiple blogs off the same installation. You can customize your blog with a templating system that is very accessible, right in the control panel of the program.

Movable Type has a handful of basic features:
  • Comments and trackbacks
  • Search feature
  • Archiving system
  • RSS
  • Email notification and subscribers
  • A bevy of widgets and plugins

Movable Type has several licensing options for download and purchase directly from their website. You can get a free personal license which limits you to one user with no support. You may purchase a personal one-user license which includes one year of support services. Although you can find your way without the company's support, purchasing the support license gives you peace of mind. You know that the company is available to resolve installation or performance kinks you may encounter. Movable Type also offers a couple of multiuser licenses, educational and nonprofit licensing. And the Movable Type Enterprise edition, caters to larger commercial needs.

With Movable Type, you can easily add nonblog pages to your site, although you may need to know a bit of HTML to get the full potential of those features. However, as soon as the program is installed and running, you can begin blogging right away.

Choosing a Blogging Platform

Choosing a blogging platform, also referred to as blogging software, is an important step, so consider it carefully. You have quite a few platforms to select from, and each has its own set of benefits that can influence your choice, given what you want to accomplish. If you plan on building a straight-up simple blog, almost any platform will suffice.

Now that blogging is somewhat mainstream, a handful of blogging platforms double as a method of managing other content, referred to as a CMS (content management system). Consider choosing a CMS for its ability to help you produce a full-blown website, complete with a blog. A CMS is a software package that allows you to edit and manage website content easily, such as basic site text and images, without fiddling with HTML code. If you plan on having more than a blog with the need to display extra pages of content, you may consider using a CMS to manage your whole website.

There are many blogging platforms out there, and a quick comparison o features can help you decide which platform will suit you best.

Ensure the Right Amenities

Most blog programs require a few things in order to run properly and at their full potential:
  • MySQL: Almost every platform requires you to run one database, which is a system that enables you to store data in an organized manner that can be accessed by a program, in this case a blogging tool. Most blogging software packages run well using MySQL, a type of database management software, and your web host should provide the ability to add a MySQL database to your account. The larger the package you purchase, usually the more databases the web host allows you to add. If you will be running multiple instances of software requiring more databases, you will need a more upscale package to accommodate it. However, for running a blog, you usually just need one single database.

    Installing a MySQL database can typically be done through your web host's control panel, an area of your hosting account where you administer items like setting up email addresses. Most web hosts provide an easy step-by-step section for creating and setting up a database. Setting one up is as far into databases as you will need to get to set up and run your own blog. Once you have it created, the hard part is done.

  • Perl and PHP: Many blogging software programs use Perl and PHP for their basic functions, so your web host will need these programming language packages installed on their servers. Most web host do; just make sure that the package you obtain includes them. You are not required t know how to use Perl and PHP, you just need to ensure your web host has and supports them in order o run most blogging software tools.

  • Some type of image-resizing module such as ImageMagick: A lot of blog platforms can automatically resize photos that you use in your blog entries, thumbnails included. This depends on whether your blog platform has an image-resizing module installed. In addition to ImageMagick, other popular image-resizing modules are Gif Draw and Graphics Draw. Whether your web has and supports this feature is something to investigate before you buy any web hosting packages, but if the host you choose does not have it, it is not the end of the world. It is just a nice perk that will make your blogging software run at its full potential.

  • A control panel user interface such as cPanel: Inquire with web hosts whether they have cPanel or some other type of control panel user interface. This interface enables you to manage your site, email, and databases yourself, rather than rely on someone in technical support to do it for you.