I Googled that very title to make myself feel better and it turns out that despite all the
questionable wonderful advice that’s out there for bloggers, nobody’s actually telling anyone else how to not be shit.
Or they were, because this ties in perfectly with January’s which-website-features-make-you-want-to-shoot-the-Internet post, which got you all talking quite a bit. So here is my half term gift to you all:
Part One: The Preemptive Strike
- Have something to say or showcase. It doesn’t have to be any more specific than just wanting a place to share things you like with your friends, or having a feeling that you’ve got something to say… As long as you’re interested a subject, you can talk about it convincingly. (If that something is “I hate my life” or images of your self-harm habit, please leave this website and write in a diary/journal, or seek medical help. Or both).
- Think up a decent name. Something you can remember, something other people can spell, something catchy. Thesauruses are good at helping with this. I think I got Indifferent Ignorance’s name by playing about with words on Word (although I thought it was called “Ignorant Indifference” when I wrote about it in my diary that night… ah, fate).
- Pick a the right platform. I advocate WordPress because I use it and I know it’s excellent for just about everything – although be careful about mixing up WordPress.com with WordPress.org; the ‘org’ one requires ‘self-hosting’ and technology and stuff, whereas anyone with an Internet connection can use ‘dot com’ for free. There are also many great Blogger sites, although I’ve noticed that they seem to have less to offer in terms of pages and adding things. Part of me can’t believe I’m about to say this, but: Tumblr can be good too. Some of the best websites are Tumblrs. It all depends on what you want to make – WP is great for full-blown ‘websites’, while Tumblr’s good for less formal things. I get the distinct impression that within Tumbr is a black hole of creepy GIFs and over-enthusiastic fandom members, so if you want to keep your hands clean, maybe use Tumblr for blogging with your friends and WP or Blogger for a portfolio site. WordPress or Blogger might also carry more website-weight in certain circles of society, if you catch my drift. There are also options such as Webs or Wix. Have a look for real-life examples of them all and decide which you like best. Be wary of website-making websites that charge you the national debt just to add some colour – you can probably do it for free somewhere else.
Part Two: the Shoes That Match the Bag
- Create a decent layout. I can’t even describe how tricky and important this is. Presentation on the Internet is everything, because there are 10,000-odd bloggers doing exactly what you are, and if your page is hard to read or use, people will leave. Some tips for a decent layout:
- Look at websites and decide which aspects of their designs you like and which you don’t. Implement the good ones. The Webby Awards winners are a great, if vast, place to get ideas.
- Don’t use anything luminous, stripy, moving, sparkly, dark or multiple colours in excess. Colours that look great in life, like yellow or fuchsia, tend not to work as backgrounds because they make people’s eyes roll around in their heads. This is a great guide to screen-friendly colours, and this seems quite fun. If you’re going for a dark background, use other colours to break it up. GIFs as backgrounds and cursors that are actually little pictures can also make one’s eyes burn, as can patterns without a break. Your writing has to be legible before people can read it…
- Don’t make links that go round in circles and don’t make links that lead to nowhere.
- This shouldn’t happen on a host site that does everything for you, but avoid menus and pictures that overlap with text or other links. Make the viewing experience easy and pleasant, like floaty cake. Save the offence and difficulty for the content!
- I just reread all that and it was preachy. Basically, don’t do this (it really is best viewed in Internet Explorer).
- With all that moaning aside, it’s good to utilise available customisation options. Custom headers and backgrounds and the like make your blog all unique and distinctive, unless you’ve nicked someone else’s design completely.
- Break up a lot of text by adding images or videos where possible. Press ‘enter’ a couple of times a post. Use the bold/underline buttons. Add links so to break up the monotony (like above – I was going to let you find the different types of host sites yourselves, but one may as well be a helpful citizen without being a hypocrite).
- Most host-sites are up-to-date with smart phone technology, but it might be good to double-check that your site’s readable on phones and tablets as well as on computer or laptop screens. Or this could end up in your comment box:
- Avoid hit counters, because they tend to have a similar effect of telling people how many people you’ve slept with. Site statistics are like bra sizes: you have nothing to be embarrassed about, but generally such information is best kept private.
Part Three: Alienating Your Audience
- Add an email subscription button so people can be sent posts via email – this happens automatically. It can be good to link up your blog with your other accounts too, so new posts get publicised as a Tweet or Facebook status with a link. Be wary of linking every single account with every other account, though, because people may read the same thing several times and experience Internet-claustrophobia.
- It can be good to make a blog email address. It’s a seriously bad idea to put your personal email online, but having another address associated with the name of your blog gives potential contacts, well-wishers and spammers somewhere to contact you that’s less public than the comments section. Ignore all spam, by the way. No matter how good the deal, you will regret those Russian girls/pharmaceutical drug investments/loans.
- Encourage comments. You will discover, little novice-blogger who is thinking of making a site, that comments are gold dust. The most down-heartening response to a piece of work is no response at all. Unfortunately, getting one’s audience to admit to being an audience is like getting politicians to admit they were wrong, and sometimes you have to moderate (delete) nasty or inappropriate comments anyway, whether they’re aimed at you or another reader. Which is interesting, because if someone has a problem with your blog, they can just… leave it. But comments are good, generally, and can be prompted by a question at the end of a post, or perhaps a welcoming comments section. Reply to comments wherever possible and make a sub-blog. Mix with the mortals and occasionally wash your hands afterwards.
- One of those basic ‘blogger tips’ is to interact with other bloggers to build a network of bloggie contacts. Don’t. Or rather, don’t search random words, open every site that comes up and click ‘follow’. The poor sod on the other end will open their emails, see a “You’ve got another follower!” message, feel validated as a human and realise thirty seconds later that your blogs have nothing in common and you were another mass-subscribing blog-robot. Search for things you like, by all means, and discover new sites, and interact with them, because bloggie networks are great. But be selective and genuine. People can tell a mile off if you’re faking it, even without eye-contact.
- Don’t hold posts to ransom. “I won’t post again until I’ve got xxx likes!!!!!” just ensures that you will never, ever, post again.
Part Four: the Content
- Ensure you press ‘proofread’ before publishing every post. Do not, ever, use text speak. U snd lk n idt n its aktully hrder 2 rite out n rd thn prper sntncez. Nothing says “f-in’ idiot” like a large amount of bad English. Typos are okay, typos happen and prove you’re not Catfish material. Just for the love of all things unholy, reserve text speak and red squiggly lines for spiting your most loathed teacher on the last essay of the year. Or for when you work for Fox News.
- Unless you are Gerard Way, do not post multiple times per day. You clog up people’s email inboxes and social media feeds. You also miss a PR trick, because regular-yet-not-completely-predictable posting habits are habits that won’t make you fat or die when you’re forty. They will reassure the reader that your blog isn’t a graveyard and is worth another visit. In fact, the only way by which you can legitimately post a lot at once is if you have a solid readership before you start (hence Gerard as the prime example, because his 2008/9 posts were gold. I think we can expand Frank to this too now though).
- Avoid, wherever possible, the ‘ism’s. These include but are not exclusive to: narcissism, sexism, racism, homophobia-ism and aversion-to-other-people’s-opinions-ism. Unless your blog is an ‘ism’ blog, of course, in which case please do ignore this point. Controversy – a reaction – is good. Basic rudeness is not, and it’s harder to spot in writing, so go with your gut. If you think you’ll regret posting something, do not post it.
- Don’t break the law. This sounds both stupid and blindingly obvious, but here’s the deal: libel is when you write something untrue about a person, and is basically a criminal offence. The thing with blogging (and this is also true of posting on any other Internet site in existence) is that what you’ve written is there forever/until the electricity, and therefore the Internet, runs out. You can always delete things you regret writing, and the average person won’t be able to access them unless they’ve taken a screen-shot. But there are ways to access deleted, or supposedly hidden, content. Local media laws apply to you as an Internet user – you’re essentially a journalist, even if you’re just commenting on pictures of cats, and you’re expected to behave like one… Take the interesting case of Sally Bercow, who at time of writing is an MP’s wife. She gained minor notoriety posing for a magazine interview in front of the Houses of Parliament wearing nothing but a bedsheet, and gained a court case when she Tweeted this:
in response to completely untrue Twitter-rumours that Lord McAlpine was a kiddie-fiddler. So, again, go with your gut. If you aren’t prepared to defend what you’ve posted, don’t post it (this also goes for general, non-criminally ambiguous posts:anyone can find your blog, and that includes the person you met at that party whose idiotic views you both quoted and ridiculed).
- If you use other people’s images, videos or music in your post, credit the original website and creator. Some people see use of their stuff as copyright infringement, so keep an eye out for the old “this image may not be reproduced without permission” and either get permission or find another image. Regardless of whether or not you ‘have permission’, always do a little caption with a name and link wherever possible. It’s polite.
Part Five: the Only Real Piece of Advice You Need Someone Else To Tell You
- Get off the Internet, go outside your place of residence and live. Then the rest will evolve, like the best types of music and worst types of ignorance.
I’m being serious. Go outside and enjoy the sunshine. Or the rain or snow or whatever. Take some photos, think deep thoughts… Come home, post a blog and wait for superstardom to call.
Or, as is statistically more likely, wait for your mum to call that dinner’s ready and spend the next six months to two years learning how to tag convincingly…
Let me know how you get on?!