This post is part of a guest blogging series I’m doing over at The Odd Dad Out and was originally published on November 3, 2010.
Last week I started a series about how you can help step up your blogs game. For the first installment the information was very basic. Today we’ll be digging a little deeper to help give you some more ideas on how you can get your blog where you’d like it to be.
Learn a little HTML
I know enough HTML, CSS and PHP to be dangerous. There are a number of great online tutorials to help you brush up on coding, which I find can be quite relaxing. One of the sites I like is W3 Schools who has step-by-step instructions for HTML, HTML5 and CSS, among others. However, I can’t always find exactly what I’m looking for in these tutorials, so I turn to Google and there are hosts of blogs that are great resources to help you customize your particular platform.
All of the sites I’ve ever developed use WordPress, so that is the platform I can speak to the best. The first iteration of Real Men Drive Minivans was a free theme, but after nearly a year of looking at the same old thing I decided to make the investment in a premium theme.
From many of the things I had read on the Internet, I chose to go with Thesis and ultimately grabbed the developer’s license, which set me back a total of $164. It was pricey, but it was worth it and gave me the ability to resell the theme framework to clients, which I provided at cost as a value added to my services.
The third iteration of my site was when I added a third party skin to the Thesis theme to give it a semi custom look. The skin cost me $50 and since it was designed to work seamlessly with Thesis installation and customization were very easy.
The fourth and latest iteration of my blog that I recently completed is based on the Genesis framework from StudioPress. The old blog needed a fresh coat of paint and while I liked the concept of what the Thesis skin brought to the site it isn’t as clean as I would like it to be.
I wasn’t planning to make a change, but I had the opportunity to grab a license for Genesis for a client I was working with and it was like a shiny new toy I had to play with. It wasn’t cheap. I shelled out $250 for their Pro Plus package, but for as many sites as I manage it was worth it.
So why am I telling you all of this? Because in my view the premium themes have added a lot to the look and feel of my site, my knowledge of how things work (Thesis forced me to learn some CSS and PHP) and gave me a greater ability to customize my site myself.
No sites I’ve ever built are going to win any design awards, but I like to think they are clean and functional.
Graphics & open source icons
I’m not a graphics designer, so any custom design was out of the question due to lack of ability and cost of hiring someone else. Since I harbor no intentions of using my blog as business platform the prospects of dropping a grand or so on a custom design was out of the question.
Still, I really wanted a nice logo that I could be proud to display on my site. I did a lot of research into cost, however, when a friend referred me to crowdSPRING I knew I was onto something. crowdSPRING is a crowd sourced design community where you hold design contests and graphics designers present their ideas based on your requirements. For $250 I was able to procure a logo and a header file for the blog that I absolutely love.
Just about every other graphic or icon on my site was procured using open source items that are available on the net. If you are looking to add or mix up your social networking icons you can try out Icon Finder or Google “social media icons” for a plethora of posts with free image packages.
All told creating a blog similar to what I have will run you less than $500 upfront (hosting, premium theme & graphics package) and $85 per year thereafter, assuming you do the rest of the work yourself.