We recommend two blog services for your Design Studies blog, Blogger (provided by Google) and WordPress. (There are other services available and you are welcome to use them, but we may not be able to help with technical issues).
WordPress has a few advantages over Blogger. If you are interested in customising your blog’s design then WordPress has a much richer support for templates and CSS (the code used to layout web sites). If you’re not familiar with CSS then you can apply one of the thousands of WordPress templates, many of which are free. If you want to make your blog a more professional site, then there are many paid-for templates that allow you to add portfolios, slideshows, contact pages and so on to transform your blog in to a full website. WordPress is used by many professionals as the “content management system” for their sites.
You can also host a WordPress blog elsewhere, which means you can buy your own doman (e.g. http://www.johnsmith.co.uk) and move the blog there, rather than have a generic “wordpress.com” URL.
On the downside, WordPress’s extra features can make it more complex to set up and maintain than Blogger. I usually advise people to start with Blogger until they’ve got the hang of blogging and understood how it could be used to maintain a professional web presence, then move to WordPress later (you can import old posts if you want to). However, if you feel you’re ready to start as you mean to go on, there’s no reason not to jump right in with WordPress. You can ignore all the bells and whistles to start with and keep it simple at the start.
(A third service you might want to look at if you really want to get serious about having a blog-based website is “Squarespace”. Their system is even more customisable than WordPress and easier to design the way you want to – assuming you know some CSS, that is. Squarespace costs a small monthly fee for the simplest set-up. I recommend taking a look at it when you’re closer to graduation and need to set up a really professional-looking site. For now, though, Blogger or WordPress are probably enough, but I mention Squarespace for those of you who are keen to get started on developing their own webspac
Watch a video
If you prefer to watch a video walkthrough of the process, take a look at this!
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a “content management system”. Basically that means it’s a piece of software that allows you to create a blog, post new entries, upload images, embed movies, and administer comments, links and so on.
When you create a blog on WordPress it is “hosted” by WordPress themselves – your blog sits on their webservers and they give you an address (which you can modify at setup) that includes the wordpress.com domain.
WordPress is used by a lot of companies to create their websites, but they often either download the software and install it on their own servers, or pay a “hosting company” to host their site for them. Doing this means they can have their own URL without the “wordpress.com” bit.
Essentially you can think of WordPress as a notebook or ringbinder in which you put notes – images, thoughts, ideas, discussions and so on.
For a quick introduction to WordPress you can read their support documents at http://en.support.wordpress.com/introduction
Go to WordPress.com
Here you can see some of the most recent blogs hosted by WordPress, learn more about the service, or simply go ahead and start your own blog by clicking the orange “sign up now” button
Sign up for an account
Actually creating the blog is really simple, although you might need a bit of patience if your choice of user name and blog title is taken!
1. Enter a username – this could be your own name, but it can only contain letters and numbers (in the image here I’ve used an underscore character “_” which you’re not allowed to do. I had to change it before I could proceed). It’s quite common to find your first choice is gone so be prepared to pick another. Make sure it’s memorable – write it somewhere safe! It will be emailed to you but trust me, it’s easy to forget it when you need it.
2. Enter a password. WordPress will tell you whether the password is weak, okay or strong. Generally the longer it is, or the less “word”-like it is (i.e. it’s not a word from the dictionary) the better. A combination of letters and numbers is best. I used a program on my Mac called 1Password to generate (and then store securely) a very strong password. Just bear in mind that you need a password you can remember, or access easily but securely.
3. Enter the password again to check you got it right!
4. Enter an email address. You will be sent an activation email so make sure it’s one that you can access when you set the blog up. You may need to check your spam filter and tell your email software to accept emails from WordPress.
5. Check that you’ve read the terms of service. (Or pretend)
6. Make sure “Gimme a blog” is selected (it’s the default)
7. Then click the “Next” button
Name Your Blog
On the next screen you can give your blog a name and address.
1. Choose a blog domain – this is going to be its URL, or web address.
Think carefully about this. My advice is, if you can get it, to use your name for your domain. E.g. if your name is William Hogarth then choose williamhogarth as your domain. As before you can only use letters and numbers (unlike my attempt above). Don’t do something silly like call it “someblog” or “designstudiesblog” – make it personal to you. If you have a company name in mind for when you graduate, why not use that? One student last year used “Beige Tomato” which is memorable and a good brand.
You can’t change your domain later – unless you start the whole process again – so my advice is to have a think before you start this process and decide what you’re going to choose here.
2. The blog title is what appears on the blog pages and title bar, and in Google searches. Don’t, whatever you do, call it “Design Studies” – we had about 50 of those last year. This is your blog, not ours. Again, your name, or what you do, or the name of your future business would be the ideal choice here. You can change this later.
3. Language choice should be English unless you want to write in some other language. If you’re not from an English-speaking country then it may be appropriate to choose your own language. Note that for the assignments you have to write in English but choosing a different language here won’t stop you doing that. So go ahead and choose your own language here.
4. The privacy box allows you to decide if you want search engines like Google to “see” your blog. We recommend you have this checked unless you have good reason not to.
5. When you’re happy, click the “Signup” button. Be prepared to have WordPress tell you your preferred domain has already gone! Having a Plan B ready is always a good idea.
And That’s It!
Well done! You should now be able to log in and start to customise your blog and create your first post. You may need to click a link in an email that WordPress will send you first.
Dive right in and see if you can work out how everything operates, don’t be scared. I’ll be posting more tutorials and videos showing you how to do various things. The good thing about your blog is you can work on how it looks over a period of time, and start your actual blogging straight away. So go ahead: write your first blog post.
What Shall I Write About?
Open a newspaper and find a story that means something to you (something that isn’t about Justin Beiber or Wayne Rooney). What is the story? Why is it important? What’s your response to it?
What books have you read recently? Why should someone else read it? Or avoid it?
What’s your impression of Dundee? Of the university? Of Freshers’ Week?
Remember you can delete posts! But try to figure out how to insert an image, or embed a link. If you get stuck, ask a friend. If you know how to do something, offer to help someone.