This article assumes that you know nothing. Well, nothing about setting up a blog and its associated suite of web related paraphernalia, anyway. There are all kinds of add-ons and enhancements for blogs, but in this article, it’s all about getting started. After you’ve tried blogging, you can decide what kinds of enhancements you’d like to make. For consistency, and because I learned to blog with Blogger, this article focuses on getting started using Blogger and BlogSpot. 

What You’ll Need

For this chapter, you need access to the web. You can get access from anywhere: school, work, cybercafe, home, personal hybrid airship, whatever. It doesn’t matter. A fast connection is nice but not necessary; a phone line connection with a modem will work fine. As far as software goes, Internet Explorer version 5.x (version 5 and beyond) for Mac or PC is highly recommended. If you have a favorite browser and you don’t want to switch, give it a try, but IE 5.x is a better bet.

Getting Started

Many blog newbies are web publishing newbies as well. In other words, they can fill out forms and click buttons online, but the mysteries of actually building and uploading files to the web are beyond them. This is probably why Blog*Spot is such a popular destination for beginners. It’s easy to set up and it’s free.

Blogger is a leading blog provider that has been making publishing to the web in the form of a blog easy since 1999. Blog Spot spun off a little later to accommodate the waves of people who wanted to get started without a learning curve. Blog Spot is a fast and easy way to create a blog. It brings Blogger technology to people who don’t already have hosting.

If you’re new to blogging and web publishing in general, Blog*Spot is the place to start. So let’s get started by creating a blog that doesn’t cost you anything and doesn’t require you to have web hosting.

Sign Up for an Account

First, you need to create a new user account at Blogger.com. This is just like creating an account at any site. Simply fill out the forms and click Sign Up

Type a name and password (twice) into a form, and you’ll be taken to Blogger.com’s home page.

*Can’t Use That Username: If the username you entered is taken, you’ll have to pick another in the signup form along the right side of the Blogger.com home page.

Creating a New Blog

Now that you have a username and you’re logged in, the next step is to create your blog. In the same area that you originally signed up, you see a Create a Blog link. The following steps take you through the necessary tasks for creating a blog:

1. The first step is to give your new baby blog a name, a description, and mark it as public or private. You can change or edit these settings later. Don’t take the “Private” thing too seriously; it only means that you’ll be left out of Blogger’s directory and recently created or updated lists, which means you shouldn’t publish text you don’t want anyone to read via Blogger.

Genius Tip

What Should I Put as a Description? For your description, enter the topics you’re most likely to write about on your blog. You can write a bit about yourself so that if people are browsing the directory, they’ll get an idea of what they’re going to find if they click your link.

Choose to have your blog hosted at Blog Spot.

Remember that Blog*Spot is only a free blog host; they do not offer email or file storage for anything but your blog, and they put banner ads at the top of your blog page. (Ads can be turned off for a small fee.)

Use BlogSpot for Your Trial Run

BlogSpot is a great way to try out Blogger and experiment with web building for free. If blogging gets you interested in publishing on the web and you decide that you want to build pages for essays, stories, poems, pictures, and the like, you can shop for a low-price hosting service that provides storage space for all these things, and you can still use Blogger to power your blog. 

Now, pick a name for your blog’s address or URL.

It will be http://yourname.blogspot.com where yourname will be whatever you type in. As always, read and check the terms of service before you continue.

URL Naming Rules

No punctuation or special characters are allowed in your blog’s name. You can change the name later in your settings, but your URL will not change.

Posting from within the Blogger Interface

The easiest way for beginners to post is to use the Blogger interface. When you’re signed in to Blogger, you see a list called Your Blogs on the right side of the page. Click your blog’s title (or pick one if you’ve got several), and you’ll be “inside” Blogger. This is where you can post, publish, and access all your account settings.

Blogger Puts You There

You’ll automatically land “inside” the interface after your initial signup.

Inside Blogger, the interface splits the screen. The top part is a form element you use to enter information, and the bottom part shows your posts. Under each post in the bottom part is a little edit link. When you click edit, the post text is placed in the form above it so that you can work on it.

Inside Blogger-Navigating the Interface

Now that you’re signed up and kicking the tires of your new blog, you’ll soon become familiar with the Blogger interface. It doesn’t take long to get used to clicking around inside Blogger just as you would click Back or Home on your browser’s toolbar.

Remember that Blogger is software that runs in your web browser, which means that its interface is the web page. The buttons along the top of Blogger’s interface  are easy to spot and hard to forget.

Use Blogger’s toolbar buttons to access the various parts of your account:

Posts

This button takes you back to the default screen where you can write and edit your posts.

Settings

Your settings include your Title, Description, and Public/Private Status. You can delete your blog from here, and this also is where you fill in all your FTP information.

 Template

The template area is where you can paste in your own design (as HTML) or select a new design. Blogger templates are like any kind of web page, but they have a special difference: blogger tags. Blogger tags enable communication between your blog’s template and Blogger. For examples of Blogger tags in action, see the next section, “Blogger Tags.”

Archives

Archives are pages that contain past posts. They contain all of your posts, including those that may have scrolled off of your front page. Your archive index page contains links to all your archive pages. 

Team

The team page is where you can invite people to contribute to your blog or manage the people you’ve already invited. Adding team members to your blog is an easy way to create a group blog-many hands make light work!

Help

Selecting Help brings you to Blogger’s FAQ.

Sign Out

Signing out is a good idea if you are on a shared machine. If you stay signed in, the next person who uses the machine can post to your blog.

Blogger Tags

Blogger tags are proprietary HTML style indicators that clue Blogger in to what you are going for. You don’t need to know how they work right now; you just need to put them in the right place. 

Using Tags

<Blogger>

<$BlogItemBody$><br> <small>posted by <$BlogItemAuthor$> on<$BlogItemDateTime$></small>

<p> </Blogger>

 

Blogger How-Tos: Keys to a Successful Trial Run

Because this article is intended just to get you started with Blogger, I’m including a few key things in this section that might help you during your trial run.

How to Delete a Blogger Blog

Deleting a blog should not be taken lightly (unless you’ve only just created it and you want to start over fresh). Deleting a blog will delete all your posts and erase you from Blogger.com. If you host your own site and Blogger was FTPing the files to your server, your posts might still exist there. You will have to use an FTP client to erase those files from the web.