A Web Design Resource

Church Communications Pro has been one of my favorite web sites of late, not so much because of the church side, but because of the excellent blogging and web site tips shared. In addition, Cory Miller of Church Communications runs Rockin Themes with a friend, and they regularly release sharp, clean, user-friendly themes. Many of my favorite Word Press Themes come from them.

Church Communications Pro is updated regularly and has some great archives that are of real value. My favorite is the series of posts on using Word Press for a church web site. The best part is their content benefits churches and non-churches alike.

My fledgling blog on Vermont, South West Vermont.com uses one of their nicest themes, though I am intrigued by their latest “newspaper” themes.

And speaking of Word Press Themes and blogs, I’ve been keeping track of useful web site resources, especially themes, at my new Blinklist account. Since I’m using my del.icio.us account to track theology resources, I opened Blinklist for all other items of interest, particularly web design stuff.

Originally posted on inamirrordimly.com

Writing and Blog Layout

With a blog platform such as WordPress there is a virtually limitless supply of themes. They typically range from one column to three, though a few four column themes are in circulation.

When choosing a theme, it is crucial to find a lay out that supports your content. Clutter is the enemy, so choose wisely.

In the case of this blog I wanted readers to have the option of reading through the content or utilizing the side bars. It’s as if the site is divided in two. Some may only want to browse my links, while others will only want to look over the posts.

For inamirrordimly.com, my blog on theology and whatever else happens around our Vermont home, I wanted to content to be at center stage. The sidebar is there, but almost everything on the sidebar revolves around the content. Links and resources are on other pages.

On yet another blog, swvermont.com, I chose a clean three column theme that provides a host of resources, links, and navigation options. The key to this site in my estimation is what visitors see when the first arrive. Therefore I’ve place my categories and search box at the top. That enables them to quickly find what they want.

Take some time to evaluate the lay out options out there and compare them to the kind of content you plan on publishing. A good lay out should put your best content in the reader’s line of vision.

Tips on Blogging Frequency

Pending on your goals, a blog format may really work for a non-profit web site or your own personal home page. Yet the medium of blogs with dated content, can create pressure to keep things fresh. Many bloggers buckle under the pressure of posting daily updates, but this may no longer be necessary.
Eric Kintz says that daily blog posts can sometimes be a liability.

ProBlogger Darren Rowse adds some qualifiers.

The bottom line for me is that each blogger must determine the goal and audience of his/her blog. For example, a more specialized blog such as cooking, history, or theology may only require weekly posts. Tech, politics, and news may be a different story.

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Connecting Through Blogs

The Wall Street Journal Reports that churches are currently using blogs as a way of connecting with those outside of their congregations.

“In a bid to attract new members and shed their persistently Luddite image, churches across the country are embracing technology and Web sites like MySpace. Blogs and podcasts have become part of religious leaders’ communications with congregants, and photo-sharing sites like Flickr are increasingly used to depict a fun-loving, casually-dressed community of churchgoers.”

The whole article.

While many non-profits are loath to add another item on their “to do” lists, this is such an important area. Non-profits must learn to communicate with today’s upcoming generations in their media formats of choice. Blogs and web-based applications are the future. A good example of a web accessible non-profit is The Well.

[tag]blog, church, non-profit[/tag]

Blog and Web Tools

Todd Heistand, who designed this site by the way, has a great list of tools at his site: www.toddhiestand.com. What particularly caught my eye is a wordpress plug-in called “SimpleTags”. I sometimes tire of adding the Technorati Tags, so I may have to waste some time adding them here.

Todd also has the usual list of programs, including Bloglines and Firefox (two programs that I cannot imagine life without), but give his list a look. You may find a gem that has escaped your notice.

w.Bloggar: My New Toy

Though I downloaded it a while ago, I finally got into “w.Bloggar,” an offline blog editor. It essentially allows you to write up your blog posts in the exact format they will appear without actually having to be online.

While there are a number of reasons why this is a good thing, the number one reason for myself is that I’ll waste an entire morning reading the news at bloglines or from my google home page. The wireless card just sits on the table with a little sticky note stating the time I’m allowed to insert it. I can then post furiously without the temptation to read my mail, other blogs, or the news.

While many say that Ecto is the best program, Ecto also costs $20. While this is not steep for a program that does everything but write the post for you, I’m very satisfied with w.bloggar and have found that it is very easy to use.

The best part is that it keeps all of my blog passwords stored so I don’t ever have to log in. I should also note that it provides a lot features that basic blog editors simply do not have. Simple file uploads, font colors, various heading settings, and other font options make it really useful when customizing a post. It was a little tricky to set up WordPress with w.bloggar, but a quick visit to the forums at their web site cleared it all up.

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Pleasantly Surprised with Blogger

I have now wasted about a good hour playing around with a new blog set up with Blogger, one of the most popular free blog programs around. While many are singing the praises of WordPress, I have found that for a newbie such as myself with minimal html experience, Blogger is a decent choice. You can check out my little blog here.
Here’s my tier of comparison with some of the major blog programs out there, including Typepad, WordPress, and Blogger.

Continue reading Pleasantly Surprised with Blogger

21 Publish: Too Good to be True?

21pubIn uncharacteristic fashion, I gave in and clicked on an ad this morning. The company is called 21 Publish, and they offer free, hosted blogging for communities. In other words, you have a web portal or home page where you can post links or general content, and list all of the blogs in your community right there. The template can be customized and you can host it under your own domain name or it can be integrated into an existing web site.

It looks very attractive at this point, but I need to take it for a test drive first. You can get an idea of what it does by looking at some blogs they list: East Central Elementary School, Amnesty International USA, and Platform 27. Click here for a full list of Platform 27’s features.

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What You Can Do With Blogs

While there are some really nice web sites out there with static designs, I am a big fan of web sites that change content often and offer more interaction. My experience consists of Nucleus, WordPress, and Typepad, but another popular program is Blogger. Though the standard Blogger designs are not much to look at, you can make some very nice looking sites with it.

And personal blogging aside, organizations can also use Blogger to make some very nice web sites. Jordon Cooper, whose blog I peruse daily, has a nice clean blog design that utilizes Blogger. He recommends a series of blogs/web sites by Pernell Goodyear. There’s his wife’s site, his church’s site, and his church’s blog.

I’ll have to start up my own blogger site in order to give it a review, but the price is right so far as I can see and it’s possible to customize it quite a bit.

Continue reading What You Can Do With Blogs

Can You Afford Not to Blog?

This is the question asked in a new book called Naked Conversations : How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers. Bloggers Robert Scoble and Shel Israel set out to show how blogs can foster trust and better communication between companies and their clients. Blogs may be one of the most powerful tools in regaining trust between clients and businesses.

Though the title is somewhat provocative, the subject material is essential for every business, especially non-profits to consider. Non-profits cannot afford to miss out on blogs. Since they rely so heavily on relationships, service, and donations, there is no such thing as too much trust or too much communication.

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