Who Needs a Website When You Can Have a Blog?

I try not to blog about blogging too much, but this is so cool I just had to share it. (and by the way, Seth Godin wrote about this years ago and HarperStudio recently asked this question, so I am by no means the first person to think of this)

Let's say you're a small garden center. Or a landscape designer.  Or a non-profit.  Or an author,  an artist, or a consultant.  You need a presence on the web, but you don't want to spend a ton of money having a professional website designed.

Don't bother!  For very little money and very little time, a blog can do everything a website does.  And that doesn't mean you have to blog, in the sense of putting up a post every day and basically keeping on online diary.  You're just going to use the blog platform to create a website for yourself.  And the blog posts–which go up in date order, with the newest on top, will serve as a kind of "What's New" page, and even an e-mail newsletter, if you so choose.

Here's what I mean.  Check out the blog-based site that this local arts organization has created.

This is built in WordPress, but you can do it in TypePad, too. I prefer TypePad, which costs a few bucks per month, to the free WordPress, because TypePad seemed a little more intuitively easy to use last time I compared the two.  But lots of people love WordPress, and it's free.  If you use TypePad, choose the Customizable Theme so you can easily do your own design. (and it's point-and-click, drag-and-drop, no HTML required.)

So here's what you do.  First, have the blog point to your domain.  This may require a little technical assitance, but instructions are here for TypePad. So basically, when people visit  yourdomainname.com, they get to your blog. Make your domain simple–preferably your name or your business' name if you can.

Next, find a photo to upload and use as your header.  Again, look at what Ink People did for their header.  It could be your logo, a photo of your business, your art, etc. It just has to be long and narrow.  When you design your blog, you'll set the width–probably something like 900 pixels wide–and maybe 100-200 pixels tall will do it.  You'll upload that photo when you design the blog.  If you'd rather not use photos?  I hired a designer to create the graphic for my Dirt blog header, above, and we had a designer create the header for GardenRant.  You may be able to do something like this yourself or find an affordable designer on eLance.

Choose a very simple background & design for your blog.  I love the Ink People's site because it is so minimalist. A plain white background is perfect for most people. Or some other light, neutral color.  Choose an easy-to-read typeface, too.

Then create static pages–in TypePad they are just called Pages, and in the Compose tab you can choose to compose a post or a page–and have one page for each thing people need to know about your business or organization.  For instance:

Map & Directions
Store Hours
Programs & Events
Mission Statement
Annual Fundraiser
Media Coverage

etc.  Whatever relates to your thing.  Be sure to include photos, maps, etc.  This is not hard to do–if you can create a Word document or an e-mail, you can make a Page or Post.

You'll put a box of links in the upper left sidebar just like Ink People did. That's how people navigate your website.

You may want to put other things in the sidebar.  Links to other websites.  A Flickr gallery of photos that relate to your business.  A button that allows people to make donations online if you're a non-profit.  Links that allow people to buy your books or products online.  Your Twitter feed if you're into that.  Etc. Most of these are already available as 'widgets' in TypePad or WordPress–you just have to select them and start using them.

Now what?  Put up a blog post once a month, once a week, whatever.  Think of it as your "What's New" page.  Upcoming or recent events, links to important media stories, sales, interesting projects, what happened at the trade show you visited, YouTube videos (perhaps that you made at a recent event and posted to YouTube?), etc. 

You're not really 'blogging' in the sense that you're not conducting a running dialogue about your life or your profession and posting every little thing you do.  You're just using the format of a blog post to announce new & interesting things about you & your business whenever they come up–and if it's only once a month, fine.

If you install the subscription widget in Feedblitz, which is also free, then people can sign up to get your blog posts by e-mail.  (See the Get E-mail Updates box in my right sidebar for an example.)  That's your e-mail newsletter!  Post it to your blog, it goes out by e-mail.  And yes, you can import whatever e-mail addresses you already have into Feedblitz, so you don't have to start from scratch.

One last thing for the uninitated.  You can just call this your website, because people won't really even notice that you used a blog platform to create it.  But if you call it a blog, it's a blog.  Not a blog site.  And when you create a new post on your blog, that's a post or a blog post.  So you would not say, "I wrote a blog this morning about the trade show," because 'blog' refers to the whole site, not any individual thing you put there.  So you would say, "I wrote a post on my blog" or "I posted something on my blog" or "I wrote a blog post." 

OK, that's my bloggy rant for the day…