So What is a Blog Exactly?
This can be a little confusing when you are first considering getting an Internet presence. For many people asking the question ‘what is a blog‘ is not unreasonable, not everyone is familiar with blogging even today.
First of all lets identify the source of the name ‘Blog’, well quite simply it is an abbreviation of the term Web Log. The ‘Blog’ term has become so popular that you will seldom hear of one referred to as a Web Log any more, but it is the term ‘Web Log’ that gives you the clue as to the original function and purpose of a blog.
Quite simply put a web log was a chronological record of events recorded in a date stamped log that was published on the Internet; an online journal or diary primarily consisting of text that could be viewed by a web browser.
A website on the other hand, in simple terms, is a series of interlinked pages that consist of graphical images, dynamic media and text that is published on the Internet in a format that can be read, interpreted and presented by a web browser and can be linked to or from other websites.
Times have moved on a bit since the initial conception of the original web logs and with the advent of programs such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and Blogspot, blogs have become much more popular and have been developed into extremely sophisticated marketing tools for the Internet. To the point where they can easily compete with websites and will in many areas out perform a traditional static page website.
This really is why things have become a little confusing, blogs are no longer the simple online journal they once were. You can add in all sorts of functionality through the availability of literally thousands of plugins, widgets or whatever else you want to call them. Blogs can have multiple static pages much more akin to standard websites, navigation menus, dynamic media such as flash, video, etc. and photographs all of which can be added very simply and easily using admin tools that come as standard with the blog package you select.
The admin tools that come with the platform are more normally referred to as CMS (content management systems).
The principle behind the WordPress dashboard, one of the most popular blog platforms, is that you can manage all aspects of your blog from that dashboard. Creating a post for example, means you can choose between an html code editor or a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) text editor; with the latter it is just like using a simple word processor such as ‘Microsoft Word’.
So you can create your post using a menu driven editor where you don’t actually need to know how to use html code at all. Plus when you are finished you just click on ‘publish’ and you are live on the Internet. The fact is that the changes and additions you are making are done over your internet connection and are saved on the web server as you go. Publishing it just moves it into the public domain so that it is visible.
There is loads of functionality within the CMS, you can change appearance, manage users, activate plugins, do software updates, add links and configure all your user settings. You can get plugins for SEO, site promotion, ecommerce and pretty much any functionality you might require for an online site.
In fact there is so much functionality you could argue that there is no longer a need for a standard static web design. It’s a pretty strong argument to go against as well, especially as it is pretty easy these days to register your own domain and arrange cheap hosting for a blog. Most of which comes with free downloads of the CMS options discussed and you can get free online training to teach you how to do everything. YouTube is a great resource for finding free training.
There is one drawback however and that is you either have to know how to code to change the style of a blog dramatically or you have to accept the themes that have already been published and modify them for originality. There are packages that help with this, which means you do not necessarily need coding skills to do it. The whole point of a blog is that non-technical people should be able to create and publish it without the need to used complicated coding.
Personally I think that, since the advent of mobile devices, creating a responsive web design, that works on PC’s, tablets and smartphones is much easier to achieve using a platform like WordPress. You basically just choose a theme that has all the necessary coding to make it a responsive design, and then you check it actually works by viewing it on the different technology.
Doing a static website on the other hand means you can dramatically change the style and look of a site while keeping a relatively simple format where all the functionality of a blog is not really required. Done properly a website design will load very quickly, take up little storage space and keep bandwidth requirements to a minimum. But it does need some level of coding skills to build in required functionality, although even that is becoming a little blurry around the edges with web design packages like Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver has a design view and a coding view that makes pulling a website together a little easier, not as easy as a CMS but easier than it used to be.
Other than that, I struggle to come up with a reason for not using a blog platform. Designing a standard website usually means putting yourself in the hands of a designer, even for a simple design; unless you have access to a web design program and have some basic coding skills. There is no reason a blog can’t be run on a lightweight basis either, although the tendency is for the designers to provide more functionality than is sometimes required when they put together a theme. The reason being that they don’t actually know how the blog is going to be used and for what purpose; so rather than fall short on functionality all the T and I’s are crossed and dotted.
Some recommended Plug In’s for WordPress
- Broken Link Checker
- Google XML Sitemaps
- Simple Tags
ProBlogger Also Answers the ‘What is a Blog’ Question
If after all this you are still confused you could take a look at the ProBlogger’s blog post on what a blog is. It is a pretty comprehensive look at ‘what is a blog’ from a slightly different angle.