Making This Website

(Note: This article is about how we originally put up this website for almost no cost – and that anyone could do with their child. Since then we’ve put the site on its own web host to try to get better search engine ranking, but the article is still a good guide to getting a site going on the quick and cheap.)

Hi – this is panda lover’s father, and I helped her get her website up and going. My goal was to put the website up in a way that anyone could copy – and without needing any knowledge of website design an html. And for the most part we were able to pull this off. But I did use some html to make the page look more like a website’s home page – that is, have some basic, static information on the page that isn’t replaced by the next web entry. But you wouldn’t need to do this, and maybe you might like it better to just have the site work like a standard blog.

So what did we do? First I registered our domain name at GoDaddy . Registering a domain name at GoDaddy is pretty easy, and if you have any problems you can contact them and they have always been helpful. For now, just park the domain name with GoDaddy -we will come back to this in a minute after we set up our blog on Blogger.

The next thing I did was set up a blog at Blogger . Why did I choose Blogger? First, it is free. Second, the whole thing is set up for you automatically (you don’t need to set up the blogging software on your server, etc). So this is about as easy as it gets when you are setting up a blog. And since it is owned by Google, I figure that Blogger will be around and working for a long time.

I guess I should step back a minute and explain why I used a blog for the website. The main reason is that a blog lets you put your thoughts and information up on a website without you having to know any website design whatsoever. All you need to do with Blogger, for instance, is pick how your site is going to look. And then it makes the whole blog automatically. And all you have to do to make a new entry is to type in a basic word processing interface. Once you type in your information, you just hit the “publish post” button and Blogger automatically updates the blog to show your new post. One downside of Blogger, compared to WordPress (a free blogging software, but one that has to be put up on a server (although some web hosts offer this for free and put it up for you)) is that you can’t put your posts into categories. And this make the blog look more like a regular website (with different categories to click on). But all in all, Blogger is still a great way to start since it is so easy to set up and use.

One other thing about using a blog is that Google likes blogs – and tends to index them (put them into their search results database) pretty quickly. So it really works well for getting your information on the web. And while I don’t know this for a fact, my guess is that since Google owns Blogger it does index the new blogs put on Blogger.

After I set up the blog, I went back to my account at GoDaddy and pointed our new domain to the URL for this blog. Again, if you don’t know how to do this, GoDaddy can help you. But once you know where to go (it is called forwarding), it is easy and you just put in the URL of your Blogger blog and now anyone typing in your domain name will be sent to the blog.

The only modification I made was to put some html on the page template so that some basic information about my daughter’s interest in Pandas and about her Panda store will come up at the top of the page. Unfortunately, Blogger doesn’t just have a template for the home page – it has just a general template, so this bit of information comes up at the top of every page. Not really what I was shooting for, but better than just having the usual template (which puts the newest blog entry at the top, so your website doesn’t have this bit of static information like I wanted). Again, with a more complex solution like WordPress you would have more options for doing this sort of static home page, and this information would show up just on the home page and not on the internal pages of the blog. But, hey, for the ease of using Blogger this still works for us.

I did add one extra graphic to the site – the picture of the Panda that my daughter drew and is the one she uses for most of the products in her store. Since I didn’t have a good image scanner, I took it to a print shop (Kinkos, for instance) and they scanned it for me and gave me the file in photoshop format. I did then resize the image in photoshop and save it. But if you don’t know how to do this, I’m guessing that Kinkos could also resize the graphic for you and put it into the jpg format most people use for web graphics. Adding the image to your blog is easy – there is a button in Blogger interface (where you type in your new web posts) that allows you to add images (and links, bold, etc).

And that was really it for us putting up the website. I have just worked with my daughter over time to put up posts. And this really has been the hardest part, getting my 5 year old to keep up with this and put up new posts. She really is enthusiastic about having a web business, but getting up the energy to do new posts is something else. I have come up with a list of ideas for her to help her come up with new web posts (comment about items about Pandas that are in the news, new products she puts up on her store, news about Pandas at the different US zoos, etc), and this is helping. But we are still working on this aspect – and it really is the most important. Doing regular posts is the best thing you can do for getting the word out about your business or interest, and for building traffic (with the right posts tied to the right keywords – but this is a whole nuther discussion).

One aside about posting, blogs do let you write a post and then set it to be published either right now or at some time in the future. Why is this so nice? Because rather than having to remember to post something on your blog once or twice a week, you can set aside some time and write a few posts and then set them to publish in a week, two weeks – whatever you want. So you will still have posts being put up regularly, but you can write them all at once (maybe write a bunch once a month) and get it over with.

I guess I should mention the last part of my daughter’s web business – her store where she sells her products with her Panda logo. This is something we did in addition to the basic website, and it did take some time to get up (to figure out how to set up the store, get the graphics up for the different products, etc). We used CafePress, and they let you do one free store with a limited number of items. The great thing about CafePress.com is that they print things to order – so you don’t have to buy any inventory. Of course you pay for this – the wholesale cost of a printed t-shirt through them is 3 to 4 times what it would cost to get these t-shirts made up in bulk. But it is a great way to get started selling these type of items (shirts, mugs, magnets, etc), and if you end up selling a bunch you can always then find a less expensive place to make them for you in bulk.

Well, I hope that gives you a good idea of how you might go about easily setting up your website – for your kid or even your small business. This way of using a blog to do the basic site is an easy way to get going, and if it works well for you then you can always do a more traditional website later and expand on this initial start.

Total cost for this quick and dirty way to start a site:

Domain name registration 1 year – $8.95

Cost to have graphic scanned – $10

Blog hosting at Blogger.com – Free

Store hosting through CafePress – Free

Total Cost for first year so far – $18.95

Time invested:

2 – 3 hours to get basic site set up (domain registration and initial Blogger.com setup),

3 – 5 more to get basic store set up on CafePress