Every once in a while I get a question about how to get started in blogging. While there’s lots to say about the writing side, something I don’t want to ignore is the blogger’s toolkit. The tools we choose—from our platform to where we source images—play a huge role in a reader’s experience. So what do I use?
Here’s a look at my current toolkit:
1. WordPress. While there are a lot of great blogging platforms out there, I’m a big, big fan of WordPress. I started out on WordPress.com and moved to a self-hosted platform in 2010. I love using WordPress because it has all the functionality I need and then some. Although I didn’t find it terribly appealing back in WP’s early days (back when they hadn’t made it for “normal” people to use) it has grown into a powerful content management system and (finally!) has a lovely and functional interface. (For those curious, if I were to ever leave WP, I’d probably consider Ghost. Here’s a good write-up on the differences between the two.)
2. StudioPress. I’ve tried a lot of different themes over the last few years, and only three have ever been seen publicly. For years, I used the now defunct Standard Theme. About eight months ago, I switched to StudioPress.com‘ Sixteen-Nine theme. It’s elegant, simple and keeps the focus on content—and the Genesis Framework keeps everything running beautifully. I’ll definitely be continuing to use StudioPress for the foreseeable future as I continue to improve the look and feel of this website.
3. Disqus. Although WordPress’ native commenting system has improved greatly in the last couple years, I absolutely love Disqus, which is a powerful and effective comment management platform.
4. Mailchimp. Initially, I didn’t really manage my mailing list. And then I smartened up and switched to Mailchimp. It’s easy to use, it’s interface is super-attractive, great analytics and a ton of great templates for emails.
5. Wufoo. There are a lot of great survey and form tools out there (including Survey Monkey), but these days I’m really enjoying Wufoo. Like Mailchimp. it’s interface is pretty easy to use, it has great reporting tools and you can do a fair bit with no or little money.
6. Photo Pin. Photo Pin offers up a wide variety of images (of varying levels of quality) from Flickr for bloggers to use for free, provided they include the proper attribution. I find a lot of what I need here, and I’m almost always happy with it. Except…
7. LightStock. This is a paid service which offers high-quality stock images ideal for faith-based organizations and content. When I’m looking for a really specific image, this is the place I go. (They also have a free photo of the week available to anyone with an account, which isn’t too shabby at all.)
8. Canva. Although I do use PhotoShop for a lot of work, these days I’m using a new addition to my toolkit for social media graphics and simple items on the blog: Canva. I absolutely love this tool because it allows anyone who’s willing to put in a bit of time to have beautifully designed images to share online.