I have received a number of questions regards the new design of the site and while I have answered them all directly, I thought it may be useful to put most of the points down in one article.
How long have you been blogging and what got you started?
I have been blogging for about 18 months now. I really became aware of the special place a blog retains in the WWW when I was looking to purchase my first Mac, a PowerBook, in January 2006. At that stage I thought that blogging might be fun, and would give me a good way of getting to use the PowerBook for more than just ‘work’ stuff.
When I first started blogging my intention was to just provide reviews and articles on Mac related applications and news. As such I created a non personal brand (MyAppleStuff) and concentrated on writing reviews for my site, the MacReviewCast and The macCompanion. Fundamentally I just saw my site as a provider of content for other sites and I wasn’t really thinking of doing anything personal or none Mac related – hence the original name MyAppleStuff.
I hadn’t considered that over time the personality behind the blog would become integrated into the blog, but as I started writing about my interests and Mac related experiences I noticed two things 1) that those articles got as much if not more interest as the reviews and certainly generated more comment and participation, and 2) I started to ‘meet’ a number of like minded readers and contributors to the blog that I enjoyed sharing experiences with.
So as my style of reviewing is to take a personal perspective rather than just a descriptive style, and as the blog now included articles and information of a personal and non Mac nature as well, I decided to do two things; 1) rationalise my web presence into one place, and 2) start blogging under my own name.
What was the background to designing the new site?
There are an unbelievable amount of great themes for WordPress available and it is very rare that you come across any blog that looks exactly the same as another, yet by their very nature most blogs look somewhat similar.
From day one I knew that I wanted a three column design, and I have played around with a couple of themes over the last 18 months and tinkered with a lot of plugins. In fact truth be told I spent too much time tinkering, and not enough time really thinking about what I wanted to achieve with the blog in terms of direction and longer terms aims.
Around the time that I started to think about designing a new site I got to know Glenn Wolsey and really liked his site. Our content was already very similar, and my layout was really a very (very) messy version of his, although he made much better use of the available plugins than I did. In talking to Glenn he helped convince me that to blog under my own name would be the way forward, and that creating a personal site and sticking to it would help me become more focussed on the content.
What where the main challenges?
The hardest decision was the ‘brand’. Now I know that sounds very grand and possibly conceited but I was very proud of the MyAppleStuff logo and the following that the blog had built up through my writing, the support of some great contributors, and the awareness created by my associated writings and podcast segments. At the same time I didn’t think that it was right to move towards more personal stuff under that identity. I thought about running two blogs, but that would have defeated one of the main objectives – to minimise the amount of sites I maintained online, and I think it would have been confusing and too difficult to maintain two clearly separate presences.
I was really pleased with the way that Darren created the new logo based on my name, but also retaining a ‘hint’ of the MyAppleStuff logo, especially with the new rating icons for the reviews.
The other significant issue was whether to host the site on the existing domain and forward the new domain to it, or make the ‘leap’ over to the new domain. I was concerned about losing any subscribers if I switched, and I was worried about leaving it too late to switch over. What I decided to do was to host it on the original domain for the initial week or so until I was absolutely comfortable with the new design and had the opportunity to look at any teething problems.
I wanted to come up with something original, so was really pleased with the Vaults (Archives). By their nature Blogs concentrate on the new posts, with all older stuff slowly scrolling down to the Archives, which aren’t usually that friendly when it comes to finding things. On the basis that I wanted the new site to attract and retain more readers, and the blog contains a lot of historic reviews, the archives was an area I wanted to focus on. I will be making this code available to download in the near future.
Everything else was pretty straight forward. I only wanted to use Sponsors as a means of income for the site. While it is always nice to receive money for the blog on balance I don’t want to run Google Adverts, Pay Pal donations etc. I am reluctant to do paid reviews and to date have avoided all requests to do them. I want to generate income opportunities through the blog by promoting my skills and services.
Finally, I wanted to make the blog as easy and interesting as possible to participate in.
What Plugins Do You Use?
Brians Threaded Comments
Executable PHP Widget
Full Text Feed
Fuzzy Recent Posts
Google Search Widget
Subscribe to Comments
Tag Cloud Widget
Top Commenters Widget
Word Press Database BackUp
WP Flickr Widget
What are your future plans for the site?
For now I just want to concentrate on the content. I still want to do a lot of reviews, but I want to get a balance so will be introducing more personal stuff, more business and work related content, and most excitingly a range of posts concentrating on specific areas over a period of time, a sort of series of mini-series articles. I have a number of projects set up with other people to bring a greater range of excellent content to the blog.
On the design front I have no immediate plans. I will look at Related Posts at some stage and will always keep an eye out for better and smarter ways to allow people to comment (or rather shout!) on the site.
One More Thing
I really do have to thank Glenn for his ongoing involvement, and for accepting that the new site is somewhat similar to his own.
I also have to say a big thanks to Tom for coding the site and Darren for his design work.