I’ve been asked by a few folks about starting a blog and making it more like a website. I don’t think the majority of you my dear readers are interested in this type of post, so I promise it won’t become a regular occurence! I just thought I’d share a sort of Top Ten for folks interested in turning their blog into something a little more like a website, a little less like every other blog on the block.  I’ll start by saying I have a longgg… way to go before I’m there, so I’m planning to point you to other websites for examples!

For those of you readers who aren’t into blogging yourselves but would like to comment on what you’re looking for in a site, I’d love some feedback! And I think the other readers would too…so speak up!

My Top Ten Tips for Making Your Blog More Like a Site

(Note: I always count down the top ten, so if you want to read the most important tips, scroll down!)

10. Skip the tag cloud. Unless you’ve got a customized, pretty tag cloud like say, the nester for example, it’s probably a good idea to skip the tag cloud. It isn’t the most attractive or functional use of space, and I don’t know that a lot of readers will peruse your posts in that format.

9. Keep your sidebar consistent. See how my sidebar over there is a big old mess? That’s a no-no. I’m working on it. If you can keep your sidebar attractive and simple, your blog feels less like a mess and more like a nice, clean, inviting space. (Homework: Check out grit and glory’s sidebar. Clean and simple. The Nester has a nice, clean sidebar, too. She’s in design, she knows what she’s doing!)

8. Customize your nav bar. See my boring old navigation bar that’s been that way ever since I started this site? If I didn’t have meals to cook, laundry and a toddler, I would’ve improved it for you a long time ago. Taking the time to customize that little bit of your site will help you stand out from the crowd. (Homework: Check out MckMama’s nav bar – the picture one. I mean she’s MckMama and she can do whatever she wants, but it’s good.)

7. Learn how to google. And google often. A lot of the things you need to know to improve your site can be found on the internet, if you spend a few minutes googling. (That’s probably how you ended up here. Well done!)

6. Consider making your home page slightly different from the page a person will view if they go directly to a particular post or any of your other site pages. Depending on the purpose of your site, this could mean your readers can enjoy a uniquely inviting home page (perhaps with teasers of full posts, for example) and choose where they want to go once they arrive. (Homework: See how Mashable’s home page invites you in with multiple posts to choose from? Teasers might be just the thing for you!)

5. This is big. That’s why it’s long. Customize your look. If your blog has the same layered, paisley, flowery background as every other Mom-blog in the blogosphere, it’s a good idea to work on customizing your site to help it stand out. Otherwise folks passing through will think it is just like every other layered, paisley Mommy blog, (Which it’s not! It’s yours!) and they won’t remember your URL and won’t come back.

If you want to get serious about your customization. You are pretty limited with what you can do to make your site unique if you are working with previously designed templates for wordpress or blogger, or if you’re not a web designer yourself. (I’m not an expert on this, but this is what I have gathered so far.)

I decided to use the Thesis Theme for wordpress, and so far I’m very glad I did. There is A LOT you can do if you upgrade to this theme to instantly customize your site. I started out with NO knowledge of website building, and have made the series of changes you’ve seen around this place to get it this far. The appearance of my site may not convince you that Thesis is worth it, but really, I’ve enjoyed figuring out how to customize using Thesis, and so far for me Thesis + knowing how to Google = serious website upgrades. They regularly upgrade and increase functionality, and the Thesis help community is also pretty outstanding.  If you’re thinking about purchasing Thesis and have questions, leave a comment and I’ll try to help!

Thesis Theme for WordPress:  Options Galore and a Helpful Support Community

And if you do decide to purchase Thesis, please come back and click here to do so — the kickback will help support our ministry here in South Africa!

4. Come up with a good theme and URL to match. I just went with my name because I think it has a nice ring to it, and it felt right at the time. Right or wrong? I dunno. But it’s good to give your blog a name that’s easy to remember (and easy to google) to keep your fans coming back. Along these lines, you might want to consider self-hosting your blog (I use Dreamhost, for example) so that you can be www.soandso.com instead of www.soandso.wordpress.com. Because the latter feels bloggy, the former feels serious. Don’t ya think?

3. Clean up!!! A good sign of a good site is having a clean, inviting space to welcome people into. It’s kind of like going into someone’s home. If it’s too busy or too messy, you don’t really feel like staying very long. Considering my busy, messy sidebar, I’m impressed you made it to #3!! (Homework: Check out my friend Adam’s blog. He has a really clean, well-organized site that just matches and agrees with itself nicely. See? You want to come in and stick around for a while.)

2. Use GOOD pictures and graphics. This really enhances the look and feel of your site. I would strongly encourage you to obey copyright laws — don’t steal images. There are a number of good, free websites where you can find decent stock photos to go along with your posts. Honestly, if I come to a blog with a series of posts and it’s all words and no images, I feel daunted and want to move on. Images invite readers into the space and quickly grab attention.

1. Customize your header. This has to be number one! It is the first thing people are going to see when they arrive at your site. If it is boring, doesn’t have any interest, or looks like everybody else’s … well, that’s okay, but it makes it a blog and not a site. I have to mention again that thesis made it really easy for me to customize my header. I designed it myself (what do you think?) and with one upload and a bit of copying and pasting it was on board.

So, those are some basics for making your blog more like a site. Question away, feel free to disagree, and be sure to check out some of the other sites I mentioned that are WAY further along in the game than I am. 🙂

And a little more homework if you’re interested: Check out some of these awesome sites, by folks who customized using Thesis!

Can you really argue with Krispy Kreme?
Copyblogger’s site is a great example of the significant amount of customization possible with Thesis.
Serradinho’s site is also seriously customized. (And can give you lots of help if you decide to buy.)