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DIGITAL HUMANITIES FOR DUMMIES:Wordpress, Blogging andWebsite Creation
DrAlana Jayne Piper
Twitter: @alana_piperWebsite:criminalcharacters.com
Why should I blog?
Enhance your public profile by reaching a different audience to your normal readers – perhaps other disciplinary groups, potential industry partners or the media.Allows you to get your ideas out while in progress, so as to receive feedback or stake a claim in a new research area.A means of promoting existing work: different studies have shown that on average blogging about an academic article produces an extra 70-470 abstract views/downloads.Practice translating academic working into everyday language.Collect a variety of work in one place in order to create a more fulsome showcase of your work.
Why should I blog?
Still unconvinced? Check out these blogs on the benefits of academic blogging:http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2015/10/26/why-academics-and-students-should-take-blogging-social-media-seriously/http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2012/04/19/blog-tweeting-papers-worth-it/https://thesiswhisperer.com/2015/08/26/blogging-your-way-to-a-phd/https://patthomson.net/2014/09/15/should-doctoral-researchers-blog/
Blog writing tips
Blogging is different in a genre to academic writing. The writing should be accessible and punchy, but still present nuanced ideas in a professional way.Brevity is key in blogging: blogs themselves should usually be around 800 words; paragraphs and sentences should be short and sharp to aid reader comprehension.Avoid jargon – remember that this will ideally attract readers beyond your usual sphere.Stick to exploring one key idea.It is important to start your blog with a good ’hook’, which captures the main argument or focus of your blog in an interesting way. Likewise, you want to conclude the blog with a satisfying finish that neatly encapsulates your main point.Use hyperlinks for citations, rather than endnotes or in-text referencing. Remember the main focus of the piece will usually be your original work, so you will want to keep your discussion of other scholarly literature to a minimum, except where it is vital to your own work.Check here for more blog writing tips: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2016/01/25/how-to-write-a-blogpost-from-your-journal-article/
Blog sites
If you do not have time to build/maintain a blog or website of your own, consider contributing to other disciplinary blogs. Here are some popular history blogs that welcome submissions:http://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/http://www.historyandpolicy.org/http://www.auswhn.org.au/blog/http://notchesblog.com/https://www.aaihs.org/blog/
Why should I start a website
Public engagement: making your work accessible both in terms of repository access and presentation of the form itself.Showcase data or research outputs that might not be able to be easily showcased in other – image galleries, datavisualisations, timelines etc.Generates awareness about your current research project or different strands of research.It’s a platform to which you can direct colleagues, industry partners or other parties interested in learning more about you and your research, beyond the standard staff profile.Creating arecognisablebrand identity that is more customizable and has greater depth than a University,GoogleScholar, ResearchGate or Academia profile.Create a teaching and learning resource for your own students, or for others.It can act as a multi-purpose platform that brings together research, teaching, engagement and impact.
Getting started – questions to ask yourself
What am I hoping to achieve with this site?Who is my audience? How can I make sure this reaches them? What do I need to do to engage them?Have I seen any sites that can provide an example/model for the type of site I’m looking to create? If not, try to find some.How long do I want/expect the site to run for? Who will pay for hosting?What sort of data will be presented on my site? Will it be largely text based, or will I need storage for lots of images, video and sound files?If I am thinking of hiring outside technical support to set up the site, will their support role be ongoing? How much control do I want to be able to change things on the finished site?
What is WordPress?
A free, open-source content management system that uses a template system and plugin architecture for website buildingAs of 2018, around a third of all websites are built on WordPress, making it the most popular website management system in useTo function, WordPress has to be installed on a web server, that is a hosting serviceWordpressoffers its own hosting service –WordPress.comThere are also many other hosting services that useWordPress.orgas their platformSome popular hosting sites include –https://www.bluehost.com– largest host, packages start at $2.95 USD a monthhttps://ventraip.com.au– Australian company, packages start at $6.95 AUD a month
Wordpress.comvsWordpress.org
WordPress.comis a hosting service created by the co-founder ofWordpress(the content management system)It offers a free hosting service that comes with up to 3GB of space. Additional space requires switching to one of their paid plans.All updates and backups of your site done automatically.They can place ads on all free websites.Access to additional features, plugins, or themes will cost extra.They can delete your site at anytime if they think it violates their Terms of Services.Verdict:Fine if all you want is a research blog, largely text-based with a few images.
Wordpress.orgrequires that you subscribe to a paid hosting service. There are many providers, and rates are very competitive (most sites can be hosted for $5-$15 a month, depending on storage needs).You own your website, are in full control of your data and the website design.Depending on the host, you may be responsible for installing WordPress updates. These are no harder than installing regular software updates, and some hosts take of this for you.Depending on the host, you may be responsible for saving backups. However, most large hosts include security and regular backups as part of their packages.Verdict:Preferable if you want something a bit more sophisticated.
Wordpress.comSetup
With either option, the basic look and functionality ofWordpressremains the same, so if you have experience building inWordpress.com, it is easy to build something withWordpress.organd vice versa. Sites can also be migrated between different platforms depending on the hosting plan.To start building a WordPress site, go toWordpress.comand select ‘Get Started’.Fill in the ‘Let’s Create a Site’ details – these really don’t matter that much, and can be changed later. Click continue.Select Domain Name. This step is more important. Decide on the URL you want your website to have. If you’re going for a free hosting option, it will need to end withwordpress.comOnce you have selected a domain name, click continue and select a hosting plan. (You should see a $0 free option.)Create an account with your email address and a password. Save these details somewhere for safekeeping.Activate your account from your email inbox by selecting Confirm Now.
Wordpress.orgset-up
Choose a reliableWordpresshosting platform. Most of the hosting platforms offer 24/7 online chat advice, so consider contacting different platforms to ask questions about the different packages they provide.Questions you may want to ask:How much storage is provided in their different packages, and which will best suit your needs?Do they take care of WordPress updates automatically?Do they include site backups, and how regularly are these performed?What do they provide in the way of security?Is registration of domain name included in the hosting price? If separate, how much will this cost?What are their technical support options?
Checklist for creating aWordpress.orgsite
Once you have chosen a host, you will need to select a domain name that you can register with them. Some tips for creating a domain name include:Stick with recognizable extensions like .com. Newer domain extensions can be considered untrustworthy or unprofessional. It is also second nature to most of us to add .com to the end of web addresses, so this ending can be preferable if people will have heard about your site somewhere and are trying to recall the URL.Use keywords in the name.Keep it short.Make it easy to pronounce, spell and write (e.g. avoidhypensand doubled letters)Keep it unique and brandable (something catchy or memorable)Don’t be too niche, in case the purpose of site expands. For example, if you are writing a history of a fairly specific topic, you might want to make the name a bit more generalised in case the parameters of your research expands or you want to continue using the site with subsequent projects.
Designing inWordpress
Once you have established a site either throughWordpress.comor a hosting service that usesWordpress.org, you can startcustomisingthe design of your site.The first thing to do is to install a Theme.Wordpressoffers thousands of design themes to choose from, some free, some paid.There are some flashy,colourfulthemes, but remember that sophistication often equals simplicity. A clean design is often more eye-catching than a busy screen.Preview a variety of different themes to see which one is right for you. Also preview how the theme will operate on a mobile or tablet versus a PC.Also consider previewing the theme in different browsers to see if there are any compatibility issues there.Check out customer ratings and reviews for different themes.You can change themes later on if you are not satisfied with your existing theme.
Recommended WordPress Plugins
WordPress lets you add a variety of different plugins – some free, some paid – to suit your website needs. You may want to spend some time browsing the thousands of plugins available to see the types of extra features that might enhance your website.Some plugins you may want to have –A security plugin if security is not provided through your host, e.g.SucuriA backup plugin if backups are not provided through your host, e.g.BackupBuddyA plugin for collecting visitor metadata to monitor impact, e.g. Yoast SEO for SEOA plugin for improving performance and load times of site, e.g. W3 Total CacheA plugin for combating spam, e.g.AskimetA plugin for creating image galleries, e.g.EnviraGallery
Creating Content
The most time-consuming part of website creation is not the actual setup, but actually generating the content that you will want to sit on your website.Here are some things you may want to include on your site:An image banner to run across the top of the pageAn avatar that will act as arecognisablesymbol associated with the siteA blog –Wordpressis set up to automatically include a blog, which will contain different ‘posts’. (The blog can be disabled if desired.) To create a new blog post, you will click ‘create post’.Pages – Apart from a blog, you will need to think about what other pages you want on your site and how they will relate to each other. You can create a new page, by clicking ‘Add page’.Menu – To let visitors get to the different pages on your site, you will have to add them as different pages to your menu. It may be that you only want some pages on the main menu, with others set up as sub-pages that link off of them. Think about mapping out what you want before you start.
General pre-launch checklist
Proofread all content.Make sure the email address on your admin page is correct.Test any contact forms that you have added to your website to make sure they are reaching your email address.If want viewers to be able to comment on your blog, make sure comments are enabled. If you want to preview comments before they appear on the site, select appropriate settings within moderation and notification.Make sure that your default blog post category is not called uncategorized (Wordpressdefault).Check site is displayed correctly on all browsers and mobile devices.Check site for any broken links.Adjust siteTimezonein Settings – General.
SEO and Analytics
To optimize your site findability, and track visits, do the following:Install Google Analytics through a plugin like Yoast SEOAdd your site to Google Search ConsoleGenerate an XML Sitemap (various plugins like Yoast let you do this)Submit Sitemap to Google Search Console
Growing your website
Growing your website can take time, but the following can help:Spread the word on social media.Promote the site through your institution, disciplinary organisations or any community groups that are likely to be interested.Announce your website by writing guest posts for popular blogs or sites in your field.Contact any related sites and suggest that you cross-promote/link to each other’s sites.Notify university media team and contact any press outlets that you have a relationship with or who may be interested.Hold launch event or hack day.Include URL on email correspondence andpowerpointslides at conferences.Monitor Google Analytics to try to determine which strategies are proving fruitful and repeat whenever you update content or have a new feature you want to promote.
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