Blogging

6 questions you need to ask before choosing a theme

By on March 19, 2017

Continuing with the topic of building a website (or a blog), here I’ll be listing down a few things that you must take into consideration while selecting a theme. It is very important to select one that not only looks good but is also simple to navigate around. The first thing a visitor sees is not your content or author bio. He sees the layout.

Don’t select a theme on how great it looks. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the theme compatible with your niche (or lack thereof)? If your lifestyle blog looks like a teenager’s journal, it doesn’t really give readers a great impression.
  • Where is the main menu be displayed? If it is not at the top or the sidebar, then it will be hard for users to access your pages and categories. If it is displayed in the sidebar, it brings us to another problem…
  • Which spaces does the theme allot for widgets? At least one of the widget spaces should be the sidebar so you can put up the author bio, contact info, subscription form etc. for everyone to see easily. In some themes, widgets are placed at the end of the page and hardly anyone has got the time and patience to scroll all the way down to see if an author’s bio and other information about the site have been included. It also becomes a problem if you have placed ad widgets that are at the pit of the page where hardly anyone bothers to look.
  • Are the colours too bright or jarring? This can make your content hard to read.
  • In case the current colour scheme doesn’t compliment your content, can it be changed? Luckily though, nearly every WordPress theme has the option of changing background and font colour so you can play around till you find the perfect one.
  • In case there is a header image, ask yourself if you need it. There are themes that are perfect for you but they have huge header images that are totally unrelated to your site. Some themes do offer multiple images to choose from so if you can find one that is relevant, great. Otherwise, you can take either take an image yourself or design one.

What do you take into consideration while deciding on a theme? Let me know in the comments.

And if you liked this post don’t forget to share it with friends 🙂

Email: askfarwa@farwarants.com

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Blogging

5 plugins that made my website experience easier

By on March 16, 2017

Managing a website has the potential to turn you into a nervous wreck but certain plugins have the ability to prevent that from happening. Surprising as it may sound, humanity still resides in this world and to make our lives easier, web developers put in their sweat and blood to create plugins that manage to get you through the tiring process of establishing your domain.

When I started my website last week, I felt exactly like Lizzy must have felt when she first entered Rosings Park the first time. Unsure and somewhat intimidated by everything unfamiliar. Especially in the beginning when you are still working things out, dealing with glitches that pop up what seems like every minute as well as analysing your performance and coming up with a definite strategy if you haven’t already. Of course, none of this would mean anything unless you’re putting extensive and quality content on your site. These plugins take care of all that you hadn’t thought of due to your lack of information and make your efforts pay off. I’m going to list down 5 plugins that made my experience not just easier but fun.

Also read A list of Dos and Don’ts when switching from a blog to a website

Yoast SEO

This plugin is a MUST if you want your posts to rank high on search engines like Google and Bing. Yoast doesn’t care if you know nothing about SEO, it’ll help you optimise each post to the maximum and making sure that the post is as readable as it is clickable.

Jetpack

This plugin is exactly what it sounds: a jetpack of every important feature you require for your website to work. With this plugin, you get security against viruses and hackers, detailed stats, free themes, widgets, SEO etc. Cherry on top: most of the features are free. Although if you want to avail upgraded features you can purchase a Personal Plan at a very affordable price.

Askimet Anti-Spam

It successfully protects you from spam comments, some of which might include harmful links.

SumoMe

There is no need to include countless social media icons at the end of each post. SumoMe is a list of every social media channel available for you and your readers to share your post in one place. And that is not even the best part (although it is pretty awesome). It has countless other features that help you keep track of how many views each of your posts get as well as increase followers and building a list of email followers. Pretty awesome right?

CommentLuv

You can only build a loyal readership by reciprocating the love. CommentLuv automatically includes the latest post published by the blogger that comments on your blog so you can pay a visit. In short, it brings us all closer as a community.

These are the first of many. Which plugins did you install that helped your website grow? Do share in the comments below 🙂

Email: askfarwa@farwarants.com

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Blogging

Site niche – is it really important?

By on March 14, 2017

It’s hardly been a week since I got my own domain and already people have started asking me what it is about, i.e., what is the niche of the site. And that has got me thinking, what is it about really? So far I’ve posted a book review, a short story, a list of steps to take when building a website and a press release as a favour to an acquaintance. None of these posts are related to each other! But to be honest, my stats haven’t suffered. For a new website, I have been getting more hits than most blogs that have been around for years. I’m not bragging, I promise. But the confusion is pretty valid. And it is also the inspiration for this post.

However here’s the thing: I don’t want to limit myself to a topic. There I said it! There is a lot going through my head and I want to share some of it with the world if not all. I may not be a pro-blogger like many out there but will act like a smartass and tell those who are stressing about selecting the perfect niche: it’s not important to have one. This is NOT to say that you shouldn’t be writing about popular topics. Of course you should tell people how to gain more followers, SEO etc.! These are not just popular topics, they are important as well, especially for dummies like me who need all the guidance they can. However, that doesn’t mean we should abandon writing about topics that interest us but don’t garner enough traffic, like book reviews or commentary on anime.

What’s the solution then?

How about striking a balance? It’s what I say about Pakistani serials. Anyone who watches Pakistani dramas must be aware of the amount of rubbish they air in the name of entertainment. Same stories, different faces and why? Because for some twisted reason, those are the serials that garner ratings! So it’s understandable why channels would choose crap over quality, they need the money. My point is, if a channel is broadcasting five ridiculous shows a week, they can at least air two quality dramas for people who appreciate original, creative stories.

Same goes for blogs too. Produce content that is bound to attract readers. But don’t abandon the poor souls who are interested in things others find boring. More importantly, why abandon writing about what YOU are genuinely passionate about. The world is huge and there is an audience for everything. There is nothing wrong with catering multiple audiences at once.

This is the plan I plan to follow. What do you think? Tell me in the comments.

And if found this post interesting, share it with your friends 🙂

If you have a unique niche or want to write about something different for a change, you can contribute to my site! Click on the button below for details.

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Email: askfarwa@farwarants.com

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Blogging

A list of Dos and Don’ts when switching from a blog to a website

By on March 13, 2017

Unbelievable as it sounds, most people in this day and age wonder aloud what blogging is all about. Isn’t is all about writing random stuff that flits through our useless minds? Well, allow me to tell you. It’s not random and it stops being a ‘hobby’ once you switch from a blog to a website. It is like being a mom. Just like a woman who has just had her first child, (or any number of child, they are all demanding anyway) there is so much to do in a short time period and no matter what anyone tells you; it CANNOT wait. Can you imagine a mother carry on watching TV while the baby is screaming because he is hungry or taking a shower when she needs to change his diaper? So how can you expect a newbie to allow that glaring glitch to stay on his/her site that took hours to design (or, in my case, customise) and have dinner in peace?

There are countless sleepless nights when you are writing and rewriting a post that would be perfect for your blog or website. Throughout the day your brain is buzzing with ideas that need to process and develop. Relax for a moment and your brain will throw away all those amazing ideas in the dump of useless memories. You know the scary pit they show in Inside Out? No luck trying to recover them.

Courtesy: Giphy

Now I’ve been blogging for years. A better part of a decade really, so I’m not exactly a newbie. But I had never really taken it so seriously. It was more of a hobby. I have two blogs where I’ve written a lot but I wasn’t regular, never cared about my site ranking, SEO etc. Until now. And by now I mean a few months ago. Even though I didn’t take it seriously, I really do enjoy blogging so I asked myself, why not turn it into a career? At that time, I was almost done with my masters and I was deciding whether I wanted to look for a job again or start my own thing. I settled on the latter but things took an unexpected turn and I ended up with a three-month gig at a newspaper and had to shelve my dream of building my own website.

Three months later, here I am. I bought my domain three days ago and realised (too late) that I really had no homework done. I only had a vague idea of what I wanted the site to be about and a lot of other vague ideas that propped up from there but other than that…nill. Thanks to Epife I was still able to build a decent site and while the process is simple which is made simpler if you have a decent friend to help you out (another shout out to Arfa), it is time-consuming I still have a lot to do, a lot to learn, a lot to read and a lot to write.

Also read 5 plugins that made my website experience easier

Despite still being in the initial stages, I’ve gone through so much that I think I can give those bloggers, who are planning to go down the sinister path of getting a personal domain. I’m going to make you a list of the things you need to cross out when you build your own website. Still with me? Good. Stay for a bit longer.

Why do you want a website?

Really ask yourself that because it is a full time job. Buy a website ONLY if

  • You are really passionate about it
  • You are ready to take on it as a full time job instead of just a hobby. It requires patience, time and hard work for your venture to start paying off
  • You are capable and ready to adapt to rapid changes so you stay on top of your game

If you are sure of everything listed above, move on to the next step. No it’s not buying a domain. Not yet.

How to build your brand?

Courtesy unsplash.com

Since you are moving forward from a blog to a website it means you are ready to build your own brand. In order to do that

  • Decide on a name. If you have a niche, that makes things simpler for you since you have a specific area to focus on. Be creative but keep it simple and short. Remember, whatever you choose will be the name of your brand. I chose Farwa Rants because I couldn’t settle on a niche, scatterbrained as I am and I do rant a lot. Oh, and my name is Farwa, in case you were wondering about the first part.
  • Once you’ve decided a name, design a logo that can you can use on your website, social media accounts and as watermarks on your pictures. If you know how to use any photo editing software, you can design it yourself or ask someone else to do it for you. Or you can generate a logo online. There are many websites that generate several logos for you to choose from and some of them are actually good. I’m not a very creative person so I tried a few sites, selected a few I liked to show my brother who will design a customised version of it for me because what are brothers for right?

Related: Site niche – is it really important?

Now that you sorted the above out, it’s time to take the final step: get a domain.

What to do once you have a website?

  • Select or design a theme that goes with your niche and also represents YOU. There are millions of bloggers out there that are offering content that is somewhat, if not completely, similar to you so you need to stand out in whatever way you can.
  • Create accounts on every social media channel that will bring you traffic. Do not underestimate the power of social media, it plays a huge role in driving traffic to your site. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr etc. and be active on your channels. Don’t just share your content. Share informative articles or pictures, videos etc. anything that will keep your followers engaged.

Done? Now to the next and most important step:

Start posting!

Courtesy unsplash.com
  • Unlike Aladdin’s Genie, ideas do not pop out whenever you want them. Get a notepad and a pen or open a word document, whatever tool you find most comfortable and brainstorm. It’s a really eye-opening session, brainstorming. You realise that a lot of you think is rubbish that you shouldn’t ever utter or even think of again. You also realise that most of what you think are crazy ideas are actually the most wonderful and those are the ones you should end up developing.
  • Prepare a rough draft first. Write whatever comes to mind without going back to edit anything. I call it Brainstorming Session #2. I’ve been at this stage for an hour now but it is better to write first and edit later because if you do both simultaneously, you’ll end up forgetting points you wanted to add or worse, lose direction.
  • Inevitably, the next step is editing. No matter how good you are at writing, it is vital to go through what you have written because there is always room for perfection.
  • Not all of us are amazing photographers or own expensive cameras that can make ugly look breathtaking. If you too fall in this category, there are many websites with a huge collection of stock photos that are free, free, FREE! Become a member of the site(s) you think have the best pictures and use them without having to worry about copyright issues. Find a list of free photography websites here. And yes, you can also post your watermark or logo on those pictures.

How to improve and grow your website?

  • Interact with other bloggers. Remember, we are a community and here to support each other.
  • Don’t just share your content. Share blogs from other bloggers that you find interesting or informative. You can also promote fellow bloggers and ask them to return the favour.
  • Stalk other bloggers. It doesn’t matter what they write about, just go through their posts, check the layout of their site, the way they interact with followers etc. You can learn something from everyone.
  • Read, read, read. Read everything you come across, blogs, news, articles, books, anything you can get your hands on. Not only will it increase your knowledge, it will also force your brain particles to sneak out of their comfort zone and come up with new ideas.
Courtesy unsplash.com

Well, that’s about it. This is all I’ve learned so far. But I know I have a long way to go and can really use your help! So do share your experiences and tips in the comments.

Also if you found this post helpful and interesting, don’t forget to share it with friends 🙂

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