Finally, A Society Website Anyone Can Manage
Do you find that your genealogy society website is too hard to maintain? Millions of people with no special web skills maintain their own blogs. Creating and maintaining a society website can be just that easy. In this class you will learn how to adapt a blog so that it functions just like your old society website—easy as cake, no special web skills required!
To fully benefit from this class, attendees should be able to run applications, find and edit documents, format text, use e-mail, and comfortably navigate the web. Attendees should understand files, folders (or directories), websites, addresses (or URL), web pages, links, and transferring files.
Regular Website versus Blog Website
There are different types of websites and different tools for creating and maintaining the information shown on websites.
A regular website depends on special computer codes called HTML and CSS. The codes control the appearance of information shown on each page. While it is possible to manually enter these codes, it is difficult and time-consuming. Many web authors use expensive or complicated tools to make these tasks easier. These tools and HTML and CSS give web authors exacting control of the appearance of web pages.
A blog is a special type of website that is free, easy to use, and easy to maintain. “Blog” stands for “weB LOG.” A blog is a log of messages that a blog author posts on the web. A typical post is dated and signed by the author. The most recent post appears at the top of the log, followed by progressively older posts. Genealogists create blogs for many purposes. Some blogs are newsletters. Others are research logs or reports.
A blog’s easiness comes with a price. A blog is constrained in appearance, flexibility, and capability. A blog can be adjusted to look and act very much like a regular website. But you should expect that a blog-based society website will not look or act exactly like a regular society website. Some features are beyond the capabilities of a blog.
To see how well a blog can replace a regular society website, I tried to duplicate an actual society website. I used Blogger.com, a web application from Google. I created a copy of the Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) website as it previously appeared. My copy, for the mythical “Sample Genealogy Society,” is at http://samplegensociety.blogspot.com. UGA subsequently created a new website. My copy (of just the new homepage) is at http://samplegensociety2011.blogspot.com.
A blog has behaviors that are unique to blogs. To look like a regular website, mask these behaviors. Eliminate the appearance of logging by displaying only one post on the main page. Hide the time, date, and author that appear with each post. (A summary of the settings to change appears at the end of this article.) With these changes, each blog post is a web page. To create a new page, publish a new post.
A blog shares many features with a regular website. For example, parts of a page should be the same on every page of a website. Use Template Designer and Page Elements to create or modify these.
- You can click on Design and then Template Designer to choose a design and adjust the size and layout of the header, footer, and sidebars (columns along the side of the page).
- You can also click on Design and then Page Elements to populate these with “gadgets.”
Hint: To enter the copyright symbol into a footer, hold the Alt key down while typing 0169 on the numeric keypad.
A blog always displays the most recent post on its main page. To create a home page, create the page, and then publish it. As long as it remains the newest page, it will remain on the main page. The tricky part is keeping it there. You could always republish the home page after each new post. I found a simpler way. After I published my home page, I edited it and changed the post date to 12/31/29 (31 December 2029). For the next 19 years my home page will be the newest page.
Hint: When creating your home page, leave the title blank.
To use a blog as a society website, configure it to look like a regular website. Create a header, sidebars, and a footer to contain the parts of the website that appear on every page. Hide blog-specific stuff. Create a home page and set its date to 12/31/29 (31 December 2029). Stir. Bake for 30 seconds. Then begin enjoying your new society website.
Use these settings to change the behavior of a blog into that of a general purpose website.
Click the Settings tab. Change the settings as indicated below. The value of settings not shown are up to you.
Enter a title and a description.
Let search engines…=Yes
Select post editor=Updated editor
Show at most=1 posts
Convert line breaks=Yes
Show Title field=Yes
Show Link fields=No
Enable Post Pages=Yes
Add desired authors.
Who can view this blog=Anybody
For the members-only portion of the society website, set this to “Only people I choose.”
Click the Design tab, then Page Elements. In the Blog Posts box, click Edit.Change the settings as indicated below.
- Number of posts on main page: 1 Post
- Show Quick Editing
- Show Share Buttons.
Clear all the other boxes. In particular, to hide blog-like behavior, clear
- the date
- Posted by
- the time
- Links to this post
- Show Emal Post Links
- Show Share Buttons
- Show Ads
Using your blog-based society website
- To create a blog, start at http://www.blogger.com.
- To learn the basics of blogs, read the Getting Started Guide.
- I can’t answer your questions. Visit Blogger Help to find answers to easy questions. For harder ones, visit the Blogger Forums and discuss your question with real people.
- Learn to create pages, or as Blogger calls it, publish posts.
- Using the online editors is so easy you may not need help. But if you wish to learn all the nuances, read up on the Updated Editor or the Old Editor.
- To link to one of your pages, you must know its URL. To see it, use Edit Posts. Click the View link next to the page title. The URL of the page now appears in the browser address field.
- A blog-based society website is so easy to change, you can give permission to a team of several people to create and modify pages.
- To write my blog I use an application called Windows Live Writer. One download link handles all Windows Live applications. When you run Setup, choose Windows Live Writer and any other applications you wish to install.
- Images are an important part of a website. Windows Live Writer handles most image manipulations you need: resize, crop, brightness, contrast, rotate, watermark, borders, shadows, reflections, and rounded corners. When I need more capabilities, I use paint.net.
- To add a calendar to the sample website, I created a Google Calendar and added it to a page.
- To create a members-only section, create a second blog and set permissions restricting readers to a list of the society members.
- Blogger supports custom domains such as www.SampleGenSociety.com.
- Implement navigation tabs at the top of the page with Blogger Pages.
- I wanted to try the Google Checkout Store Gadget to see if it was an easy way to sell society memberships online. If you try it, let me know if it works for you. It is also possible to add a Paypal shopping cart.