How to Set Up a Company Blog

Following the launch of [Summer], my co-founders and I sat down to discuss our company blog – a place where we could post release notes, stories, tips, information about exciting startups, and anything else we would want to say to our amazing supporters.
 
Then we faced fundamental questions about setting up the blog – where and how we should do it?
 
Although I have basic knowledge of web development (as a Marketing guy), I felt that I wasn’t equipped enough to decide the best way to set up the blog. So I had to bug Oz, one of our engineers, to help me with it.
 
I also asked him to summarize the needed steps, so that all of you out there which are like me, could do it next time easily, and consider everything before you set one of your own:
 
The Requirements
 
  1. Customization – We wanted the blog to have the same look and feel as our website (and I expect you do too), which means the HTML and CSS need to be customized accordingly.
  2. Domain – One key issue was to have the blog on our own DNS, blog.getsummer.com.
  3. WYSIWYG (What you See Is What You Get) – In many cases (such as our own), the non-techies from the team might need to be the ones maintaining the blog and posts, so editing needed to be easy.

The Alternatives
 
  • WordPress.com – Theming at WordPress.com is hard, and regretfully not available in the free package.
  • Hosted WordPress – Again, theming is hard, and getting it hosted seems like a big headache.
  • Django Blog Engine – Since we are mostly a Django Shop, we considered using some of its existing engines, such as http://mezzanine.jupo.org/ but it turned to take too much work. Mezzanine can however be a great alternative if you want to control every little detail, and don’t mind getting your hands dirty.
  • Blogger – A valid option, however, Oz wasn’t pleased with the confusing template language (and we thought it best to avoid upsetting the engineer…).
  • Tumblr – Tumblr templating with HTML / CSS turned out be incredibly easy despite it being only one file to edit (which usually means it will be harder to maintain). Thanks to the simplicity of the Tumblr templating language, maintenance is actually quite simple. Tumblr also has an attractive admin interface that allows you to edit the template, setup Analytics, add a commenting system, and a custom domain. Although Tumblr’s WYSIWYG editor is probably not the best out there, it’s still good enough for our needs.

 

 
 
 
 
As you might have guessed, Tumblr won, and we started to implement the requirements (mentioned above).
 
Now, this is the important part (so pay attention and take notes!)
 
 
  1. Start off with the default theme since it’s pretty straight forward and easy to extend.
  2. If you are familiar with Mustache\Handlebars.js\Jinja2\Django templates it’s kinda similar, but without any real programmable logic. http://www.tumblr.com/docs/en/custom_themes is a great resource.
  3. Use {block:PermalinkPage}…{/block:PermalinkPage}where you want things that only appear on a post and not in the main feed.
  4. Add a few classes in the CSS to add predefined styles that you might want to incorporate into posts.
  5. Since the Tumblr editor doesn’t let you do much in the way of coloring or altering text, nor will it let you use thestyle=”..” attribute in your HTML – we use the class=”…” attribute and add these classes to the theme itself as a workaround.
  6. Analytics! – As a figures freak, I recommend never forgetting to track the visits to your blog.
  7. Simply add an Analtyics tracking code to the blog HTML (I recommend using a UA which is different from your website UA).
  8. DNS – Tumblr makes this pretty easy. Using your DNS provider’s admin interface, create a CNAME record calledblog.yourcompany.com and point it at domains.tumblr.com. Then, under Tumblr’s admin dashboard, check “Use a custom domain name” and enter “blog.yourcompany.com”. It will usually take around an hour for the DNS changes to propagate, so be patient.

 

 
If you find that you have the same blogging needs as we do, I recommend choosing Tumblr. It was surprisingly easy, and we are pleased with the results.
 
Visit our blog at blog.getsummer.com to see how it turned out – and as always, we welcome your feedback.
 
Tell us what you take into consideration while setting up your company blog, and how you chose the right platform for your needs.
 

 

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