Blogs are not just blogs anymore. The term "blog" started as a sort-of definition for an easy to use web publishing system based on serialized, journal-like content. The ability to categorize was clearly needed and that got added. The one really special thing about them was the abilty to syndicate them thanks to a standard format. Now, all manner of widgets are being added to blog software such that "things that are blog" can arguably be just described as web page publishing by another name. There's two basic ways you can have your own blog, better known as a blog. You can install blogging software on your own web server or get a hosted account somewhere. My preference is to use TypePad as a hosted solution.
If you're here looking for a starting place for a CSS file to customize a TypePad blog, I discuss this in a How To blog entry within a blog area I set up just for this. It's a super simple custom CSS that just lets you customize some of the basics using TypePad. To go deeper, it's not really blogging you'd need to learn about, but Cascading Style Sheets (CSS.)
Content Management Systems
If you want to build out a whole portal, publishing system, or something more exteme, you're going to have a ton of choices to make. There's piles and piles of free open source software you can install on your server. But increasingly, there's a lot more capability available in hosted solutions. Of course, the capability comes with a cost. It's more in time if you're installing and configuring, and more in $$$ if your using a hosted application service provider.
In any case, your starting point should be CMSWatch.com for checking out what's out there. Start out by taking a look at the featuers availble. Create your own "must have" and "nice to have list" of required features.
Traditional Web Publishing
To just make some pages, you've got a ton of options. You'll need a web host of course, but the question will be do you want a simple hosting solution that has some quick sites via template for you, or do you want to create your own web page code? If you need databases and other advanced functionality, you're already way beyond the details I'll offer here. Below are just some pointers to some of my favorite services and tools.
Among the decisions you'll have to make, based on the functions you want, is do you want to go with combined services or best of breed? For example, a hosting provider may provide blogs, image galleries and so on, but maybe you want a special blog tool, or to use ImageEvent, or Flikr for your images.
- 1and1.com - In the "battle of the checkboxes" for feature set and price/value, I've found this company wins out for a basic, but fully functional site. This site you're on now and most of its functions are hosted at 1and1, though a lot of the more advanced features are not yet in use.
Web.com - Web.com used to be Interland. I've got a couple of sites hosted there. They have a lot of the same functionality as 1&1. Obviously, most of these hosting companies have close to the same sorts of things. It's really important you understand your own requirements when choosing. The effective price difference for similar accounts is most often just a few dollars per month.
- GoDaddy.com - Yes, you probably found GoDaddy got popular thanks to super-hotty Candice Michelle. Of course it was GoDaddy and their Super Bowl commercials that helped launch her career as well. In any case, they're a great low-cost domain provider. I've got literally hundreds of domains with them, either active or parked. Never a problem and they're among the lowest priced.
- Network Solutions - NSI was initially a lead domain registrar. Like so many others, they've added hosting options as well. They have a wide variety of easy to build templates. They are one of the more expensive registrars. But as one of the oldest, they do have a ton of experience and if you're all about reliabilty/longevity, they're worth checking out.
Web Site Production Tools
Favorite web tools is practically a religious argument among web designers and developers. It'd be pointless to even try to coral them all here. So these are just my favorites. Adobe has been buying up a lot of production tools these days and a lot of what were once products from independent companies are now under the Adobe brand.
- Dreamweaver 8 - Full WYSIWYG editor with easy access to a code view. Great template capability for pre-production processing of design formats.
- Photoshop - Huge industry standard image processing platform. It may be overkill for basic needs. (And expensive.) If so, check out Fireworks, a lighter weight program, also now from Adobe.
Helpful Add-On Editing & Design Tools
- UltraEdit - An exellent raw text file editor. No matter what advanced web editing environment you're working in, you'll find it occasionally useful to be able to get to the raw page code.
- Color Wheel Expert - create harmonious color schemes.
- SR32 - Don't let the web site fool you. It's a kind of lame web site as of this writing. But this search/replace tool, (for things in text files), is really amazing. Believe it or not, early versions of one of the top Internet sites in the world, About.com, relied heavily on use of this tool to update verisons of the service in the first year of the company.