The intent is to focus on topics I already write about in my personal journal. Of course, there are details I will exclude for obvious reasons, but many of the topics cover passions and interests that I’m sure many people share. This is my way of sharing and contributing to those communities.
- To benefit others with similar interests, challenges or experiences by sharing insights and lessons learned. Or simply to entertain with personal stories.
- I have the ambition to author and self-publish a book someday. It is my hope that this blog will exercise my writing and help me determine what topics would be worthy of a book.
- Generated ideas for content, context, structure and execution plan. This project started with one of my recent journal entries. (I keep a personal journal using Journey by Journal. This is one of my favorite apps and I’ll likely dedicate a post to it later). I jotted down several ideas a few days ago as part of a daily practice (see author James Altucher) and this was one of them. I must have been inspired that morning because the ideas kept flowing, came together and I got excited to start right away.
- I registered two domain names, donndurante.com and prodabbler.com, using my existing account with MyDomain.com. They each cost about $9/year and it was quick and easy because I’ve registered many domain names in the past. I’ve always been tempted to register my name as a dot com but never really had a good idea about what content it would house. Now I do. ProDabbler.com made sense to me since the overarching theme for this blog is my experience dabbling in several areas throughout my life. ProfessionalDabbler.com was already taken but I like that prodabbler is shorter and still easy to market if I ever decided to promote the blog. I’m actually surprised that prodabbler wasn’t already registered. There are enough self-proclaimed “professional dabblers” online, I’m curious why nobody thought about claiming the domain. Anyway, I’m glad it was available. For now, I’ve just set it up to redirect to donndurante.com
- Setting up server space was the next step. I already have an account with 1and1 which hosts several sites I still keep up and running. (Those sites have been on autopilot for many years but something tells me I shouldn’t give up on them just yet.) It was relatively quick and painless to configure the new domains registered with some dedicated space under my 1&1 Unlimited Contract. That package has plenty of available server space and allows me to run several domains under one account. 1&1 also has great features including an AppCenter that made setting up a hosted WordPress site very straightforward. Linking MyDomain registrations with 1&1 hosting can take up to 24 hours or so to propagate but in actuality, it only took a couple of hours.
- WordPress was the obvious platform choice for me. Not only is it well established and feature rich, it is already integrated with my hosting service and responsive to mobile devices. With earlier sites, I experimented with using CSS to manually create my own sites using responsive design…I found it took too much effort for something that is already included with WordPress themes and templates. Using the 1&1 utility wizard, it only took a few minutes to install WordPress and have it ready on the server space assigned to it.
- This step is where the creativity kicked in. After updating some of the general settings, I started customizing the site:
- I searched for a theme that caught my eye. I wanted something simple yet stylish. Filtering the search results by newest first, I found a theme called “Curiosity Lite”. It had a layout that I thought would fit the concept I had in mind.
- Once installed and activated, I began organizing the blog by adding pages, categories and placeholder content. I uploaded some media and played around with placement. My initial ideas for images and a logo didn’t display well with the theme so I undid them. I may come back to it later, but for now I’d like to keep it clean. Adding media just to have it feels forced and doesn’t seem to add value.
- I wrote a short post titled “And so I begin” to replace the “Hello World” post that comes with the template.
- I walked away from writing more even though I was tempted to keep pushing forward and adding as much starting content as time allowed. Like any other activity, it’s important to pause and reflect. I noticed I was getting tired and the writing wasn’t flowing as well. I had other things to attend to anyway so I decided to give it a rest and recharge.
- I came back and restructured some of the categories by lumping some topics as sub-categories under more general parent categories (e.g. music and books were grouped under a new category I’m calling “media”). It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference when there isn’t much content, but as the substance of the site grows over time, content structure that is intuitive and well organized makes navigation and search friendlier in the long run. I also went back and started adding relevant tags to posts.
- I realized that the hosted version of WordPress doesn’t have built-in analytics. Coming from a digital marketing background, I feel blind when I can’t see the metrics of site activity. There won’t be much to look at until I actually have visitors and site engagement, but it’s one of those things that is good to have in place from the beginning. I search available plugins for “analytics” and chose Google Analytics Dashboard for WordPress based on its rating and the total number of downloads. Simple to install and configure since I already have a Google Analytics account.
- Knowing that the site will change as it matures, I took a screenshot to capture how it looks today. I wonder how it will look 10 years from now.
- From this point, it will be about adding content on a regular basis. Some days I plan to just go back in time and fill in the backstory. Other days will have current experiences that tie into the theme of pro dabbler.