Creating a business website on Blogger

I've been looking for platform for the BRZ website for sometime now. The primary criterion was simplicity and to that end I tried a one-page, html only website purchased from Theme Forest. The template looked great and was simple, but adding and changing content was a chore and required changing html code. So it was obvious BRZ needed a content management system (or CMS) was required for adding and changing content.

I've tried Wordpress before and have found it too complex, or at least to flexible which led to much configuration fiddling on my behalf.

I like Tumblr, but I am not so sure about its uptime. Indeed, the day I assessed it for the BRZ site it was down.

I also considered around some custom CMSs - those that can be embedded directly into the website. But again I was concerned about becoming distracted with implementation and maintenance effort.

So, perhaps controversially, I went with Blogger based on my experience with some personal blogs. It is a doddle to use and much more customisable than it was in its early days. It has some nice plug-in features and I don't ever recall it going down. It is super cheap - well it is free - and is in line with BRZ's goal of making technology accessible to all business, no matter how small.

SEO experts say that Blogger is a poor platform from an SEO stance. Maybe it is, I don't really know. But the goal of this blog is not for maximum hits. And my logic is that SEO is largely built around Google's search and with Blogger being a Google product, I struggle to accept that it is difficult to find a Google Blogger-hosted site using Google search. So I am content to chance my arm.

But using a Blogger as a business website requires a little bit of a fiddle - a business is not a blog (though a business may have a blog). Fortunately, it is not too hard to find out how to do these. I did - and I include some links to these sites along with the steps I took to turn a Blogger blog into a Blogger-hosted business CMS.
  • I registered a web domain. I use Netregistry for Australian sites (e.g. .com.au) and Dreamhost for US / worldwide sites (e.g. .com).
  • I created a few Blogger pages, which are static (as opposed to blog posts), to use as the basis of the business web site. The BRZ pages are a home page, a contact page, an about us page, a services, but I could have added more or fewer depending on business need. 
  • These Blogger pages appear as tabs at the top of each page (which is my preference) or as links to the left. I reordered these to my liking using Blogger standard functionality.
  • The blog page is the default page, so I needed to change that. Use a static page as a default landing page, rather than a blog post page, on Blogger. This diverts traffic away from the blog 'page' and toward one of the static pages.
  • I wanted a multi column site (see the BRZ home page as an example). I wanted to use an off-the-shelf grid system like 960.gs, but it was the wrong size and seemed like overkill. So I developed a custom, simple grid system from scratch.
  • By default, Blogger widgets, like archive lists, appear on each page - not just the blog page where they belong. So I hid widgets from all Blogger pages.
  • Then the hardest bit, I redirected the registered domain to Blogger.com. I found this a little tricky, but this guide to setting up a custom domain on Blogger helped.
  • I always try to mask my email address to spam bots using javascript. There are no guarantees ... but I figure it has to be better than nothing.
  • I did some CSS fiddling, but essentially, that is about it.
    • Then there are a couple of things I did not do
      • I did not hide the Blogger attribute at the bottom of each page. I could have modified my template to remove them, but I am not sure how that affects the Google EULA. Besides, I left it on to make it a possible discussion point with those who happened across the BRZ site.
      • When removing label filters, clicking on the "Show all posts" hyperlink brings up the blog page, not the desired home page. I'll add JQuery to Blogger's template to correct this. UPDATE: upon adding JQuery to Blogger's template I had a problem with blog and page previews - it returned a "Bad request: Error 400" message. I corrected this by clearing the browser cache and cookies to correct the "Bad request: Error 400" message.
    I'll let you know how it goes.

    NOTE: In the name of full disclosure, I do get a kickback from the above Dreamhost link. But I can say hand on heart that my dealings with Dreamhost have been great over a long period if time and I'd recommend them kick back or not.