Free and effective websites

Minnesota Local History Blog.

Minnesota Local History Blog.

Advice and help with building history capacity.

The Minnesota Historical Society’s Local History Services helps Minnesotans preserve and share their history. This blog is a resource of best practices on the wide variety of museum, preservation, conservation, funding, and non-profit management topics. We’re here to help.

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Free and effective websites

By: grabitsdm | Information Technology | April 27, 2009

When contemplating a means in which the Fillmore County Historical Society could achieve a web presence, I chose a free blogging service, Word  Our Board wasn't quite ready to embrace internet technology by purchasing a domain and paying for web hosting.  Yet I wanted to get our museum out online, as well as to give our members an idea of what is possible on the World Wide Web.   I decided it best to begin simply, and with no cost involved.  It’s my hope is that our starter web site will grow up and one day serve as the foundation of a larger, commercial site.  At the very least, we’ve put ourselves out there in cyber space for the time being until we’re able to take it to the next level.

The following are a basic dozen steps to get your non-profit organization launched on the web.


1. Register to sign up for your blog. 

2.  Choose a user name that will be your blog domain name.  Ours is  Make this choice with careful thought to your own brand as you cannot change your user name later.

3. Choose a blog title - this may be changed at a later time if you wish.

4.  Choose your language and privacy settings, and then create your blog.

5.  Choose your password, and key in your email address.  Your account will be activated by following instructions in a confirmation email sent to you.

6.  Every time you log on to your WordPress blog, you will need your user name and password.  (Passwords can be changed later.)  As the administrator(s) of your blog, you have access to the dashboard and control over settings and content.

7. Choose a theme for your blog from available options.  Go to the Appearance/Themes menu option at your dashboard.  The theme becomes your blog’s style, appearance, and color motif.  In many cases, themes offer extra bells and whistles, called widgets, which the web designer created expressly for that theme. It is possible to preview themes by clicking on screen shots.  You may easily choose another theme with just a click of your mouse, should you change your mind.  Certain themes support widgets.  In themes that do, you may replace default widgets with ones of your own preference.

8.  Not every theme supports custom headers.  I expressly chose one for our site which did since I wanted to customize the header image with my own photo.  I sized a digital image to exactly the same pixels as that of the default header image.  If you skip this resizing step, you will be given opportunity to crop the picture to fit when you upload it, but you will lose a portion of the image when cropping.

9.  The ability to create "pages" which look very much like traditional web pages, rather than typical blog posts was the prime feature that sold me on using to host our blog.  I created ten separate pages that can be accessed from the top menu bar or sidebar.

10.  A free blog account at WordPress allows for 3 GB of free file storage.  To go above that limit, you will need to purchase optional premium upgrades.

11.  Your posts or pages can be composed in either WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get: Visual) or traditional HTML.  Both posts and pages may be edited or deleted at any time.  You may upload images, audio, video, and certain other media files to your posts or pages.

12.  The statistics system offered to WordPress bloggers is awesome.  How easily and informative it is to check stats.  Clicking on “View All” will allow your administrator to observe the traffic your site has received in days/weeks/months.   It also tracks referrers- people who clicked on links from other websites to get to your blog as well as incoming links from other sites.  Your top posts or pages provide traffic count so you’ll know which page or post is currently receiving the most hits.  A list of search engine terms helps your administrator know how your viewers found your blog.  Click on the summary tables for your blog for detailed numbers as to your traffic.

My decision to use came after testing several other blogging services. As I understand policies at (which is sister site to commercial blogger bloggers may use for non-commercial use.  It’s been my intention to use our site for informational, rather than commercial, purposes.  I wanted a web presence for promotional reasons only.  I don’t plan to use it for the sale of merchandise.  I want our viewers to be kept informed on what is happening at our museum.  The blog is used to spread the word about upcoming events.   One of the drawbacks of a free blog at WordPress is the possibility of Google text ads occasionally popping up on your site.  But in my experience, this happens rarely, if ever.  All in all, I’ve been pleased with hosting our site as a free blog at  I highly recommend any small non-profit with limited funds and means to try their hand at it putting themselves out there in as creative manner as possible.  It’s working for us in Fillmore County.

Debra J. Richardson, Executive Director
Fillmore County History Center