Set the wayback machine to August 2009. I was in a pretty bad place work wise, and I created a blog on WordPress.com merely as an outlet. Shortly after that I dove into hosting my own blog, using my domain tralfaz.org, and the rest is history.
In between then and now, I have been through three (four if you count my work for Southern Arizona Greyhound Adoption) hosting / VPS providers, worked with WordPress from version 2 to the current 4.7, Drupal, Joomla! and Ghost. I have experimented with writing a custom site on the CakePHP framework.
In this stretch of time, I have developed some practices. They may not be “best” practices, but they have streamlined the process, and brought some uniformity to my writing, and creative process. Without further ado:
Early on, I just used the built in editing system in the Content Management System (CMS), but that was limiting in that I could only work when I was online.
There are a couple programs that connect to WordPress, and use XML-RPC to post. You could use a rich text editor to work offline.
On the Mac I used MarsEdit, which was a pleasant environment to create blog postings. You write, format, insert images (and do some resizing and other editing). It works with WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, TypePad, and other platforms, and gives you the ability to work even without an internet connection. I used this for about a year pretty regularly.
On the PC, early on, I used a Microsoft Program called Windows Live Writer. It was similar in function to MarsEdit, and if I had to admit it, it was slightly better than MarsEdit. Unfortunately, Microsoft has pretty much abandoned it, and as I am not really a Windows person, I never looked for a replacement.
But, in ’12 I started working with a different platform. As part of the Marketing and Communications group at Southern Arizona Greyhound Adoption , the desire was to use Joomla! instead of WordPress. My job was to create the site, and to make it “easy” for non-savvy people to do some maintenance. My offline editors didn’t work, and I needed a way to create pages and mock them up offline. At first I just did raw HTML coding, and used a text editor.
Then I discovered Markdown. Talk about a life changing event. It is like a shorthand to handle about 80% of the tricky bits of HTML, removing a lot of the hassle of opening and closing tags, and creating features like tables, titles, blockquotes, code blocks, and others. When you need something beyond the standard capabilities of markdown, you can just put it inline. It greatly streamlines the process, and removes barriers to being creative.
You can just use a plain text editor, but the better editors have split screen, and the ability to load your custom CSS, so you can preflight it. You can tweak your text/code, do inline HTML, override the CSS, and basically get it perfect before you ever upload. The editors will then allow you to copy the raw HTML, or the complete HTML (with the CSS) so that what you see is what you get.
At first, I used just the built in media handling. This was (and still is) OK in WordPress. But, I will admit that it was sub-par in Joomla. And when I moved my first wordpress blog from WordPress to Ghost, well, I had to look to a third party to host my images to have any hope of a seamless migration.
Enter Cloudinary. A cloud-based image hosting provider, that offers transformation, resizing, and a variety of extra services (if you are willing to pay). I use it almost exclusively, and so far for 5 sites, I don’t even come close to the limit for the free account, and it has been super-reliable.
Lots of flexibility, solid performance, and I don’t have to worry about hosting the images, or backing them up. The “Free” tier is limited to 75K images, 2GB storage, and 5GB/month bandwidth. Plenty. And if I ever become successful enough to go beyond this, I will probably be able to afford the $44 a month for the pro tier.
My creation process is pretty simple. For longer posts, I outline what I want to say. Then I fill in the gaps, and flesh out the details, add images (if needed), and then tweak up the output so that the layout is acceptable (no, I am not a perfectionist, but I do check on both my phone as well as my laptop).
I use this for both Ghost and WordPress. While they both now support native Markdown, I find that I prefer working offline. Plus, the WordPress Markdown implementation is weaksauce. Ghost is better, but still, you are tied to being online.