Here are my top tools online. I use a number of these web applications on a daily basis, and I wanted to make sure others were aware of them too. They share one common feature, that they execute on their purpose extraordinarily well. You might not need some of these tools, depending upon what service you use and how you handle your blog.
If you happen to be one of those individuals who hasn’t started using Firefox yet, please go give it a try right away. I personally haven’t used Internet Explorer for almost two years now (unless I’m forced to). It really is that much better. Enjoy tabbed browsing, better compatibility with most web sites, and a host of extensions.
Del.icio.us allows you to save bookmarks to the web instead of to your particular computer. It has a social component as well, where you can invite others to see your bookmarked websites and see what they have found interesting and useful as well. No longer will you be tied to a specific computer – your bookmarks are wherever you are.
Most people use some type of software to track their user statistics for their blog, in my case it’s Blogbeat. A lot use either Google Analytics or Sitemeter, both of which are free and useful tools. I’ve found that the visual representations in Blogbeat are better for my type of quick study. I want a snapshot of what’s going on and it does that in a simple, visually appealing way.
If you’re looking to find out if a domain is still available for purchase, who owns a domain, and a link directly to the top domain registrars, Internet Domain Search is the place you need to go. It’s simple, it’s executed brilliantly, and I use it almost daily. Here is a past write-up on IDS.
Of course, this blog is built using the WordPress blog engine. I’ve found it to be the simplest to set up and it has the most amount of support from the community. There are literally hundreds of WordPress plugins. There are great number of very high quality themes as well, of which my favorites are K2. (Don’t confuse this with WordPress.com, which is a hosted solution, WordPress.org is the one you want and you can load that up onto your own web host for complete control.)
One of the best ways to increase and maintain your blog readership is by creating a way for readers to be emailed your blog on a regular basis. On White African, I use Zookoda. There are other services like Feedburner where you can do this, but I’ve found that the extra control over the details and the way the email looks are worth using Zookoda instead. I have to say that I love this free service. I took an hour to do the setup for my blog, but once that was done I just forget about it. It’s been a great thing and I highly suggest you use it or something similar.
Snipshot is a web-based image and picture editing tool. If there is a picture on the web that you would like to resize, or something on your own computer that you want to clip, you can do it on Snipshot instead of booting up some client-based image editor. This is particularly useful when you’re on the road, or on someone elses computer and you don’t have access to your normal image editors. It’s another great tool made by the same guys behind Instant Domain Search (above).
Flickr is a popular image hosting site that doubles as a social network. You can upload images for free to your account, and then link those back to your blog as needed. Easy integration with your blog is part of the package too, so give that feature a try as well. Flickr makes it easy to decide which images are “private” and which are “public” too, so you’re in complete control. Of course, you can also order prints off of it as well.
Technorati is a blog search engine. Instead of getting the static results for a search, like you do in Google, you can find up-to-date reviews and thoughts on current issues by bloggers worldwide. A good way to increase traffic to your blog is to register with Technorati and then start tagging your blog posts for easier filtering by their engine. You should also ping them whenever a new blog is posted. One of the fun parts of Technorati is entering in your blog’s web address to see who is linking to you and what rank it is (if you care).
There are many, many web hosts around the world. I’ve used a couple of them, and then finally stumbled upon Dreamhost. Thank God that I did! For as little as $8/month you get a gigantic amount of space and massive amounts of bandwidth. I’ve been using them for over a year now, and don’t regret the decision at all. A down-to-earth and very responsive team – If you need a web host in the States, seriously think about Dreamhost. (disclosure notice: I do get a referral fee from the link if you choose to go with them.)
I hope these links and explanations of web applications that I find useful, are helpful to you as well. Shoot me an email or comment below if you have any questions about them.
If you’re wondering how to create a “Digg” button on your blog, go to Alex Bosworth’s excellent Digg button creator.