Thursday, November 17, 2011

Setting up Shop - Blog Layout Tips

     So you've taken the plunge and decided to create your own blog. Good for you. You may have mistakenly thought the writing would be the hardest part. Not so, it's the designing. There are several challenges but the good thing is, you've got time. Take it slowly, back up religiously and have fun.These are mainly things I wish someone had been around to tell me when I started. Trial and error isn't all that bad but...

    The biggest problem for most of us, unless you actually blog about designing, is lack of technical prowess. I can program my television channels, HTML coding??? Hash Tags?? Luckily, there are a thousand sites out there that offer tutorials on all the things you could ever want to include. How to decide?

     If you want to go the DIY route and I suggest you at least try, start simple. You don't have to include everything at first. Most sites offer templates. Play with backgrounds, colors, column widths, borders, fonts, all the basics. Keep in mind, people have to be able to read what you wrote. There are some funky fonts out there, not all of them are easy to read. High contrast colours work well too. Highlighting text to read it because it blends into the background is just plain annoying.

     Once you are comfortable with the basics, take stock of what you want your readers to get out of your space. Time to add the gadgets or widgets. Your basic template will usually have quite a few to choose from.

     There should be a way, or several ways to follow along. You'll need the social media buttons, an RSS feed is good too. I'm still working on mine.

     Because we're so darn curious, a profile page is good to have, with a way to contact you. In the same vein, a comment system is good to allow readers to interact with you.

     Because I have a lot of recipes, I wanted a print option. Thank you, Print Friendly. The plug in worked like a dream.

     Because time is limited, add a recent posts gadget with a short snippet of your posts. It allows new readers to get a quick overview of your site. The alternative is the popular posts gadget, or the random, you may also like gadget.

     Provide a way, or several ways, for people to navigate through your posts. I have pages across the top, a Google search bar, a cloud label and my post archive. Label your posts, right from the beginning. It is the easiest way to organise things and I wish someone had mentioned that at the start of mine. I've gone back re-labelling several times.

     I think that covers most of the basics. You should have a fully functioning, easy to follow, easy to navigate site. If you are still comfortable, time to add the bells and whistles.

     I have kept my space fairly simple. Why? That cute hoovering picture I had at the start doesn't render the same across all platforms or systems. On a lot of systems it blocked the text and was just plain annoying. Who knew? Ask Rorybore about her Thanksgiving turkeys. LOL

     My site is already graphic heavy, I have a ton of pictures posted. That makes the site slow to load. The more things you add, scrolling marquees, things that sparkle or any animations, the slower your blog. My target audience, my family, is rural. No high speed available or ridiculously expensive. Some still have dial up service, there is no other option. The more I added the slower it got until I decided to strip it back down. Now I appreciate all those touches on other blogs.

     There are lots of sites that will walk you through how to set up any personalization you can think of. The only one I chose to do was the header that introduces the blog. All you need is a graphics program, MS Paint will suffice, some imagination and time. Okay maybe a lot of time.

     I think the only thing I haven't covered is ads. The jury is still out on that one. I have none. I'm not against them but have been to sites where there are so many that it is annoying. It's a bit of a tough call.

    My blog is like a shiny new toy. The urge to play around with it is irresistible. Very few changes make the cut but it is still fun to try. For those of you who have no desire to play, you can always opt for a designer to set up your space.

     Any good design stories to share? What would have saved you  grief when you set up your blog? Leave your own tips or links in the comments section.


  1. Great tips! I love playing around with my blog design but it's a major time suck. Risky too when you DIY. I had a marquee just like Leslie's but it didn't come out right on Explorer so I took it off. You're right, it's like a new toy. I learned a lot of blog design stuff by Googling.

  2. Google and Leslie were my sources for information and inspiration. I like playing around with mine so much I considered having a test blog just to try out new ideas without crashing the one I publish LOL

  3. I redesign my blog often.....mainly because Left Brain won't let me do the house ;)
    one day I might be satisfied with both.

    It's a nice creative outlet. One cannot live be chalk, crayons, and play-doh alone.

  4. It's certainly cheaper to redesign the blog and is another creative outlet.
    Easier to change colours too, no repainting required. LOL


Thanks for your comment, I hope you enjoyed your time in the "Kitchen".