Posts Tagged ‘Basics of Blogging’
We got lots of lovely feedback for the hand drawn social media icons we gave away last week, so we thought as we are super generous we would give away some more. This time we have some rather snazzy glittery heart icons for your blog. Now obviously we are appealing to those who like their blogs to look a little girly and pretty- if that is you then you will love these icons!
As usual all you need to do is download or grab the image off this post (I have made them large so you can resize them to fit in with your blog dimensions) and then put them in to whatever you use to edit your photos. (e.g Photoshop, Pixlr, or Picasa) Just cut around each photo using the cut out or crop tool and then resize and add to your blog. If you need any help in doing this please let us know and I will be happy to talk you through it or help you add them.
We have done them in two colours just to have some variety. We hope you like them.
FREE FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY.
You have started a blog, you have started to get some readers…but how many? Some people are interested in how many people are looking at their blog and how they are finding it, and if you want to attract PR companies in order to do reviews, then it is useful to find out what your ‘stats’ are.
Blogger has a free statistics tool that you can use if you have a blogger blog. It is really useful in checking out the basic information you need to know- like the amount of visitors and the amount of page views.
Just go to your main blog dashboard and click stats…
The tool is really easy to use, and has more than enough information. It is measured in real time, meaning you can see exactly what is sending you traffic and when.
The next tool worth mentioning is probably the most famous- Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a powerful, free tool that helps you monitor a huge amount of information about you site and it can be used on any blog platform.
To sign up you will need a google account which is quick and easy to set up. If you then go to www.google.com/analytics you will be able to sign up for a analytics account. Once you have done this it will ask you for a little detail about the blog you want to track and then it will take you through to a page which looks something like this.
You will need to paste the above code into your website just above the
</head> tag. If you get stuck then just ask us as it is really easy to do.
Once that is done you are ready to use Analytics! You can track your visitors, traffic sources, keywords and it really gives an insight into who is visiting your site.
Another great free site is Stat Counter and that is the one I use for my personal blog. It works very much in the same way as Google Analytics but I just find it a bit more visually easy to use. It is free, straight forward to use and does the same things as Google’s Analytics tool.
You can see how people are finding you through search engines and break it down either by year, month, week or day…
Here is an example of how people have found my blog via search engines this morning.
You will see that they are really quite random! But they can be a lot worse than that- I have had literally the most crazy keywords! If you click on the magnifying glass it gives you some more details about the search, including how long they stayed on the site and what google ranking result you were.
You can also see links of where your traffic is coming from- this is the part I use the most as it shows you how people are finding you- it is always useful as sometimes you won’t even realise that someone has linked to you.
You can do so much but another thing I like is that you can see what each visitor is doing on your site and what links they are using to exit and what posts they are looking at. For example this one….
You can see how often they have visited the site and what they did on their last visit.
It is certainly worth checking this tool out because you can do so much more than what I have mentioned, it is just to give you an idea.
Finally the last statistics tool which I think is worth a mention is Hit Sniffer. This site is similar to the others, but it just again looks different. It is another quite visual tool and uses a lot of graphs to show you where your traffic is coming from. You do have to pay for it but depending on your traffic, it can work out as just a couple of pounds a month. You can also have a 7 day trial to see whether you like it enough to pay the monthly fee.
It does all the same things that the other tools I have discussed but one thing that it does too which is totally crazy is that you can see how many people are visiting and actually live chat with the visitors that are on your site. I would never ever do this because can you imagine how freaked out you would be if you were the visitor, but I still find it a really clever tool!
So there we have it- our top stat tools for your blog. All the tools I have mentioned here I have tried at one point and I can recommend them all. I nowadays just use Stat Counter as it does all that I want it too, but it is worth having a further look into them to see which one suits you best. They all basically do the same thing, it just depends on the feel you get for them as to which one you prefer. Some people may get on ok with just the basic Blogger stats but some people may want a little bit more information.
The main thing to remember is that whatever your stats are, unless you are blogging for business or to make an income, blogging is just a bit of fun and therefore you shouldn’t get too hung up on checking them too often. However when you do want to check, these tools certainly are a great way of seeing who is looking at your site.
Have you ever seen those buttons on the side of some blogs and wondered what they are? Well those are grab badges. A grab badge is basically a way of publicising your blog- if people like what they read they may put your button on the side of their blog with your link- it is a way of increasing your readers and opening you up to new people you might not necessarily find.
The first thing to do is make a grab badge- over the coming months we will be design ideas. If you have an elaborate design in mind then it may be worth asking a designer to do it for you, (cheeky plug, my hubby and I do blog design at Pink Egg!) however it is really easy to whip up a simple photo grab badge yourself using any number of editing packages we have been showcasing over the last few weeks. I am going to use PicMonkey. Here is a step by step guide to making a super simple badge.
1. Open up PicMonkey and upload the photo you want to use.
2. The first thing you need to do is crop your image so it resembles something of a square. Don’t worry about resizing properly as we will do this later. Just click on crop and then drag the free box around until it resembles a square- it doesn’t have to be exact but get as near to a square as you can.
3. You may want to add some effects to make the photo look a bit more interesting. On PicMonkey just go to the second icon down which looks like a test tube type thing and you will find loads of great effects. Pick one that will make your badge stand out- after all you want people to be drawn to it enough to click to have a look.
4. Now it’s time to add the text. Just click the fourth icon down on the left hand menu which resembles a ‘P’ Here you are greeted with a load of fonts, have a play around with it and add your text on. Remember you can also change the colour and size of the font- it is worth having a few attempts to see which you like best.
5. Finally the last thing to do is resize your photo- if you go on to the first icon- basic edits and right down at the bottom there is resize. It is totally up to you to decide what size you want your badge to be, but around 200 x 200 is a good size- if your photo isn’t exactly a square just make sure you untick ‘keep proportions.’
6. Finally save and voila your new grab badge is ready! This is just a really simple way of getting a badge- but do have a play around because you will be able to make some really nice ones that really sum up what your blog is about- especially put some thought into your photo- you want one that reflects your blog.
Once you have made your badge you now need to create an html code for your image so you can place it on your blog. The best place to do this is using an online photo saving site like photobucket. Below are some step by step instructions- it is really simple.
1. Upload your image to Photobucket.
2. Go to the album which you have placed the photo in, hover your cursor over the photo and you will find a box comes up that has a number of links. Copy the html link which will look something like this.
<a href=”http://s1056.photobucket.com/albums/t372/mummydaddyme/?action=view&current=grab.jpg” target=”_blank”><img src=”http://i1056.photobucket.com/albums/t372/mummydaddyme/grab.jpg” border=”0″ alt=”Photobucket”></a>
5. You need to add your blog url into the html code so it knows to link back to you. All you need to do is substitute your blog name after the first a ref section.
<a href=”http://www.mummydaddyandmemakesthree.co.uk” target=”_blank”><img src=”http://i1056.photobucket.com/albums/t372/mummydaddyme/grab.jpg” border=”0″ alt=”Photobucket”></a>
6. You then need to add it into an widget/gadget or html box on your sidebar. This obviously fully depends what package you are using. For example on blogger you would ‘Add a Gadget’ and then choose html
7. Add the following code into your site. Make sure you change the bits in other colours to your own details.
<a href=”IMAGE LOCATION HTML CODE“ target=”_blank”></a><a href=”YOUR BLOG URL“><img src=”IMAGE LOCATION HTML CODE“></a></a>
<textarea id=”code-source” rows=”3″ cols=”13″ name=”code-source”><a href=“YOUR BLOG URL“><img src=“IMAGE LOCATION HTML CODE“ border”0″ alt=“TITLE OF IMAGE“ /></a></center></textarea>
The image location html code is the code from Photobucket.
Therefore say for example for my old blogger blog it would be something like this-
<a href=”http://s1056.photobucket.com/albums/t372/mummydaddyme/?action=view&current=grab.jpg” target=”_blank”></a><a href=”http://www.mummydaddyandmemakesthree.blogspot.co.uk”><img src=”http://i1056.photobucket.com/albums/t372/mummydaddyme/grab.jpg” border=”0″ alt=”Photobucket”></a></a>
<textarea id=”code-source” rows=”3″ cols=”13″ name=”code-source”><a href=”http://www.mummydaddyandmemakesthree.blogspot.com”><img src=”http://i1056.photobucket.com/albums/t372/mummydaddyme/grab.jpg” border”0″ alt=”mummydaddyandme” /></a></center></textarea>
8. Once you have done that you should have made your very own grab badge.
9. That’s it! It is that simple. Now be sure to spread the word and get adding other badges- networking is what will make your blog get more hits.
We said it before when we were talking about giving your blog a ‘look’ and a brand image, but it doesn’t hurt to say it again. Your blog banner, or header or whatever you want to call it, is your business card. It is the first thing people will look at when they visit your blog, and a lot of people will make the decision to stay and read on or leave, completely based on your banner. The whole look of your blog is important, but the banner should tie your whole blog together and tell people what you are about in a quick and visual way.
There are a lot of beautiful banners out there, and it’s really daunting to know where to start, so today I’m going to take you through a hopefully, really simple tutorial of how to make a photo banner. I’m doing a photo banner because that’s what I do best. I use a photo banner on my own personal blog because it is the best way of telling people what I’m all about; my blog includes a lot of photos and is all about a little boy. Thats what Dear Beautiful Boy does and so that is what my banner tells you.
I use Picasa to do all my blog making and designing. Its a free download software for your computer and once you get to grips with it, it’s brilliant for creating photo banners, grab buttons (which we’ll be talking about in a few weeks) and collages. It doesn’t cost anything to give it a try, so why not download it and see what you think.
The great thing with Picasa is that making a photo banner is easy because it automatically shows you all the photos that you have saved in various folders all over your computer. So on launching the software just go to the correct folders to find the pictures you want to use in your banner.
Directly underneath where the folder name and details are, you can see a play button. Next to that is a collage button. By pressing that you go through to the collage editing part of the software and it will automatically take the photos in that folder and place them in your collage for you.
To the left hand side you will find a drop down menu which gives you a selection of different sized boards on which to arrange your pictures. At this stage it doesn’t actually matter what board you use as you will crop it later, but I like to work on a board that has the rough proportions of the finished article so that it is easier to arrange things how I would like.
On the left hand side there is also a tab entitled ‘Clips’ which allows you to add and remove photos that you would like to include. By pressing ‘Get More’ you will go back to the original screen where you selected your folder and you can select more folders of photos to include in your banner.
Then it’s simply a case of arranging the photographs as you would like them. You can resize and angle them to your hearts content. For this design I wanted the pictures the same size and an equal distance apart.
You can change the background colour of your board here too. For a clean look on your blog, it’s a good idea to make sure this background colours is either the same as the background of your blog, or a contrasting colour to make it stand out. When you are happy with your background and photo arrangement you simply click ‘Create Collage’.
This takes you to a different editing screen when you can edit the whole collages as if it were one image, but you can always go back and change the collage around if you need to by clicking ‘Edit Collage’ in the top left hand corner. Once through to the editing stage you need to trim down and tidy up any uneven edges on your banner, using the crop tool. You can also add text and retouch anything you aren’t quite happy with.
You can manually decide the proportions by eye or you can use a preset crop, but with this design I needed to chop off the excess background board to the right of the design.
I left a space at the bottom of my banner to add my blog title. So you simply use the text tool to select your font, size and colour and then move the text into position. Then click ‘Apply’ to make those changes to your banner. The final thing left to do is to export your finished banner to a folder on your computer by clicking on ‘Export’ at the bottom of the screen.
This window will pop up and you need to resize the image to however many pixels wide your blog is. This will differ from one blog design to the next, but is generally somewhere between 800 and 1200 pixels. You can check this first or export a few versions with different pixel sizes and see which one fits best.
And voilà! One simple and easy photo banner for your blog. I would like to apologise for the unexciting and unoriginal banner and blog title I’ve used in my example. It’s simply to give you an idea of how you might go about making a photo banner for your blog.
And remember that this is just a basic idea. Once you’ve got to grips with using Picasa in this way, the restrictions are only on what your head can come up with. Try more pictures, or less pictures. Text at the top, the side, over the pictures, in the middle of a circle of pictures. It’s just a case of letting your creativity flow. You could change your title font and back ground colour each month or season for a different look. You can swap pictures in and out to keep it up to date.
Just keep in mind at all times what your blog is about and how your banner represents that. This is probably one of the reasons why photo banners are so versatile, because you can simply include some of your best blog pictures and you are automatically representing the blog as a whole in your banner. Just take the I Heart Snapping banner; it tell you what we’re all about.
You have taken the plunge and signed up for a blog. You may have even written a few posts and started to immerse yourself into reading others. However every time you click on another blog to read you get SERIOUS blog envy. How does everyone get their blogs so pretty? What are all the different things on their sidebars? What does it all mean? Some bloggers have so much information on their blogs that it can get confusing for new bloggers.
Here is our quick break down on the essential things you need for your blog.
Social Media buttons…
See those little buttons that appear in different places on people’s blogs….they come in all shapes and sizes and could be icons or could be badges…either way these little guys are super important to your blog- it means that all the people who randomly find and love your blog can follow you on all your social media sites.
The main ones you will see are twitter, facebook, pinterest, instagram and google + and most blog platforms have social media buttons you can use, you can design some yourself (we will show you how soon!) or get a designer to design some for you. Most of the sites also have widgets you can use to add your social media to your site.
(image from www.thelifeandtimesoftheworkingmum.co.uk)
On the side of some sites you will see icons advertising other blogs and on a lot of blogs you will see something that says along the lines of ‘grab our badge’….these basically are little badges advertising your blog. If you have a grab badge on the side of your blog and your followers really love it, you may find that your little badge will start appearing on other people’s blogs. It is a great way of promoting your blog and getting traffic from other sites too so it is always worth adding a grab badge to your site. They are really easy to make, and we will show you how in a later post.
Subscribe by email…
You want people to read your blog….therefore it is important to have a subscribe by email box on your site. People can still subscribe by RSS (see our recent post) but if you put a subscribe by email box in it can give another option for potential subscribers. Blogger and WordPress have pre-made widgets which you can install which will help you do this.
About me/Contact me…
It is always important to have a page or section on your blog that explains a little about you. After all a lot of people want to know how your blog started, who you are and what you do. It doesn’t have to be an essay, just a little insight into your life. If you blog anonymously you can still have an about me section- just explain about you but keep your name and major details secret. If you would like your readers to get in touch with you or like the idea of PR’s being able to contact you it is also important to leave your email address….you can ask people to submit queries by a form (again blogger and wordpress have widgets for this) or just put your email address link on there.
Tag Cloud/Search box-
If someone lands on your blog and likes what they see then they may want to read more of your posts. By putting a tag or category cloud on there with an instant link to some of your most written about topics, it helps readers to find things that interest them. Try not to use too many tags as you don’t want a massive section, it is useful to categorise your most used topics. Likewise a search box means that someone can find posts via keywords that interest them, or if someone has read a great post and wants to find it again- this can help.
Recent or Popular Posts…
Obviously you want your readers to get a taste of what you are really about- therefore it is always useful to add a Popular post link on your sidebar, Blogger has a widget that will do this for you meaning that it will automatically load your posts that have had the most interaction or page views, but if you don’t have this option you can always add a link yourself. For my personal blog I use Joomla and so therefore I have a badge on my sidebar which says ‘Favourite posts’- in here I add in all my posts that I have written that I love or that have for whatever reason had the most page views.
Blogroll or Blogs I love…
Blogging is all about sharing the love and networking is one of the best ways of getting yourself new readers. If you like a blog and read it regularly why not add it to your sidebar via a badge? Or blogger has a blogroll widget meaning you can list all the blogs that you really like. Some blogs even have a separate page listing their favourites. It is important to promote other blogs as it means that you make friends and may even get recognition on theirs one day too.
Here is a blog roll example from Mum2babyinsomniac.
So there you have it- that is a quick overview of essential things to have on your blog. Obviously there are loads more things that you could put on there but for beginners this is the best place to start.
So you’ve started a blog, you’ve given some thought to your blog design and creating a brand image, you’ve set up your RSS feed so that people can follow you and keep up to date on your blogging; now you need readers. You need people who will pop by your little piece of cyberspace and read what your write. In an ideal world, you’d like a few of them to stick around long enough to maybe comment on what you’ve written, or even subscribe to your content so that they can continue to read more of what you do.
Developing and growing a readership is a funny thing. Different things work for different kinds of blogs.
Family and Friends
If you are happy for family and friends to read your blog then they can be a good place to start. Tell them you blog, tell them the address. Friend and family are likely to be invested in your blog right from the start because they already know you.
If you chose to be anonymous, or simply to not share your blog with your real life friends and family, then you are starting from scratch in finding ‘friends’ for your blog. Social media is going to be a good place to start.
Open a Twitter account for your blog, find other bloggers who blog about similar things and follow them. Get involved in conversations, ask questions and on the most part you’ll find that they will follow you back, help where they can and welcome you with open arms to the blogging community. Tweet links to your new posts telling people a bit about what you’ve written.
Have a Facebook page for your blog. Twitter is fast moving and links get quickly lost in a busy timeline, Facebook on the other hand is slower. If you post a link to a new piece on your blog then people are more likely to see it.
There is also instagram, blog lovin and networked blogs plus a multitude of networks and online blogging communities which you can join to meet other bloggers; all of these things will help you broadcast your content. Make sure you have a link to your different social media accounts on your blog, and make it obvious and easy to find. These are all ways for interested parties to make contact with you and learn more about you, which is what may turn them into regular readers.
Reading and Commenting
But how do you find interested parties? By showing an interest in them first. The most effective way of finding really fans and readers for your blog, is to be interested in their first. Comment, comment, COMMENT on blogs you like. Make sure you leave thoughtful responses to their posts and not a simple “Loved this.” If you comment frequently and with sincerity then they will notice and will more than likely come and see what you are about.
Linky parties are a great way of finding bloggers with similar interests to you. Linkys are basically a collection of different bloggers links all in one place. Take the I Heart My Snap linky for example. Every Friday it opens up and you visit any time in the week to link up a picture that you love. If you pop round to the other people who have joined in and pop a comment on their post, then they will more than likely return the favour. The I Heart My Snap linky obviously brings together bloggers who like to share pictures, but there are linkys for all sorts of bloggers with all sorts of themes and topics. They are a great way of finding bloggers that share your interests and therefore may like your blog.
Make Life Easy
In reality the majority of people visiting your blog will be passing through. They won’t all stay. But some will. Some will like what they see, be interested in what you’re talking about and want to stick around. Make it easy for people to connect with you, by having your social media links clearly available, by offering your RSS feed in an obvious place. If I have to search too long for a way to connect or subscribe then I don’t.
The same goes for commenting on blogs. Make it easy for your readers and they are more likely to do it. Remove unnecessary hoops for commenters to jump through. Do you really need them to fill in a code in a box if you are going to moderate all comments anyway? Most readers don’t like too many security measures when they want to comment. It takes ages and they get bored and don’t comment.
Find YOUR Voice
Lots of people are fans of finding a specific niche for their blogs, but all to often a niche will restrict what you feel you can write about. Think carefully before you set yourself up as a food blogger if you also like to do arts and crafts and talk about music. Once you become established and have a regular band of readers and commenters it can be trickier to branch out and change your direction too much. So think about what it is that you love and what you want to blog about; what makes you interesting or different?
But most importantly, be yourself when you write. Don’t try and copy someone’s else’s style because people will see right through it. And don’t try too hard to be funny or cute or clever, just be yourself and you’ll seem more approachable and more authentic, plus your blog is more likely to be something which really makes your proud if you have been true to yourself. Try to think of your blog as your time capsule or diary and the sort of things you might want to see in 10 or 20 years time are the sort of things that your readers will like to read now.
When I was a new blogger I remember one thing that used to confuse me time and time again- RSS. I saw the term keep cropping up and I had no idea what it was all about. Yet actually your RSS feed is a very important part of your blog and one that new bloggers should be aware of.
Fear not, we are here to demystify it!
RSS stands for Rich Site Summary but is often termed Really Simple Syndication. That clearly means nothing to me so lets simplify it even further…
RSS is a nifty bit of cyber geekery that is being used by thousands of bloggers all across the world, essentially enabling them to keep track of websites and blogs that they love. That way they never miss a post. I remember the old days of copying and pasting website content into Word if I came across one I liked, or book marking or saving the page. With RSS you don’t need to worry about any of this- it automatically accesses new information and sends it to you so you can read it when you have a free moment.
I like to think of it like this. Say you really loved ‘Glamour’ or another monthly magazine and you never wanted to miss a copy. You could sign up for a subscription to the magazine and it would get delivered to your door every month. Perfect now you will never miss an issue. RSS is exactly like that. You subscribe to the blog or website you like and it will automatically get delivered into your inbox each time they write a new post or update their content. The only difference RSS is completely free!
How do I find my blogs RSS Feed?
Atom 1.0: http://blogname.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default
RSS 2.0: http://blogname.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss
Try doing it for your blog url and you will be able to find your RSS feed straight away. Another way you can find a sites RSS feed is by clicking on the right hand side corner of the url box…e.g
If you click on this you will be able to get the feed url from the url box. The symbol may vary depending on what browser you are using but the icon should always be on the right hand side.
It is always useful to know where your RSS is as some blog subscription services like ebuzzing or technorati need this in order to proceed with validating your blog. (Don’t worry more about these in a later post!)
Subscribing to another bloggers RSS feed.
Reading blogs and commenting and engaging with others is a huge part of the blogging community. Therefore you may want to subscribe to a few other bloggers RSS feeds. I have hundreds in my reader and try and read as many as I can in a week, but there are a few which I comment on all the time. However it is important to comment on as many as you can so you can involve yourself in the community.
There are a number of ways of subscribing to a bloggers RSS feed.
Firstly you can do it on the blog itself.
Nowadays there are lots of ways in which you can subscribe on the blog itself. You may have seen a number of different icons or widgets, there are lots of different types but basically they all do the same thing. Here are some examples of what you might see.
One big player in this market is Feedburner, I use this for my blog and it allows readers to use a widget box on my blog to subscribe via email. There are lots out there though so if you see something similar to one of the images above, just click on it and follow the instructions and you will be a subscriber in no time!
Another way in which you can subscribe to a blog is via a reader. There are a fair few out there but a popular one is Google Reader. Basically you can group all the blogs you like together in one convenient place, it works a bit like an email software- the unread ones are in bold and you can have the choice of reading them or skipping them and moving on the next one. You can read the post in the reader service, or you can click on it and go through to the actual post if you wanted to comment or look at more. Readers are a great way of getting to grip with RSS as they are really straightforward and easy to use.
Lastly you can follow the RSS feed by clicking on the right hand side of the url box (like discussed above)
When you click on the icon it takes you through to a screen which will look something like this (depending on your browser)
From here you can go down to the bottom right hand side and click ‘subscribe in mail’ or something similar. This is the way I use to read other blogs, it means that when I open Apple Mail I have all my blogs I read listed and I get daily updates depending on whether they have posted or not.
So there we have it. A really simple (hopefully) guide to RSS. I think sometimes these things are a lot less complicated than they appear to be. Hopefully now you will be able to find your RSS feed for your blog and also will be able to follow some other blogs as well.
By all means feel free to click our RSS button and subscribe to us or follow us via email. If you have any questions about RSS leave a question in the comment box and we will be sure to help.
So you’ve got yourself set up with a blog? And now, if you’re like most new bloggers, you will quite happily spend hours and hours of your life making your blog pretty. As a newbie it seems like everyone’s blog looks so gorgeous and you have no idea where to start. Well we’re here to give you tips, ideas and some tutorials on how to make your blog look totally lovely, but today we’re going to just talk about some general tips for blog design; those absolute blog design basics that every blogger should consider.
Picking a Colour Scheme
This is the most obvious thing that people see and the easiest thing to change and adapt when you’re setting up, picking a main colour or colour scheme for your blog is more than likely the first attempt you will make at any form of blog design. Certain colours are known to be very popular in cyberspace; have you ever noticed that the biggest sites on the web tend to use a lot of blue? Facebook and Twitter both have blue logos. They use plenty of blue for one reason, they know our brains like it. For some reason we find blue appealing, calming, professional, authoritative; so it’s hardly surprising that big companies use it… a lot.
We’re not saying use blue on your site and you will be a big player, but do consider the effect of colour on your site. Red for example makes things seem urgent, yellow is energetic and happy, green is natural and chilled. Choose a colour or colour scheme that reflects what your blog is about, and which you like because you’ll be looking at it for a while. And try not to choose too many colours either, stick to one or two main colours and then use different tones to keep it all matching. Take I Heart Snapping for example; everything is in shades of pink and grey, the header, the buttons, the logo and all the text. It makes it look clean, professional and easy on the eye.
Having the Right Header
Call it a header, call it a banner, call it a title; whatever you want to call it, the top section of your site is the most important part. Try to think of the header as your business card, it’s the first bit of you and your blog that people will see and people will make all their initial judgements based on it. Make sure that it is really you and that it tells potential readers what your blog is about.
Katie’s banner says; girly, cute, family. The hearts aren’t an accident; they read as love and affection. The house tells you that you’re going to get everyday life experiences and memories. And the three bird are most definitely not an accident; family of three anyone? Look there’s even a particularly teeny pink one for the baby girl.
My own banner is simpler and has less elements to it, but it says just as much. Photos, photos, photos and all of a little boy. Did you notice that as you read left to right he gets older? Again, not an accident. It says this is a blog about a little boy growing up. And the handwriting font says that it’s personal.
Getting a Good Layout
Our brains like white space between text, it helps to break it up and allows us time to breathe and think. Now this isn’t to say that your background must be white, but remember to not make your blog one big wall of text. And while white isn’t a must, it does tend to be easier to read dark text on a light background, so it’s probably better to stick with a paler background and a darker text if you want people to stick around and actually read what you’ve written.
Remember that people don’t see your entire site when it opens in their browser. The term that is generally used is ‘above the fold’ but it refers to making sure you say something on that opening screen before anyone has to scroll. Put important links like your Twitter and Facebook pages towards the tops so that people can find you easily. And if you want people to follow your blog make it easy for them to find the links to email subscribe or sign up for RSS too. I know that I don’t like to have to search around for these and if I can’t find them quickly then I don’t sign up.
Simple and clean blog designs never go out of fashion and are also far more pleasing on the eye than a busy site where you aren’t sure where to look. So think carefully about your layout and try to streamline it if you can. I like to have a tidy up of my sidebars every couple of months to make sure I’ve still got all the most relevant stuff towards to top, where people are more likely to click on it.
As you choose your colour scheme, decide on your layout and create a blog header that is really you; you are starting to define your brand image. No, your not a big business but you can learn from them. And it isn’t difficult. It’s all about having one continuous image all over the web.
As you go about cyberspace using Twitter, Facebook and the like to promote your blog, consider how you build your brand image. The easiest way to do this is to make a small square ‘button’ in the same style as your header. Use it as the profile picture on all your different social media and it means people will get used to the ‘look’ of your blog. We are a visual breed and pictures often stick in our memories long before names do, so make sure that your image is there backing up your name as people get to know you.
Essentially, it’s easiest to keep it simple; so choose a couple of colours, a couple of fonts and a couple of pictures or images and stick with using them everywhere. It doesn’t take very long for people to see them and think of you. And look around the blogging community you’re in and make sure your brand image is really original and really you.
And if you’re sitting thinking that you really want to implement all this but have no idea where to start, then worry not. Over the coming weeks we’ll be showing you how to design some of the basic blog elements so that you can make your blog lovely.
You may have been reading blogs for years, may have stumbled across one and liked the look of it, or may never have read a blog in your life. But now you want to start your own but have no idea where to start. Read on to find out more….
The first thing you will need to think about is which blogging platform to use. There are a few different ones out there and below we shall detail the main ones.
You can’t think of blogging without thinking of blogging without thinking of blogger- an extremely popular, free web based blogging service owned by the small and retiring Google! One fab thing about blogger is that you can sign up and get your blog out on to the world wide web in literally a few minutes. It is easy to pick up , has lots of different saved templates, and is straight forward to get up and running. People often think that it is not as customisable as other types of platform- but in actual fact blogger is easy to customise if you know how. And that is what i heart snapping is here for! Over the coming months we will show you how to fully customise your blogger blog. Blogger is a great platform to get started on, as it doesn’t involve a lot of time in order to make a great return. Most blogger blogs come with a .blogspot.com or .blogspot.co.uk domain name, however you can purchase your own domain in order to cut that out. There are some really fabulous blogs out there on blogger which are completely customisable such as Dear Beautiful Boy, Mummy Loves and Love From Mummy. These just go and show you how unique you can make blogger blogs.
WordPress is the platform to use if you want to try something a little different, although for the most parts blogger will do all the things you need. There are two wordpress avenue’s you can go down- wordpress.com or wordpress.org. Wordpress.com is a free software that will give you access to a url such as iheartsnapping.wordpress.com. Wordpress.com has a selection of free themes, but you cannot edit html, php or content of a theme. You can purchase paid upgrades but if you are willing to invest in these you may as well go for wordpress.org. Wordpress.org is a powerful tool that offers you complete control and flexibility on your blog. You can install and customise themes, as well as add plugin’s and modify CSS and PHP. Some of the most powerful and popular bloggers use wordpress.org but you will need to have wordpress hosted on a web server to continue. There are lots out there, we use bluehost, but it is worth researching into different prices. If you go down the self hosted route you will be able to monetize your blog through advertisements etc. It has a massive following and therefore there are always new themes, plugin’s and gadgets being created. It will take more time and effort to set up than blogger, but if you are interested in playing around with your blog- then maybe WordPress is the answer. Some examples that we love of WordPress blogs are Innocent Charms Chats and Mummy and The Beastie.
Tumblr is a mixture of a blog and a social media feed- in fact it is known as a micro-blogging site. With Tumblr you can make some really creative, visual blogs that normally contain images or video and lots of short, frequent posts that are not as formal as a blog post but that are longer than a twitter page. Tumblr is pretty easy to set up and is a good alternative for people who would like to blog but maybe don’t have as much time. An example of a fab tumblr page that I have seen recently is for Beyonce’s new website- who would have thought that it was powered by tumblr? Go and have a look at the Tumblr page if you want to know more about it.
As far as choosing which one is best, it really is down to personal choice and what you want from a blog. My husband and I do some blog design and I must admit to liking blogger- I find it really fun to use, and you can create some great customisable templates. I think it is user friendly and for personal blogs it looks great. However there is no denying the power of wordpress and what it can do for your blog- if you are serious about blogging and want to learn more then it definitely is the way forward.
Whatever you decide, it is important to remember that blogging is fun. So grab a drink, sit back and enjoy. Over the next coming months, we will be telling you everything you ever needed to know about blogging and blog design.