Monday, May 27

Blog Design - a couple of tips off the top of my head!

Occasionally people email me to ask who designed my blog. When I tell them I designed it, they often ask if I can design their blog or assist in some way - which is mega flattering, thanks guys! I don't often have time to do full-on blog designs so I figured I would scribble up a list of sorts, detailing some of the things I've learnt over the years. It's just a mish-mash of resources and thoughts which I hope you'll find useful. I'm not a designer or a programmer but I've taught myself enough to get by on Gloss. I may actually put together a simple blog template for those who would like to use a three column layout like mine...I'll keep you posted!

Right, so I'm jotting these down off the top of my head...

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  • Background Colour: Light and bright works best on web. The human eye struggles to read small, white text on dark backgrounds. It's science, baby. Or biology, I'm not sure.
  • Grab a new visitor! You only have a couple of seconds to capture the attention of a new visitor so you want your blog to quickly explain what it is they have arrived at. On the top left column of my blog, there's a greeting from me and a brief explanation about Glossary being my digital scrapbook. 
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  • Keep a new visitor! Make it easy for visitors to return to your blog by ensuring your subscription options are clearly visible. I like to give people a couple of subscription options - email, Google Reader, Blog Lovin' etc. I got rid of Google Friend Connect because I noticed there was this weird competitive vibe building among bloggers over that feature...blogging, ay.
  • Easy Navigation: Make it easy for visitors to navigate your blog by keeping all links highly visible. 
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  • Go for clear, web-safe fonts: The human eye likes an easy-to-read, simple font! And always remember to say "no" to Comic Sans. Ha.
  • Screen resolution display - consider your readers: Over the last couple of years, the most common resolution display has been 1024 x 788. That is the resolution of my PC although my laptop's is bigger. I see Statcounter now say that 1366 x 768 has recently become more popular but most of my readers are South African and I believe 1024 x 788 is still the most common here. Correct me if I'm wrong, programmers! Gloss is designed for 1024 x 788. I can view it neatly on my PC and on my laptop. If it were any bigger, I'd have to scroll sideways on my PC to view my entire blog and I hate having to do that! 
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  • Original content - snap your own pics! My blog readership got a mega boost when I stopped re-blogging stuff already on the web, and started posting my own pics - and let me tell you, those early snaps were shockers! But we can chat more about content another time - I'm hardly the poster-girl for that as I don't have an interesting enough life, the time to update as much as I'd like to...
  • Easy-to-view photos: In the beginning, I looked at stacks of blogs. My favourite ones featured photos that were 500 or 540 pixels wide. Mine are 540 pixels wide. Not too small, not too big. You can make yours bigger of course but be careful that visitors don't have to scroll sideways to view your pics. The more effort required of visitors, the less likely they are to stick around. I know that most bloggers have lightening-speed broadband these days but I still save my pics at web-friendly sizes for people like me who don't have unlimited internet! Here's a post on how I make my images fit my post area.
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  • Clear the clutter: Use a site like Blogger Buster to find out how to remove all the clutter that often comes with Blogger templates - like removing the Nav Bar for example. I customised about 80% of Gloss by following the tutorials on this site. It's epic. 
  • Categorise! Label/categorise your posts and make those categories easy to view on your blog. If a reader likes your current recipe post, make it easy for him/her to find your other recipe posts. 
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  • The web is BURSTING with free resources, tips and tutorials. I managed to panel-beat Gloss into its current shape (it was hideous to begin with) just by googling stuff. So google hard my friends, you will most likely find the droids info you’re looking for.
In case anyone is interested, I use Fireworks (have a good lol, designers!) to create my blog graphics but you could use Freehand or Indesign - hells, you could use Paint to a point! I used to edit my pics in Photoshop but I tend to use Lightroom these days. If you have any queries or specific questions about how I did something - please shout! The blogging community has been so good to me over the years, I'd like to help out in whatever way I can. Blog on, friends! x
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