15 December, 2011

Blog Makeover 101

I swore not to write abstracts because 
1) I tend to wander and get lost and write four page long 'philosophy' (which makes perfect sense to me but may not for you) that I'm sure you don't want to read.
2) Too many people already do. And they do it faaar better than me.
But I was surprised that so many people liked my abstract, thank you:)


***
Let me harp for a minute here.
You know how important the layout of any blog is? Well, it is. Very important, that is. 
Content is still king but a shabby blog puts off readers, while a well-aligned, well put-together blog, that reflects you personality... who you are, can earn you followers. More importantly, you rub your hands in satisfaction every time you look at your page, for you know that it was all you.


I have been meaning to write a post on these lines for some time now, but I don't have the technical expertise to. I learn through trial-and-error so I'm not sure I should be doling out advice. So when the Moolady asked me if she could guest post about this, I jumped right at it.


For those who don't know the Moolady, here's presenting Sumitra Madireddy from The Daily Moo. She's been making some changes on her blog and I have to say, I'm pretty awed by the way she's put together all of it.


Over to her now:
Six Steps to a Beautiful Blog


Hi there! I recently gave my blog a complete makeover, and I’d like to share a few things I learnt in the process.

Last year I started a baking blog. I wanted it to look delicious. So, I decided to hire a designer instead of doing it myself. The design was really amazing, it cost me only $50. This year for my personal blog I went back to the same designer. Guess what? They’d upped their charges to $500! Wow, right!

Being a true blue Indian, I decided to “make it at home for free”. Since I worked with the designer last year, I realized that it’s actually not a very difficult job. It would probably take me longer to finish, but that was okay with me.

So here I am, blog complete, and I really like how it turned out. I spent a lot of time on it, sometimes even trashing everything and starting over. In the end, it was worth the effort.


Here I present, the 6-step guide to a blog makeover!
Note: These tips are best suited for the Blogger platform. I’m assuming you know your way around the Blogger ‘Design’ tab.

Step 1: Choose a Design
A blog design could be simple, photo or graphic. There could be several others too, but these are the most basic ones.

Simple blog designs don’t have images, just the blog name done in a very elegant font, maybe with a few geometric shapes or patterns. Photo designs are based around photographs – of yourself, your family, or your work. Graphic designs use illustrations – we’ll talk more about these in a while.


Step 2: Choose a Header Image
The next step is to select the images you want to place in the header. If you already have your own photographs to work with, then great! Else, you’ll have to scourge the net for suitable images. And also deal with copyrights and permissions.

The easiest way of getting permission to use an image, is to buy it. Professional designers ask you to choose something from a stock image website like iStockphoto and charge you extra for it. But of course, you can always look for freebies and use them with the owner’s permission.

Illustrations can really brighten up your blog, just like the cow on mine. Try to choose vector images. Unlike bitmap ones, they are made of strokes and not pixels. So you can change the size of the graphic without worrying about losing resolution. Just google ‘free vector images’ and you’ll get a ton of options available for free download. That’s how I found that adorable cow.


Step 3: Create the Header
You need a graphics or image editing software to do this, like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. So beg, borrow or bug the hell out of your boyfriend/best friend/colleague, whoever it is that gets you software. And then it’s design time! There are so many options to play around with; you’ll be lost in it for hours. If you don’t have access to these, try free software such as Gimp.

Start by deciding how you want to place the image, the type of font you would like to use for the blog title, etc. Here on, it’s totally your baby.

Step 4: Create a Background
A blog background can be a solid color or patterned. You could use free downloads, there are lots. They give you a piece of code to add as a Gadget and you’re done. Shabbyblogs has some good options.

Pretty wallpaper patterns with florals, polka dots, stripes, etc. are also available for free. You need to upload the image as a background through the Blogger Template Designer. Make sure you search for ‘seamless’ patterns, because the image will repeat itself and you don’t want ugly lines running throughout the background of your blog.

I created the background on my blog using Illustrator. I put a bunch of coloured circles in a seamless row and then uploaded the image to Blogger. It was easy and worked just fine.

Step 5: Choose the template
Now you need a template to put everything together. The new Blogger Template Designer has some wonderful options, you need to choose the one works best with your header and background. Not happy with the Blogger templates? There are countless free ones available out there. Take your pick!

After installing the template, upload the header and background. You might have to play around a little with the sizes and positioning before you get it right.

Step 6: Choose Fonts
Template Designer comes with some amazing fonts. Try out different combinations of fonts and colors till like what you see.

And, you’re done!

Some Useful Tips:
Pay attention to colors: A good practice is to go with the ones that are in the header image. For instance, I've worked with all the colors on the cow. The blog title is in eye-patch color, the circles in the background are from the snout, and the tab & sidebar colors are from the hooves.

Keep it simple: This is of course, not mandatory, but I like to follow it. You don’t want a very loud design that takes focus away from your content. I prefer to keep the post background white, that way, people don’t have to strain their eyes while reading.

Study Other Blogs: Take a look at several blogs before you decide on yours, so you’ll have many options to work with. Some of the good blog designers are: Designerblogs and Dcrdesign. Looking at their samples can give you some good ideas.

Use Tutorials: I couldn't stress on this point enough. There’s nothing that you can’t find a tutorial for online. Found something fancy on another blog that you want? Most likely, there will be a tutorial for it somewhere. Use Google, people!

These are the major tips I could think of. Please let me know if you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. 

Take care, and a huge thanks to PeeVee for letting me use her space to get these tips out to all you folks out there!

Well, now GO. Go pretty up your blog. Spare one day (it takes only one, even lesser, if you're really interested) to liven up the space that is part of you.

OH and she's making Bill Watterson proud with her Giveaway. Go enter.

P.S: Another awardee for the 'Rok My Sox' Award:) See!

26 comments:

  1. When it comes to my blog, I always prefer to design the header/layout by myself. I don't like asking designers to do it 'coz they charge a lot (even $50 is a lot according to me!) for something that I can very easily learn and do on my own, and second it doesn't feel right if someone else does it for me.. My personal touch seems to be missing :P
    Anyway very informative post. 'Try to choose vector images' - that was something I din't know.

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  2. At first when I saw the title on my reading list, I thought you redesigned your blog.

    By the way The Daily Moo Giveaway is nice. I have participated in it. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. @ Chandana, me too actually, I tried to let other people make it for me, but ended up dictating and interfering so much that I just did it myself:)

    @ Deepak, I wanted to but she did it better:)

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  4. Saw your tweet and so came here to check it out.
    I've been a little off blogger. And I uploaded a simple tempelate I downloaded recently but ya, it does lack the me touch.
    I really like this post ... the cow looks so cute. :D
    Really interesting topic you picked here!!
    Thanks for sharing.
    I'm gonna put these to good use soon. :D
    xx

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  5. Thanks for sharing this, I always love redesigning my blog layout etc! I didn't know about the "free vector images" either!

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  6. Hmm..my blog doesn't need a makeover - it needs a takeover (w.r.t design, i mean) ;-)

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  7. @Chandana: Hehe, see, I got told off by a fellow Indian for spending even $50. :D Well back then I didn't know I could do it, but learned the harder way. You're right, designers don't quite get it the way you want it, and they don't have the patience to make countless changes.

    @Deepak: Thanks for participating!

    @PeeVee: Thank you so much once again for lending your space. You rock!!

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  8. My blog could so totally use a make-over,so thanks loads for sharing! This was really helpful (:

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  9. These are some pretty good tips. I've changed my look quite a few times, but I'd like to think that I've done now.

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  10. Those are some pretty neat pointers for a blog facelift, will most definitely be needing them in the near future.

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  11. @ Nirati, I loved the cow too:)

    @ Hazel, me neither actually:)

    @ Chintan, :|

    @ phatichar, *rolling sleeves* point me in the right direction then:P

    @ sumitra, :)

    @ Aliza, Mark, glad she could help:)

    @ AS, you will? As in actually spend some time with the templates? :|

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  12. recently before taking up blogging after a lull of many months , I changed the look of my blog and went through all these details specified here... so good to know that I did things right and will continue to do so :)

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  13. @Blahblaholic: Thank you! Glad you liked the post and the cow. I'm happy to help.

    @Hazel: You're welcome, glad you learnt about vector images.

    @Chintan: Yep. Sharing is caring! Okay, that was lame :D

    @phatichar: Ahh, the real writing talents such as yourself do not require design to sell your blog. Lowly mortals like myself do. :D Cannot tell you enough how much I like your fiction. I'll be happy to help you design your blog if you like. Email me!

    @Aliza: The pleasure was all mine. Glad you find it useful.

    @Mark: Thanks!

    @AS: Thanks! Lemme know if you need any help.

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  14. This one is really helpful :)
    Thanks for sharing :)

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  15. Those were some gr8 tips. And i knew them all. :)

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  16. Vector images...God, I had zero knowledge of the existence of such a thing. :P
    Glad to have read this. It would definitely help me in future if I redesign Mirage. But right now I think the header has got its own charm and I don't want to change it. *smiles*

    P.S: You have such a sweet design Sumitra. :)
    And you too miss PeeVee. :*
    XOXO

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  17. :-Deelighted to bestow upon you The Versatile Blogger Award! Happy Blogging! :)

    http://deeviations.blogspot.com/2011/12/blogger-award-time.html

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  18. and this one comes at d rightest time of the year ! :D (for me atleast) ... I have been looking forward to giving my blog a make-over for about 2 months now :D Thats an ocean now, am drinking it all :P Thanks!

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  19. @Purvi: Oh, I love the look of your blog. Have been reading it for a while now.

    @Madhulika: My pleasure

    @Ria: Thanks. Glad to know you knew them all :)

    @Mirage: Thank you! Glad you liked my blog design and the post. Oh yeah, your blog header is really something!

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  20. After reading this, I got the missing spark for doing a makeover for my blog. I was reluctant for a change since my blog look was simple and quite right. But there was little to customize in that theme that I was using. And any other theme did not seem good enough for me. I found a few nice ones but they did not allow me to customize in the way that I wanted and my blog is wordpress based and I found help difficult to come by.

    But finally, I got a theme that was just perfect and now my blog is full of colors. Check it out and let me know how you like it :)

    Thank you Sumi, for this awesome post that inspired me to go for the change.

    And PeeVee, I have always loved your blog's look. Simple and awesome :)

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  21. Thats a very useful guest post:) Thanks a ton, nice tips too!

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  22. those were some tips which i was lookin for long time....will try..!!

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  23. dude! Thanks for this!
    was bored of my blogs plain jane look! :X
    I could really use this! :D

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  24. Well yeah, a change does look good. And yes definitely, the look of any blog is an attraction when it comes to following it or reading it.
    Nice.

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