Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Blogger Makeover How-To

Sorry I didn't post yesterday. The kid was a little crazy, so I didn't have time to update any of my shops.

But as promised, here's a description of how I made my blog look like the wonderful piece of bloggery it is today.

First, you need to start with a background picture that:
1. Isn't too crazy, but yet interesting.
2. Says something about you as an artist and/or blogger.

I chose this turquoise wood siding because I love the color and I love the vintagey texture.

I obtained the original picture from rgbstock, a nifty little website where you can download free ad-free stock photos. They require you to sign up, so make sure you use your spam email address when signing up, just in case.

Now, if you find a background photo that you like, but it needs a little TLC before it's suitable for blogging, check out PicMonkey. PicMonkey is a free photo-editing software that you can use to easily refine your photo. It also has some really swell vintage filters that can give your background an old-school feel. Fiddle around with the filters and save the final copy that you like. Just a warning - it's easy to get carried away! Don't mess with it too much - you don't want your background to take attention away from your writing on your blog.

Now here comes the part specific to people using Blogger. Yes, I still use Blogger. I've been using Blogger ever since blogging was cool, (think pre-facebook) and I'm not about to learn how to use Wordpress or tumblr or any other of the cool blogging sites. I'm loyal, by golly! *shakes fist*

Actually, I simply don't have the time or patience to learn something new at this point, especially with a toddler constantly banging on my keyboard.

So how to make your blog look all fancy-dancy like mine in Blogger:

1. Go to your blog's setup page. You will want to begin by downloading a copy of your current template just in case you mess something up royally. To do this, click on "Template" on the left hand menu and then click on "Backup/Restore" on the upper right hand corner. Click on the picture below to see a full-scale version of what I'm talking about.

2. To make your blog navigate like mine does (with the navigation bar at the top) click on the first "Dynamic view," Which is also known as the "Classic" dynamic view. (Again, see picture above to get an idea of what I'm talking about.) Apply this template to your blog.

3. Now you will want to customize this template so that your background and fonts are the way you want them to be. Click on the orange "Customize" button to do this.

From here, we will refer to this nifty little menu (click to enlarge):

The two sub-menus that you want to adjust are the "Background" menu and the "Advanced" menu. Don't worry - it's not that hard!

4. In the "Background" menu, click on the little arrow next to the background image (I've circled it in the picture below for you - click to enlarge.)

From there, you will either want to choose a pre-fab Blogger background (yawn) or upload the one that you made for yourself (yay!).

Click on "Upload Image" and choose the image from your computer that you want as your background. A couple of Blogger snafus with this: Blogger is VERY fussy about file size. Make sure your image is no larger than 300k and 1800 x 1600. You will want to use a photo-editing software to make your picture the correct size. I used Adobe Elements to do this, but there are other online versions that do this as well. If you use Adobe, make sure you save your jpg as a quality 5 or 6 file so that you don't wig out Blogger's uploader.

I have also found that uploading files to Blogger late at night is much faster than trying to do so during the day here in the States. Less traffic, maybe? Dunno. But midnight blogging seems to be the way to go.

5. Once you have your background neatly in place, you will want to adjust the fonts and color schemes of the blog to match. To do this, click on the "Advanced" button on the gray menu, mentioned above.

Now comes the fun part. Use the sub-menu to play around with the colors, fonts, etc. until you find a combo that you like. Don't worry about permanently messing it up - you can always revert to the original template by clicking on "Clear advanced changes to page" (see picture above - click to enlarge).

When you are finished with playing around with the fonts and colors, click the orange "Apply to Blog" and then "Back to Blogger" on the upper right hand corner of your workspace.

6. Now you will be back at your Blog's control panel. We will next make "pages" for your blog. "Pages" are nifty features that allow your blog to link to other websites using your blog's navigation menu. But the cool secret is that you can use "Pages" to link to specific posts within the blog itself, allowing you to classify your posts according to topic. For someone like me, with a wide range of topics, this makes it easy for your readers to find only the posts that most interest them.

To do this, we will be using the "Pages" feature and the labels that you use in the individual blog posts themselves.

Before we move on, let's pretend that you blog about three topics: shoes, goats, and video games (bear with me, it's late). For each blog entry that you create, you will want to label it with a one-word label according to the topic discussed. For example, every shoe entry will be labeled with shoes, every goat entry will be labeled with goats, and every video game entry will be labeled with games (remember, one word).

For this to work correctly, the labels in your blog posts must be spelled correctly and used consistently. For example, if you replace "shoes" with "shoe," it will not show up in the link to your "shoes" posts. Be forewarned.

Okay, back to the "Pages" feature. You will want to create a new page that links to a web address. When asked for the web address, enter:

http://your blog's url/search/label/the post label you want it to link to

But make sure you change the bits in bold to reflect your blog's url and your label.

Repeat these steps for every one-word label you use on your blog posts.

Remember, for this to work, your blog post labels have to match the web address exactly. If you post something with the label of "video games," it won't show up on the page with the web address of "games."

And that's it. Have fun making your blog more...you!

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