Sunday, January 4, 2009

Turning over a new leaf

As you can see, I have given my blog a new template. It has been a bit of a struggle to say the least because the template is not one of the established Blogger templates. So to achieve what I wanted, I have had to learn a little about html code.

Aim for my 'look'
What I wanted to achieve was a clean, uncluttered look with tabs which gives an 'about' and 'contact' page as recommended by Beth Kanter. The snag is that whilst Wordpress automatically provides this feature, Blogger does not. But rather than starting a new blog on a different blogging platform, I have chosen to go for template that has been developed by someone independent of Blogger.

Making changes to html
To personalise the template to suit my context, I have had to alter the html, essentially to change the tabs, and allow me to insert my own photo into the header. I am very grateful to Kate Foy, who is a very generous member of my personal learning network, for supporting me during this process. Kate answered my pleas for help on Twitter, and gave me advice as I hit various problems. It took a lot of experimenting, perseverance and patience, but I think I'm almost there.

The photos I have used are from different areas around Dunedin where I live, and can be found on my Flickr page.

Some tips for changing blog templates
If you are thinking of making similar changes to your 'Blogger' blog, here are a couple of tips:
  1. Make a blog that you can use to experiment on, rather than your proper blog. That way, if you make mistakes, you will not lose any important data.
  2. Don't be afraid to 'play' and experiment. It can frustrating if you have little knowledge of html, but it is only by having a go that you learn.
  3. Seek out a mentor who can advise and guide you along the way. You don't necessarily need to be told what to do, but rather supported as you find out for yourself.
  4. Save all your widgets because there is a good chance that you will lose them in the change.
  5. Make contact with the people who developed the original template for advice and support.
What do you think?
I am not 100% sure I like this new template but I will stick with it for the time being. And there are still a few things I need to do such as put up my blog roll and a 'best of posts' list, as well as sort out my 'about' and 'contact' pages. But for the time being, what do you think of my new look?

How do you find it as a reader? How easy is it to navigate and leave comments? What do you think about the look? What do you like, and what do you think could do with improving? How do you find the font size - is it too small? In view of the changes I am making to my life and work, how professional (or not) do you feel this blog looks?

Image: Yellow-eyed penguins, Dunedin, New Zealand


Kate Foy said...

Hi Sarah
Ignore my DM from Twitter. I found the comments hotlink under the title of the post. I was looking at the end.

A couple of quick, first responses to the look of the blog. For me, posting pane is too close up against the sidebar. This has the effect of making for a crowded look. More white space would be easier on the eye. Making your font size larger would add to the 'problem.'

You might get a little better balance if you put the 'About Me' widget with photo at the top of the sidebar. It's also important to lead with yourself (especially if you will use this as a professional calling-card blog).

PS Thanks for your kind words. Not a problem!

PPS Good advice for bloggers contemplating the big move!

Sarah Stewart said...

Agree with both your comments, Kate. Actually, I am reasonably happy with the font size-don't think its as bad as I thought. So what I need to do now if really work out how to change the margin size. I tell you, I wont choose to do this again without going to classes about html.

hbacmama said...

Don't have much to say about the template... I'd read you if it came in the mailbox on paper.
Do HAVE to comment on the Popular Searches though!
hands off birth


Kate Foy said...

No probs Sarah. Glad to help. I'd advise your donwloading Firebug if you use Firefox for your browser. It's a great html and CSS 'teacher' and editor.

Mike Bogle said...

Hi Sarah!

Looking good :) I've recorded my feedback o Seesmic since I'm on the birthball at the moment. The clip is here:



Carolyn said...

well done Sarah. I like your new look. I think it looks sufficiently similar to your previous template that returning visitors will not be too confused and will quickly realise they are at the same blog. Hope you had a good Christmas, New Year. I had a lovely time and just back from having a Gypsy existance for a couple of weeks. It was great.

BetsyK said...

Hi Sarah,

Overall I like your redesign very much indeed! I really favor a clean look myself and I also enjoyed the photos you've built in. Congratulations on tacking HTML. I feel that I am at the point where I need to acquire some code knowledge too. Excellent suggestion to work with a test blog!!! Was there a book that you used? I was thinking of just looking for "HTML for Dummies" or something along that line.

Just two thoughts....since you asked about the font size, it does seem just a little bit small. Also, could you shift up the text that goes through the photo so that the word "Professional" doesn't get lost in the white of the river?

Take care,
Betsy in Chicago

Sarah Stewart said...

@Carolyn Glad to hear you had a great holiday-must catch up before I take off to Oz.

@Betsy Thanks for feedback. I'm sure there must be a 'html for dummies' but I've found those 'dummy' books to be quite hard, either that or I am too much of a dummy for the dummy books :)

I've changed the font size which I am really pleased with. But I am still having major, major trouble changing the margins, so will keep working on that.

@Mike Getting the number of widgets on the side bar is a real challenge. There's always the temptation to put every widget there under the sun. But uncluttered is the look I want to go for, so have taken a couple off, with the aim of putting another couple up there to replace them :)

The other thing I think I need is to put a guide for making comments as I don't think it is as clear about commenting as it was in my other template.

@Kate Just loving firebug which is a must for html newbies.

@hbacmama Thanks so much for your comments. Happy New Year to you & your family.

Mike Bogle said...

Have you considered putting together a screen cast to take everyone through the site? I'm quite a fan of them as I'm sure you know. Personally I find CamStudio to be a really great program, and it's open source and free to use:

Just a thought :)



Sarah Stewart said...

That's a good idea, Mike. I have done that with my ePortfolio. That might help to solve my 'how to comment' problem.

infomidwife said...

Good look I like it, I agree different however not to different to confuse regular bloggers. I have tried several times to add photos into my banner, so may spend some time following your tips.