Wednesday, May 23, 2012

“If I started blogging today I would….”

"...customize my blog's design right away."

Completing this sentence is today's Blogathon topic, asking participants to reflect on what we would do differently if we were starting out blogging, given what we've learned.

I started blogging in January last year, and used the Blogger template Travel. I loved the background picture, the Mylar-style overlay of text, and the white font. Pretty soon I heard the white font was hard to read. But I liked it, so I stuck with it. Then, last summer, I took a blogging class for writers run by Kristen Lamb, and white font was one of her no-no's because it's hard to read on mobile devices. I still ignored that advice, because I liked that template's look.

But by the fall I had grown tired of it, and worse, I'd come across a few other blogs that were running on the same template. That's like going to a party and finding another woman wearing the same dress. I had also visited enough other blogs to start feeling like they all looked the same, as they were running on one of the Wordpress or Blogger templates. I also met some bloggers whose blogs looked individual, whose design impressed me, and whose blogs were thus memorable. I realized those people had put time into their blogs' design. They had thought about what kind of look they wanted. Some were classmates from Kristen's class, and so I asked them how they did it. No secrets there: They looked at lots of other blogs, noted a few they liked, and hired a graphic designer to help them come up with a look.

So finally, last fall, I did the same. I took the time to figure out what look would be most "me." I found a few blogs whose design I wanted to emulate, although not quite. I sat down with a designer friend, and we came up with my banner, and my look, customizing a Blogger template with a banner that can be updated periodically by switching out the pictures.

My blog banner Nov 2011 until today

According to my blog statistics, page views increased by about 50% after I customized my blog. Is that a direct consequence? Of course I don't know, but since I wasn't doing any other special blog activities like a blogathon or a class in November or December, evidence probably supports the idea that a more individualized blog draws in more readers. Improved readability helps, too.

To go with today's theme, I've updated my banner, so that all you faithful readers don't get bored over time. Let me know how you like it.

New banner

The pictures are, left to right:

Photo of my daughter and me, Summer 1996
LaSalle Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois, April 2012
Laundry in Hongkou, Shanghai, March 2012


  1. Nice! I really like your photo choices.

  2. I think customization of your blog layout/template is really important. It creates a good impression, that you're "not like all the rest". Love the updated photos!

  3. yes I need to customize my blog look- I know it was better when I had my collage of pics up before- but I did something to change it and then can't find my collage (apparently I had not saved it!) ugh- I need to work on getting that done- but first I have to find focus for my blog :) ha ha!!

  4. White type on black background takes me back to the early days of PCs when I had computers at home and work with screens that where configured that way. It was so hard to read type that way that I ended up with reading glasses, even though I didn't need them.

    Your teacher was correct about white on black being tough to read on a mobile device: with so many people getting their news and reading blogs from their smartphones, you really can't ignore that.

    Your blog has a clean, spare, well organized design now, and I love the photo collage at the top, which makes it that much more personal.

    Michelle Rafter

  5. Your post made me wonder if I need to change my blog template. So far I didn't mind it being dark grey background and white font.. Hmm..should I change it or should I not?

  6. Nice design! You're right - a customized design says you take blogging seriously enough to consider your audience's reading experience.

  7. I like the new photo spread. I want to change my template, so I might try to play with it more while in France and don't have as much stuff grabbing my attention. Alas, I don't have any graphic designer friends.

  8. I think a personalized header makes all the difference. I use a traditional WordPress theme. I've thought about learning CSS to create a unique page, but I just haven't been up for it yet. Luckily, my husband has a graphic design background, so he helped me create a fun header that feels like me.

    Also, I like the idea of changing out your pictures to keep your blog fresh. All of your new pictures are great, but I especially love the laundry photo in Shanghai. What a lovely shot.

  9. I wrote today that I was pretty satisfied, but now I think I'd like to have a customized design, too. Can you still use and do that?

  10. I like the look of your blog. Well done!

  11. Love it! I've been considering a few "refresh" ideas myself and this has prompted me to give them more attention this summer. Squeee....

  12. I like how you personalized your banner. It's lovely. I agree it's difficult to read white text, but I'm so used to it from years of online text-base gaming.

    One suggestion I'd give is to widen the banner so that it is flush with the margin on the right.

    Nice job transforming your blog!

  13. Good one! After a year of blogging my recent design is a custom design. I don't know if it helped with traffic, but I can say its a lot nicer knowing that no one else hs that design!

  14. You blog is beautiful! I chat with a bunch of horror/sci-fi writers who insist on white font. Drives. me. nuts. LOL

  15. I do like the crisp, clean look of your blog and the header being able to change and update the pictures is a nice feature.

    I'll have to look into the class you took and see what I can learn.

  16. Your current photo banner is beautiful. And I will confess that I will never read a white on dark blog, even if I really want to. My eyes just can't take it. So good on you for being willing to change.