Sunday, January 23, 2011

Elements common to every page

Different pages display different content, but the design of your blog is constant throughout.

So it is that your readers, as they click through your blog, get many visual cues that they have not left your blog even as the content changes. Header, sidebar, gadgets, footer, color scheme, and typeface do not change.

This is valuable to you and your readers, and something that Blogger ensures without any work required on your part.

If you are familiar with javascript, it is possible to hide or show some gadgets conditionally based on page, and in this way change the sidebar elements from page to page.

Clever bloggers can make other page-design elements conditional, including color scheme, column width, font size and typeface, and even the presence of the header itself.

Alas, this trick is too clever even for Too Clever. I will just say, if you think this is a good idea, to be careful what you wish for.

Tinkering with the common page design risks confusing your readers and muddying the identity of your blog. Proceed judiciously and with caution, if at all.

Elements common to every page

Different pages display different content, but the design of your blog is constant throughout.

So it is that your readers, as they click through your blog, get many visual cues that they have not left your blog even as the content changes. Header, sidebar, gadgets, footer, color scheme, and typeface do not change.

This is valuable to you and your readers, and something that Blogger ensures without any work required on your part.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Gadgets in the footer

The horizontal region in your blog's footer, after the end of your posts, is sub-prime real estate.

Gadgets you place here do not compete for your readers' attention but will only be seen by those who make it to the bottom of the page.

If your left or right sidebar region is longer than the length of the posts shown, there will be a blank gap between the posts and the footer-area gadgets.

Gadgets anywhere add to load time and subtract from the available page-size quota.

My own rule of thumb is that any gadget so unimportant as to belong down here is not worth including at all.

Some exceptions could apply.

Your call.
« Gadgets over posts Index Appendices »

Gadgets in the footer

The horizontal region in your blog's footer, after the end of your posts, is sub-prime real estate.

Gadgets you place here do not compete for your readers' attention but will only be seen by those who make it to the bottom of the page.

If your left or right sidebar region is longer than the length of the posts shown, there will be a blank gap between the posts and the footer-area gadgets.

Gadgets anywhere add to load time and subtract from the available page-size quota.

My own rule of thumb is that any gadget so unimportant as to belong down here is not worth including at all.

Some exceptions could apply.

Your call.
« Gadgets over posts Index Appendices »

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gadgets on top

Be especially discriminating about what gadgets you put in the horizontal region below your title and tagline and above your blog posts.

After your title, this is the first thing your readers will see.

Every time they visit.

You may believe your blog is best experienced in a certain way, for instance by reading an introduction or explanation first thing.

You may even be right.

Your readers, however, won't always agree, especially after their fourth or fifth visit. They want to see what they want to see, not what you want them to see.

Respect your readers in this or they may not return. Indeed, unless they see exactly what they are looking for as soon as they get to your blog, they may not even stick around.

For most blogs the only thing that should go in this space, if anything, are navigational links to static or other pages in your blog. Such navigational gadgets will reformat themselves if dragged into this region, turning into handy tabs.

(If you'd like to tweak those tabs a bit, you might be interested in this useful hint from an experienced blogger.)

Put whatever message or first impression you'd like to make in a tight and well-written title and and tagline.
« Sidebar Index Gadgets under posts »

Gadgets on top

Be especially discriminating about what gadgets you put in the horizontal region below your title and tagline and above your blog posts.

After your title, this is the first thing your readers will see.

Every time they visit.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sidebar and other gadget areas

Most blog templates include a column on the left or right hand side where you, the blog author, can put photos, text, links, and many automated blog gadgets. Some have sidebars on both sides.

Sometimes called widgets, these gadgets can be dragged to horizontal positions at the top of the blog (just under, but not in, the title-and-tagline block), and the bottom of the blog (in the footer of every page).

Your sidebar, and the gadgets you add, appear on every page of your blog.

There are no end of gadgets; if you are talented you can even make your own. Two of the most popular ones are "About Me" and "Archive," which are include by default in new blogs.

These and other gadgets can add tremendous value to your blog, helping your readers to find content that interests them. That makes your blog more useful and fun, which over time translates into more readers and followers.

However, these benefits do not come free. Consider well the hidden costs of adding gadgets.

Every gadget adds clutter, competing visually with your blog posts and degrading your blog.

In addition, every gadget eats up some of the allowed page size. Adding many gadgets could thus mean fewer posts allowed per page.

Finally, gadgets add to load time--the time during which readers drum their fingers and think about whether to click away from your too-slow blog.

In short, too much sidebar bling can make a blog less useful and fun for your readers.

I urge my fellow bloggers: Put on your editorial green eye shades and be hard nosed about every gadget.

Does it really add more value than it removes? Is it really worth it? And is the net effect of all that sidebar bling acceptable, or is it too much of a distraction from your blog posts?

Special considerations apply to gadgets you put in the horizontal regions above and below your blog posts.
« Header, title & tagline Index Gadgets over posts »

Sidebar and other gadget areas

Most blog templates include a column on the left or right hand side where you, the blog author, can put photos, text, links, and many automated blog gadgets. Some have sidebars on both sides.

Sometimes called widgets, these gadgets can be dragged to horizontal positions at the top of the blog (just under, but not in, the title-and-tagline block), and the bottom of the blog (in the footer of every page).

Your sidebar, and the gadgets you add, appear on every page of your blog.

There are no end of gadgets; if you are talented you can even make your own. Two of the most popular ones are "About Me" and "Archive," which are include by default in new blogs.

These and other gadgets can add tremendous value to your blog, helping your readers to find content that interests them. That makes your blog more useful and fun, which over time translates into more readers and followers.

However, these benefits do not come free. Consider well the hidden costs of adding gadgets.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Blog title and tagline

They introduce and frame your blog. New readers read or skip your blog because of them.

Are you getting full value out of your title and tagline?

Typically, the title names your blog while the tagline (or subtitle or description) explains it. Of course either can do a bit of both.

The internet is the world's biggest vanity press, and I am not going to knock anyone who picks an obscure blog name to please him or her self. I may be guilty of a dose of that myself.

But there is something to be said for readers, and pleasing or making things easy for them can be rewarding too. This blog's tagline --"Blogger hints, hacks, and attitude"--at least gives readers a fighting chance to know where they are and what they are likely to find here.

Your tagline can be as long as 500 characters, but brevity is the soul of wit. Show your readers a little consideration and keep things short and sweet.

You can change your title or tagline at any time at Settings > Basic > Title and >Description.

Titles need not be the same as the web address for your blog (which you may also change at any time), and titles need not be unique (someone else can call their blog the same thing you call yours).
« Search-results pages Index Sidebar »

Blog title and tagline

They introduce and frame your blog. New readers read or skip your blog because of them.

Are you getting full value out of your title and tagline?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Search-results pages

Searching your blog for a word or a phrase in Blogger's navbar (or from Blogger's sidebar search gadget) generates a dynamic page of those posts that include the search phrase.

The results of this search take the familiar form of all of Blogger's dynamic pages: Posts, in reverse order, spilling automatically into archived pages if needed.

But there is a big catch. Ironically for a company that is synonymous with search, this feature does not work reliably or predictably and Blogger seems unable to fix it.

(Check out Google's Custom Search as an alternative.)

« Static pages Index Header, title & tagline »

Search-results pages

Searching your blog for a word or a phrase in Blogger's navbar (or from Blogger's sidebar search gadget) generates a dynamic page of those posts that include the search phrase.

The results of this search take the familiar form of all of Blogger's dynamic pages: Posts, in reverse order, spilling automatically into archived pages if needed.

But there is a big catch. Ironically for a company that is synonymous with search, this feature does not work reliably or predictably and Blogger seems unable to fix it.

(Check out Google's Custom Search as an alternative.)

« Static pages Index Header, title & tagline »

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Static pages

In the beginning was the blog, made of posts.

Archive and label-search pages helped readers to find the posts they liked.

In late 2009, in response to popular demand, Blogger added static pages: Blog pages that do not comprise any posts at all.

Typical uses include an "about this blog" page, or an extended profile of the blog author, or an index of blog content.

Blogs are limited to no more than 20 static pages each.

These pages sit apart from the rest of the blog, but are integrated into it by (1) having the same page design (including sidebar gadgets) and (2) a Posts gadget that automatically generates links to all the static pages plus the main blog page. (However, I suggest that this gadget is not really very useful.)

Conceptually, these stand-alone pages sit outside of the blog's natural chronological hierarchy. They are all equally "now."

Static pages are not secondary blog pages to which authors may post blog posts. That is what is static about them. Blog authors seeking that functionality should investigate labels and label-search pages.

Within these limitations, pages are useful places to put "timeless" information (such as an About page). They are also good for very large collections of images, since Blogger's unavoidable auto-pagination feature would deform the pagination of the blog were the photos in a regular blog post.

A static page is also a good place to park a "journey" page showing your blog content in chronological order, which you can make using my blog-journey hack.

Just don't knock yourself out trying to turn your static pages into mini-blogs that comprise blog posts. Blogger will resist your every effort. Check out label searches instead.
« Label-search pages Index Search-results pages »

Static pages

In the beginning was the blog, made of posts.

Archive and label-search pages helped readers to find the posts they liked.

In late 2009, in response to popular demand, Blogger added static pages: Blog pages that do not comprise any posts at all.

Typical uses include an "about this blog" page, or an extended profile of the blog author, or an index of blog content.

Blogs are limited to no more than 20 static pages each.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Label-search pages

In the begining the blog page comprised blog posts. It was good, but we needed more.

Labels, and their related search pages, provide one of the most useful and powerful features of Blogger blogs: the ability to characterize posts, and to group like posts together on a separate page.

This is something you can't do using Blogger's static pages feature.

If you have a food blog, for example, of posts about fruit, bread, and cheese, you can label each post appropriately. These labels become hot links at the end of each post.

If your readers click on the "cheese" link, Blogger will generate a label-search page comprising all the cheese posts, and only those posts.

This page behaves in almost every way like a mini blog within a blog. If it is long enough to be subject to page limits, it will paginate into a main page and archived pages. (There are some minor differences, as these are really a kind of search page.)

Furthermore, although the page contents are generated dynamically, the url for a main label-search page is fixed, for instance
YOURBLOGNAME.blogspot.com/search/label/cheese
Consequently you can easily link to the page of all your cheese posts from within your blog. One powerful use of this feature is to put such links into a navigation widget, such as a set of tabs or other links positioned over the first blog post. (Use a link-list widget for this.)

In effect, your blog is a honking big database of which each post is a record. Using labels you can group and show your posts as you see fit.

You can apply labels on the fly or to many posts at once.

Labels can overlap; Blogger has no problem listing your discussion of what kind of Camembert goes best with what kind of baguette as both cheese and bread.

At best, label-search pages let your readers break free of the tyranny of the linear list to reach the content that they want.

A little forethought about how labels can organize your content for your readers will yield a blog that is accessible, easy to navigate, and better for your readers.
« Two kinds of archive pages Index Static pages »

Label-search pages

In the begining the blog page comprised blog posts. It was good, but we needed more.

Labels, and their related search pages, provide one of the most useful and powerful features of Blogger blogs: the ability to characterize posts, and to group like posts together on a separate page.

This is something you can't do using Blogger's static pages feature.