Warning: This post wanders far, FAR from the intended topic. In my defense – should I need a defense – I had a lot of fun writing it. But it is off topic. But potentially entertaining.
The problem isn’t the lack of a coherent definition for “blog” but rather because each of us prefers to define our own blog. This is one of the privileges of being a blogger: freedom from all those strangling rules we had when we worked.
Personally, my favorites blogs are what they are and vary from day to day, week to week. From funny to opinionated and maybe with a recipe and some good photographs tossed in? I like blogs that are fun to read. I also love blogs from which I learn things. I’m mad about witty blogs and I’ll read almost anything if it’s well-written. I will often read something entirely because I know the writer is good even if I would not usually be interested in the material.
Note to humor writers: Anything that makes me laugh is my kind of writing. But if you are going to write humor? Please. BE FUNNY.
I like photo blogs though I often find myself at a loss for something to say other than “great picture.” Especially when dozens of others have already said that, I have to wonder if my saying the same thing matters. Also, when putting in a comment requires scrolling through dozens of previous comments, I usually give up before I get to the comment box. This is what clicking “LIKE” is for. This is also why I often write little stories as part of a comment. It’s because I can’t just say “Great shot” one more time. So I try to say something else because seriously, don’t we get tired of seeing the same old comments?
Your blog is what you say it is. It is also what I think it is. They are not necessarily the same thing.
So now, let’s talk about what I want to talk about: DESIGN.
PAGE AND PANEL DESIGN
I’m always surprised at how little attention most bloggers give to making sure their blogs look good. By good, I don’t mean fancy. I mean text that’s easy to read. White space so you don’t feel as if the words are crowding each other off the page. Illustrations or photographs to liven up the story.
A graphic panel or page should be 60% WHITE SPACE. I should add that this is also true for printed material. White space is sometimes also called “negative space” or “open space.” Any part of the page that isn’t covered with text or graphics is “white space.” This includes the space between letters, spaces between lines of text and paragraphs. Spaces following headings, as well as the gutter and margin. The open areas around and between illustrations.
Too little white space makes a blog look cluttered and if it gets sufficiently cluttered, readers give up. I’m not sure you can have too much white space unless you leave the page blank.
HOW MUCH STUFF ON THE PAGE OR PANEL?
Things you should have on your “front” page:
- Contact information
- Recent posts (featured content)
- Search and maybe a calendar. You can have search without a calendar, but a calendar without search isn’t enough
- “Follow me, follow this blog” option.
Things you might want on the page:
- Your own and/or other writers’ biographies
- Your statistics
- Your community
- Links to other (not your own) blogs
- Copyright information
- Jump links for your other blogs (if any)
- Information about books you’ve published, other activities you pursue, where to send donations, worthy causes you support
- Books you’ve read, books you are reading. Or you can do the same with movies and/or music or any interest you choose.
If you want to include this kind of information, you probably want a template that has a right or left “widget” section. When you put all your “other information” at the bottom of the post, the odds favor readers not knowing it’s there.
Most important? Contact information. Second most important? Search.
BLACK ON WHITE, WHITE ON BLACK
If you are a photographer, you might get away with a black background for photographs — they look great against black. But, if you are also going to use words? Black against white or off-white will get 100% more active readers. Many people find white text on black hard to read. This isn’t age-related. It really IS hard to read — at any age.
TEXT – HOW BIG? WHAT KIND OF FONT. BY THE WAY, WHAT’S A FONT?
A font is a style of text. Back when I started working in publishing — the early 1970s — serif fonts were considered easier to read. Sans-serif fonts were mostly used (if at all) for headlines or captions.
Big enough to read without squinting. Big enough to read without enlarging the page. Leave curlicues and swashes for headlines or captions. Why? Because most of us can’t read that kind of text without struggling. Just as your writing should not require a dictionary to figure out the meaning, your text shouldn’t need a Rosetta Stone to decipher it.
I work through my need for fancy fonts via photo signatures. If you can’t read it, it won’t affect the quality of the photo. The reason I sign pictures isn’t branding. It’s because I’m not the only one who publishes pictures on my blog. Garry takes a lot of pictures, as does Rich and occasionally, Owen. Once in a while, a friend or my granddaughter has a picture they would like me to post since they don’t have their own blogs.
If photos are unsigned, you won’t know who took the picture — and neither will I. Especially when Garry and I go shooting together, it can be impossible to know who took which picture. I have a friend in Arizona and at some point, we both took IDENTICAL pictures. They only way we could figure out who took which picture was by the pixel count. Mine was lower than his. Otherwise? Identical. We must have been standing in the exact same spot.
I have to label photos in my files so that each photographer has his or her own folders. When bunches of us go out together, this becomes extremely important!
A FOOL’S ERRAND?
It’s only a fool’s errand if you are trying to label all blogs as one thing. That would be like labeling all magazines as one thing — or all music — or all graphics. Since it’s your own blog, you can call it Miss Piggy if you like. You can’t name millions of blogs with one label. That’s beyond a fool’s errand. It’s a waste of time and no one will pay attention to you anyway.
WAY OFF TOPIC
Yup. Way WAY off topic. But I had a lot of fun writing this, even though it has almost nothing to do with the subject.
I don’t care for blogs with black backgrounds and white or light-colored text. It is OK for a small block of text, but not the entire thing. I used to write without thought to white space and you used to have to break up my paragraphs. Sometimes I still write paragraphs that go on for too long. It is a holdover from writing school research papers where you tried to keep everything on one thought in the same paragraph. Although I cite sources on certain types of articles, I have to remember it is not a research paper.
At this point, I guess I have written on just about everything. You have opened my mind to the idea that any topic can be a blog. I recall you suggested writing about my travels. I would never have thought about that, actually, but it seems they are among the more popular things I have contributed.
If a photo is unsigned, it might be mine or some publicity photos I grabbed off the internet, such as all the Bad Buddy pics for several different articles. I usually think Marilyn and Garry have so many great photos, so why not use them to illustrate what I am doing? I would not feel right about using them if they were not signed.
I don’t feel comfortable using unsigned photos unless they are public domain.
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I copied a number of Bad Buddy photos I felt I could not use for one reason or another and deleted them from my file. Some are publicity photos free for use, but some you just can’t tell for sure what the origin is.
If they are PR from the studio, as long as you are using them as a fan, that’s cool. But if it’s a drawing or a private photograph, you really can’t tell and frankly, the amount of effort it would take to figure it out is not usually worth the result.
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For a popular series there can be a lot of “fan edits.” There were a couple I gave up trying to figure out where the photo came from. GMMTV puts out so much for a popular series there no reason to try to figure anything out.
Blah Blah …
I headed the Blog Rules off at the Pass.
Then ambushed them with gusto.
Me too 🙂
Thanks. Those were some great tips.
I’m glad my post prompted you to share them.
I’m always surprised at how little effort people take into making their blogs look good. Maybe they are afraid of swapping templates, though it isn’t as hard as it looks. I really had fun writing it and some fun illustrating it too 😀
I used to love making my posts ‘pretty’ , taking a lot of time and effort over images etc because I wasn’t very good at computers.
These days I have very little time for my blog so my posts are far less ‘aesthetic’ than I would like them to be.
Your tips are always beneficial and I wish I had discovered them when I first launched my blog. I would have saved a lot of time and effort.
This is the major reason I’m so glad I found a template I like that does a lot of the work for me. I live in fear that WP is going to make it unusable. They don’t have anything I like that isn’t excessively complicated and I don’t have time or frankly, energy to deal with that level of complexity. I used to, but times have changed.
great advice from one who knows )
I can’t count the number of templates I used before I found the one I currently use. Unfortunately, though I love this template, WordPress in their infinite wisdom has declared it obsolete. I have had to drop parts of it because they stopped working. One day I’ll have to gird my loins and find another template, but I’m going to keep this one as long as I can. It has been very successful and does almost everything I want a template to do. AdND it looks like a magazine, which I think is cool.
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I remember reading good advice from other bloggers, a lot of it from you, when I started blogging. I’m often surprised now when I read some people’s blogs at how few people include a lot of the details you mentioned. I always look for an About page and a list of their other posts so I can get a feel for whether I would enjoy reading them regularly but so many don’t have it.
Especially contact information. A lot of contacts are junk mail, but periodically I get offers to publish my pictures in books or magazines, or include something in a printed magazine — or just interesting information from other, often foreign, bloggers. EVERYONE should have a way for people to look up other things they wrote. It’s so frustrating to read something and want to go back and check it out — and the rest of the blog — and there’s nothing there. NOTHING. Not a link, not a contact. Nothing. I don’t understand it. How hard could have that list be? Even with all of WordPress’s foibles, adding basic widgets is just a click away.
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I know. Even if they don’t want to write a bio a contact me widget is easy to add. There are certainly blogs I would have read more of if I could have accessed other posts more easily. As it is with so many bloggers out there I move on to ones who communicate better.
Since I use my iPhone for both writing and reading blog posts, I’m not sure how my blog (or yours or anyone else’s) look on a regular laptop or computer screen. What I don’t see on my iPhone’s screen are sidebars. I know I have a sidebar on my blog because when I started this blog in 2017 I used a laptop when I chose the theme and I put a sidebar on the right side. But on my iPhone, with it’s limited screen real estate, the sidebar doesn’t show. All I can say is that I hope my blog looks okay on a computer screen.
You can write on anything you want, but you might want to just occasionally take a broader look at your blog as others see it. It looks a lot better than it used to. You do have some sidebars, but they aren’t necessarily what you need. You need some kind of search function and a contact link so people can reach you without your giving away personal information. I have enough trouble with heaps and piles of stupid emails without making it worse. Then the only problem becomes remembering to actually check and see if anyone is trying to contact you. I forget and by the time I look, the contact is months (occasionally years) old. Oops.
But seriously: just take a periodic look to make sure all the parts are working and you don’t have broken bits where widgets ought to be. WP is forever changing things that don’t need changing, so just because it used to work doesn’t mean it still does!
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Marilyn, you need to look before you leap. Attached is screenshot of the desktop view of my site. Circled in blue across the top banner are my pages, including “Contact Me” (which, by the way, is current). And to the right, at the very top of my sidebar, circled in red, is the Search bar. Both the link to the Contact Me page and the Search bar are prominently displayed and easy to find.
Here’s a close up if you need help seeing them
User teepee12 Cannot Access the Dashboard Requested
You are logged in as “teepee12” and do not have the necessary privileges to access the dashboard for “This, That, and the Other”. If you are not “teepee12”, please log out, and log back in with your username. If you are “teepee12” and you need access, please ask an administrator of the site to invite you.
I thought I had sent a response to this comment, but I don’t see it. It might be awaiting your approval or it might be in your spam folder, as I attached two images of my desktop screen showing that both my “Contact Me” page (which is current, by the way), and my search bar are prominently displayed on the desktop version of my blog. The former on the task bar on top of the name of my blog and the image of my eyes, and the latter at the very top of my sidebar on the right. Let me know if you didn’t get those images and I’ll either try to send them again. Or check your spam folder, just in case it got swept up by Akismet.
I didn’t get them, but that’s not unusual. I think there’s a logjam somewhere — and this hasn’t been a good day. Whatever could go wrong has gone wrong. I wrote you a private comment. Presumably THAT got through.
Very helpful tips Marilyn. Thank you
You are most welcome. Because book design was a big part of the work I did for many years, I’m sensitive to having a clean, orderly, organized blog. AND because WordPress is forever redesigning their interface, parts of what used to work sometimes stop working. Sometimes I can fix them, but sometimes, I can’t get them back. My template is considered obsolete and unfortunately, WP doesn’t have anything even similar to it I could use so I’m hanging on to this one as long as I can. It’s the first template I’ve used that I really like. There are parts of it I don’t like, but about 90% of it is just the way I want it and the rest? Well, it’s not awful — just annoying.
You get a LOT of responses so you may want to figure out a better organization for them. IF you can. Each template is slightly different and so is how you can organize stuff — and WP keeps changing stuff, so even if you think you know what you are doing, after they change the format (again!), you may discover parts of your format look weird or broken.
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I haven’t changed my theme since I set it the first time, 4 years ago. I’m afraid to do it but I will take a look at it. Thanks
I just spent a lot of time checking out what they are offering. A few of them might work if I have no choice, but I don’t like any of them as much as I like what I already have. The problem is this block format. Setting these up used to be almost instant and some still are, but a lot of them are really complicated. I’m sure I could do it, but I REALLY don’t want to. I wish they would just let me keep using THIS format. It took me a long time to find it and it has been very successful. I suppose nothing is forever.
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Unfortunately, they just want us to try new things whether we like them or not
I don’t understand it. We are already customers. Why keep pushing us?
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I can understand this way of thinking either