Saturday, March 13, 2010

Blog Makeover

I recently updated the look of my blog and invite you on my journey for blog improvement.  I'm not sure I will do this journey justice, but I will try to start at the beginning (a very good place to start according to Julie Andrews).  The journey began when I noticed a new blog follower, Anne Huskey-Lockard, who shared my love of bottle caps and recycled artwork.  I was thrilled, in turn, to discover her blog, El Milagro Studio.  It just so happened that Ann had just won a title makeover from Susie Jefferson at 1stFloorFlat.  Of course, I took a journey over to Susie's blog and was amazed at all the advice, tutorials, and blog backgrounds she offered.  I was happy with my blog at that particular moment.  The colors provided in the standard Blogspot template, Thistle, matched my header perfectly and I liked the two column layout.  

Then I started my in-depth artist interviews and was increasingly frustrated with the small column width in which I had to write.  If you've not noticed, I tend to be wordy and with the exception of this post, I like to include lots of pictures.  The picture sizes I had to use in those articles was too small to fully do the artwork justice and I had to eliminate pictures that I otherwise would have included.  Loran Scrugg's video was cut off slightly and everything seemed to be scrunched and hard to read.

That's when I started to modify my blog in earnest.  Anyone who has worked with me in my previous Finance career knows I'm pretty good at tweaking macros and simple code.  I'm not good at writing it myself, but very good at modifying existing code to suit my purposes.  How hard can HTML be?  Well, it's not hard exactly, but I do not have enough fundamental training to do much more than modest tweaking.  I was able to make my column wider, but I could not make the format follow.  I was like a dog worrying a bone, I could not let it go.  I spend several hours, days even, changing this and that before admitting defeat.  I really liked my colors and resisted changing templates because I wanted to make this work.

That's when Susie came to my rescue.  I posted a comment on her blog and she visited mine to take a look.  Completely free of charge, she played around with the Thistle format to see if she could make it larger for me.  The verdict; it could not be done easily.  It was one of those pesky formats that resisted changes (made me feel a little better that I hadn't lost my tweaking skills).  She suggested I switch to Minima or Minima Stretch.  Both of which were easier to modified and many sites offered free backgrounds, headers and other cool stuff that worked on that template.  

Bear with me, I know this post is getting way too long.  Minima Stretch worked perfectly.  I began reading Susie's tutorials in earnest and she sent me a couple of links to other blogs with tools to improve my blog's appearance.  Her feedback was invaluable and willingly offered.  I really can't thank her enough.  There are four major changes I made to the standard Minima Stretch template.  First, I modified the code to put a background color behind the titles in my sidebar (very proud of that bit of tweaking).  I then used the links Susie provided to put a background color behind the entire sidebar to make it stand out more.  The instructions for this are on the blog, The Cutest Blog on the Block.  Next, I took Susie's advice in her post about Blog Backgrounds, to not use italics as it was hard on the eyes.  Now, when I use someone's direct words, I highlight their words in a different color.  You can see it in my interview with Jan from HungryHoller.  You can find instructions for doing this at, BlogBulk.  

Almost done, hang in there.  With all these changes in place, I was still not happy with the look.  It was flat and rather boring.  I needed a texture in my background for interest.  I liked the colors, but it needed a bit of spark.  I searched for free backgrounds but none of them were quite right.  After all this work, I was not willing to settle for something that did not quite match my color scheme.   There are instructions out there on how to make your own, but I know from experience, it's time consuming and frustrating if you don't have a strong background with photo editing software.  I contacted Susie for a quote and could not be happier with her service.  She tweaked the background for me until I was happy with it and then, free of charge, she modified my header when it was clear it no longer fit the new format.  She even provided a second, smaller header, when my daughter thought it was too big (I outvoted her, but Susie gave me the option anyway).  I'm still doing a bit of tweaking (once I start playing with code, I'm like a little kid with a new toy), but I'm very pleased with the final results. 

Let me know if you like the look or if there's anything that is hard to read.  Below are links to places you can go for more information on updating your blog  and if you haven't discovered Anne's blog, check her out on El Milagro Sudio:

1st Floor Flat
The Cutest Blog on the Block
Blog Bulk


Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

I love it, and isn't Susie a gem and also a font of wisdom??? If anyone needs serious blog/web advice, I send them to Susie.
I know NOTHING about code, etc....and I am amazed that I can follow her tutorials and actually not crash my blog or end up with some three-headed monster!
She has so much advice and guidance free out there....
I'll have to check your other links on blog items.
As if I had TIME now, or really knew what I was doing! LOL!!!
And I do mean...LOL!!!

Anne...lovin' the new look and header!

Robbie said...

Format is nice and easy to read and your blog is not stretched out too much. It's not easy to read a blog that runs all across the screen! Nice job!!

gourdphile said...

Hey Christine:

Your blog complaints are almost the same as mine! what's with the narrow format??? I want to change but I've put so dang much time in, do you lose all your old stuff when you change over?

Your new blog is a revelation. I love it. It's so YOU. You are so generous to share your experiences with us all. I'm going to check out the links you provided. Aren't people amazing in their creativity and sharing spirit?



Christine's Beadworks said...

Anne, Susie is fabulous and so generous with her advice. The links in my blog were all given to me by her as something I'd might like! I love how she took the time to think what I might like or need.
Thanks so much, and with folks like Susie around, we don't really need to know what were doing, we can just pretend, lol!

Christine's Beadworks said...

Thanks so much Robbie! I hope you're enjoying our taste of Spring as much as I am.

Christine's Beadworks said...

I'm continually amazed at the generous spirit I find in this growing circle of friends. And the shear serendipity of finding those friends, is equally amazing.

Sue G. said...

I like it! I really like that you explain it and provide all the links and info to help others....See you soon!

susieboozie said...

I am a follower and a big fan of Susie's, (we share the same name) so when I saw she had done your blog I popped over to view it. I know nothing of bottle cap art and so I am fascinated by your work and enjoyed the look at other artists. Very interesting. Keep up the good work..Best wishes Susie (u.k.)x

Susie Jefferson said...

I'm so pleased you are happy with your makeover - and blushing under such effusive praise! Thanks so much for the glowing testimonial.

Scream if you need help at any time.

Bunny said...

Love it and I love Anne's too well I can say Anne is a real friend and a great artist. I also think Susie is amazing. Have fun and your blog is beautiful.

Sophie said...

Yup. I like this layouts very much.

Marsha Wiest-Hines said...

The new photo banner is great, and your links and information are wonderful. I always write way too much, but that means I am willing to read more, so I didn't mind the length of the post a bit! :o)
Good luck with your continued remodeling efforts and congratulations on your work so far.

Ruthie said...

I REALLY like what you've done with your blog :D Now I need to do something with mine :P

Christine's Beadworks said...

Sue G,
Thanks so much! I can't wait to see you next week and I love the new profile picture, it's good to see your beautiful face.

Christine's Beadworks said...

I love your profile name, brought a big smile to my face. Thank you for checking out my blog. I'm quite mad for bottle caps these days, and it' doesn't appear to be going away any time soon!lol

Christine's Beadworks said...

Susie J,
You deserve every bit of this praise. As you can see, your help and edits are being very well received. Thank you so much,

Christine's Beadworks said...

Ann is a real inspiration. I'm so glad I found her (well she found me first). I always start my morning with her and Jan from Hungryholler, they make me think, smile and spark my creative thinking (doesn't always play into real work, but thinking is good to).

Christine's Beadworks said...

Sophie, Marsha and Ruthie,
Thank you so much for your comments. I'm so happy to have embarked on this journey.

Rachele said...

Christine, your blog looks so good and your banner pictures are phenomenal! I love all your work and wish you well at your up coming show!

Christine's Beadworks said...

Thanks so much Rachelle. I have to thank my father-in-law, Earl, for these fabulous pictures. They are close ups of my entry to the USE the MUSE III contest. He's a great photographer and a patient teacher to this less than adept student.

CC said...

Your blog is beautiful..I love it. Isn't Susie the best and sweetest lady ever. I also won a header makeover...and she made the most wonderful header ever..I was so pleased,I was happy dancing. Then,at no charge, she tweaked my background,made my test a bit bigger for easier reading and I was thrilled. But that's not all.... I emailed her,and asked about making me a blog button..again,Susie was right there. She not only made me a blog button (a take it button),she made an emaill button as well. I love my's beautiful I think,and it's all because of sweet Susie. She's a most gracious and wonderful lady.

Christine's Beadworks said...

I popped over to your blog and it is fabulous. You've done a great job and Susie is great to work with. We're lucky to have found her. said...

It's a wonderful blog Christine. You have done a ton of work. Last year I endeavored to learn Microsoft Publisher software to learn how to create a website for our Bead Society. It was almost overwhelming and did not stop there. Then I had to learn about ftp (file transfer protocol) domain names, hosting companies and a gaggle of other stuff so I could upload my new web page. Well I am fairly comfortable with it now but there is never an end to what you can learn in web technology, but you are certainly beyond me! I love it and you deserve all the attention you are getting from your fans!