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