Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Beautiful Blogging

I'm very blessed to have so many blogging friends comment on Homestead Revival and share how it not only helps them, but is a beautiful place to visit. Thank you! You all always encourage me! 

As homesteaders, we tend to be a practical. But it's also good to reflect the beauty and appreciate lovely things. Our Lord didn't just stick us in an ugly world, but one that is stunning! And he left it with some room for us to cultivate it and add our own creative touches. How great is that? 

So how is your blog reflecting His beauty? 

Want to know how I create my "look"?  Here's a few things I consider when designing my own blog...

How To Create A Beautiful Blog

Keep it simple. The number one mistake I see most bloggers make is adding too much stuff. It's not only hard on the eyes, but nothing stands out. When I decorate my home I do it the same way... simple, uncluttered, with a few well placed items. Resist the urge to keep adding. Every time you want to add something, ask yourself if it will enhance the blog or distract from it. And if you really want to add that cute photo or scrapbook item, ask yourself what you can remove before you add. 

Keep it coordinated. There's a TON of freebies out there for authors to add to their blog. But before you add on that cute header, button, or photo, make sure it all coordinates. Pick a color scheme and stick with it. 

Don't underestimate the power of black and white. Against these more neutral backdrops, other colors can work without competition, and it's especially important if you tend to add a lot of photos to your blog. If you typically journal with only an occasional picture, then by all means, go ahead and go for the color!

If you're adding your own photo header, the photos need to color coordinated. Something to tie them all together. And sometimes, you only need one color to do the trick. 

Notice in my spring banner below, the greens are all fairly close and tie everything together (along with the smallest bit of white). And the reds, while a bit different, don't clash too much. 

Another example is my winter banner. Browns, creams, whites... all working together to form a cohesive look. Notice they're not the same browns, but rather, they're all the same hue. I would almost say this one is monochromatic with a splash of green in two of the photos.

Size matters. When using photos on a header, the subjects shouldn't all be the same size. Notice in the two banners above that some are close ups and others are more distant. Variety works! By cropping your photos to focus on only the most important - the focal point - you typically change the size of the subject as well. Play around with it and in time, you'll find the cropping feature is your nee BFF! 

Before cropping and color editing...

After cropping - notice how the goat is now clearly the subject of the photo...

On my sidebar, it's a bit different. I've been very careful to try and keep all the photos the same exact size - at least in terms of width. This creates a nice clean border. There are also some well proportioned sidebars that utilize two columns instead of one, but usually those that are the most beautiful pay close attention to sizing. Some things can't be adjusted, but do try!

The text on a lot of pre-made templates don't fill up enough of the page, leaving vast areas of open space. Don't get me wrong... some space is actually good! But oceans of unused space makes a blog seem lost on the page. 

Most blogs can easily be adjusted by changing the width of the body either in the template section (for blogger, click "customize" in the template section) or by finding the html code for the width and just change the width number. Be sure to save a copy of your code beforehand in case you mess it up, but just changing the numbers isn't that risky.

Repetition. Sometimes symmetrical repetition is good, but don't over do it. And if you do use it, always make sure it's an odd number (see banners above). 

When selecting fonts, it's okay to have more than one, but no more than three, unless they all work super well together and you're using them as your focal point. My side bar labels are a good example of this. The three fonts I used are different than the other fonts on my blog, but the black on white pulls them all together and the varied fonts create the focus making the treatment as if it were a photo. 
For the main part of your blog, the header, and most of the sidebar, try selecting only 2-3 fonts and use them over and over, just varying the size and style (ie: bold, italic, etc.) 

Group together. Personally, I find the sidebar is my biggest headache and I'm never satisfied with it. Besides trying to avoid cluttering it up, it's often difficult to make it look cohesive. But I try! Keep like things together... place your own photos separate from advertisers, and advertisers separate from followers, and so on. 

Go BIG. If you're going to add a photo, make it big. So may bloggers add a tiny photo that's not only difficult to see, but it's lost on the page! However, don't let it hang over into your sidebar! Better to go a bit smaller than cross the line.

Here's a sample of how bloggers use small photos that seem lost in the text...

Go big for drama...

And speaking of big... make your fonts large enough that readers can actually read your post. Yes, they can increase the size of the font on their screen, but at least make the fonts somewhat easy to view. After all, that's one of the main reasons your reader is visiting... to read your blog!

Be picky. Don't settle for mediocre. I really, really try to use only my best photos. GOOD photos. Here's an example of a cute shot that just didn't make the cut...

While I loved how the rooster was looking at the goat, something (my finger?) was covering part of the lens and the photo quality was poor. I could have adjusted color and lighting, but there wasn't any point. Even cropping wouldn't have worked because of where the subjects were in relation to the problem.

Add space. I'm going to make a huge confession here... are you ready? I do NOT read blogs with long paragraphs. Never. 

Okay, maybe on a rare occasion, but my time reading blogs is precious... I usually can't spend all morning on the computer. Therefore, I have to scan a LOT. In fact, most readers are looking quickly for nuggets that jump out at them and too much text makes it hard to find the gems. 

Short paragraphs with spaces in between not only make for a nice clean look, but they make it easier for your reader. If your content is good, they'll stick around to read the entire post.

Set some things apart. Use bullets, bold print, larger fonts... just like I've done in this post. It gives the blog a professional look and makes it easy to scan. 

Go visiting. Spend some time (not too much!) looking at blogs that blow your socks off! Don't read it... just look closely and break it down. What are they doing that makes their blog so eye appealing? Analyze, analyze, analyze. Then do NOT copy... apply concepts

Invest wisely. I haven't made a ton of money blogging, but once I knew I'd be at it for a while, I invested just over $100 on one software program that has saved me from hiring a software designer over and over again. I purchased Photoshop Elements 8 which I use to make banners, buttons, sidebar photos, resize ads, watermarks, etc. Trust me... it made a huge difference. 

So... there you have some things from my bag of tricks for beautiful blogging. Everyone has their own style and your blog should be unique and reflect YOU! Don't be surprised if it takes a while to find what works best for your own site. Mine has been "in process" for at least 4-5 years and my, has it changed over time! 

If your serious about making your space lovely, I recommend reading Blogging for Bliss by Tara Frey. She'll take you through much more than I did and show you several bloggers who get it right.

A word of caution... creating a blog takes time. And depending on your season of life, you might have to make one small change each week to get the look you're after. Blogging is fun, but it should never be anyone's number 1 priority. So if you see long gaps between my posts, you know life is full and I'm living it out!


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