In my previous post, I promised I would offer another alternative to Google Friend Connect, a widget commonly used by bloggers to enable their readers to follow them, but which is being discontinued for non-Blogger users at the end of this month. If you consider the blogs you visit, there are actually many ways to follow them: e-mail or newsletter subscription, RSS feed, Google+, and the list goes on. Because everyone has his or her favorite way of following a blog, and because you’re not likely going to please everyone, I highly recommend offering more than one way for your blog to be followed. So, here is one more blog management tool that is easy to use, easy to manage and offers many options. It’s also free, which is a plus.
Just one week ago Brent Riggs of Linky Tools launched Linky Followers, a service tested by “mom bloggers” that Brent promises will remain free to use. According to Brent in his post NEW SITE: LinkyFollowers.com, “Bloggers need a good ‘follower’ tool and one that is not tied to a million other services (seems like Facebook, Twitter and Google are linked to everything else on the Internet). It needs to be simple, fast, easy-to-use and reliable.”
Within a few days after the service became available, a couple of thousand users had already signed up. So, does this tool live up to hype? I decided to create an account and check it out.
When you sign up for Linky Followers, you are provided with code that you can copy and paste into your site, whether that’s Blogger, WordPress or some other blogging platform. I copied the code and pasted it into an HTML widget for this Web site and saved it. The process took less than 2 minutes. Easy!
Then I decided to visit a few blogs that already had the same widget installed. I clicked on Follow Me, wondering what would happen if you didn’t already have an account. The Follow A Blog screen appears as shown below, offering you the opportunity to sign up for an account, or to sign in to an existing account if you have one.
When you sign in to your account, you are taken immediately to the Dashboard, which is the heart of Linky Followers. The screen is a bit cluttered because of the tips, demos and links collected collage-style on the screen, but they also don’t seem to get in the way of using the Dashboard. Here are a few things I learned about Linky Followers within a quarter of an hour:
You can upload a picture of yourself and complete a profile that will enable other users of Linky Followers to learn about you.
You can organize the blogs you follow, as well as your blog followers, into categories. The default categories are General, Check Every Day, and Favorite, but you can create as many custom categories as you wish. I created a few sample categories such as Craft Community, Tutorials, BBEST Team and Blogging Business Artisans. The latter two categories are Etsy teams to which I belong.
You can follow blogs without a Linky Followers account by entering them manually into your Dashboard.
A blog reader is built inside the Dashboard so that you don’t have to leave your account to read posts. However, you still have the option to go directly to a blog from your Dashboard.
The information about the blogs you follow and your blog followers is organized into columns that you can rearrange simply by dragging the header at the top of the columns. This means you can organize the information so that it makes sense to you.
If you have multiple blogs, you can create a customized widget for each one, and each blog will have its own set of followers, all managed by your Dashboard.
You can visit any of your followers’ blogs right from your widget, simply by clicking on their thumbnail.
There is a Linky Followers Blog Directory, so if you are looking for some fresh new blogs to read, as of today there are 129 pages (and growing) you can explore.
If you are looking for a relatively easy-to-use blog management tool that gives you the option to organize blogs and blog posts for easy access, then Linky Followers is a great option. You’ll find the widget for it in my left side bar, as a matter of fact, which represents my endorsement of this product.
Are you like me, who missed an announcement about Google Friend Connect disappearing from non-Blogger sites at the end of this month? Google Friend Connect is a tool used by bloggers all over the Web to gather readers and stay in touch with them. Since I am a WordPress user, I was not happy to hear I will lose my followers! After doing some extensive reading, I came up with two potential solutions, the first of which is Google+ Pages. In my next post, I will discuss a second solution.
Let’s talk first about Google+. Apparently Google+ is very similar to Circles on Etsy, Friends on Facebook, and tweets on Twitter. It is a social networking tool that keeps everyone in touch with each other. Everything that you can do with Facebook now—post a comment, link, photo or video, or chat with others in live time—is something you can do using the Stream (posting tool) from your Google+ profile or Page (more about that in a minute). In time, I believe that many Blogger users may eventually wish to add a Google+ widget called a Badge to their sites, instead of relying solely on Google Friend Connect. Here’s why.
Google+ is a set of services designed to enable you to communicate with different audiences called Circles. If you are Aunt Jill who wants to talk to her niece on the other side of the country, all you need to do is sign up for (or upgrade to) a Google+ account, enter your personal information into a profile, and add friends, family and acquaintances into Circles so that you can share customized content with each audience. That content might include comments, links, photos, or videos, or even playing online games with people from your Circles. Think of this as personal use of Google+ services.
But let’s say that you are also a designer who sells your handmade goods on Etsy. You are a business owner with more specialized needs who needs to reach her customers. You want to keep track of people who follow your blog posts, customers, VIPs, and possibly team members who provide a support network. You have a blog or Web site that introduces new products, lets your buyers know where your next craft show will be, announces special promotions, provides tutorials, and features designers you admire or with whom you partner. You likely want to build your audience in the hope that they will also be interested in purchasing your products. What you need is a business Page that you can add to your Google+ account. In a perfect world, you want your Page and blog or Web site to link to each other.
Previously, you may have used Google Friend Connect to gather and keep track of followers. Maybe you even used it to send out newsletters. A Google+ Page goes beyond this by also allowing you to touch base easily with your followers by posting announcements, links, photos and videos through a posting tool called a Stream (similar to Facebook) anytime you have something to say. It is a recruiting tool that can bring you more readers through a Badge on your blog or Web site, and thereby (and indirectly) more buyers. It is also a way in which your readers can recommend your posts, blog or Web site to others using the +1 button. Watch the video below to understand how the +1 button works.
In order to link your blog or Web site to Google+ and vice versa, you need to upgrade your Google account to a Google+ account, add a Page, and create a Badge for your blog or Web site. You can add as many Pages as you want. If you have multiple blogs or Web sites, add a Page for each one. The Badge is a tool similar in some ways to Google Friend Connect in that it displays how many people have added your Page to their Circles. What’s special about the Badge is that it includes a +1 button, enabling readers to recommend your site to other people. It also links followers to postings on your Google+ Page. You can have more than one Badge on a blog or a Web site, each tied to a different Page in Google+. You can also have a +1 button anywhere on your site, even following each post.
To summarize, Google+ account profiles and their Streams are for personal use, while Google+ Pages and their Streams are for business use.
If you’re still sitting on the fence about whether or not Google+ Badges are for you, you may find this excerpt from a Google page about Badges helpful:
If you’re still considering whether to add a Google+ badge on your website, consider this: We recently looked at top sites using the badge and found that, on average, the badge accounted for an additional 38% of followers. When you add the badge visitors to your website can discover your Google+ page and connect in a variety of ways: they can follow your Google+ page, +1 your site, share your site with their circles, see which of their friends have +1’d your site, and click through to visit your Google+ page.
The Google+ Badge makes it easy for your fans to find and follow you on Google+. With these additional options, we hope it’s even easier to create a badge that fits your website.
Follow the steps below to gather followers for your blog or Web site using Google+ Pages, and to optimize the ways you can communicate with your followers.
2. In the right upper corner appears your account name (your email address without the @XXX.com). Beneath that is a dropdown menu. Click on Join Google+, and what appears next is a window where you are asked to create a public Google profile. Supply the requested information. If you aren’t ready to add a photo of yourself (or do not desire to do so), you can skip this step and always add one later. Click on Upgrade.
3. The next screen asks you to find people you know from Yahoo or Hotmail. You can skip this if you like by clicking on Skip at the bottom of the screen.
4. Google+ will suggest people for you to add to your Circles. You can also skip this if you prefer by clicking on Continue. You can watch the video below for an introduction to Circles.
5. The next screen asks you to follow public posts from interesting and famous people. You can skip this step if you are not interested by clicking on Continue.
6. Next you are asked to add personal details about yourself, including a photo. Go ahead and enter as much or as little information as you desire. You can always come back to this page later. When you are finished, click on Finished.
7. The final screen is the home page of your Google+ account and contains your personal profile. Every time you sign in to http://www.google.com/+, this is what you will see.
Notice that there is a navigation bar at the top of your screen, with icons for Home, Photos, Profile, Circles and Games. If you hover your mouse over the icons, you’ll see these words. You can click on any of these icons to enter your preferences.
On the upper left side, just below the Google+ icon, is a photo (or empty photo frame) of you, along with your first name.
After you add Pages to your Google+ account, these will appear below your name in a dropdown menu. Right now you have no Pages, so you will not see any Pages.
Your Stream is where you post comments, photos, links, videos or other content. You will also see the content from other people’s Streams if you have added them to your Circles. To learn more about Streams, visit the Help page.
You determine your audience when you post to your Stream, whether you are using the personal profile for your account, or a business Page. If you post from your account profile’s Stream, there are pre-assigned Circles for Friends, Family, Acquaintances, and Following. If you are posting from your Page’s Stream, your pre-defined Circles include Following, Customers, VIPs and Team Members. You can use the ones you prefer, and add custom Circles as well. You may find this second video about Circles helpful.
When you view content from other people, one of the ways in which you can respond is with the +1 button. The +1 button allows you to recommend that content, share it with Circles you designate, or use it to help improve Google Search results. This feature can be used both within Google+ and across the Web. When you see a +1 button anywhere on the Web and you click on it, it turns blue, indicating you have made a recommendation. You can add it to your blog or Web site, or to individual posts.
You can have live chats with people from your Circles. These are called Hangouts. Watch the video below to understand how this works.
2. You will be prompted for a Page name, and will be walked through the process of creating a profile for your Page. (This is NOT the same thing as the personal profile for your Google+ account. Every Page has its own business profile, as well as its own set of Circles or audiences.) You can take your time doing this. Enter as many details as you wish now, and complete the rest later. The description area is large enough for you to include a link to your blog or Web site, as well as links to your selling venues.)
3. When you are finished with the profile process, click “Done editing.”
4. To get to your Google+ account in the future, go to: http://www.google.com/+. You can also get to your Google+ account by visiting http://www.google.com. After you sign in, just click on the dropdown list beneath your account name, and click on Google+.
Create a Badge for your blog or Web site:
1. Identify your Page’s 21-digit number. It is important to note that only Pages, not your Google+ personal profile, can be linked to your Web site or blog through a Badge, so identify the correct number! Go to your Page’s Stream and click Get started in the left side bar. Under the Tell the World section, you’ll see the address for your Page. Copy the 21 digits that are part of that address.
3. If you want to add a +1 button to your posts (or to the footer of your posts), use the +1 Configuration Tool and follow the instructions on that page.
4. You may be more comfortable using a plugin or widget to add a Badge to your Web site. Since my Web site is fueled by WordPress, I used wpLifeGuard’s Google+ Add to Circles plugin. There are others that also work. If you use Blogger, you may find it helpful to search the Internet using the phrase “blogger widget + google+.” When I did so, I found Google Plus Widget. I do not endorse one plugin or widget over another; you will simply have to try one and see if you like it.
Stay tuned for my next post, in which I will discuss another alternative to Google Friend Connect.
Many of us like to blog, and most of us enjoy accessorizing our blogs in much the same way we do our homes. Just as we do with our wall decor or furnishings, we modify blog elements, add new ones or subtract old ones. “Elements,” in blog-speak, refers to buttons, blinkies, grab boxes, link lists, slide shows, repeating images (such as dividers for posts or side bars), and many other changes to the blog template. If you have no coding background (as I do not), you may be a little fearful of making HTML (hyper text mark-up language) changes to your blog. Fortunately, this is not an issue if you have basic Web navigation skills, and you can copy and paste.
While I happen to use the Blogger platform for my blogs, much of what I describe in this post applies to other forums such as TypePad, WordPress or even the blog page of your Web site. Better yet, it’s relatively easy to make changes to your blog’s basic appearance. Although incorporating all of the changes described below will result in a cluttered appearance, as well as a page that takes longer to load, you’ll want to check out the following 15 easy options for accessorizing your blog.
1. Using the “Share Slide Show” feature of Flickr, Rose of Big Island Rose Designs shares the pages she produced while participating in the Visual Journals Workshop. This slide show appears on her blog, The Rose Journal. To use this feature, click on a set you have created. Then, select the Slideshow icon. At any time while the slide show is playing, you can click on the Share link, then copy the “Grab the embed HTML code” and paste it into your blog. In Blogger, you can add this code to your post while you write it; just select the Edit HTML tab. If you’re adding it to a side bar, go to your template’s Layout, and add an HTML widget where you can paste the code.
2. Kimberly from the Etsy shop, The Wild Hare, uses the Lijit Search feature on her blog, The Wild Hare. What is unique about this widget is that it searches not only through Kimberly’s blog content, but also through her social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and through related content in her blog links. A world map shows where her readers live, as well as the locations of recent visitors.
4. An important bit of HTML code to add to any blog where you have copyright concerns is the Creative Commons License. Melanie of The Creators Palette has added this license to her blog of the same name. There are several different versions to choose, so read through the options that fit your situation, and answer the questions that the Web site asks. Your answers determine the license that is automatically generated for you.
5. A fun feature to add to your blog is the Playlist that Beth of Beth Peardon Productions has added to her blog. When you sign up for an account, a playlist is already waiting for you, but you can create new or different playlists of your own very easily, or transfer songs from one playlist to another. Although you cannot actually upload music to this site, you can provide Web links to songs from a site that hosts them. Note that if the artist (or legal agent for the artist) has not authorized the music to be made freely available on the Internet, then your Web link will not be accepted. The Playlist feature works by generating embedded HTML code for your blog.
6. Liv of The Filigree Garden uses a Flickr Badge on her blog to show photos of her creations. If you have multiple Etsy (or non-Etsy) shops, this is a good way to consolidate photos for them. You have two options for badges; you can create a Flash version or an HTML version. Both versions update automatically as you add photos to your Flickr site, but the Flash version rotates highlighted photos in a collage, while the HTML version is static and provides a vertical strip of photos.
7. Instead of the Flickr Slideshow sharing option described in #1 above, Myfanwy of Sassa Lynne at Etsy uses Slide on her blog, Dye-a-Lot. If you visit Slide to sign up for an account, you will be able to upload photos from various social networking sites (such as MySpace or Facebook), photo sharing sites (such as Flickr or Photobucket), or from a Web site or your computer. Then, you can change the order of the photos, add in a slide transition style, select a theme and background, and add music or a video. This tool is very flexible. Click on the photo below to see how it works.
8. Because of the free Feedjit widget, Joon of joonbeam always knows from what parts of the world her blog visitors hail. The tracking tool is a live traffic feed that shows in real time the origin of visitors. Both the city and “sending” Web address are revealed. There is also a professional version available, for which you pay a monthly fee.
9. Kym of kimbuktu includes a Sellit widget on her Web site that is a combination show-and-buy tool. Sellit, which is free of charge, connects consumers directly to the seller. The tool uses a flip photo feature that the buyer controls. When the potential buyer clicks on “Info” or “Buy now,” he or she is taken directly to that item in your Etsy shop. It doesn’t get easier than that! This tool can also be used on social networking sites.
10. In her blog, Mystic Mooma Makes Things, Rose of Rosegardenfae shares with us her love of reading through the goodreads widget. You add books that you have read, that you’re currently reading, and books that you’d like to read. These show up in the widget window. Fellow members can view each other’s ratings, reviews and book lists. According to the site, you can “join a discussion group, start a book club, contact an author, and even post your own writing.”
11. You will always know what time it is in the blog of Joan of Sixsisters. The ClockLink widget she employs lets you know what time it is in Joan’s neck of the woods. To make things fun, you can choose a clock from a fairly large Clock Gallery. Click on the photo below to visit the gallery.
13. Kary of The Knotty Sheep features a cute Twitter My Site widget on her blog that really caught my eye. The widget is available in a variety of colors and styles, and broadcasts a friendly tone. To follow Kary on Twitter, just click on the image below:
14. Most of us use PayPal for payment in our Etsy shops, but did you know that you can embed HTML code on your blog or Web site to accept payment in the same manner? Marion of artmixter not only sells her books and CDs in her Etsy shop, but also on her blog, Artmixter’s Emporium. To learn how this works, just click on the Buy Now image below. (It will take you to a PayPal information window, not the checkout process.)
15. If you’re in the habit of saving Web posts that you read, an easy way to create a PDF document that accomodates that goal is to download the Print Friendly bookmarklet, as I have done for my non-Etsy related blog, cre8iowa Instant Challenge Library. Take a look at the bottom of each post, and you’ll see the Print Friendly icon (printer/PDF images). When you click on the icon, the tool “cleans” up the Web post so that it’s ready for printing, or you can save it as a PDF document on your computer. The software is not perfect, I have learned, since images aren’t always in the right place. However, if you use PDF editing software, this is easy to fix; I use PDF Converter (by Nuance). If you use Blogger, go to your Edit HTML window and click on Expand Widgets. Then, search for <div class=’post-footer>,and paste the Print Friendly HTML code into place on the next line. Preview it to make sure everything is all right, save your changes, and you’re good to go! Watch the video below to understand how Print Friendly works.
Thanks to all of the above BBEST sellers on Etsy whose blogs provided me with a wealth of widgets and tools to discuss.
When I’m reading a blog post and run across a crafting how-to piece, I feel as if I’ve been given a special gift. I sit back and ask myself, “Really? I get this information for free?” That’s the power of a tutorial.
Tutorials often teach you something unexpected, something that is potentially useful just for you, or they provide inspiration for a next step you are considering. After I read a post on BBEST artist Liz Plummer‘s blog about How to create a concertina book, for example, I was inspired to purchase several books about bookmaking. Liz also writes about her Gocco printing process on her blog, as evidenced by the moleskin journal below that includes a Gocco-printed cover.
The writer/artist who writes tutorials is in an especially good position to create a sense in the reader’s mind that he or she is an expert about the topic at hand, someone who can be trusted, and possibly someone whose work you might wish to explore further. In short, tutorials clarify who the person is behind the writer’s voice, and provide an indirect method of promoting the artist.
When you read Suz of whimseys‘ Short Tutorial on Eco Cloth Shopping Bag, you’re impressed right away by her concern about the earth, and will wish to browse through the products in her shop, which (like the shopping bag in her tutorial) are also made of fabric.
Likewise, Joon of joonbeam inspires trust in her values when you read her blog tutorial, Love Our Earth & Things Can Be Pretty! by golly!, about recycling a grocery sack into a mailing envelope. Joon’s writing personality takes you straight to her shop, where (among other items), she promotes ecology-minded practices.
While there are many indie tutorial sites on the Web such as Craftster, CraftStylish and Craft, the tutorials on these sites differ from the tutorials found on blogs. A blog tutorial tends to make you feel that you have a personal connection with the writer, not that you’re reading an encyclopedia of instructions. If you have a question or a comment, you can communicate directly with the writer and be reasonably certain that your response will be read in a timely fashion, and that any questions you have will be answered just as quickly.
The writer of a blog tutorial has several decisions to make, however, before posting. These include the focus, the fiber and the format of the tutorial:
Focus. What is the reason for the tutorial? Does the tutorial give the reader a taste of what is in the artist’s shop, but on a simpler scale? Does the tutorial describe a process that creates curiosity about the artist’s products? Does the tutorial establish or confirm the artist’s expertise in a particular area? The purpose of the tutorial may be answered by one or several of these questions, but the writer/artist needs to establish a business reason for sharing his or her expertise through a how-to post. Moreover, to justify its existence, that post actually needs to be useful to the reader in some way. Because many people do not realize the extent of design effort and manual dexterity that go into machine knitting, for example, Barb of Blazing Needles cleverly educates her readers about that process in a series of blog posts, beginning with Machine Knitting – Part 1.
Fiber. The fiber of a tutorial relates directly to the content of the post. What is it about? Does the post provide step-by-step directions to produce a product? Does it describe a process? Does it give an historical overview of a specific art or craft? Does it provide general information that can become a jumping-off point for the reader to explore the topic further? Again, the fiber of the tutorial may consist of the answers to one or more of these questions, but it affects the approach the writer/artist takes to the topic, and ultimately the format. When Kimberly of thewildhare writes about her felted rabbit-making process, for example, in Where is the brown bunny? you will find the process so intriguing that you cannot resist visiting her shop to see her cute rabbits.
Format. The format of a tutorial is determined by both the focus (purpose) and fiber (content) of the post. In its purest form, a step-by-step tutorial includes numbered or bulleted instructions, as well as clear photos. A tutorial that describes a process follows a logical sequence from beginning to end, with photos, but is a little more general. A post with an historical perspective will take the reader through a timeline of stories, again with photos to illustrate significant points. A general information post often provides links to useful information so that readers can take charge of the next step in their learning. Alysa of Alysa Merle Handcrafts, for example, not only describes the process of making plarn (plastic yarn) bags on her blog, but she also writes articles for Helium, establishing herself as a credible expert in this area. Her blog includes a link to Creative earth-friendly crafts, which educates her readers about the process she uses to crochet recyclable totes from plarn. The article also includes suggestions for how to explore this topic further.
During the fall of 2008, Zuda of ZudaGay participated in an online group activity that resulted in a series of tutorials on her blog, beginning with Day 1 of the 30/30 Day Challenge. By using a “photo story” format, she informs us not only about the creative process she employs while developing her beautiful polymer clay flowers, but she also tempts us to visit her shop to see the final products.
Blog tutorials provide a perfect opportunity for writer/artists to inform readers about their creative process, highlight their work, and create a sense of their trustworthiness. With careful attention to focus, fiber and format, these tutorials become wonderful “freebie” gifts for their readers, and highly effective marketing tools for the artist.
Designing a blog is in many ways like decorating a living room. You’ll make decisions about the impression you want to create, the color and mood you want to reflect, and the size and space you want to address. And much as you do when you redecorate that living room or rearrange its furniture, you’ll find yourself making choices more than once. What guides all decisions, however—whether you’re redoing a room or revamping a blog—is the people who are going to use the room or read the blog. In other words, as you make design decisions—whether you’re a beginning or long-time blogger—how you intend to reach out to your audience will play a major role.
While this post will not provide you with everything you need to know in order to design or revamp your entire blog, you may find some general guidelines that are helpful. Click on the images to view sample blogs.
Identity. Pretend you are a stranger, visiting your blog for the first time. Is it clear from your banner’s title and subtitle what the purpose of your blog is? Would a graphic image enhance that understanding? Do you need to add a further explanation in a side bar? Does the reader know who you are? Consider adding a photograph of yourself so that your readers can begin to identify with you.
When you visit the blog of Scottie Acres, for example, you know immediately that Dayna loves Scottish terriers. Her blog banner, as well as her side bar, provide a clear identity.
Layout. Take a look at your blog to see how much white space you have. White space represents breathing space for the reader. Take a tip from print magazines. Note that most magazines print text in multiple narrow columns, breaking them up with images. Two or three columns is probably the most commonly-used format, both in print publications and on the Web. Don’t force your readers to rock their heads back and forth to read a long line of text. This becomes tedious very quickly! Interestingly, you can fit more text into multiple narrow columns than you can into a single wide column.
A great example of a balanced layout is found in the blog of The Filigree Garden. Liv combines text and visuals in a balanced format that will leave you breathless only because of its beauty.
Typeface. Use unusual or fancy typefaces sparingly. Allow the content to speak for itself, not for the typeface to draw attention to itself. A rule of thumb that the print publishing industry often uses is a limitation of two typefaces. Often one typeface will feature seriphs, or “tails” that are added to the letters (as in Times New Roman), while the other typeface will have no seriphs at all (as in Arial). At all costs, avoid using italicized and/or bolded text for the main body of your post. The reader will tire very rapidly, and move on! If you browse through various blogs, you will discover that typeface size is also important. Older readers will find tiny text difficult to read, while overly large text creates an impression that the audience is very young. Again, readability should guide you in making typeface decisions.
In Coffee Pot People, Ani limits herself to one readable typeface and varies it only by size (one size for titles and a smaller size for body text) and weight (boldfaced text).
Color. In choosing colors for your blog (both text and background), let content, mood, readability—and a color wheel—guide your decisions. Avoid using too many colors; two or three complementary colors are more than enough. If you choose a dark background such as black or navy blue, select text that will not appear to make the letters vibrate. Conversely, if you choose a light background, make sure that the text contrasts adequately so that it’s visible.
Very bright or very dark colors can sometimes tire the reader’s eyes, but in The Spinal Column, Brett balances a dark background with subdued blue text lines that have been spaced wider apart, giving the eye a visual break.
Navigation. Readers have a tendency to focus on the upper half of a Web page (or on the upper third of a printed page). For that reason, place information (especially links) that you really want your readers to notice in the top half of your blog page. Newspapers use a similar principle, utilizing an inverted paragraph format when publishing articles. The most important information is near the beginning of the article, with successive paragraphs containing less critical information.
Place links to information in places where readers would expect them to be, and make sure the link itself clearly identifies what will be seen when the reader clicks on that link, especially if downloading of a file follows. No one likes to be surprised in this way.
In Kimbuktu, Kym clearly wants the reader to focus on her beautiful bags. Almost the first item you see is an Etsy Mini, a widget consisting of pictures that are really direct links to items in her shop. In addition, a side bar contains links to a Gallery of her products, besides other information.
A word about widgets. Many bloggers use pre-designed Web gadgets known as “widgets” to draw attention to their blog. Some widgets are hit counters that track where visitors come from, while others allow you to show slide shows or display videos. There are even widgets that allow readers to vote, assess personality, compose pictures, solve puzzles and much, much more. While these are certainly fun, less is more. Be mindful that widgets that include moving graphical representations may be difficult or impossible for your readers to view, since not all browsers accommodate them equally or well.
As with every other suggestion in this post, let your audience needs and a sense of balance guide how many widgets you include in your blog design. Keep in mind that many widgets are designed as marketing tools for someone else, so your needs and the designer’s may not always match. Research the source of these tools carefully, and read fine print acceptance agreements before you use them.
Maggie’s Crafting Adventures features a VerticalResponse marketing widget designed to increase her readership. By entering an e-mail address, individuals may subscribe to Maggie’s newsletter.
The above suggestions for blog design are not hard and fast rules; as with any so-called rules, there are often good reasons for breaking them. But hopefully these guidelines will serve as a starting point as you assess your own blog design needs. Think about your blog in the same way that an interior designer would approach your living room, and you’ll know where to start. For more information about why and how to blog, read an earlier post: “What’s the buzz about blogging?”