Jul 292014

When you have a collection of photos to post on your blog, or a tutorial that you want to present slide-style, SlideShare is an option you’ll want to consider, especially if you want to embed (insert) this content into your WordPress blog. The types of content you can upload includes presentations, documents, and infographics (files that are twice as high as they are wide). Not sure if you have the right software to create this content? All you need is Microsoft Office or OpenOffice. If your file is taking too long to upload, convert it to an Adobe PDF file. File formats that are supported include: PDF, ODP, ODT, PPT, DOC, DOCX, RTF and many more.

Below is an example of a SlideShare showing my mother-in-law’s lovely front and back yard in Rib Mountain, Wisconsin. I took more photos than would fit comfortably in a blog post, so decided to create a SlideShare presentation for them instead. You’ll want to click on the “expand window” icon in the lower right corner of the screen below to optimally view the slide show and captions.

In the past, a more full-featured version of SlideShare called SlideShare PRO was available for a fee, but currently PRO account upgrades are not being accepted because the PRO program is undergoing changes. The free version, however, offers bloggers great utility when you want to post more than a few photos without requiring viewers to leave your page.

For more information about SlideShare, visit the support page HERE.

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Feb 112012

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.

© 2012 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Sep 172008

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?

© 2008 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at http://boomersandbeyond.blogspot.com.