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Adventures in Blog Layout

Sooner or later, it hits all of us . . . I want to redesign my blog. Since most bloggers start out doing it themselves without the aid of a graphic designer, when this urge strikes it can send you into a tailspin.

Let me start off by saying that I’m not a graphic designer by any stretch. I’m just a chronic DIYer. A while back one of our Crafterminds friends compared blogging to the ‘wild, wild, west’ which reminded me of when I first started doing my own layouts back in the ‘80’s. It was crazy back then because, if you had a Mac, you could quickly layout your own flyer, brochure or newsletter.

Pretty much like blogging is now, right?

Working in desktop publishing, I was fortunate enough to work with great graphic designer whose favorite tool, it seemed, was her red pen. A draft I’d labored over and was frankly quite proud of would soon become something of an abstract drawing with red lines going every which way. But I learned thru trial and error – mostly error – enough to publish my own magazine, Step Parenting Today, in the early ‘90’s.

To me, blogging isn’t all that different than desktop publishing was. Better, in fact – it’s free! At least, Blogger is. The goals are the same – make your content easy to read. While that seems simple enough, because there are so many free tools, templates, backgrounds and widgets available, it’s easy to overdo a blog and clutter it up with cuteness. Just like I did back in the ‘80’s. So how do you design your blog to be stylish and unique, yet still easy to read?

Before you add any bells or whistles, look at your layout. We read from left to right, which means the eye naturally goes to the left side of the page – when you’re reading. However, the upper right area is where the eye goes when your first open a page. Try it – on a website or even a print magazine. There’s a reason why ad space costs more for placement in the upper right section.

Does that mean you should place your blog text on the left and not the right? Not necessarily. Take a look at Thrifty Decor Chick. Her ads are on the left and her text is on the right. By contrast, Centsational Girl has her text on the left and About Me on the upper right. It’s worth noting that Thrifty Decor Chick is on Blogger, lest you think only WordPress blogs are super-duper.

Here’s a great layout idea – on The Lettered Cottage’s home page About Us is on the left and Recent Posts are on the right. But click on one of Layla’s posts and the layout reverses, with the text on the left and About Us and ads on the right. Clever, huh?

Speaking of ads, it’s important to realize that their graphics and possible animation become part of your blog design too. If you haven’t monetized yet, you’ll want to look closely at where you’ll place ads. But that’s another post 😉

Take another look at your favorite blogs’ layouts. While you’re at it, check out some magazines too and observe their layouts. Then pull up your own blog. What’s the first thing you see? If you can’t be objective with your own blog (I know I can’t with mine), ask a friend.

Before you make any changes to your blog, remember to save your blog template. Vitally important! You also might want to make a dummy blog on Blogger, one where you can preview your layout, gadgets, and any other changes you want to make to your real blog. A mock-up blog saves oodles of time . . . and frustration!

The main thing is that you have fun! While it may take a while before you get just the right look, be sure to enjoy the journey. After all, it’s your blog!

Colleen Jorgensen blogs at Mural Maker and is a self-taught artist, decorator and writer. For the past 15 years she has painted murals and painted tapestries for homes and businesses in Northern California. Colleen lives with her husband near Sacramento, close to her 3 grown stepsons, her beautiful 3 year old grandson and her 95 lb. bull mastiff.
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