Three ways to jazz up your blog

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

There's probably more to design than just covering stuff with glitter, but it definitely helps.

First off, let me say how overwhelmed I was (and still am) by your response to the blog's new look. Seriously, I can't thank you all enough for your enthusiastic support and kind words. I've been walking around with a smile on my face like a weirdo for two days. You guys are ace.

A few of you have asked about the glittery textures and more general how-tos, so here's a brief rundown on how to spruce up your blog, Kirsty-style. I am by no means an expert, so remember: Google is your friend.

1. Judge a book by its cover

Nothing irritates me more than wedding photographers with ugly websites. If I'm hiring someone to do something artistic and creative, there's no way I'm going to hire someone who doesn't know or can't tell (not sure which is worse) that their site looks gross.

The same principle applies to web design. To me, designing a blog or website is a fundamentally creative endeavour. Of course it's not all about aesthetics - function is kind of important - but why would I take advice on design from a book that is badly-designed? No thanks.

Enter HTML & CSS, the prettiest book about web design you ever did see. This book is beautifully laid out, crystal clear and just plain helpful. It's a comprehensive, up-to-date guide that makes sense even to people who know literally nothing about HTML or CSS (like, well, me). There's also a stylish website packed with extra code and tools that is referenced throughout the book.

Maybe I'm just a sucker for a nice font and pretty pictures, but I loved it so much that I made my friend who is a librarian at a college buy multiple copies for her library. It's that helpful.

2. Invest in the basics

However, a book will only get you so far. Blogger comes with a set of uninspiring templates that can be customised, but unless you really know your way around them it's easy to go wrong. Wordpress seems to have a greater variety, but the more blogs you visit, the more you start to notice a certain sameness to the free templates. I wanted something custom, without the custom price tag. I had an idea in my head of the kind of layout I liked but no idea how to make it happen.

So I decided to bite the bullet and purchase a template. There are lots of free templates out there, but they're mostly ugly or over-complicated. When I found the Blog Milk shop, I decided good design was worth spending on (it didn't hurt that she had a flash sale for Alt Summit). There are also some lovely templates to be found on Etsy, like these ones by La Designerie.

Buying a decent template is like buying a decent bra. You've got to have a sturdy foundation before you start piling on the bling. Once I had the template installed, I could tweak and embellish it to my heart's content (for comparison, here's the unmodified demo of the template I'm using).

The good news, if any of you are thinking about embarking on a redesign, is that Blog Milk is currently giving away 19 blog themes (one of each design for Wordpress and Blogger). The giveaway is open until 28 February (that's tomorrow, in case like me you're still reeling from the fact it's nearly March) so if you're interested, get on it!

3. The internet is your oyster. Eat it.

Let's be clear. I'm not a designer. I know bugger all about the right way to design something. But by persevering, trying new things, googling and googling and googling some more, I eventually landed on something I was happy with. The internet is full of inspiration, resources, and generous, creative people willing to share their knowledge with you.

As ever, I started with Pinterest, pinning anything and everything that caught my eye. Slowly, repeating patterns of colour and style began to emerge and I was able to narrow things down. This is actually how I approach all of my creative projects, from weddings to lookbooks to displays. And I'm not alone: here's a great post from designer Breanna Rose on incorporating Pinterest into the design process. Once the Pinterest board had taken shape, it was a matter of tracking down fonts, resources and tutorials to turn those ideas into reality.

Bowing to the weight of popular demand (fine, two people, whatever), I've added a new credits page to the sidebar. Here you'll find details of every font, tutorial, image and resource I used to make the blog look pretty and feel good. The glitter textures have been a particular hit - you can get those here, from one of my favourite resources for creative bloggers and design hobbyists, Pugly Pixel

Sidenote: Much to my excitement, I was included in Pugly Pixel's most recent Launched! post, a monthly list of relaunched/redesigned blogs. Woop! You can bet that is going straight in the Featured section of el Portfolio.

So there you have it. Three ways to jazz up your blog: a book, a template, and internet goodies. If you have any specific questions about anything, feel free to ask them in the comments, and thank you again for being so lovely. Really, the best way to jazz up your blog is to have awesome readers, and I've got 'em.

Images: 1 and 4. Pugly Pixel 2. HTML&CSS 3. Rose template by Blog Milk, Me & You template by La Designerie 

7 boats moored

  1. Oh thanks so much for this I was about to email asking if you took a class or learnt it all by yourself. I know I have to learn CSS and like you I will not buy or trust from someone with a website which is not sturdy and pretty (yes, aesthetics count a lot).
    Like you I have clear ideas of how things should look but not really an idea on how to get there. Sure, by comparing blogger templates and html to what actually happens on the website I can deduct and learn some codes but I can only go so far. That book is being added to my list. I love to study, but if there are drawings and photos, I am drawn in so much more specially when it comes to IT and techy stuff which I don't understand and I am not naturally drawn to. Thanks for all the links! And I really want to hire you for a photoshoot ! Will cake and free accomodation convince you to come to NL ?

    1. You never know, it might... if you're serious, send me an email and I'll have a think about it!

  2. THANK YOU for this post. While I don't post much, one of my blogs is for my business. I've tried working with a standard Blogger template, and it's.... okay.... not great, but workable.

    And coding totally freaks me out. Maybe that book will help? :-)

    1. You're welcome!

      Coding used to freak me out (and still does, quite a lot - it's so precise, it's very easy to get wrong), but then I started thinking of it as just another language and I love learning languages, so that helped. Plus you don't have to have awkward conversations about your hobbies in HTML, so it's actually better than learning a language.

  3. Ooooh thank you for this! I've been lusting after a pretty custom site but have been totally in the dark about how to make it happen. I absolutely love your new design!

  4. Some really great advice/tips/links there, thanks for sharing! Your blog looks really lovely :) x

  5. Oh! That's funny - I bought the mod template too but then was too intimidated to know what to do with it so it languishes on my desktop while I remove more and more from my blogger template (I figure if I'm not yet up to good, i can at least work on simpler;)

    You've inspired me now though - yours looks so nice - I may have to break my book buying ban (unless my local library has a copy...)