A new blog design

>> Saturday, 6 February 2010

If you’ve been here before you will notice that the blog has a new look! How do you like it?

The first thing you see is perhaps that it is not black any more. I did not go "all the way" as David Sanger and make it white with black text. There are good arguments for doing that, since it is much more readable. And the BKWine Photography site is already with white background. But perhaps I just wanted to test how it looked with a light gray background instead.

What do you think? Should I change it to all white? Or back to black?

The second big change is that it is a three column design.

One of the big reasons why many argue for Wordpress instead of Blogger is that it looks nicer. Wordpress also has three column templates. Blogger does not have any built-in three column designs. But doing a bit of searching on the web you can find free Blogger templates. It takes a bit of searching (and imagination) to find something that suits you. I found what I liked on OurBlogTemplates.com (as you can see in the footer). It was very easy to download and install. The theme I chose is called Webnolia. And some of the templates do look really good.

I think Blogger would compete better with Wordpress it they made it easier, and more obvious to choose different themes. Many people seem to prefer Wordpress because "it looks better", but that is purely a question of the design (the template). Blogger has also many advantages compared to Wordpress, and features that WP doesn't have. Bot somehow it seems that digging Wordpress is the thing to do. This is not to say that I have anything agains Wordpress. Only against those who off hand dismiss Blogger uncritically because 'you should'. I've built two sites/blogs in Wordpress (Ett Vin Blir Till and Languedoc) so I've tried that too and have nothing against it. It has its advantages too.

But then the really hard work starts. To tweak it so that it suits you.

I did some testing first on a “dummy blog” just to see if it could do the things I wanted it to do, and it could. (I created a new blog with a dummy name that I could test the design on and then delete.)

So then I decided to go for it. Install the template. A bit scary since if it went wrong I wasn’t sure that I could get all of the old blog back. The design (template), yes, no problem. That is easy to back up. What I was worried about was the “gadgets”, more often called widgets or modules – the things in the side bar(s). I don’t think there’s a way to back up and restore those and since I had some that had quite a bit of contents it would be time consuming to redo. (UPDATE: There's actually a post on safeguarding the widgets / gadgets that I hadn't seen: http://www.ourblogtemplates.com/2008/09/how-to-install-new-template-without.html, but it worked fine without that.)

But I went ahead. And installed the new theme. First it looked really, really, REALLY strange. But that was because the ‘gadgets’ were all in the wrong place. When installing the new template you had the option to keep the old gadgets, which I did. Fortunately. But they did not all arrive in the correct place in the new template. After moving around all the gadgets to where I wanted them (and deleting some old ones, e.g. the not so useful AdSense ones, adding some new ones) it started to look pretty good.

Then came what is almost the most complicated thing of all: getting all the colours and fonts right.

Most themes, Webnolia included, use far too many different fonts, and far too many different colours, boxes, lines and other graphic elements. But after spending quite some time in the Fonts & Colors section of Blogger it started to look pretty OK. But I warn you – it is a time consuming thing and you have to be really, really careful with the details.

There were four (or more) different fonts used in the template. I changed that to only two, and two which are very similar. Makes for a more harmonious text. To get rid of all the various boxes and lines (borders) I changed most of the colours: by setting the colour of the contents, the colour of the border, and the colour of the surrounding area to the same colour the "busy" design disappears. There are lots and lots of page elements that you have to think of and I've probably missed a few.

(UPDATE: If you use the Webnolia template DON'T miss that you need to do a slight modification in Settings > Comments > Comment Form Placement choosing "Embedded below post".)

One of the things I couldn’t fix easily was that there are no bullet points in the link lists in the gadgets. I really miss those. Perhaps I can get some if I dig into the css code of the template but that’s a bit too complicated at the moment for me. Any suggestions?

I also took the occasion to install the TweetMeme widget on the blog – the little balloon that says how many times a post has been tweeted and that gives the visitor an easy way to tweet the post. Installing that took quite a bit of fiddling and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you know a bit about the technicalities of blog code (not a lot, but at least a little bit). I read the instruction for adding TweetMeme in their help section but that did not work. At least it did not come out in the way I wanted it to look and in the place I wanted to have it. Googling a few more pages though, and looking at the source of some pages who used it, I found out how to make it appear on the page the way I want it. I hope.

The same thing goes for the AddThis widget at the bottom of each post. I had it installed previously but it had to be reinstalled when I changed theme. Not a big deal, but you have to make sure all details are correct. And quite easy to install in the template.

The new template also included a gadget to include easily a sort of menu bar at the top of the page.

Changing from a two column blog template to a three column template gives you better possibilities to organise all the stuff you want to show in the sidebars. In some cases perhaps you just want an added column for ads. I wanted the added column primarily to display separately the list of the sample stock photo galleries. From what they say in the instructions, you can even use this template for four or more columns. I also wanted to move away from the white-text-on-black-background design I had and make the whole appearance a bit more elegant.

Overall, it was actually much simpler than I had feared. It took me the better part of a Saturday afternoon to get it all right (or most of it right).

So, there you are. That’s the story behind the NEW Wine Picture Blog.

Do you like it? Suggestions for improvements?

3 comments:

Anonymous,  Sunday, February 07, 2010 6:10:00 am  

Hi,
first of all, I really enjoy your blog.

Second, very nice new layout, easier on the eyes than black. More conducive to spending more time on the site.

That said, I read your posts in RSS Reader and rarely get to see the web site.

Heike Larsson Sunday, February 07, 2010 12:35:00 pm  

Hi! I like it, it looks more sophisticated this way. But the photos are still as beautiful! :-) Wonderful...

Per and Britt Sunday, February 07, 2010 1:09:00 pm  

Thank you. I'm glad you like it!
-Per

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