yeah write #66 summer series grid is open: hosted by Michael Gray

[huge]When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.—Enrique Jardiel Poncela[/huge]

 

[header_box_1 title="the yeah write 2012 summer writer's series, part 3"]

Week Three: blog design for beginning and advancing bloggers

Please welcome this week’s guest editor Michael Gray who tweets as @dearharrison and blogs at Dear Harrison. If you have any questions or need any clarification on today’s topic or prompts, please feel free to begin a discussion in comments. The prompts can be found on page 2 at the very end of the post.

If you’re here just to hang out, click here for the yeah write #66 hangout grid.

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Blog design for beginning bloggers

The yeah write summer writer’s series is a great opportunity for us to learn to master the skills necessary for pushing our writing to the next level.  But as bloggers, we have to be concerned with more than just our written content—we also control the packaging and delivery of our words by how we design our blogs.

Fortunately, our modern digital world offers us almost unlimited resources and options for how we craft and structure a blog.  However, the sheer enormity of the different options available to us also gives us the opportunity to misuse our power, sometimes causing our blog’s design to grossly interfere with the most important element on the page—the content.

Content: Choose the Right Theme

When choosing a theme, it’s important to remember that your site’s design should add to the experience, not play center stage.  Any theme—no matter how cool-looking—interfering with your readers’ ability to easily find and consume your content is going to frustrate your readers, and frustrated readers won’t stick around long.

Look for themes that are clean and uncluttered. Clutter equals chaos. When you have guests over to your house, you remove all the things that clutter up the living room—the pile of half-folded laundry, the stack of bills that you still need to go through, the dishes from breakfast that morning, the mountain of books and toys from your child’s bedroom. When you clean the clutter at home, you create a more inviting and peaceful space for both you and your guests.  Shouldn’t we give the same consideration for guests of our blog? 

Keep it simple. Clean the clutter. Focus on content.

Readability: Choose the Right Fonts

Fonts are fun!.  When I first started blogging, I used to love to try out many different font styles, different color combinations and different sizes. I was so intoxicated by the totalitarian power I wielded over my blog, I didn’t realize that a yellow scripty font over a blue background made people want to gouge their eyes out. It made me happy, so I did it.

So only my mom read my posts.

Just like there are an almost unlimited number of themes to choose from, font choices are also a sky’s-the-limit situation. And, just like design clutter can create chaos, font clutter can do the same.

On your blog, you have two primary text elements: header and body. The header text will include your post title and any subheadings that may appear in your post.  The body text is the content of your post where you craft your compelling narrative using your authentic voice.

continued on next page…

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46 responses to “yeah write #66 summer series grid is open: hosted by Michael Gray”

  1. Kianwi [Wed] 18 Jul 12 at 11:07 am #

    So much good stuff here. My blog design is very basic, because I don’t have a clue what to do with it. I want to put more time into the design, but haven’t known even where to start, so these articles and comments are a huge help. I’m just afraid of monkeying around with it too much and then I’ll have a mess on my hands.

    With Blogger, I don’t seem to have all that many choices of fonts, but maybe I’m not looking in the right spot? I’ll have to play around some more this weekend.

  2. 50Peach [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 10:32 pm #

    Wow, great advice and smart suggestions! This is great! I just transitioned from Blogger to WP in May. This was my first domain purchase, custom upgrade package deal-thing, and I *think* my choices have served me well. I love the advice you gave others about their names, but my issue is that I blog anonymously, so my name as a domain is out. I’m researching graphic designers to get a logo for myself instead of just a peach avatar…boring. (Any advice there?) Lastly, I wish I knew more about html, php and getting the cool G+, twitter, FB, Pinterest buttons in there like the other cool kids. I am scared I’ll break my template! And trust me…I would.

    • DearHarrison.com [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 10:44 pm #

      Thanks, Peach. Using names for a URL doesn’t really work all the time. Anonymous bloggers, and guys like me who have common names (Michael Gray) can’t always have all of our URL wishes come true. In that case, creating a unique brand like yours can be just as powerful.

      Your switch to WordPress was a good step in my book. :)

    • Erica M [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 10:50 pm #

      I can help you with the avatar and social media buttons, woman.

      • 50Peach [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 11:16 pm #

        *speechless* Whoa. Really? No kidding? Let’s talk via email. Wow.

        • Melisa [Tue] 17 Jul 12 at 1:56 am #

          Erica M – can you help me TOO??? Can we have a conference call???

          Peach – I’m a graphic designer, yo. Let me know if you want some help re: the peachy icon/logo.

        • Erica M [Tue] 17 Jul 12 at 4:21 pm #

          Let’s have a conference call with Melisa and get it all worked out. Can you email me your phone number? Just reply to this comment notification with it.

        • Erica M [Tue] 17 Jul 12 at 4:22 pm #

          Oh wait, that may go to Michael’s email. Here’s mine: erica@freefringes.com

  3. Melisa [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 5:57 pm #

    Alright, it was only a matter of time before I’d have another question. I was told the other day that it is hard to comment on my blog. I live for the nice comments that my mom and my 2 other followers leave me so I don’t want there to be any barriers to entry. I had tried once putting a little form field thingy at the end of each post, but apparently I accidentally used a CONTACT ME form, not a COMMENT form. I was really wondering why not a SINGLE person was commenting on my first YW submission! :) ha ha.

    Anyway, any thoughts y’all? I am using WP “Twenty Eleven” theme.

    Thanks a million! x

  4. IASoupMama [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 3:18 pm #

    I switched from Blogger to WordPress this spring and am really pleased with how well my switch went. I’m a tinkerer by nature and have poked around in the CSS and php and know just enough html to make myself dangerous, LOL! But I was thrilled when I figured out how to change my stylesheet to increase font size and to use a darker color for the font.

    I’ve never really had constructive feedback on the blog’s design — my friends are wonderful and think everything I do is awesome, so they aren’t necessarily the most constructive criticizers. That’s part of the reason I’m here — to get really meaningful feedback about my writing and, in this case, about my blog design.

    Thank you all!

  5. Write Rinse Repeat [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 2:43 pm #

    I need some advice for my blog layout. I’m wondering if the black and pink is dark and dreary. I’m wondering if people “get” the pictures of the 50s housewife writing, rinsing, and repeating… I’m wondering if it’s a really idiotic douchebag looking blog altogether. I’m also wanting to switch over to WP, but I don’t want to lose those 84 followers that I worked so HARD to get. If I don’t switch to WP, I’d at least like to change my Blogspot domain name to include “write rinse repeat” so it will all tie together. What’s a girl to do? Feel free to reply or tweet me with your thoughts, suggestions. Thanks so much. I really value the Yeah Write community!!!

    • DearHarrison.com [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 5:50 pm #

      I would definitely steer clear of light text on a dark background. I get the thought behind the color choices you’ve made, but having to concentrate on reading so much text that is difficult on the eyes only lessens the impact of your content. You don’t want your design competing with your message.

      Unless you are the one who owns the domain, writerinserepeat.com, it is already taken — and to be honest, it looks to me more like WriterInSerepeat to me, anyway. :) You know what domain is NOT taken? zannahbrown.com. If you want my advice, I would snatch that up this week and begin thinking about branding your blog around your name (you can still use “Write. Rinse. Repeat.” as a tagline). Your name is a GREAT brand — unique, yet simple to remember. Plus, if you ever decide that you no longer want to use “Write. Rinse. Repeat.”, you won’t have to start a new blog — you can simply change your tagline.

      Don’t worry, you don’t have to build a custom website just because you have a domain. Just stay tuned to the rest of the posts this week. Flood is going to be giving some good tips for using images, and I will be elaborating more on design. The first thing you need to be concerned with is improving the readability of your posts by switching to a lighter background and a darker font.

      • Erica M [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 9:07 pm #

        Wow. Such great advice in your comment. I love that your checked the availability of zannahbrown.com. You’re right about it being a cool brand all by itself.

  6. Jamie@SouthMainMuse [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 2:09 pm #

    Those are all great suggestions. One of these days I need to sit down and rethink my blog design…

    • DearHarrison.com [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 2:20 pm #

      Jamie, I have always loved your blog’s logo. It’s very clean and crisp and has character.

      For what it’s worth, I think that making your body font smaller will make a big difference. It’s at 18 pt now, which is a size that some blogs use for headers. I think if you make it somewhere between 12 pt and 14 pt, you’ll be able to get more of your great content “above the fold”.

    • christie [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 2:23 pm #

      Jamie, I love love love your blog design. (Content too.)

      • Jamie@SouthMainMuse [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 2:39 pm #

        Thanks Christie…I guess I am more concerned with how it functions. But that was nice to hear.

  7. Joe [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 12:02 pm #

    Yes, I know my blog is a visual mess, but it’s not going to get fixed this week. I’ve pretty much mastered the WordPress Thesis theme, and once I finish building my new website for our vacation rental, I’m going to start on a blog redesign.

    • DearHarrison.com [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 1:53 pm #

      Joe! That vacation rental site is $$$! I really like it. I’m interested in hearing your opinions on Blogger vs. WordPress. I started out on Blogger, but I just don’t think it offers enough resources/flexibility to take a blog to the level that WP offers. There’s a little bit of a learning curve, but WP is fairly intuitive (especially with a well-written theme), wouldn’t you say?

      • Joe [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 2:16 pm #

        Thanks Michael. Blogger is a great starter blog: it’s easy to use and when you want to start a blog nothing else is quicker, but it lacks flexibility. You’re correct about the learning curve thing with WordPress, but it’s worth the effort. I did a bit of research, the Thesis theme had great reviews and I was not disappointed. Thesis has a tremendous amount of flexibility and the blogosphere is plastered with tips and techniques. I probably way over exaggerated when I said I mastered the theme, but I’m at least I’m beyond the novice stage. I’ve quickly picked up CSS and I’ve also learned enough to take and modify php code when I need to.

        I still have to build out the “things to do” portion of my vacation rental blog, but then I’ll make a new site for my blog. I’m not going to rush it, so it may take a few months while I think it through.

  8. Michelle Longo [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 11:51 am #

    I was looking forward to this week since my blog looks like CRAP. I really, really need to spend time learning how to make it less crappy. I suppose I’m not the only person who spends time on content not design, but I’m sure that it’s not keeping readers, especially since it’s so text heavy. Thanks for the great information this week!

    Not sure if I’ll make it on the grid or not, we’ll see. I’ll definitely read whatever is here eventually though!

    • DearHarrison.com [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 1:46 pm #

      As a graphic designer, I find myself spending too much time on tweaking my design and not enough on the content — I’m a VERY slow writer. I think it’s good that you’re spending time on your content because it’s definitely the more important component.

  9. Kathy Kramer [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 10:19 am #

    I’m going to be in the hangout this week. When I get the prompts, I free write until I have something that fits the criteria of not mentioning the prompt and having a conflict, beginning middle and end. Had the idea, but no story. Oh well, there’s always next week.

    • DearHarrison.com [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 1:49 pm #

      I hear you. The ability to craft an idea, write it well, and write it quickly is not one I have mastered yet. My story development makes watching grass grow seem like an Olympic event. :)

  10. Dawn Beronilla [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 10:01 am #

    It looks like I’ll be sitting this week out (I don’t have time to write a new post and mine was rejected) but I just wanted to say that I love this series and I was especially looking forward to this week’s info. Of course I loved it!
    Thanks to Michael and everyone else involved for getting this out here for us! I know that I need to do something to revamp my blog and I am excited to see what info you lovelies will bring us the rest of the week.

    • Erica M [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 10:59 am #

      Please don’t think of it as a rejection. I understand the time issue, though. There’s a small window available to get our writing done and when it has to be reworked, that window may no longer be available. You’re such a wonderful part of the grid, Dawn. I hope you’ll find the time to take your listing of that day’s events, find the conflict and rewrite the story around that conflict. What happened to move you toward that day and how was it resolved?

      • Dawn Beronilla [Tue] 17 Jul 12 at 4:15 pm #

        Thanks Erica!
        For everything.
        I’m trying my best to hang with you cool kids every week, but between only writing for three months and having 3 sons 6 and under, sometimes I struggle.
        I’m not going anywhere, and I will still most definitely read all of the blogs on both grids like I normally do. Plus I have found some really great places to read up on writing techniques and will spend as much time reading there as I can too.
        Who needs to shower, anyway? ;-)
        I do have one more question though. Do you think if I switched my badge I could post my link on the hangout grid? Or are there the same guidelines there? I’m pretty proud of my post and I worked really hard on incorporating my authentic voice and hacking out the unnecessary stuff and I think it is an improvement over my regular stories.
        I would love to hear some of the regular’s feed back! :-)
        Thanks again! You rock.

        • Erica M [Tue] 17 Jul 12 at 4:17 pm #

          Yup. Change your badge code and hop on over. They are having a good time over there this week!

    • DearHarrison.com [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 1:39 pm #

      Thanks, Dawn. I’m lucky this week to be hosting and not participating in the grid with a written piece of my own. It’s like Blogger Boot Camp up in here. :) But the pressures, standards, and the deadlines are what push us to excel, so don’t lose heart. I agree with Erica, you are a very valuable part of our community.

      • Dawn Beronilla [Tue] 17 Jul 12 at 4:16 pm #

        Hey Michael! Thanks for the pep talk. :-)
        It means a lot.

  11. Christie Tate [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 8:00 am #

    Ohhhh Louise– you can write like you do and you are incredibly kind!???? All great writers should have so much heart. It’s good to hear because my husband is getting sick of me waking him up at 3 to discuss patent infringement law.

  12. Christie Tate [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 6:09 am #

    This is incredibly timely because I think someone is about to sue me for my website name. So I think I have to start over– we will see what the lawyer says. So while I am devastated, this information helps me get up off the pity/sadness pot and focus on the future. Great tips and I am excited to do this!

    • Louise Ducote [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 7:43 am #

      Christie, that’s awful! But you know we’ll all still love you no matter what you call your blog, right?

      • Melisa [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 1:09 pm #

        What Louise said!!!!

    • DearHarrison.com [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 1:27 pm #

      I have to be honest, it seems to me like you own that brand (at least as far as Google is concerned). Unless the people fighting you have actually trademarked “Outlaw Mama”, I think you may be able to push back on this one.

      • christie [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 1:32 pm #

        Well, she’s got a trademark pending for Outlaw Mom. She’s a patent attorney so I got that going for me. She’s got a very crafty blog with how-to’s and recipes, neither of which will ever appear on my blog for obvious reasons (can’t cook, can’t craft). So, I am waiting to see how it pans out. But you guys are so stinking nice. LEt me get this straight: you can write beautifully and you have THIS MUCH heart? No wonder you write so well. Ok, one more read of my post and then sending it out to the world. Thanks for making it seem safe.

        • DearHarrison.com [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 1:56 pm #

          Yikes. Patent lawyer huh? You might be better of wrestling a pit bull for a soup bone.

        • Liz @ShiftlessMommie [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 11:47 pm #

          This would inspire me to study IP law if I didn’t find it so mind-numbingly boring. Is there any way you can prove you developed your site first? Even if she technically coined her blog earlier, yours is way more popular. I can’t even find hers.

  13. Melisa [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 2:04 am #

    Love the approach to challenge #66 – great tips on blog layout, plus a writing challenge. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how this was going to play out (is challenge #66 going to be a contest to see who has the best-looking blog in the judge’s eyes? Will they go easy on me because I’m a brand-newbie blogger, or come down on me like a hammer because I’m a Creative Director with 15 years of graphic design experience?) Oh, what a relief! Now I can focus on the writing task at hand.

    BTW, I loved this line: “The body text is the content of your post where you craft your compelling narrative using your authentic voice.” Nice way to weave in the first two summer challenges! Very clever, grasshopper….

    • DearHarrison.com [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 1:25 pm #

      Thanks, Melisa. Even though there isn’t a blog design contest tied to this, I’m certainly looking forward to seeing the changes some YeahWriters will be making to their sites. Yours is already very clean and uncluttered. I can’t believe it’s simply a modification of the WP Twenty Eleven theme. Great work!

      • Melisa [Mon] 16 Jul 12 at 2:30 pm #

        Well, hello! Way to go and make my Monday! Blushing over here in the general Seattle area! Thank you thank you.

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