Monday, December 26, 2011

Blog Widgets

Blog "widgets" are extra features or functions that you can add on to your blog.  Some of them may be created by the blogging platform (such as blogger) but many of them are created by third part providers.  Think of them like cell phone apps.

Usually there is a button in your blog's layout area that says "add widgets."  This button will give you basic suggestions recommended to you by the blogging platform company.  You can also search for widgets online.  The site you find them on will usually have directions on how to install the widget on your blog.  Be warned that not all of these third party widgets will be high quality.  So shop around.

Some examples of things widgets can do:

-Ways for people to follow your blog (follow by email, follow using Google reader, etc.)
-Follow by Twitter button
-"Like" a page on Facebook button
-Display ads
-Display how many views your blog has received
-Blog archive
-Your most popular posts
-Search your blog

There are hundreds if not thousands of widgets.  Those were just a few.  Widgets are usually placed in your blog sidebars but they can also be placed in the blog footer.  Remember, widgets should enhance your blog, not distract from it.  Some widgets are fun but before you install it think about how that widget will help your readers.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Blog Sidebars

The blog sidebars are the columns next to your main text column.  The number of columns that you have is up to you and is only really limited by the blogging platform that you use.  While the information presented in the blog sidebars can change, on the actual blog this information is usually static.  In other words, everything in the sidebars will appear the same even when you add a new post.

In terms of purpose, the sidebars are similar to blog pages in that they should display general information that you would want your reader to access at any time.  The sidebars are also where you place your blog widgets.  I'll get more into blog widgets in a later post.

Due to the fact that blog sidebars are right next to your blog text column, they are more visible than pages.  Here are some basic things that I think are necessary to have in a blog column:

- At least one subscription method for a reader to follow your blog.  Multiple is better.  But if I had to pick just one, I would say having a "follow by email" option is the best.  It's easy, people understand email and people usually read their email.

- Blog archive.  This shows all of your older posts.  It gives readers a place to browse your blog.  More importantly, it shows your readers how active your blog is.  

- Search this blog.  I think it's a useful tool if people want to type in a particular keyword.

- About me (blog author).  This isn't really necessary.  But it's a nice touch.  Makes it seem more personal.

If you are trying to promote something with your blog, the sidebars are a good place to have small announcements or pictures.  But moderation in all things.  I really believe that the actual blog text should be the primary focus.  The more columns you add and the more stuff you add to columns, the more distracting it will be from the actual blog posts.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Blog Text Column

The text column is another basic blogging key term.  It is the main display area that shows all of your most recent posts.  All the other add-ons can be fun but this is area where you are going to generate and keep readers.

Most blog hosts (Blogger, Wordpress, etc...) allow you to adjust the width of your blog text column.  If you want to get really fancy, you can even adjust how many columns you have.  The number of posts displayed in the text column may also be adjusted.  On this blog, I have it so it shows my last 7 most recent posts.

The text column should always be wide enough where it's easy to read without excessive scrolling.  Also be sure to check that the font color you are using does not clash with your background.  Beautiful backgrounds are nice but they should never make the actual text difficult to read.

This is a personal preference, but I like to make sure that the blog text is one of the first things that catches the eye when opened up.  The human eye naturally tracks from left to right, top to bottom (in Western cultures at least).  So the upper left corner of the site is what people will look at first.

In the end, a blog should be about the blog posts; not the number of followers or number of views or advertisements.  A reader should be able to find the main text content of your blog almost as soon as they open  up the page. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Blog Header

The "blog header" is just a basic part name that you should be familiar with.  This is yet another one of those blog key terms that many people just assume you know the meaning to.  This was not the case for me and I'm sure I'm not the only one.  I actually had to look this up when I first started blogging.

The blog header is the area at the top of your blog that contains your title.  If you want to use this blog as an example, "Non-Techie Blogging" is my header.  Underneath the blog title is my tagline: "Simple tips and tricks for effective blogging.  The tagline is also part of the header.

The header should not be confused with post titles.  Each blog post will have its own title.  The header is going to be a pretty consistent thing.

If you want to get fancy you can make a custom header.  Personally, I prefer having the title of my blog being very clear.  I want it to be one of the first things people notice.  This helps people remember the blog if they want to recommend it.

I would also highly recommend adding a tagline.  Keep the tagline short and precise.  It should give new readers a quick one-sentence summary of what your blog is about.  I've noticed that a lot of bloggers neglect to add a tagline.  Remember: don't make your readers work for information.  Make your blog easy to understand and easy to navigate.