April 10, 2007

Blogger Theme Tips for New Bloggers

I've been getting very positive comments about my blog lately, about my writing and the template. I just want to take this opportunity to thank all you folks out there, for taking the time to visit my blog, and read my incessant rantings. And to my loyal readers, hey, I wouldn't have lasted long here if not for you (I'm a very 'hangat hangat tahi ayam' sorta person). So thanks :)

I thought I'd give something back to the folks out there who visited my site, especially to the new bloggers who just came on the blogging scene. First of all, WELCOME! It's never to late to jump on the blogging bandwagon, and it's not only a great way to stay in touch with your friends (by telling them about your current going-ons), but to make new friends too. I certainly did.

When I first started blogging, I was asked to choose a template for the blog to be built upon. I picked a template which I thought was quite nice, quite unusual, and then about 6 months along the road, I realised that so many bloggers had the same template as I did! That got me thinking, okaaaayy, it's time I get something which is different from the rest, so that I could say that, hey, that's my site. It's like back in school, where everyone had brown-covered exercise books, and I had mine wrapped in pretty wrapping paper so that I could recognise my books in a jiffy :P

First template
My first template (provided by Blogger)

So, today, I'm a-gonna talk about themes which you can use for your blog. Obviously I shall be touching only on the Blogger platform, for I know no other. If you're on Wordpress or Movable Type, do share your tips here, or better yet, blog about it! I'm sure us newbies would love to read about it. Bear in mind that when I first started out with HTML, it was on Microsoft Frontpage. So in retrospect, my HTML knowledge's pretty rubbish :P

Second Template
My second template (after minor tweaking)

A great place to look out for ideas for weblog designs would be Weblog Design Studios. They are blog designers, who charge a fee for blog design, but do check out their design portfolio. I took a lot of ideas from the sites which they have designed. Unfortunately, I have yet to design my blog up to THAT level (my CSS knowledge is still barely there, but I'm still learning), but I reckon I'm pretty satisfied with my template just now. Anyways, it's all a learning process for me, so whenever I have time to myself, I'll tweak my site just to try things out.

Sometimes I'd find a particular feature which I like in a site, and I'd want to incorporate that feature into my site (e.g. the click-to-view sidebar). Of course, being a CSS/HTML idiot, I wouldn't be able to pull it off without first having to read up on how it's done, etc etc. A good way to learn would be to take a sneak peek at the page source (in Firefox, right-click on the page, and select View Page Source. In IE, click View on the menu bar, and select Source). Search for the feature you like, and study it. Try it out on your site, maybe tweak it a little to suit your tastes. Voila! Instant coolness.

Instead of using the usual fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, Tahoma for your header and sidebar, you might want to try out the fancypants fonts available freely on the Internet. A word of caution though - these fonts are not easily recognisable; this is especially so on computers who either do not already have the particular font installed in the PC (this is still a gray area for me, as I'm not sure if the fonts could still be read on a webpage if not priorly installed. Any ideas?), or computers which have special-character OS installed (e.g. Japanese OS). A suggestion for you to still keep these fonts would be to make them into picture files instead. This can be easily done on Adobe Photoshop or even Paint. That way, you'll be able to keep the fonts, and also maybe add a lovely picture to the words too.

I've been blogging for close to two years now, and I started off with a pretty sucky template. Okok, I thought it was pretty cool at that time, but after a while, I just wanted a clean, white background (pictures stand out more in a white or black background), so I chose Blogger's Minima template instead. Blogger does have rather sucky templates, but if you like to be able to have something to tweak with, to add your own stuff, their Minima template (white or black) is a pretty easy platform for you to work on. There are plenty of websites out there which offer free templates for Blogger, so you don't have to settle with Blogger's sucky ones. These are a few I'd recommend:
The new Blogger (the beta which is ... err ... no longer beta) offers layout customisation, which I frankly find a tad annoying. It does not give me as much flexibility as I need, compared to the raw CSS file which the old Blogger provided. You can always revert to the classic template in the Templates settings. You lose some of the features which the new Blogger provided, but I reckon that shouldn't be too big of a problem, as you can always code the extras in later.

There ya go. Just a few tips to get you started. But don't fully take my word for it though; explore the CSS file, go wild and experiment. Aftaer all, I'm very new too, and I'm always trying to break my design as much as I can so that I can find areas for improvement (believe me, there are PLENTY).

I'm currently also trying out something new; I may do an overhaul of the design altogether. My design is VERY simple compared to the gorgeous blogs you find out there on the Internet. At the end of the day, like I said, it's all just a learning process. It'd take a bit of time and effort, but the final result would be a whole lot more satisfying 'cos YOU did it.

Good luck!


TrueBluePenangite said...

I recognize the language as English but I have NO CLUE what you're talking about. I feel like the dumbest blogger online. And I don't even have Photoshop....wahhhhh

Eh when I come back to Penang, I need you to help me mempercantikkan my blog. Can?

Paris Beaverbanks said...

Where were you when I was starting out on blogger?! I fully agree with everyting you say and then some. I'm starting out in wordpress myself and its trial and error the whole way. My best advise is just go ahead and tweak. If your page loads funny you'd know you did something wrong LOL... Wordpress is less friendly tho coz there is no preview pane so I never know when I"m doing something right or wrong until I load up my page.

Oh and I think if you use a font that isn't installed on other computers they just revert to whatever default font that computer uses e.g. Arial/courier/times new roman etc.

*takes off nerd hat* :)

beetrice said...

Sage advice if I ever decide to get my own dot.com... :)

Maybe we should start a FAMILY blog...that should be a riot!

Tine said...

Truebluepenangite: Haha ... no problem, girl. When I first started out, I had no idea of those things either. But then again, I've always been a nerd, so I guess it didn't take too long for me to pick it up :P

Bring on your blog, and I'll try my best ;)

Paris: Hahahah ... err ... I think I was still on the sucky template and know nuts about stuff when you started out leh :P

I'm not sure about Wordpress, but I reckon you can't tweak with the raw CSS file, unless you pay for an upgrade or something? How did you do yours?

Beetrice: Ooooooh ... OMG, girl, I had the exact idea! We'll call it "The Dysfunctionals" (if there's such a word) Hahahaha!!

hao said...

Nice tips. I love your template too. It's still a long way for me to learn. Haha