Kitten Lane

12
Nov

Blog Design Tips + Q&A Session

Monday, 12 November 2012. Tags

Hello to my fellow Raining Umbrella students! As Vicki mentioned, I’ll be contributing to the blog design lesson and will be available to answer your questions afterwards. The tips below are add-ons to the interview with Rachel Follett from Lovely Clusters, so I recommend reading that article first ;)

Why is it important for artists/designers/photographers to have a blog?

In addition to it being a great place to showcase your work, having a blog adds a personal touch to your website. Your viewers get to know who you are and what inspires you.

Posting regularly to your blog is also great for search engine optimisation and getting yourself out there on the web! I won’t go into too much detail with SEO here (that would be a whole article in itself!), but you can read more on seo tips for your blog.

An aesthetically pleasing blog

You want your website to be easy to navigate and easy for your viewers to read. Don’t try to design a cutting edge website layout just to stand out from the crowd as these designs usually come across as amateurish (you don’t want to stand out for the wrong reason).

You don’t need to be an expert web designer though to have an aesthetically pleasing blog – simplicity is key. Choose a simple, clean template and add your own banner and buttons to make it uniquely your own. A clean design will make your blog look less cluttered and allow your blog photos and portfolio pieces to really stand out.

Also keep colours and font choices to a minimum (usually a maximum of 2-3 fonts is recommended).

Planning for your design

I like to look at things from a functional point of view before thinking about design. You first need to define what the focus of your blog will be, who your intended audience will be, and what you want to add to your site.

Think about what kind of blog layout you would like and why this would work for you. For example, before you decide on how many sidebars you want, ask yourself, “What do I want in my sidebars?”. Sidebar items might include:

  • About bio
  • Favorite links
  • RSS and social media icons
  • Post categories and archives
  • Featured or popular posts
  • Advertising/sponsors
  • Newsletter signup box
  • Search bar

If you only decide to add social media icons to your sidebar, then you probably wouldn’t want a layout with a left and right sidebar!

As a starting point, I recommend taking a look at blogs that you really like and make notes on what features they have and what would work for your blog.

These website notes will be extremely useful for you to refer to if you choose to design the blog yourself, or  you can send these through to your web designer to give them an idea of what you are after.

Optimising your blog

Once you have your website up and running, there are a few things you can do to keep everything running smoothly:

  • Try to keep plugins and widgets to a minimum. Remove any plugins that you are not really using as these can slow your website down.
  • Resize your images before you upload them to your website to reduce file size. Large images can make your pages take longer to load. If you do not have an image editing tool such as Photoshop, you can find a free image optimiser and resizing tool online, like this one.
  • Always add keywords into the description and available text fields (called ‘Alt’ text) when adding images to your blog post. This makes your images more search-friendly and can even assist visually impaired users.

Additional resources

If you are interested in designing your own website, I also highly recommend Jo Klima’s Your Darling Blog course, which is a 6 week workshop on how to design your own custom blog. You do need a copy (and a little knowledge) of Photoshop though.

Q&A: your turn

Thanks for reading – I hope you find some of the extra tips above useful for your blog. I’ll be online from 2.00pm PST onwards on Monday Nov 12, so if you have any questions you can add them to the comments section below.

Comments

  • Thank you so much for all this valuable information Nikki! I really like your contribution as it's really helpful in both situations (realizing a blog on your own or with the help from a web designer –> I am seriously considering the last for somewhere in the future as I don't like to work on all these technical things myself ;))

  • Hi Nikki! Can't thank you enough for doing this. This is such a great contribution to the course. Thank you!!! xo

  • Hi again, Nikki. I have a kind of silly question, but you know the sweet black cat you illustrated for your website? How do you upload a drawing/illustration onto your blog? Do you need a high quality scanner? I draw, too, and would like to eventually post some of my prints or sell them on Etsy. I can never understand how people add their drawings to their blog or shop.

    Hope this makes sense. I might be asking you a couple of different questions here. ;)

  • Thanks for all the good tips and information. I have gone around with a couple unanswered quetions in my mind , so this is a good chance to ask them :)
    1) When you add something to your blog, a picture from the internet that you found for example, do you always note where you found it?

    2) How do I get my name on the pictures I put online? I have noticed lots of people on their blogs, have their name or name of their blog somewhere on their pictures.

    Appreciate your help with this, thanks.

  • Hello, I hope you are all having a great day so far! I'll answer Arctica's questions first and come back to yours Vicki…

    1) You should always add a credit under a photo or at the end of your post if you're using an image from the internet, unless you are using a free or purchased stock image, or you have permission from the owner to do otherwise. The best thing to do before adding the image is to check the copyright terms, if any. For example most Flickr photos will be protected by one of the following Creative Commons licenses (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/), which means they must be credited. A short byline like "CREDIT: USERNAME ON FLICKR" will usually do.

    2) There are quite a few ways to add your name to your images (you can do this in PowerPoint or Picasa for example), the easiest way though is with this free online tool: http://picmarkr.com/ or if you would like something a little more advanced you can create your own in Photoshop. Here is a great Photoshop tutorial: http://www.suburbanmisfit.com/2012/02/21/tuesday-tip-how-to-create-a-photo-watermark/

  • Not a silly question at all Vicki! I actually create my artwork digitally in Photoshop or Illustrator using my wacom tablet.

    The other way to do it, as you mentioned, is to hand draw and then scan the image, although this is a little trickier as you may need to tidy up the image a bit once it is scanned. Your drawing needs to be scanned in at 300DPI or higher for print quality and should be scanned in as a TIFF file, if possible.

    You may have software with your scanner to adjust contrast and levels so that the paper in the background is pure white, but Photoshop is much better for this. There are free alternatives though, such as GIMP and Photoshop Express Editor (http://www.photoshop.com/tools/expresseditor?wf=editor).

    Here are a few articles that you may find useful:

    http://www.theartistsweb.net/wiki/How_To_Scan_Artwork
    http://www.ehow.com/how_5862602_make-copies-original-artwork.html
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Mk5YJ3eHlg
    http://neondragonart.com/dp/tutorials/pencil.htm

  • Hey Nikki,
    awesome post! I think I want to get a wacom tablet been thinking about drawing images lately…. loving KITTEN LANE,
    Chat soon

  • Thanks Sar. I think you should definitely look at a tablet – you'd be great with it!

  • I actually have a couple of questions for you too Vicki!

    My background is in digital design so I don't know a great deal about the print side of things. I'd like to eventually sell some prints online… do you use a home printer for your prints or do you get these printed professionally?

    I did read something about using archival paper and ink, so I'm wondering if you need to use anything special for your prints?

  • Very helpful, thankyou :)

  • Thank you so much for all this very valuable information. I don't know if you sometimes work with videos on your blog, but what program would you recommend to work with (preferably with a tutorial)? As I set up some reading projects for my creativity group and want to make the whole thing as personal as possible, information on this really 'd mean a lot to me … Thank you Nikki!

  • Thanks so much for the helpful tips and links, Nikki! I'm going to have to spend some time researching them. I'm sooo not a technical person and have a hard time understanding things. ha, ha. I need a little more left brain and a little less right. ;)

  • Hi again, Nikki. I was using a lab called Ritz Camera but they recently closed down, so now I'm not sure who I'll use. I've tried Costco printing a couple of times because I was told that they have quality printers. All in all, I was happy with their work but my images looked a little warmer than normal. I've heard that some photographers use Mix Pix. I might look into that myself!

    I always ask for a matte finish instead of a glossy finish and most labs use archival quality. You might want to ask them first, though.

    Sorry I'm not much help, Nikki. If I find out more info, I'll for sure let you know! xo

  • Nic, would you be able to recommend a specific Wacom product? What do you think about the Bamboo Splash? Is there anything else I would need to get started on digital drawing? :)

  • Thanks for the print info Vicki :)

    I have a really old Intuos, but the new Bamboo tablets look good and I know of other artists who use one of these. I would personally think about the Bamboo Create just because it has a larger workspace, but the Splash looks like a good place to start if you are doing smaller illustrations and just want to give digital art a go.

    The only other thing you need to get started is a copy of Photoshop or Illustrator, or whatever other drawing program you prefer.

    Vector Tuts+ (http://vector.tutsplus.com/) and PSD Tuts+ (http://psd.tutsplus.com/) have some great online tutorials for digital art.

  • Cococita I haven't created any videos for any of the blogs and websites I've made. However, I'd check out iMovie for Mac or Movie Maker for Windows.

    Both of these allow you to record video (via your webcam, although you may want to buy a cheap microphone for better voice recording as well) and you can edit your video once recorded. I don't know of any tutorials off the top of my head, but I am sure there would be plenty on youtube (I know iMovie has lots of helpful hints while you are using the program).

    You can then export your video and upload to your youtube account.

    Youtube videos are really easy to embed into a wordpress.com blog like yours. You just copy the video’s URL from your web browser’s address bar while viewing the video and paste it on a line by itself in your post/page editor (make sure that it is not hyperlinked). WordPress will take care of the rest for you.

    Hope this helps x

  • Thank you Nikki! I will give it a try! x

  • Bev Campbell

    thanks for all the good info Nikki. I didn't know much about blogging or how to set them up so I have this info tucked away in case I need it one day!

  • Thanks so much for the great information, Nikki … you were a sweetheart to do this. :))

  • No problem Vicki, glad to have been part of the course x

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