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Monday, September 2, 2013

How I made my Blogger blog my own


In my previous posts, I went over Why I moved from WordPress.com to Blogspot.com and How I moved from WordPress.com to Blogspot.com. Now I am going to go over some of the ways I customized my Blogger blog.

Since I had just restyled my WordPress.com blog recently, I decided I wanted to make my Blogger blog look as much like my old WordPress theme as possible. In addition to making it look like my old theme, I wanted to implement new features that I could never do with WordPress.com.

Left: WordPress.com   |   Right: Blogspot.com
It's strange that the colors look slightly different. I used the same background and header from my WordPress.com blog.

Basic Customizations

First here are some of the basic customizations that I did that do not involve any code. These are the pretty basic customizations to get your blog off the ground.

Started out with the Simple Template: This is the basic, bare bones, template with no background picture. From visiting other blogs, I knew that you will see the original background before it loads your custom background. I did not want this to happen with mine, so I started out with a template with no background.

Simple Template - Completely bare bones. This is how my Blogger blog started out looking like.
Custom background and header: Set these up in the Blogger Template Designer. I used the ones I had made from my previous blog, which I talk about in the post What's in a Name. I'll eventually work on my theme more. My WordPress theme required it to be a specific dimension, so I was stuck with these dimensions. Now that I am no longer constrained by WordPress.com, I want to eventually narrow up the header so it doesn't take up so much space.

Customized fonts and colors: Use the Blogger Template Designer to set up custom fonts and colors. Awwww, yeah! I am so glad I'm on Blogger versus WordPress.com. On WordPress.com you could customize your theme slightly... but then you had to pay for an upgrade to customize it more. Ain't nobody got time for that!

Set up columns: Use the Blogger Template Designer to set up your columns. I like the post/page column on the left and a sidebar the right. I also set up three widget columns on the bottom. I love that I can control this and I am not constrained to how the template is set up.

Blogger Template Designer - Edit the template for fonts, colors, background, header, column widths... so much more than what you can do with WordPress.com, even if you pay for the premium features!

Add a pages tab widget underneath the header: Use the Layout Editor to set up a pages tab widget underneath the header. When you click "add widget," you will want the pages widget. Then you will want to click and drag it to the horizontal position just under your header. You can then style it in the Blogger Template Designer. You can add static links to your pages widget by clicking the edit button from the template editor or from your blog.

This is what I originally went with... but then I added a drop down menu and search bar to my tabs! See this advanced option below.

Remove the Blogger Navbar at the top: In the Layout Editor, you can edit the navbar widget. You can choose a different style... or you can remove it! I like having it removed.

Blogger Layout Editor - Rearrange and add widgets. It is similar to WordPress.com's widget editor, except that there is a little more freedom on Blogger AND you can edit the template html for even more customization!

Advanced Customizations

Here are some of the more advanced things I did based on some tutorials. These tutorials were super easy for me to follow. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that I get to do fun stuff like this to my blog. With Wordpress.com I was so confined by their templates, it was so FRUSTRATING!

Auto Read More: Check out Blogger Sentral's Blogger Auto Read More With Thumbnail tutorial - I love this! To make it not squish up your images, set height or width to "" instead of a defined pixel. This keeps the images proportional but constrains one of the dimensions. I set mine to a specific width and let the height auto adjust. I found that the tutorial is missing a step; you need to replace all instances of the data:post.body line. My template had it in three locations.

Auto Read More - Both WordPress.com and Blogspot.com have a feature to insert a tag to inject an click to continue button... but this tutorial goes over how to set it up automatically! It also includes a thumbnail, which the tag injection does not do. I think this looks very clean.
Auto Author Biography Box: I followed Code it Pretty's Author Biography Box for Blogger tutorial to set up my author bio at the bottom of every post. I was very happy with how this turned out and the tutorial is very easy to follow. I customized mine by adding links to all of my social sites within the bio. It is a little redundant to have this both at the end of a post and in the sidebar, but whatever! :)

Auto Author Biography Box - this bit of code makes you bio show up on the bottom of every post, automatically. When you are ready to change the bio, you only have to change it in one location.
Related Post Widget: I initially installed LinkWithin, but then I read this article about Why to Not Use LinkWithin. The gist of the post is that LinkWithin steals your hits, which is bad for SEO. I immediately switched over to nRelate after reading this.

The nice thing about nRelate is that because you make an account, you get to have options! I customized how it looks to make it look as close to my project gallery as possible. You can also tell it to reindex your site whenever you want.

One of the main turnoffs for me about nRelate was their logo and sponsored ads... I didn't realize you don't have to have either of these! You can turn off their logo and opt out of ads. BUT the monetization of the widget is yours and there are lots of options for this as well, including where the ad is located (before/after your posts or random) and how many ad spots.

Another option is to provide links to your partner sites. The widget will pull related posts from your blogroll. This is a great way to partner up with others and share traffic with them.

Top: Screenshot from Diana Rambles - Notice that this widget has an nRelate logo.  Without hovering over the links, you may not even know that the first link is a sponsored link. I always feel so teased by these. I actually clicked on it thinking I missed a post by Diana.
Bottom: Screenshot from my blog. I removed the nRelate logo and I am not offering ads.
Add Signature to the Bottom of Each Post: On WordPress.com, I used to insert my signature into every post... now it is automatically added! Plus, when I want to update my signature (which I have done at least once to match a new color scheme and will do again), I can do it once and it will update all posts! I used Code It Pretty's Automatic Post Signatures for Blogger tutorial. To make my signature appear before my nrelate widget, I replaced the following code:

div[id*="nrelate_related"]:before {   

with

.nrelate_related:before {

Signature, nRelate widget and Author Bio Box
Remove Border/Shadow from Pictures: The default is to always have a border/shadow. I just thought this looked tacky, so I removed them with Help Blogger's tutorial How To Remove Blogger Picture/Image Shadow And Border.

Remove the border/shadow from pictures (image courtesy of HelpBlogger's)
Auto Recent Posts Widget and Project Galleries: This is a wonderful widget to have! I used BlogerSentral's Recent Posts Image Gallery For Blogger tutorial to create a recent posts widget for my sidebar and category organized project galleries! What is great is that they auto update! Unlike my InLinkz widget that I used with my WordPress.com blog. I LOVE that my project gallery auto updates!

Auto Updating Project Gallery Organized by Category
Contact Form: I followed All Blog Tool's How To Make A Contact Form In Blogger tutorial to set up a contact form through Google Drive. I'm not sure that I like this contact form. What I don't like about it is the email notification. I have to navigate to google drive in order to see the form response, which is located in a spread sheet. With my wordpress.com form, it would send me an email with all the information and then I could reply via email. I might look into a different form engine, but I figure this is good enough for now. I have only received 3 contacts through my form so far, so it isn't a huge hassle.

Left: Contact Form
Right: Entries are saved to an excel sheet
Custom Pin It Button
I initially set up a custom pin it button via WhitSpeaks How To: Make a 'Pin It' Button Appear on Hover Over Images on your Blog. This is a pretty standard way to get a pinterest hover button.

BUT then I decided to go with Markerly. What I love about Marklery is that it offers multiple platforms for sharing images, text and the webpage. I was able to customize the button color, however the buttons on the side of my page didn't seem to change color.

I LOVE that I can add javascript code to my template now! Sweet!

Markerly Widget adds buttons to pictures when you hover over it. It also adds these buttons when you highlight text. There is also a widget on the side of my blog for sharing the page. The buttons change depending on the action. For instance, Pinterest isn't available to share if you highlight text.
Drop Down Menu: I ended up replacing my pages tab to this drop down menu with search bar, as it would resemble the old wordpress.com blog more and free up space in my sidebar by taking care of the search widget. Check out HelpBlogger's Create Horizontal Navigation Menu With Drop Down Submenus Using CSS tutorial.

I removed the rounded corners, adjusted the centering by decreasing the left margin and reduced the margin underneath the header. Here are a few comments on the tutorial page for doing the last two:
I also reduced the width of the search bar in order to hide an unsightly leaf image in the background of the free image provided by the tutorial.

Drop Down Menu - the pages tab widget in blogger just has the top level tabs. I set up this drop down widget.
Update: I ended up going back to the pages layout, mainly because I accidently restored my template to an older version before I made this customization. Secondly, I found that having this custom drop down menu breaks the menu in a mobile browser. I don't know about you, but I am often reading blogs on my phone, so having a good mobile experience is important.

I am so happy to be over at Blogger now. All of these code tweaks and font/color tweaks were unavailable over at WordPress.com. I could have paid money to have less than half of the features available here at Blogger. So nice!

So what do you think of how I set up my Blog? Are there any special tweaks you did to yours that you like better? I am newish to Blogger, so let me know your own tips and tricks in the comments or add your link to the resource list below.

Resources


I'm glad I wrote that all out. I just know that I am going to want to play with the template and end up starting from scratch. Now I have a place to jog my memory on how to do all of these things.

Happy Blogging!

Linking to: Freedom Fridays | Weekend Wonders | Sharing with Domestic Superhero | Friday Link Party | What to do Weekends

78 comments:

  1. Hi Bethany--
    while I may not move to Blogger for those that do this is an awesome post. You left no stone un-turned. Lots of great tips and such. Enjoy your Blogger time and I'll still be reading from over at that "other" site :-)
    Have a great new week!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha! You are good. It's really what works for each individual. WordPress.com is a really clean and user friendly platform. I just wished I had known more about the different features of each platform before I made my decision. It's kind of nice knowing first hand what each has to offer. Have a great weekend!

      Delete
  2. Yay! Your site looks fantastic, Bethany! I am always in awe of your mad skills when it comes to figuring out how to get your blog just the way you want it, and all of your hard work definitely paid off! Love, love, LOVE!

    ~Abby =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Abby! I really enjoy this part of blogging. I have always had an interest in website design/engineering, so now I get to tinker. Yay!

      Have an excellent weekend. Hugs!

      Delete
  3. Bethany,
    Thank you for this post. Your blog is great. I have several things I want to do on my blog that you've mentioned, the signature, the shadow's around the photo's and several more. Pinned it to come back to. I am your newest follower and your e-mail.
    Hugs,
    Wanda Ann @ Memories by the Mile

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so glad this will help you out! Yay! Hugs!

      Delete
  4. Hi Bethany! I was wondering why you moved from WP to Blogger. In blogger you don't own your content. This was one of the reasons I left blogger to go to WP.

    Great post!!
    xoxo
    Denyse

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Denyse!

      I have a TON of reasons why I made the move. See my post Why I moved from Wordpress.com to Blogspot.com for the run down. I think the big thing to remember is that I was on WordPress.COM, NOT self-hosted. There are lots of great things about self hosted WordPress, but there are many, many cons too. I think this article by My Blogger Tricks is a good summary of them and the myths of Blogger: 7 Reasons why Never Migrate Blogger To Wordpress.

      Great question about content ownership. This is actually a common myth. I DO own my own content on Blogger. At any moment I can download ALL of my content and delete my blog. I can then take my content anywhere I see fit, including a self-hosted WordPress blog or even back to WordPress.com.

      Google has a CYA (Cover Your A**) clause that people often misread as them owning your content, but it is a non-exclusive license. They pretty much give themselves a license to make your public content public. I believe this is so that the user can't sue them if the user posts something that gets them in trouble. They also reserve the right to remove content that violates their terms of service. Think porn, child abuse, hate speech, etc. Since I don't plan on posting items of this nature, I am good to go.

      I hope that clears it up! Thanks for checking this post out and for all the follows! I am going to follow you back.

      Hugs!
      ~ Bethany

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    2. Thanks for the info, Bethany! My old site is still live on blogger with a link to my site on WP. I do keep blogger around cause you never know ;-)

      xoxo
      Denyse

      Delete
  5. Stopping by from Freedom Fridays. I'm glad you wrote this and your previous post about why you moved to Blogger. I have a Blogger blog and am sick of feeling like an outcast. Thank you for explaining the benefits of Blogger. Also, I never knew that about LinkWithin, which I use. Might have to rethink that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally had misconceptions about Blogger, which is why I started my blog on WordPress.com. After a year on WordPress.com, I finally started seeing posts on why Blogger is the better option for them. I knew I had to make the switch and share my experience also. I wish I had seen these before I had made my initial platform choice!

      Don't let anyone convince you that Blogger isn't a good platform. It is a great platform for many, many people. And I am one of them!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  6. Excellent post. You know I am a blogger fan! While I have been designing blogspot blogs for 5.5 years, I learned a few things from you. I pinned this post and will be implementing some of the same hacks you have soon. I am getting tired of my design, so I just might do a big unveiling of something new this fall. My blogoversary & 1st anniversary of my linky party is coming up, but I just don't think I will have the time to pull anything off by then.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you and thanks for adding your link to my resources! I am really digging blogger. The freedom is intoxicating. I too am a bit tired of my theme. It is left over from when I was on WordPress.com and felt so limited. I wanted to see how best I could replicate it though when I made the move. Now I am ready to try something new and exciting! I can't wait to see your big reveal. I know it will be spectacular. I always pop over to your custom blogging templates site to get some inspiration. What about planning your reveal for the new years? Or is that too far off? :)

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    2. I really have no idea what & when I am going to do something. And sorry that my Nrelate tricked you. I'll have to look at my ad earnings and decide if I am going to axe them!

      Delete
    3. I have tell you I was having an issue with one of my Google domain renewals and I had an enterprise specialist from Ireland call and help me. She had to call a few times this week to be able to reach me. She didn't quit and my problem has been resolved! I was really pleased with the help!

      Delete
    4. Haha! Sorry for throwing you under the bus in my post. It seriously happened while on your site the day I was writing this. :) I'm ok with sponsored related posts, but I do like it when they are stated as sponsored. I wonder if nRelate has this option?

      That sounds like great customer service!

      Delete
  7. Wow! You figured out alot ! Thanks for posting this, It's so useful ..There were some i wanted figure it out in future, now i know where to go ;) thanks alot!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for these helpful hints and tips on customization!!!
    I hope I don't bother you, but I ran into a problem with nrelate and the CSS-signature you also use (same source): I put nrelate on post pages only, but the signature shows after the nrelate widget.
    With either replaced CSS-code (yours and the one provided by Marie) the signature shows up above the widget on post pages (hooray!), but is completely missing on the homepage (I'm not using break jumps).
    Do you know any solution? Maybe?

    Anyhow - thanks for these tips, I will surely check back for more, as I'm re-designing my blog.

    Cheers
    Katrin :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Katrin,

      I think I have the solution and realized the code from Code It Pretty isn't exactly correct. Her code actually tied the signature code to the nrelate code, which meant that if your nrelate isn't on the homepage the signature won't be either. This worked for me as I don't want the signature to show up on my homepage. Since you do, go into your template and make the following change:

      find: div[id*="nrelate_related"]:before or .nrelate_related:before {

      and replace with: .entry-content:after

      I got this code from here: http://xomisse.com/blog/tutorial-add-a-signature-to-blogger-posts/#comment-15467

      Let me know if this works for you.

      ~Bethany

      Delete
    2. Thanks for getting back to me that quick!
      Actually, that is the code I've used, and the nrelate still shows up above the signature, even with the .entry-content:after (which I use as a standard now)
      Not sure why.
      I've switched to outbrain for now, which works, but isn't as nice and customizable as nrelate and I really like to use nrelate instead.
      But with the signature not in the right place, the blog looks weird somehow.
      Maybe it's something else that pulls the signature down.
      Maybe it's the "posts only" version that makes the code "go nuts".
      Thanks for trying to help me!
      Cheers
      Katrin

      Delete
    3. No, problem! I'm sorry it didn't work out.

      Delete
  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This answers so many of my Blogger questions in one post! Looking forward to customizing my blog.

    ReplyDelete
  10. the whole post is realy amazing to get start with a new blog and give it a eye-catching look , thanks so much

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