Simplicity is not only key, but is often the only option for us mere mortals who aren't quite fluent in HTML and CSS. Even if you think you think you’re being realistically straightforward, you’ll probably spend a few days wrestling with the code, but it’s absolutely worth the effort to reach a layout you’re happy with.
Weapons in your battle with HTML you will need are trial and error, persistence and the ability to Google up bits of code you want. If the search engine isn’t throwing up any solutions which are working, ask around in forums for assistance from the pros.
A plain white background, at least for the posts, is usually easiest, as pictures look best on plain white. Though you can afford to choose something more flowery for titles, fonts should be legible and be of a contrasting colour to the background. The harder the text is to read, the less people will bother.
There are countless widgets and gadgets you can add to your layout:
- Popular posts and related posts (for example, provided by LinkWithin) ensure your older posts don't go to waste, gathering dust in the depths of time, and keep your readers bouncing back into your blog.
- Search box and labels make it easier for readers to find posts they're interested in. More on that later.
- Follow by email lets people bung in their email address to subscribe to your blog quickly and easily.
|Examples of widgets and gadgets: search box, subscribe by email, LinkWithin|
The fear of running out of things to say is something that discourages a lot of people from blogging. Nevertheless, if you blog about a topic or topics you are passionate about, this will never happen, and you’ll realise this a few months in and you’ve so much to say you can hardly keep up with yourself.
To target a more specific niche, perhaps consider keeping your posts to a select few topics. This way, your blog will be more focussed, containing lots about some things rather than not much about a lot of things. Alternatively, write about whatever you want if that’s how you want to roll. No one’s going to shoot you.
Your ‘about’ page, which you can link to near the top of the page, will be the first place of reference for readers who want to get to know you, and find out about some context behind the blogger. You can write this in either first or third person, but be consistent! Try to summarise who you are, why you are interesting, and what your blog’s purpose is. Here is also a good place to provide an email address for anyone who wants to contact you, and a disclaimer detailing your policy regarding the images used on your blog.
If you want to make your blog easy to read, find a comfortable balance between text and images. If you break up bodies of text with images, the images will visually engage and capture attention at a glance, whilst making the chunks of text smaller and more digestible.
Though it undoubtedly helps, having a fancy camera won’t be essential. Whatever camera you possess, you can take good-quality photos by having your camera still on a tripod or stack of books, and by shooting outside in daylight or by the window.
Cropping, rotating, adjusting the contrast and brightness of your photos could improve their look, as well as a little processing with filters – in moderation. If you don’t have something like Photoshop, web-based photo editors like pixlr are available to you.
Tagging and labelling posts makes it easier for readers to get to content they’re interested in, and increases traffic from search engines. You could carefully think out a group of labels that cover everything you write about, or just tag every post with every keyword you can think of relating to it, which will make for a lovely tag cloud.
|Examples of tags, in a list (left) and in a cloud (right)|
Advertising is all about networking. Just linking between all of your internet accounts on various websites will generate traffic. For example, you could link your blog to and from Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Lookbook, Chictopia, Polyvore and DeviantART.
Take an active part in these communities by posting in forums, adding your opinion to discussions, sharing your knowledge, and giving people a helping hand if you can. Linking to your blog in your forum signature is a great way to unobtrusively let people know about it.
Advertise with integrity. If you don’t, you’ll get no respect. Playing the ‘follow for follow’ game and begging for attention undermines your credibility, and destroys the point of following blogs because you actually like them and want to read them.
Blogging is all about communication, and due to the wonders of Web 2.0, you can not only communicate with many via blog posts, but you can engage with your readers one-to-one by responding to their comments. A blog is always more interesting when you feel like you know the person behind it, by interactions and relationships you can build.
Comment on other people’s blogs – say something meaningful, show you’ve read the post and you’re commenting because you appreciate its content. Embedding a link to your own blog at the end of your comment looks pro and encourages others to drop by.
In forums, you can volunteer to be featured, interviewed or be a guest blogger on other people’s blogs, if they’re offering the chance. Drop them an email telling them you’re interested. Most of the time it will come to nothing, but now and again someone will get back to you. These collaborations benefit all parties, as it increases exposure for all, and builds the community.
Featuring other people on your own blog is actually even easier. Let people know you want volunteers, for example in a forum, and usually you’ll get floods of candidates – just take your pick, and ensure you’ve time for the collaboration and follow up on anything you say you’re going to do.
|An example of an advert looking for interviewees: provide an email address and blog URL|
A widget is a piece of reusable code that you can plug into virtually any website.
A gadget does the same thing as a widget, but only works on a certain website or group of websites.
Web 2.0 is the new kind of internet where there’s lots of easy interaction between the people who put information on the web, and the people reading it.