Aaaaand… I’m back!
(insert cute picture, because I don’t know how else to start a blog post…)
I am so excited to see all of you who participated in part 1.1 of our Blog Awesome Challenge on Wednesday by linking up. If you missed that essential part of this series, click here to go back and link up your blog! Remember that if you want to be entered to win the Conference ticket to Bloggy Boot Camp Philadelphia (and $300 spending cash to help you get there) you must participate in 3 of the 4 action items in this four week series (every Wednesday in March). Official rules here.
In Part 1 of “5 Things to do Before Launching Your Blog” we covered only 3 of the 5 tips I wanted to impart on ya’ll. There were: 1) JUST GO FOR IT! 2) MARK YOUR SPOT, GRAB YOUR HANDLES, 3) ASK FOR ADVICE.
I know you aren’t holding your breath, but let’s hurry and get on to the last two “to-do’s” so that we can all feel complete in our minds, hearts, and bodies. (…Ignore that last part about hearts and bodies.)
Tip #4: LOOK GOOD DOING IT
Yes, your mom was right- what’s on the “inside” (content) does matter most, but you really ought to look good on the outside too, my friend.
How your blog looks does make a difference in whether people will take you seriously, whether they will return, if they will be disappointed, etc. If you don’t want to spend any money on blog design to start out, then keep things simple, clean, and easy to read. Less is more when the budget is tight. (iHeartMesa is a great example of this simple, clean design style.) Use appropriate fonts and please, whatever you do, DON’T USE A BLACK BACKGROUND WITH HOT PINK TEXT! Actually, don’t use a dark background with light text at all! Headache! (While we are at it, nix the music/soundtrack gadget, k?)
If you want to put a professional foot out there from the beginning, hire a designer. The younger the designer’s business, the less you’ll have to pay. The more experienced they are, the more you will pay for your design(and the more you will get). But, I bet your husband/sister/pastor’s cousin/co-worker knows a thing or two about web design/graphic art. Could you talk someone into making you a professional header? A blog button? Put your best foot forward and grow from there as time and money allow.
Think of your blog as a new room in your house. You’ll be spending a lot of time there, so I think it’s only smart to put a bit of money into “decorating” it.
As far as layout is concerned, in the beginning you need to focus on a few key things: a clean header, a great about page, easy navigation, and super easy “find me” links. Write a short, sweet, witty About Page and put a link to it in a prime spot (horizontal nav bar? top right sidebar?). Then, make sure that your Facebook, Twitter, RSS Feed, Pinterest, and Email accounts are only 1 glance and 1 click away. (See this series at SITSGirls where they are critiquing blogs in a helpful, constructive way. This is soooo very enlightening to those of you with questions about your blog layout and design.)
Can I just add a side-note concerning your face? In my opinion a great profile photo goes a long way, but if you aren’t ready to show your face to us, skip it. (We”ll figure out a way to stalk your mugshot somehow when we fall in love with your writing). In fact, I want to see a blogger’s face “above the fold” if I can (ie. in the header or top of the sidebar). I think this is a “connection” thing- I feel connected to a blogger when I know what she looks like—I trust her more, somehow! See HipAsIWannaBe, NiceGirlNotes, MamaKatsLosinIt, and TheNester for great, properly- placed portraits.
See this great article for more resources on what makes good blog design.
Techy sidenote, but totally related to the set-up of your blog: Can I tell you what my top 3 favorite gadgets/plug-ins are? LinkWithin, Disqus, and Lockerz. LinkWithin helps your readers stay on your blog and find related posts that they might also like. Disqus is a commenting gadget that allows you to respond to comments both within the blog post and to the original commenter’s email (do away with the no-reply blogger issue!). Lockerz is a simple way to allow and encourage your readers to share your blog posts with on their social media feeds. Use these gadets/plug-ins (or similar ones) right off the bat and your blog will love you for it.
Lastly, in regards to “the look” of your blog I would encourage you to use great photos within the posts. Either take great photos, or edit the heck out of your photos (or both?) before posting them. Great pictures add to the professionalism of the blog and also to the overall beauty of your online home. (I use Picnik for all my photos, but Google + is killing Picnik and my blog might just die right along with it!)
Wow, tip #4 was it’s own novel. Now you can see why I needed two posts to cover 5 simple tips. Are you ready for #5? It is really, really important…
Tip #5: PLAN FOR REALITY
Let’s get real. Blogging requires time. When you add 5,10,20, or 40 hours of blogging into your weekly schedule, something else is going to have to go. At first you will likely just sacrifice sleep and/or housework and/or your love life, but that kind of living can’t be maintained, friend!
When, where, and how are you going to make time for blogging? What will you cut out? Television? Exercise? Eating? Crafting? Surfing the web? How often will you blog? How much time will each blog post REALLY require? How much additional time (and mental space) will be required on your social media outlets in order to feed and sustain your blog?
This time battle is a constant struggle for me. Each of us will work this out differently, but what I want you to know before launching your blog is that your new blog will throw a hitch in your life. Be realistic, plan for it, and be flexible! Set goals, remember what is most important in your life (your family, your soul, your health, the 2 lb. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in the pantry…) and work to find how your blog will be a blessing and asset, not a curse, in your life.
There have been a few different seasons in the past 2 years where I have completely fallen away from my blog. Reasons? Burn out, the call of Springtime (I hate being at the computer in the Spring), the workload of summer, grief and mourning… All of these things killed my blog for a time. Read about my struggles with those times here and here (the comments are the best parts). Gee whiz, gosh golly, that’s ok. Guess what I learned each time? Without consistent blogging, I get depressed. So now, when I feel pulled away from my self-inflicted blog schedule (for whatever reason), I re-adjust my mindset and pull the blog along with me through life no matter what messy wake it leaves in it’s trace. I keep hitting publish. I am always better for it.
So, the 5th thing you should do before launching your blog is to plan for reality- both how the blog will effect your reality and how reality will effect your blog (and how you’ll approach that). Yes?
To Sum it up: (1) Start your blog NOW (2) Own your name (3) Pick some brains (4) Make your blog pretty and (5) Be Realistic. THE END. I look forward to reading what the other Blog Awesome Experts will teach us in the next 3 weeks!
Guess what… I don’t have an action item for you to do in relation to winning the Blog Awesome Challenge today (just MAKE SURE YOU LINK UP TO WEDNESDAY’S LINKY FOR US!). But I would LOVE to hear some of your experiences with BLOGGING and TIME and LIFE. And/or you could point us toward the best designed blog you’ve ever done seen in all yer life, amen! Thanks, Ladies!