Tips For Doing A Blog Makeover

Fantastic news! Our Getting More Out of Widgets! post inspired community members to make adjustments or add extra widgets to their blog, plus motivated some to do “blog makeovers”.

Larry Ferlazzo suggested

Here in the U.S there’s a popular TV show where producers go into someone’s home, and completely redo a room. Crazy idea, I know, but it might be fun for you to offer to do that to a blog and as a teaching tool for the rest of us.

What an excellent idea Larry and here’s the best news!

As you asked for assistance, we choose your blog for the makeover and will be writing a series of posts on Larry Ferlazzo’s Website of the Day “Blog Makeover” to share blog design tips and additional info for customizing widgets.

But before we begin– Gail Desler, from Blogwalker blog, has shared with us her excellent Introductory manual for using Edublogs which is definitely worth bookmarking for future reference! Make time to go past Gail’s blog and write a comment to thank her for sharing!

Importance of Your Blog’s Presentation Theme

Your blog has two distinct groups of readers:

  • Those that subscribe to your blog via RSS feed or email;
  • and first time readers who view your blog via it’s web address.

It’s these first time readers we want to engage and get to subscribe to our blog. Unfortunate fact of life, we do judge a book by it’s cover! People are more likely to both read your posts and subscribe to your blog if it’s pleasing to their eyes.

Watch this video to learn how to change your blog theme or refer to page 12 & 13 of Gail’s Introductory Manual to Edublogs (other manuals for Getting Started with Edublogs are located on this page).

Larry’s Original Theme

originaltheme.jpgFor those unfamiliar with Larry Ferlazzo’s Website of the Day — Larry’s well known and very popular for sharing great information on websites for teaching ELL, ESL and EFL. His original theme was Batavia 1.5.

Nice simple theme but the beige background behind the text in his posts detracted from the great content he was sharing. Made worse by his long blog name that cluttered his blog header.

original2.jpg

Larry’s Next Theme

Larry had already decided that there was better themes for his blog and was trailing them before we offered our assistance.

copyblogger1.jpg

But there was two main problems with the new Copyblogger theme:

  1. His long blog name was totally overwhelming the blog header. Solution was to shorten his blog name and use a theme that included a tagline!
  2. Too many page links displayed along the top of his blog was making it cluttered and messy. Answer lies with Pages, Sub-pages and a widget.

Why Blogs have Taglines

The concept behind a blog tagline is to create a memorable phrase that sums up the tone and premise of a blog. Ideally all blogs should have a tagline since they instantly tell first time readers what your blogs all about and whether you write posts in topic areas that interest them.

Unfortunately not all blog themes include a tagline however a work around, if you’re good with Photoshop, is to use a theme with a customisable header and add the tagline to the image in the header e.g. check out the header on my personal blog and Graham Wegner’s Teaching Generation Z blog.

tagline1.jpg

With Larry we changed his blog name from Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day for Teaching ELL, ESL & EFL to Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day… and added the tagline … .For Teaching ELL, ESL & EFL.

Larry’s New Theme gloriousdays.jpg

He also decided to change from the theme Copyblogger but couldn’t choose between Glorious Day or Glossy Blue.

The trouble with themes is each has their advantages and disadvantages. Both the new themes included taglines but the background colour behind the text and the text styles was easier to read with Glorious Day.

Why Blogs Have Pages

Edublogs, because it uses WordPress, has the definite advantages of being able to customize and reduce blog clutter considerably more than Blogger blogs. Clutter distracts readers making them less inclined to subscribe to your blog. One of the best ways to reduce clutter is to use pages.

Pages, are similar to posts, except they can do more than a post. You normally use pages when you want to present information about yourself or your blog that you always want readers to be easily able to access. Examples of pages on this blog are: About; What you’d like to see covered; and Want Automatic Notification.  For more information, read the differences between pages and posts.

Pages can also be organised into Sub-pages within your pages, creating a hierarchy of pages. For blog themes that display pages along the top, this is a great way of controlling what pages are displayed as only those with no parent are displayed. The Want Automatic Notification is located on a sub-page below the About page.

This video explains how to write posts and pages or refer to page 7 & 8 of Gail’s Introductory Manual to Edublogs.

Larry’s New Look

Below is what Larry’s blog now looks like after creating pages, sub-pages and using a widget to link to the sub-pages.

Our next post will show how to create widget that link to sub-pages, a widget for photos and provide tips for decluttering your side bar.

newlook1.jpg

FINAL THOUGHT

We’d love feedback on Larry’s blog makeover, please check it out and provide your thoughts on further improvements. And if you’re in the process of a blog makeover let us know so we take a look!

Other posts in our “blog makeover” series include:

If you are enjoying reading this blog, please consider Subscribing For Free!

Sue Waters

Edublogs Support Manager @suewaters on Twitter

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49 Responses

  1. Kate Olson says:

    This post does a great job of explaining how to choose a good theme. I’ll be letting all of my colleagues (I’m doing some training with them on blogging using edublogs!) know about The Edublogger and may just tell them to Ask Sue for many of their questions :-) I struggled quite a bit with choosing a theme for my personal blog (and thanks for all the help, Sue) and finally found one I’m happy with. The one Larry chose is the one I have on my classroom blog and a blog I’m doing as a collaborative project with some other teachers.

  2. dogtrax says:

    Larry did a great job of approaching his blog from the aesthetic point of view and your tutorial here is helpful. Also, I have used Gail’s handout in workshops before (she knows this and I deeply appreciate her work on our behalf).
    All these concepts draw me in yet again to the sense of community that can be developed here in the edublogging world.
    Thanks
    Kevin

    PS — I guess we should note, though, that if you do make over your blog and most of your readers are via RSS, they may not even be aware of the change. In my Bloglines, everything looked the same, so it is helpful to let readers know and invite them in to the site.
    And as readers, it is nice to sometimes leave the confines of RSS and venture out into the blogs themselves.
    Just a thought or two …

  3. I feel like I was the recipient of a wonderful gift from Sue! I appreciate Kevin saying that I did a great job approaching my blog from the aesthetic point of view. However, my aesthetic taste, as my wife would affirm strongly, is non-existent.

    I have to admit my role in the redesign primarily consisted in getting a series of emails with suggestions from Sue asking me if she should make this or that change in the design, and my quickly responding “yes” each time.

  4. tasteach says:

    In my few days of blogging, I had visited Larry’s blog and the new format is certainly more professional looking. Well done Sue and Larry. Making me think now about my theme…….

  5. Sue Waters says:

    Thanks Kate – hope it helps your teachers with learning Edublogs. Please encourage them to ask questions because it helps me work out what information I need to write in posts. Definitely agree with themes – takes me ages to make up my mind.

    Hi Kevin (Dogtrax) – agreed Larry does an excellent job with his blog, and was grateful for the opportunity to assist him as he shares so much with others. Gail’s handout is fantastic. Good point about the RSS and I will definitely mention this is the next post.

    Larry – I was just pleased that you let us help with the makeover. But you should give yourself credit for some of the decisions as you did provide suggestions of which themes you preferred and I just helped you then make it work better.

    Sue – Thanks for your feedback on Larry’s blog makeover. I regularly go past your blog and really love your theme. Well suited to your blog. Very clean, professional and grabs attention. I think you’re doing really well.

  6. tc65 says:

    I am always looking for ways to make my blog better so was interested in Larry’s ideas. Thanks

  7. Sue Waters says:

    Hi tc65 (I think Mrs C) – glad you liked the posts on Larry’s blog makeover. Your blog for your class is looking really good.

  8. Joel says:

    Great stuff here! I totally overhauled my blog at the beginning of the year and tried to make it as user-friendly as possible.

    I added Gravatars to comments and posts (guest posts display the guest author’s avatar).

    I completely changed the color scheme.

    I justified and spaced out the text to make it easier to read.

    I switched the headlines to small caps.

    I redesigned the logo to match the new color scheme.

    I separated comments from trackbacks.

    This post is a great example of how it all fits together!

    • cvivian says:

      I’ve just been looking at some of the blogs mentioned here – so many good ideas! Hope you don’t mind some poaching.
      One thing I’ve only just discovered that has made my pages both look better and be easier to create is the “Add gallery” button. I’ve been inserting photos into pages one at a time, trying to place them, trying to get them the right size… wish I’d discovered that button a year ago!
      Thanks to all for the great tips.
      Catherine

  9. Sue Waters says:

    Hi Joel – thanks for telling us about your blog makeover. Your blog definitely looks user friendly now.

  10. alicemercer says:

    Sue, you did a fantastic job with Larry’s site. Can we discuss the choice of header images vs. text? I think the header images and adding Larry’s photo are great because his posts are text-only. This gives a nice visual to soothe the eye. OTOH, at In Practice I’m thinking of having pics in the posts more often and on my blog I already do have a lot of images going up, so I went for a no header image theme. This keeps all the images from competing with each other. Another option is to make a fancy text based top image like this one (I know Fjords is a weird layout for a theme, but I had reasons for picking it). I used cooltext for that header. My takeaway: If you are doing a visual blog, skip a photo image on top.

  11. Sue Waters says:

    Hi Alice – Glad you liked Larry’s makeover and interesting question regarding header images vs. text. But first I have to ask how are the cookies you mentioned you might have to bake for Larry coming along?

    I’ve had a quick look at a few of the professional blogging sites to see their preference for text vs. image. Definitely the text of the site name dominates their header and if an image is present it tends to one side. Doesn’t appear to be influenced by use of images in posts. Trouble is, as you know, we have limited options to customise. I personally like using one with a customisable header so I can at least adjust this aspect.

    In terms of images in post, I’m definitely a visual person and think good use of images helps break up posts.

  12. noob says:

    In my few days of blogging, I had visited Larry’s blog and the new format is certainly more professional looking. Well done Sue and Larry. Making me think now about my new theme….

  13. noob says:

    Im a bit of a noob at this tho

  14. kelly802hostos says:

    nothing much is happening with my life is boring as always…wow

  15. smk4mks says:

    SMK 4 Makassar, adalah sekolah menengah kejuruan yang berlkasi di Makassar

  16. jaafox says:

    hey guys i love the edublogger u guys have some sweet tips

  17. free2b says:

    Wow, an article headlined “getting more out of your widget,” could compete with “getting more out of your gas dollar(s). This is all new for me, but I’m finding it all fascinating…

  18. laila02 says:

    I read in spabish no english…..
    yo leo en español no en ingles…..

  19. mcarls says:

    Thank you for the tips, I need to come back and update mine (I tried once, but want it to look nicer). Thanks again for the help ….. I’m too Vanilla, white shirt and Khaki pants, ham sandwich every day. Need to spice up the blog, though.

  20. Unique Gifts says:

    A blog should give an impression that it is going to provide the visitor something new and unique always. The theme,content,graphics and arrangement of various elements should reflect the attitude of the blog in general.

  21. jimirobbo says:

    i am finding this page parent thing a real nightmare at the moment, i want to make sub pages but when i put them on a parent page i can no longer find them. can anyone suggest what i am doing wrong?

  22. Mark Goldner says:

    Is there a way to make several images cycle through on a page; either set for a certain amount of time, or randomly chosen each time the page is displayed? I have many pictures of my students and it would be fun for the main image to change frequently.

  23. hibahaj says:

    thank you for all the tips that pass by as we work on the blog.
    I wonder how I can make a blog effective for students in grade 1.
    or how to make them involved in it in an easy accessible way.
    I’m a grade one english teacher.

  24. alliereid1 says:

    kp’

  25. cc11 says:

    abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

  26. jimmiller5417 says:

    What amazes me is that, in all of discussions, and after looking hard, there is absolutely nothing about how to load a template for my new blog. How did I (or you) miss this point?

  27. mattkeeper says:

    Hi cc11,
    Are you on here for RVOC

  28. eastcarpupil says:

    Rosieposie

    you can make it simpil

  29. jennifertse says:

    what odes the voki thingy do??

  30. elizabethxwo says:

    merry christmas!

  31. elizabethxwo says:

    hello?

  32. jellybelly68 says:

    How do you embed video?

  33. Tony Searl says:

    Hi Sue
    Yep I too am trying to give my ‘Sliced Bread’ some new fresh crust, but getting a new avatar to load just aint happening. It turns to a black box, thats worse than my old one.

    Thanks for the twitter help, its always appreciated.

    I’m walking away now, 3 deep breathes, and then I’ll scream in frustration at not being able to do what I need to.

    Nevermind, I’ll come back later and James will have fixed it, I’m sure.

    • Sue Waters says:

      Hi Tony- I must admit I tried changing mine the other day and it didn’t work. I’ve just tried again so lets see if it works for me now. Sounds like you are doing a bit of a blog makeover. Let me know if you need any help.

      Now for the test.

  34. sadegh says:

    audilogy

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