Friday, March 12, 2010

A new look blog!

A new look for Making A Mark

Yesterday Blogger published its new templates and template designer for Blogger. This post tells you where to go to find out more information about both aspects of the changes - and about my experience of implementing a new template on this blog

At the end I've got some questions.

Information about the blogger template changes

The following is official information from the people who run Blogger
The Blogger Template Designer is our big first step in improving not just our template designs, but all the ways that you can customize the look and layout of your blog. If you try out the Blogger Template Designer, you’ll find:
  • Fifteen new professional templates to start from (and more on their way)
  • Custom blog layouts with one, two and three columns
  • Hundreds of free professional background images from iStockphoto, the leading microstock image marketplace
  • Customizable colors, fonts and more
If you want to try it, you need to go to to log in to Blogger in Draft (which you can only do if you've updated from Classic Blogger)
Show off your new design on Twitter by tweeting your blog’s URL with the hashtag #newbloggertemplate. We’ll be looking for creative designs to feature in upcoming blog posts or as Blogs of Note.
Some issues I've spotted
  • It looks very good. In reality it's rather less exciting than it seems at first as it was always possible to make quite a few changes to the templates before if you were prepared to grapple with the html code.
  • The main change is that Blogger has now made it much easier to make changes if you can handle WYSIWYG but not html.
  • They are also promoting colour schemes which should enable some blogs to have a better visual impact.
  • The downside is that the nice simple coding of some of the previous templates has been lost and in consequence it's difficult to see how to introduce tweaks which worked before. For example - how do I reintroduce my coloured boxes for the blockquote function when the template doesn't apparently have any code for the blockquote function?
  • It's possible to now have a photo as a background (with a good selection from iStockphoto - which is good. However people are commenting that it's not possible to upload your own photo to use as background. (I've not tried this)
Some practical tips
  1. Do save and make a copy of your existing template before you start trying out a new template. Remember also that it needs to be saved as plain text otherwise your template will not work if you want to upload it again. Saving it in Word is a big mistake - save it in notepad or text editor as plain text.
  2. Have a play around and try out all the different templates before you start making changes to colours etc. As soon as you try out a new template in Blogger Draft mode you'll lose all the changes you made while in draft mode. Your existing blog is not affected until you save the changes you made (when you click the APPLY TO BLOG button on the top right hand side of the Blogger Template screen). Which also means you lose any tweaks if you swop around between templates before you save.
  3. Don't bother looking for any stretch templates - there aren't any. I liked the stretch templates as they meant they automatically resized for the size of screen being used to view the blog. I'm coming round to thinking that swopping back to narrower templates is not such a bad idea as people are using smaller screens with netbooks and viewing windows side by side on larger screens.
  4. Make a note of the code of the colours you like in the old blogger template before you start changing things. I've got all mine written down on a post it note on my pinboard!
  5. Do try modulating the colours and colour combinations they suggest. I've gone for different shades of the colours I usually use.
  6. Try setting up a spare blog to act as a beta testbed. I find this is a good way of trying out lots of different ways of styling a blog without inadvertently messing up the template of the one you want to change
  7. (Update: I forgot to say!) Don't forget to make a note of the bits of necessary code (eg Google Analytics) and anything else which you need to ensure is included in the new template
For the record this blog started off as the Awesome template (the one on the right).

Some thoughts on the template developments

I'd really like to know more about which templates deliver the cleanest code in terms of fast loading. With a four year old blog with nearly 2,000 posts and with my tendency to do heavy duty posts in terms of text and images I'd like the most efficient script possible. What I'm seeing is a lot more complex code which I'm guessing is not as clean and simple as it could be.

Fancy script which slows my blog down does not interest me. I wonder whether Blogger can maybe develop some sort of 'efficiency' rating for each of the templates so we know when functionality is losing out to style.

Questions about the Blogger Template developments
  • What do you think of these latest developments in Blogger Templates?
  • Do you like the Blogger Template Designers?
  • Have you changed your blog?
  • What would you most like to see as a Blogger development?
and most important of all - what do you think of the new look Making A Mark?

PS - Expect me to keep tweaking the template! I find that I rarely get it the way I want it first time.

[Update: Title text is now centred through a simple insert of code in the CSS window - and I've changed Travels with a Sketchbook in...... too!]