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!]


  1. hi there
    i'm here for the first visit to your blog..
    it looks so nice and pretty cool..
    congratulations for the new look.. really looks artwork..
    best regards

  2. This is looking really cool! Well done Katherine! Love the new look!

  3. This new template works well for the blog Katherine. I like it.

    I have been toying with some changes but haven't had time to do much about it. Soon.

    With changes to overall view and the addition of more pages, blogs are making websites redundant I think. I can't imagine why I'd spend money on a site if I can have pretty much all of this, bar the domain name - in a free blog.

  4. I like the new look and the cool colours you've chosen. (That's cool as in not warm but both meanings apply! ;)) To be honest, I was impressed with your layout before - I could never figure out how to make 3 columns - but this one looks neat and it's easy to see things at a glance. I've changed mine and I'm much happier with the look. I like the soft colours they have as they seem to enhance artwork. I found the white was too stark and the grey I had on my other blog slightly dark but I couldn't tweak it. Something I noticed is that when I was writing, the text is centred and it too a while to work out that you have to click each paragraph individually to centre left. So far, I'm happy with what I've seen, the templates are classier than the last lot and it suits the basic stuff I do!

  5. Well this is good news if it all works! I've been frustrated with the limited formatting options. On the other hand, perhaps I should be painting (or something productive around the house!) and not dinking on the blog til all hours!!

    Thanks for the very explicit information.

  6. I've only recently switched to a stretch format, and find it suits my short posts very well, usually allowing two or three on the screen at a time. But what you said about people using smaller screens on netbooks and viewing windows side by side on larger screens gives me pause... I've had comments that people can't always get all my pictures...? And I've had problems with dark blue backgrounds and flaring pink links... But I really, really like the stretch format! What to do?

  7. Hi all,

    I like the new format very much. Easy on the eye and accessible too. The new 'boxes' are great, no danger of mis-reading sections. A practical and stylish solution! Well done.

  8. I like the clean new look of this template. Silly me, I took it at first to be something to do with your new MAC - but that didn't make sense. So, of course, you've done your excellent job of breaking it down for us.

    My first thoughts-
    I never could figure out how to do those colored word boxes - now I won't have your example to envy on that anymore, eh?
    I rely on the stretch (Minima) for the graphic basis of my blog. I am troubled that stretch isn't available, so I'll have to look at that closely (thanks for the heads up on that).
    Given my own penchant for toying with the blog, and for always troubling with clutter, I hope these new blogger templates can offer me something.
    I especially like the way your tabs look - outlined or boxed as they are. Very easy to see.


  9. Did you see the Add CSS functionality under the Advanced tab? You should be able to add all the stylings you want there.

    We want users to use CSS instead of HTML to style their blog. Heaving editing HTML will preview Blogger from updating your blog with the latest feature updates. But if you just add CSS you'll be fine.

  10. You're looking new and snazzy! I need to check this out. I've actually recently been thinking the same as you about the stretch templates. While I use one I do think getting back to narrow will be useful for new smaller laptops.

  11. Looking good Katherine well done :)

  12. Just done mine. Very exciting! By the way you CAN use your own background photo, but you'll need to edit it in the html and have it uploaded somewhere to link to. (I store it on my own website server.)

    This was actually much easier to edit than the last time I changed template I must admit. So pleased with the result which didn't even take an hour!

  13. I need 'step by step' for things like that!

  14. I like it. I too need step by step. but to have all in one place is good. well done Katherine.

  15. Congratulations Katherine! I find you blog now easier to read, easier to navigate and with a clear structure. Looks as if you have opened the door to the next level of blogging, again.

  16. When I viewed the blog in the previous format it just showed the current entry. In this new format it is showing multiple entries and as a result is taking a long time to load. This give a long delay before I can do things such as scrolling down through the page.

  17. Hi Aidan. Thanks for the feedback

    Your oprevious view might have been from a link to a specific post - that always goes to just one blog.

    The normal way in which this blog loads from its URL is to multiple entries.

    The reason it takes a long time to load is because it's four years old, has nearly 1,500 blog posts (most of which are quite long) and because of all the links to other sites in the blog and in the sidebar.

    I am thinking it's maybe time for a spring clean and a bit of a prune.

  18. You can adjust your blog width by going to layout->Adjust width if you want stretch templates.

  19. Shameela - stretch templates work in percentages and don't specify a specific number of pixels. That way they resize automatically for whichever size screen they are being viewed in

    If you use the width commandment you are increasing or decreasing by a specific number of pixels to a new number of pixels

    If you therefore stretch the template you run the risk that some people will not be able to see all your page without odjusting their screens

    The standard should be that readers don't have to do a thing - they should just be able to read EVERYTHING on the page.

  20. I really like this look... It is compact and easy to browse through... especially on a blog like yours where there is sooooooo much of quality information that one would not want to miss any bit of it...


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