Category Archives: Blogging Beautifully
Some of the most common questions I get asked are based around using images on your blogs, so as part of the Blogging Beautifully series I’ve put together a couple of general tips about using photos. If you wish to grow your blog and readership then it’s essential to recognise the importance of getting this right. The internet is a visual world, and to attract regular readers to your blog it’s necessary to make sure that it’s a visually appealing space. There’s nothing more unattractive online than a site which has images or graphics that are too small, large, cluttered, fuzzy, unorganized, overlapping or just plain messy.
1 - The first and most important part of using photos in your blog posts is getting the size right. Images should be the width of your blog post, or close to it. It doesn’t need to be exactly right, just as long as the images are not too large and overlapping the borders of the post, nor too small leaving a lot of awkward white space between the edge of the image and the border of the post content area.
2 - If you’re using portrait sized photographs then either put them together as a group of two or more (like this), or emphasize one portrait photo by making it the same width as your blog post (I do this whenever I want to highlight a particular photo, like this one). Another great option is to wrap your text around the photo (like I did with the shot on my About page).
3 - If you don’t know the width of the post area in your blog template then don’t worry. It’s pretty easy to figure it out by resizing your photos a couple of times and placing them in a test post until you get the size just right. Start with an image you know is too small, make it larger by resizing it in a photo editing program, then keep checking the new size in your test post until you get the perfect fit. This is the size that you should use for all images in your future posts.
4 - A common mistake I see bloggers make is having post areas that are just too large and using huge photos to fit into them. Giant photos can be overwhelming and detract from the written content of your post, not to mention the fact that they can take a long time to load. If you don’t know how to tweak the width of your blog then it may be time to look at switching to a smaller template.
5 - The other most common mistake I come across is bloggers using images that are much too small for their post content areas. Your images are just as important as your written content in terms of keeping a reader interested. If we can’t see your photos properly because they’re just too small, then they’re not likely to hold our attention for very long.
6 - It’s also important to make sure you’re not using images that are too large. They will either overlap untidily or look squashed within the confines of your post borders. They’ll also take much longer to load and leave your readers waiting.
7 - Some blogging platforms or templates will automatically resize your images as you put them into posts. This can distort the photo, making it look squashed or out of proportion. In the post settings for each image make sure that they are displayed at 100% and not more nor less.
8 - It’s a bad idea to make a photo bigger by resizing it in Photoshop or a similar program. Unless you’re resizing it a tiny amount, making an image larger will cause it to appear fuzzy and unclear. If the image you want to use is too small for your post then look at the idea of grouping it with other photos or wrapping your text around it as mentioned above in point 2.
9 - If you’re creating a photo mosaic, then the trick to avoiding a distorted and uneven result is to resize each of the images you’re using to the exact same width before you start. This will make sure they fit evenly together and look their best. It may still take some reshuffling to get everything to fit together smoothly, but you’re starting from a good point and shouldn’t end up with distorted images.
10 - When resizing an image before using it in your post, you only need to set the resolution to 72dpi. It’s not necessary to have a higher dpi when resizing for use online, and a much higher resolution will make photos slower to load. Don’t be daunted by the term ‘dpi’ – it’s just a simple change you can make while resizing.
11 - It’s worth investing in a photo editing program like Photoshop Elements to help you edit and resize images correctly. It’s not as expensive as the full version of Photoshop, but it should be enough if you’re not planning on getting too into photography and image/graphic editing. You can download a free trial version to test it first.
If you don’t want to spend money on a program then you can try downloading the GIMP which is free open source software that should have everything you need. I’ve used the GIMP in the past, but found that it was much less intuitive to use than Photoshop Elements and I got quite frustrated. But if you have time and patience then it’s worth learning how to use it. Picasa is another free option, but it won’t allow you as much control as other programs.
12 - If you’re using an image that you didn’t take yourself, and it’s not a stock image that you’ve paid for, then it’s essential that you always credit the source. That doesn’t mean linking to Pinterest or We Heart It, that means finding out the photographer or blogger’s name and linking to them in the post. If you don’t know the original source then you can use Google’s Image Search or Tin Eye to search for it. Or if you use Firefox then there’s an excellent add-on called Who Stole My Pictures that will use several image searches all in one go.
13 - When placing images into your blog posts it’s important to give them a fitting description. If you use relevant keywords it will help users searching those keywords on image search engines to find your blog. It will also be the text that automatically appears when a user pins one of your blog photos to a Pinterest board, so it can be a useful idea to write a good description with your blog title in it.
All of the above tips can also be applied to your sidebars and other content areas. They are just as important as your actual posts, and it’s good practice to make sure that there is continuity in the size of the images you use in these areas.
That’s all the photo tips I have for now. I’ll write another post in the near future about simple techniques you can use to make your photos look their best, even without owning a fancy camera. In the meantime if you have any tips that I haven’t thought of then please share them in the comments below, other bloggers may just benefit from your experience.
Earlier this week my sister Aisling, who blogs about her quilting business over at Bazaar, mentioned something on Facebook that resonated deeply with me. She had come across an image on Pinterest that read “If your dreams don’t scare you then they’re not big enough” – a quote that’s popping up online quite a bit recently – and was struck by the amount of pressure we put ourselves under these days. Pressure to achieve impressive heights of success, to have dreams that are unique, quirky and trendsetting, to inspire others with the way we live our own lives.
While I love inspirational words and graphics – I have a Pinboard devoted to them – Aisling has an important point. A quote like that can motivate, or it can increase the pressure. What’s wrong with having ordinary dreams? Ones that don’t scare, but instead encourage us to move forward with our lives in small and satisfying ways. One of my big dreams is to have a garden someday. There’s nothing remotely scary about that, but it’s something I know will add to my personal happiness. It pushes me to make the changes in my life that will enable me to have that garden, but it’s not something that I’m afraid to go out there and achieve; dreams don’t always work like that.
In the last decade the online world of blogging and creativity has exploded. The amount of innovative and talented people adding their voices to the blogosphere is staggering. I’ve said this before, but I find myself constantly in awe and delighted at all the talent out there, and at the willingness of so many creative people to share their work and artistic knowledge. Reading through my feeds each day is inspiring.
But in the middle of this creative sharing culture, it can be easy to feel like you’re floundering. There are literally over a million blog posts published each day. With blog after beautiful blog to browse through it can become overwhelming. If your self confidence isn’t sturdy it’s easy to lose yourself in envy, hopelessness and competition. And which of us hasn’t felt like that at some point? It happens, we’re human, we want more, want to be more.
The quote that Aisling spotted is representative of this flip side of our creative culture, of the pressure we place upon ourselves to keep up, to be more, to present a sophisticated life and art to our readers. Ez of Creature Comforts wrote a blog post about this recently. Her honesty and bravery is touching, and has inspired many other bloggers to follow suit and begin being more open and honest with their own readers. It’s encouraging to see others start taking part in a conversation about it. It sets us free to be ourselves.
What I want to say is this: if your dreams are big enough for you, then they’re big enough.
Don’t get caught up in the anxiety of a culture that can push us to be more than we want to be. Learn to be comfortable with yourself. The key is to focus on you instead of on others. Ask yourself ‘what do I really want from life’ and ‘what do I want my blog to represent?’. Your readers will appreciate an honest approach, and it’s far more satisfying than feeling you’re just trying to keep up.
We don’t need dreams that scare us – they’re called nightmares – we need dreams that reflect who we are, and what life honestly means to us. We need dreams that excite and propel us forward. Sure, some of them will be daunting, but if we’re dreaming big because we think we’re supposed to, then it’s time to reevaluate.
Dream big enough for you, that’s all the dreaming you need to do.
I was asked to do a guest post for another blogging project about why I love my blog. Unfortunately the project never quite got off the ground, so I’m sharing it here today instead.
It makes a great post after a brief break from City of Blackbirds, I really missed being able to blog last week. It turns out the new glasses weren’t the only things making me stumble, I also managed to pick up a viral infection that made me really dizzy, so have been unable to actually focus long enough on a computer screen to blog until now!
If you blog I’d love to hear what it means to you and why it has so much of a hold over your heart. If you have a graphic about it please send links, I’d love to start a Pinterest board about how blogging rocks!
Hi everyone, it’s time for part two of my Blogging Beautifully series, if you missed part one you can read it here. In the first post I asked you to think about your design in terms of creating a great reader experience, but now I’d like to start giving you some tips to start making your blog a place that readers can happily browse and hopefully return to over and over again!
There are certain elements that a good blog design should always include, the kind of features that make it easy for your readers to explore your content and encourage them to come back again. In this list you’ll find that I write about navigation a lot. That’s because it’s vital for readers to effortlessly find their way around your content, after all you’ve spent so much time writing great blog posts now you want people to be able to read them all!
So what kind of features should a good blog design include?
1 – A header or icon that links back to your homepage. I’ve come across quite a few blogs that make it difficult for you to find your way back to the beginning. I know this may seem unimportant, but actually it can make quite a difference to navigation and is frustrating to experience when you’re deep in exploring a new blog. Make sure that your header links back, or that at the very least you have a link in your sidebar or menu underneath your header, so that readers can make their way back to the start without hassle.
2 – A link to your archives. Quite simply this makes it easy for readers to find their way through your older content, especially if you have a lot of earlier posts. If someone is really enjoying your content then this will help them to explore your older work and encourage them to stay and read a while on your blog.
3 – An About Page. When I find a new blog that I’ve enjoyed browsing through, I always love to read a bit more about the author. I love to know where they are in the world, what their background is, do they have any other online projects, that kind of thing! It can be a great space to explain who you are and what the purpose of your blog is, giving readers a little insight into you and your life. My About Page is one of the most viewed on my whole blog, which really says to me it’s vital to have a way for readers to learn a more about a blog author.
4 – A way to contact you. Either create a Contact Page or leave details in your main sidebar. This way readers can be sure to have a way to get in touch when they have a question or simply want to tell you they love your blog :) Don’t make it hard for people to contact you by leaving this information buried in a paragraph or random blog post.
5 – Ways to subscribe to your blog. So there are lots of options here, an RSS button, a subscribe by email/newsletter link, a link to your Bloglovin page, or something like a Google Friend Connect widget in the sidebar. If you want readers to come back again then make sure it’s simple for them to do so. It’s worth reading up on RSS feeds to understand a little more about how they work.
6 – Links to the most important posts on your blog. What I mean is, if you’re running a certain series or have particular categories/tags that you think people would be interested in reading, then add some links or buttons to them in your sidebar. Again it’s a navigation thing and allows readers to explore your content smoothly. In my sidebar I have a link to all posts that contain my photography as that’s the most important category I want readers to pay attention to.
7 – A short introduction in the sidebar. This will give readers a brief overview of what your blog is all about. Here you can highlight the things you feel are most important about your blog and give readers quick introduction to you. It will help stamp your personality on your blog. If you feel brave enough add a photo of yourself!
9 – Social media buttons are really helpful if a reader loves your blog and wants to find you elsewhere. I know not everyone uses social media, but if you can be found anywhere else on the web and you’d like your readers to find you there, then don’t make it difficult for them to find you. Place icons or links prominently in your sidebar. If can be helpful to make sure that these links open in a new window so that readers can return to your blog once they’ve followed you on Twitter!
10 – A search bar. Again this is all about navigation. I use search bars on blogs quite frequently, if I want to find a certain tutorial, post or recipe for example. They’re a really handy thing to use rather than having to trawl through weeks or months of posts to find the information I’m looking for.
So that’s it for today. At this point I hope you’re thinking about how to make it fun and effortless for readers to browse through your blog. If there are any elements you feel are important in a great blog design then be sure to mention them in the comments section below.
In future posts I’ll write about the more aesthetic elements like your blog header, sidebar and images. If there’s anything in particular you’d like me to cover or if you have any questions then be sure to get in contact!