Friday, March 20, 2009

Site design updates, take 2

Took another crack at hacking my site's template over the last few days, mainly to better understand what options are out there for Blogger users. I'd gotten pretty tired of the prior site's design - too much padding between sections, very choppy presentation, and a general lack of consistency through the page. (Didn't take long: this design only lasted a month!)

First step was to pick a template. I chose "Super Custom" from BloggerBuster's template gallery, and then set about hacking away at it. Some of the things I did to modify the underlying template:
  • Swapped out the header for a header image. I took the photo in the header at Yosemite and still really like it. The color choices for the rest of the template stem from this (again, if you need to get colors from a photo, can't recommend this site highly enough).
  • Adjusted the width of the main column and the far-right sidebar. For the stuff I wanted to put in this sidebar, 150 pixels was a bit too narrow. Since the header image was 1024 pixels wide, I adjusted the widths to stretch the content to 1024 pixels as well.
  • Removed the search bar in the navbar below the header image. I prefer the functionality of our Custom Search widget (available on Blogger in Draft), so instead I swapped in a few icons of the places I'm most likely to have additional content (Twitter, Picasa, my CV, etc.).
  • Copied the scripts and images from to my own domain. Amanda's site seems to handle the traffic just fine, but since I now have a ton of unused bandwidth over on (because Blogger is now hosting my blog), it seemed to be more responsible to not have my site hammering hers. (The scripts do things like handle the modification of the date-stamp into a more visually appealing calendar page, handle image loads, etc.)
  • Removed the AddThis button - it's rare that my content shows up on Digg/StumbleUpon/etc. - and removing this meant one less thing to execute on the page. (This button appeared on individual pages, not the homepage.)
  • In deciding which ads to put on the site, followed the guidance offered a few years back on the AdSense blog - nothing earth-shattering, but still useful info if you're looking to add AdSense to your blog.
  • Followed Amanda's own instructions about how to get the embedded comment form to appear in a custom template. This is a simple fix, and I much prefer the embedded comment form to a separate page or a pop-up window.
  • Slightly modified the presentation of comments to simplify the text a bit.
  • Removed the CSS code that hid the Blogger navbar - I actually prefer it, and hope to find more stuff to do with it in the months to come...
Overall, I'm much happier with how the site looks. More importantly, I think it loads more quickly - and I may end up ripping out a few more things to streamline things further.

If you're looking to pick a new design for your Blogger blog, check out some of the recent replies to @Blogger on Twitter: several good recommendations in there. Do you have any tips/tricks on making your Blogger site better? Share them in the comments.


  1. Do you have a link to take you to the homepage? I couldn't find it. I was looking at your original post about the photo and then couldn't navigate back to the homepage.

  2. @Davo: The title on the page is a link back to the homepage, and "Home" is at the bottom of every post... but I agree it's not that visible. Will think about the right way to tweak that. Thanks!

  3. Looks good, Rick. One comment is that the "what's next" and the "related posts by categories" being white on light blue make them almost unreadable. I had to highlight the latter in order to make it out.

    Hope this helps...John

  4. Hi Rick,

    I watched your webinar that is currently available on YouTube (of course)...very well done! I am curious about the interaction between the customizable Google search engine you mentioned and AdWords. Does AdWords still work if someone is filtering their searches that much?

    This is not a direct reply to your post and I do seemed to fit better here than elsewhere :)

  5. @Margie - If you're talking about AdWords working from the perspective of the advertiser, yes, ads are still served on those results and the same targeting works (i.e., matching ads to the search queries). If you're talking about as a publisher incorporating a custom search engine into your site, yes - you can even generate revenue by sharing in the ad revenues generated from searches done on your site.

  6. I love what you've done with this template. But no matter what I try, I can't seem to fix the comments in the super custom template.