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 bloggerbuster.com 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 rklau.com (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...
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.