The TipsI'm shallow when it comes to blogs - I like nice looking blogs. I am more likely to read a blog if the layout intrigues me. The layout should do two things, in my mind - enhance and frame the content, and scream the author's personality. The first covers readability, post formatting and "clutter", while the second covers color choices, images, descriptions and the title.
Readability- Main blog content should be on a pale background with darker text. Many people want to be different and use an inverted colour scheme, but there's a reason most websites use the former: it's far easier to read.
- Appropriate font size and font choice. The choice between a serif and sans-serif font is a great one: make the choice wisely. Keep your post font somewhere near the 12 point area - too big and it looks silly, too small and it's hard to read. Also, don't italicize your entire blog. I know you want it to look like script but just... don't.
- Make use of whitespace. Whitespace is your friend. This means paragraphs in posts and padding in widgets.
- Prune back your widgets on a regular basis. Having auto-playing music, a fish pond and thirty "blog farm" badges may seem fun and useful to you, but it really screams "I SHOULD BE ON A GEOCITIES DOMAIN"
- Ads are the great divider - torn between the average person's hate for ads and the desire to make money, many small-time bloggers choose the latter. I prefer not to see ads - I feel they are often glaring and jarring, and sort of... desperate. For the average blogger, they're not worth it anyway.
Personality- Choose your title wisely. Don't name your blog "My random musings" because that's not very interesting, descriptive or attention-capturing. Make it something that rings, something unique!
- Add a description - either a tag line for your blog, use of the Text widget, an author bio, or a whole "About" page. Believe it or not, readers want to know about you.
- Keep an overall colour theme. I often see people with mismatching backgrounds, font colours and images. Stick to a fixed colour palette, or stay within the same shade of colours. While I use a stupid number of colours on my blog, they are roughly the same shade - none are strangely pale or dark compared to the rest. (A great tool for this is Colorpicker.com. The links at the bottom where it says "generate color scheme" will do exactly that.)
- Create a header image. There are plenty of free tools and tutorials online. A header image for your blog really makes it stand out. But please.... Don't make it in MS Paint.
Collapse the Archives widget
The archive widget doesn't get used often - but it's a standard widget and useful to have if you want to know your posting frequency. It can, however, take up a lot of vertical space in a sidebar, especially if you write frequently and have long post titles. Here's how to modify the widget so it is collapsed down to years by default, instead of expanded into post titles.
Collapse the labels widget
If you're someone who has many labels for your posts, they can take up a lot of room. I actually use two labels widgets - one with a small number of handpicked labels, and a collapsed version of the labels widget for all labels. If someone is interested in seeing all labels, they can click the [+/-] to expand them all, and people who wouldn't want to see all the specific labels don't have to look at a pile of links.
Create a favicon
Favicons are the small picture that are displayed next to the URL bar in a browser, on tabs and are used next to bookmark links on most bookmarks toolbars. Usually they are a 16 x 16 pixel version of the site's logo, but they could be anything you want them to be - they can even be animated. I haven't made a favicon for Phile Not Found, but I did make one for Gallery No. 3:
Here's instructions on how to make your blog have a favicon, and here's the simple, free favicon .ico file host they recommend - Picasa and Photobucket and many other photo hosts won't allow you to upload a .ico file.
If you're comfortable editing your template HTML, you may want to consider using embedded fonts on your blog for some elements. Google hosts and provides several webfonts - from simple serif fonts to special fancy fonts. They make a great accent and are easy to use - just include the link to the font file hosted by google before the <head> tag in your template, and then you can refer to the font by name anywhere else in the CSS.
Linkwithin is a widget that sits at the bottom of your posts and directs the user to other posts of yours that they may be interested in - determined partially by labels, and partially by black magic (the developers haven't said how, exactly, they determine it.) You can customize its appearance as well the number of posts it suggests. It's a really nice little widget and it helps older posts get some love. It is really easy to install and available on multiple blogging platforms. You can get it here
Define your copyright
Everything you write, create or photograph has full copyright awarded to you - no one may do anything with it without your permission (outside of the freedoms granted through "fair use" or "fair dealing"). Many people find this to be tedious and want to grant more freedoms - for example, they may want to allow anyone to publish photos and excerpts as long as they are attributed and linked back. Instead of writing all this out yourself, you can point to a copyright license, such as a flavor of Creative Commons. It is nice to see authors who have given some thought to their copyright and sharing.
For example, everything I've made on this blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license - anyone can use or modify anything here as long as they attribute me, don't sell it, and maintain it under the same license.
Properly embed photos
One thing I've noticed many bloggers are bad at is formatting photos. It only takes a bit of effort and practice to learn how to manage images in HTML, and with it you can neatly insert images and let text flow around it, align them left or right or center, resize and link. This is a great tutorial covering all these basics, as long as you ignore the platform specific language like "lens".
Make your comment box bigger
The default embedded comment box on Blogger blogs is tiny and awkward looking - it never fills the whole width of the container it is in. Here is a guide to making your embedded comment box wider.
Hide large widgets on post pages
Some widgets aren't needed on post pages, or on other pages. Some widgets are too large to fit on normal post pages - for example, my blogroll is quite tall, and it can stretch some post pages. If the widget isn't essential, you can tell blogger to hide the widget on certain pages.