Upcoming Movie Reviews

After the recent negativity I feel the need to take comfort in some of my favourite stories. I’m going to have a movie spree.

Jane Austen

Some of you may not be aware of this but I am a huge Jane Austen fan. Back in August I purchased a copy of Mansfield Park. I already had Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and the BBC Miniseries of Pride and Prejudice.


I am also a huge fan of Shakespeare and here on the blog I have already reviewed William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet. Later today I am reviewing something a bit unusual in relation to Shakespeare, and over the next week or so I hope to review many of the Austen titles mentioned above. I’ve wanted to review them for some time but I didn’t have the right program to take screenshots. And now I do, so sit back, relax, and get ready for some reviews with screenshots galore. ;)

blog housekeeping

A Quick Note About Comments And Spam

Just so you know – when you post a comment and get a message from WordPress telling you –

Sorry, your comment has been blocked because it contains one or more of the following words: cool.

Please confirm that you really want to post this comment. Note that if you post this comment, it may not show up immediately because it might get flagged as spam and/or moderated.

All you need to do is click on the “Yes, post my comment” button. You simply have to prove you are human, and not a computer script. Okie dokie? You don’t need to go back and edit your comment. :)

This is a part of the TanTan Noodles spam filter – which as of right now has caught 325 spams since the blog has opened – 234 of those since my post on Friday.. I’ve taken a few of the words out but there are a few like “cool” and “sorry” and “great” and “nice” which appear in a lot of spam and they will trigger the filter which then asks you to prove you are human. It tells you what word it is concerned about, so you might just want to avoid that word in the future, but once you click the yes post my comment button your comment will be posted and everything will be fine. ;)

You might want to test it out on this post – use one of the words in a comment and then go through the process.

Back in about 30 minutes with today’s post.

blog housekeeping

A Quick Note About Blog Spam

Right at the bottom of the page, there is a little Akismet icon which tells you how much spam Akismet has caught. However a lot of the spam that arrives here Akismet never even sees it. I’m using a great plugin called TanTan Noodles Simple Spam Filter. It works by taking a lot of the common words used in spam and checking comments to make sure those words don’t appear. If you use one of the words in my spam filter, you will see a message from WordPress which says –

Sorry, your comment has been blocked because it contains one or more of the following words: upskirt.

Please confirm that you really want to post this comment. Note that if you post this comment, it may not show up immediately because it might get flagged as spam and/or moderated.

You then have to manually click on a button to confirm you are human and not a spam bot.

Why am I mentioning this? Obviously because I don’t want you to be surprised if you get that message. Though I think it is unlikely you will be using the words in my spam filter as most of them are drug names and pr0n related words.

I am also mentioning it because on top of the 60+ spam comments caught by Akismet, TanTan Noodles has caught – 91 spam comments. I checked it this morning and 40 of those were from today alone. If you’re on WP and you’re not using the TanTan Noodles plugin, I highly recommend it.

I don’t know why the spammers do it – I just don’t get the point. But while they do it I am grateful for these plugins. I was very anti-Akismet before moving to wordpress after some bright spark put ME in the Akismet spam bin and I kept landing in there when I made comments. I don’t like the idea that one or a small group of people can classify someone as spam, it is open to all kinds of abuse. However now I understand how it works and that I can pull comments out of there easily I’m ok with it. I just have to keep on top of it regularly.

Those of you on Blogger using word verification – you can turn it off and keep your commentors happy, because you’ll never get spammed the way WordPress users get spammed. You don’t need word verification to protect you on Blogger.

blog housekeeping

Welcome To My New Home

I’m hoping you made it here safely.

You may be seeing this on the feed but when you click to the site you may not be able to see the site yet. Never fear, it will happen sometime over the next 24 hours.

When you make it here, please leave a comment to let me know that you can access the site.

You might also want to mention what you think of the new look. I like it, but I am biased. ;)

There is still some work to do on the sidebars and a few other little things like the background color when you leave a comment. Keep checking back over the next few days. If you find any errors can you please shoot me an email.

You can register as a member of the site by clicking on Join This Site, just under the Subscribe icon. Registering means you will not have to enter in your information every time you want to leave a comment.

Today is Tuesday Think Tank day, and I would be posting that before going to bed in a few hours if I were not utterly exhausted. It will be posted tomorrow, which will be Wednesday here but it will be Tuesday somewhere in the world I’m sure.. ;)

Later this week I will talk about the inspiration for the color scheme and the process of changing to WordPress that should have been simple but turned into a trip to Las Vegas with Satan without any cash to get a hotel room or bet on roulette. In other words, very little sleep – or fun – was had by all.

It has been a long week of struggling with code, struggling with servers, struggling with plugins, struggling with importing the blog from blogger only to find that the permalinks were not the same, and having to work out a fix for that. And now, there’s going to be a long couple of weeks going back and editing every post individually – because there is no simple way to bring the photos across, and I figure I might as well redo the categories at the same time. The theme was the simplest and easiest thing we did – it was also the first thing we did. Each time we got a problem sorted, a new problem appeared. The Other Half’s holidays disappeared into a void of trying to make this blog work. I cannot tell you the amount of hours it took. Far too many for something that should have been simple, right?

Still, we survived it with only one major meltdown by me earlier today when I felt like giving up entirely, and now here we are. I am sure I will look back on this one day and laugh, but it’s going to be a long time.. I love the blog design. I’m not as keen on WordPress as I was when I started this process, though. It is better than blogger, but a technical nightmare I hope to wake up from in the morning. Please, let me wake up from a decent nights sleep and let everything be working!

Edit to add – Ok, for now I am turning the math plugin off, until I can work out what is wrong with it. If you had a problem with it can you please comment with exactly what was happening? I edited it to be simple numbers only because I did fail maths and I didn’t want it to be too much work for people..

I’m off to bed – I’m putting the blog into the capable hands of Sephy once he wakes up, and he’ll approve your comments. It is only the first comment which needs approving, after that you’re all set. ;)

blog housekeeping

Important – Your Attention Please

I am about to move the domain to the new blog, this may mean you are unable to access the site for the next 24 hours or so – it may work right away, it depends.

Those of you with the feedburner feed, you will not have to change anything.

Those of you on the old blogger feed, you may find you get a few messages from me saying the blog has moved over the next few weeks, just to remind you to go and pick up the new feed.

I hope to see all of you at my new home shortly! When you get there, can you leave a comment to let me know you got there ok?

This may be the end of the internet as we know it.. ;) hehe

blog housekeeping, moving forward

A Quick Bloggy Update

If you commented over the last week, I’ve just finished replying to all the comments. Apologies for the delay – it’s been a huge week of learning WordPress for me.

I have a test blog up and running and it looks fantastic – no, you’ll have to wait till I launch it ya’all! WordPress is much simpler than I expected and after just one day of playing with it I’m feeling very comfortable – and about ready to flick the switch over to the new blog. I’m going to take some time to play with it. I’d say next Monday will be the moving day.

Let me now admit how terrified I have been about this process. Several times over the last few days the voice in my head has been screaming “RUN AWAY run away! Stay with Blogspot, don’t switch to WordPress. You’re not smart enough. You don’t have the technical knowledge for this”. Well that’s a load of baloney. I am smart enough, I do have the technical knowledge. It turns out all my fears were simply because I did not know how things worked – and now that I do, I can honestly say WordPress is simpler and easier to use than Blogger is.

I did not know how easy it was to modify templates – it is a snap. Just yesterday I was considering paying some big money to get my own unique template built. I completely believe you have to invest in your blog and I’m happy to pay for something that is great and that I was happy with and would never want to change. However I can take a good looking template and switch the colors, change the graphics, just tweak it to suit myself.

I was worried about plugins. I was worried about security. I was worried about a lot of things. Now, I have faith in myself that I can deal with whatever happens. Confidence is a great feeling.

Back in a few hours with a CD review. ;)

blog housekeeping, wordpress

Niche Bloggers Invited – Get Out Of Your Niche – Get Into Mine..

I am inviting any blogger reading this to jump out of their “niche” and make a guest post here on Life In The Country. If you would be interested in participating I would love to hear from you, see below for how to get in touch. I’m going to be asking several of my favourite bloggers and the order they reply in is the order they will be posted – this is your chance to jump in line ahead of them.

Say What?

For those of you reading this thinking “what is a niche blogger?” – that probably means you’re not a niche blogger. ;) Basically it is a blogger who focuses on one topic or one subject or perhaps a group of related topics or subjects for their blogging.

Get Out Of Your Niche –

My blog is called Life In The Country – so you could speak about life in your country. My niche is me, so you could speak about anything relating to yourself. :) Photo blogs are welcome, you can have more pictures than words if you like. You could even blog as your pet, I did that once and it was a lot of fun.

Keep It Clean –

Anything and everything is welcome, with a couple of small exceptions like swear words and material which is disturbing or graphic or overly sexual. ;) That is because my readers expect that from my blog.

Why Would I Want To Guest Post On Snoskred’s Blog?

Life In The Country is currently sitting at number 34 in the Top 100 Australian Blogs. This blog is estimated to have a page rank of 5 at the next page rank update – if Google ever get around to it. On average the blog sees between 2-5,000 unique visitors a week. This is your chance to speak to an audience which might not find your blog otherwise.

How Do I Do It?

Simply send me an email – Click Here To Email Snoskred – and let me know you’d like to get out of your niche. I’ll reply with a date on which your guest post will be published, and then it is up to you to write something. You can supply it as a simple text file and let me know if there is any formatting you want. Photos you want published in the post can be attached as .jpg images.

I’m Not A Niche Blogger –

You’re still very welcome to submit a guest post about life in your country or any other topic if you would like to participate.

I Want To Nominate A Niche Blogger –

Absolutely! Just send me an email with the name of the blogger you want to nominate, a link to their blog, and I’ll get in touch and let them know someone nominated them.

When Does It Start?

Today! I’ll be back in the next hour with the first brave soul jumping out of their niche. ;)

blog housekeeping, Get Out Of Your Niche

Comment Replies

I’m not sure how it happened but I got a bit behind in replying to comments. I have now caught up so if you commented in the last week you might want to check my reply to you. :) Back shortly with the Tuesday Think Tank – Technorati is the topic this week.

blog housekeeping

Do NOT Rely On Your Site Meter.

Today’s Tuesday Think Tank is all about Site Meters. I’m talking about how unreliable they are, how readers of your blog can stop them from working, how you measure your worth as a blogger, and possible ways you could increase your traffic and make sure readers stick around once they get to your blog.

Sephy has written a companion piece to this post – Track Your Visitors with Google Analytics which you should check out. :)

Site Meters Are A Free Service –

It’s rare on the internet to find something that is actually free. Blogger is one thing that is free, and it provides you with a lot of options and things you can do at no cost whatsoever. But if you stop and consider for a moment how much it costs to provide this service to any man – and his dog or cat! – who want to blog.. it costs bandwidth, it takes up CPU time (computer processing unit, your computer has one but so do all the computers at the other end when you look at something on the internet).

Most people who run a website have to pay to run it. They have to pay for server space. That could be as little as $7 a year but the more people who visit your site, the higher that cost can increase.

Consider The Source –

Free can sometimes mean you get what you pay for – i.e. nothing. If you consider these services which are used by so many bloggers but also websites across the www, it takes an enormous amount of “internet juice” (bandwidth, CPU, etc) to run these things. So these people are supposed to provide you with a great service which *costs* them money to provide it and is always reliable and always works, for free? Err, are we asking a bit too much here?

Things Happen –

Servers go down regularly, as any good internet host will tell you. You cannot expect that the information given to you by a free site tracking service is going to be 100% accurate. Unless you want to sit there and check it is working 24/7, which would be a great waste of your time. ;)

These sites also have customers who are paying for the service and if anything goes wrong the first people who they will look after is their paying customers. It makes sense from a business point of view. We cannot expect this free service to be accurate. You can use it as a guide, but that is where it should end.

There May Be Delays –

The information available to you may not be live information. There can be delays – sometimes up to 24 hours or more – with information being tracked and translated. If you post something and then check your counter and think “Nobody’s reading my post!” you may have incorrect information. There could be 50 people reading your post. You might see that days later in your tracker – or maybe not at all, if there was an outage.

It Matters Where You Put It –

If you put the code for your tracker at the very top of your sidebar, you will get different results to putting it lower down on your sidebar. If the code is right at the bottom of the page and it is not Javascript, everything on the page has to load before a “visit” gets counted.

I’ve been trying to find out for certain whether Javascript loads all the scripts on a page at the same time, or one by one in order and not having any luck, so if you know about that can you leave a comment?

People Can Hit Stop –

If your page load takes too long, most browsers have the “Stop Loading This Page” option. You would be surprised how many people use it and how quickly they use it, too. If they stop the page loading before your counter script runs? No data will be sent re their visit.

It Matters What Kind Of Code –

Some trackers are Javascript. Some internet users (myself included) use a Firefox extension called “No Script”. This actually stops any Javascript from loading in a page unless I (the user) personally authorise it. This means if I visit your blog for the first time, and you have a bunch of Javascripts running, they won’t load.

Take for example Statcounter. I have approved statcounter Javascript for any site I visit. That means if I visit a site the Statcounter will load, but none of the other Javascripts will. As an internet user this gives me a LOT more control over how I am viewing the web, but it can also mean my visits to your site won’t be tracked at all.

Why No Script?

I use it because there have been security problems with javascript from time to time, and I sometimes visit websites created by internet scammers. It is a quick and easy way I can tell what is running on a page without checking the source code, and anything I have not previously approved will be unable to run until I do approve it. Here’s what a page looks like when I view it with No Script –


Click for a bigger view. You can see that a little yellow bar runs across the bottom of the page, telling me which scripts I have previously approved are running. It also tells me how many scripts in total are running on the page and when I click on options (the screenshot shows me clicking on options) it gives me more information. I can choose to forbid any of those approved javascripts at any time.

Results Can Vary Widely –

I run two site meters on the site currently – Google Analytics and Statcounter. Feedburner also has a counter built in. Last Wednesday September the 5th –

Statcounter shows – visits 419, page views 861

Google Analytics shows – visits 349, page views 802

Feedburner shows – visits 323, page views 810

Do you see now how these are a bit unreliable? That is a huge difference, especially given two of the scripts (Statcounter and Google Analytics) are right next to each other in the sidebar. Which one of the above should I believe? How can I know how many people actually visited my page?

Don’t Invest Yourself –

If you define your worth as a blogger in how many people visit your site and you are relying on these free tracking tools, you are setting yourself up for heart break. For no good reason. Site Meters should only be used as a guide to the general traffic on your blog, and not as the bible of internet usage or any kind of measure of how many people are reading you.

How Do You Measure?

How can anyone possibly measure their worth as a blogger? At the end of the day, it could boil down some or all of the following –

If you are happy with what you are writing
(if not, work harder on the writing)

If you are happy with your blog template
(if not, test out a new one and consider changing it)

If you are happy with the look of your blog
(if not, take a good look at it, remove anything you don’t like)

If you are happy with your header graphic
(if not, create a new one. If you don’t have the tools, ask for help from other bloggers, run a competition on your blog to have your readers create a new one for you)

If you are happy with the amount of comments you receive
(if not, network. Get out there and meet new people, comment on their blogs, they will comment back)

If you are happy with the quality of your content
(if not, learn more about writing, edit, improve, read this- 10 Easy Ways To Improve Your Blog Writing. )

If you are happy with the relationships you have built with other bloggers
(if not, work on building relationships with other bloggers)

If you are happy with the amount of links back to you from other bloggers
(if not, link to them more and you will find they link back to you, a weekly wrap up is one good way to achieve this)

If you are not happy with any of the above, these are all things you can work on and improve.

You’re in charge –

You can create positive change in any area of your blogging. If I can do it, you can do it. Anyone can do it. Daisy The Curly Cat is doing it, even though it must be hard to type with kitty paws. ;) Love your work, Daisy. :)

Bloggers, don’t make excuses for your inaction. If you don’t have the time and energy to put into your blog, that is one thing. People have real lives. We all have to do the chores, etc. Some of us have jobs to go to. Some of us have kids and family. There is only a certain amount of time and energy we can each devote to blogging. We have to accept that, and be ok with it.


If you DO have the time and energy and you waste it by constantly checking your blog stats instead of networking and building relationships with other bloggers and the zillion things you can do to improve your blog- that IS something you can change.

Consider taking some time to learn to manage time better. To begin with, you could try setting yourself a target – for example, comment on 5 new blogs a day – and then set out to hit that target each and every day. Be pro-active and you will see results :) Be inactive and you’ll get exactly what you put in – nothing. :(

There Are Ways –

To improve the traffic to your blog. See the article – 75 Ways to Increase Your Site’s Traffic – by Tay from Super Blogging for some great ideas. Try some of them out. If they don’t work, try something different.

They Say –If you build it, they will come. I have found this to be partially true. They won’t come unless you tell them where it is first. It is like throwing a party and not inviting anyone, yet expecting people to somehow know you’re having a party and find it anyway, and when nobody shows up you fret and get depressed about it. What did you expect? That people are psychic? ;) That they are somehow able to read your thoughts? That people would magically find your blog out of the literally millions of blogs out there on the net?

Stay Positive –

If you look at your stats and find it makes you negative, unhappy, or inspires you to write posts lamenting the lack of readers and traffic, stop right there.

It is one thing to say to your readers – how can I improve this blog – and actually listen to them when they tell you, and make the changes they suggest. That’s fine, and something we should all do as bloggers from time to time.

It is another thing to throw a full blown tantrum which makes the people who do read and are loyal to you feel like they aren’t worth anything to you as readers. Vent elsewhere. Never do it publicly on your blog.

Don’t Be Negative –

You may remember me writing – 14 Reasons Readers Unsubscribe From Your Blog. As a blogger, it is also not good to –

– engage in bitch brawls with other bloggers (not only will the blogger feel attacked but their readers will too, it’s one way to make many enemies at once!) or spend time attacking other bloggers in a negative manner
– post whiny, whinging posts regularly (more often than positive content)
– post things which made your readers feel physically ill (keep your poop and vomit stories away from me!)

Some Things Should Never Be Blogged About.

You know how we all have topics we simply refuse to write about? For some of us it’s sex, religion, drugs, rock and roll, bowel movements, whatever. I suggest it is in a bloggers best interest to add “lack of blog traffic” to the list of topics they will never ever blog about. But feel free to blog up a storm when traffic is good or exceeds your expectations.

I Know This Is True –

Once they arrive, if you do not build it, refine it, work on it, tweak it, make it better, make it load fast, make it pleasing to their eye, and create good content, they won’t stick around long. It’s no easy task and it requires you to be the master of many different subjects – or at least to know a little bit about them.

Blogger can let you down-

Sometimes my page load is slow because of Blogger – again we’re back to what you get for free. Sometime in the next few months this blog will be moving to WordPress, and I will have a lot more control over things like that. It will cost me money but I’m worth it – and so are my readers. :)

Further Reading –

I want to draw your attention to the section – Bloggers Are Helpful – in my sidebar for your further reading today. There’s a lot of great posts in there from bloggers that can help you to improve your blogging.

Over To You – What are your thoughts on blog traffic and site meters? Have you ever run any kinds of tests to investigate how accurate they are? How many times a day do you check your stats?

If you liked this post, give it a Stumble. :)

blog housekeeping, blogging tips, commenting on blogs, tuesday think tank

Blog Design – Open Your Eyes.


Do you blog for you, or for your readers?

This is a serious question that every blogger needs to consider carefully. If you blog for yourself, you will choose a blog design that appeals to you, not caring what your readers think. If you blog for your readers, you probably will think about what your readers would like to see when they visit your blog.

If you blog for your readers and you chose your design for you? You might be upsetting potential new readers without even thinking about it.

Some Food For Thought

Light Is The Norm

If I could design my blog to look how *I* want it to look, the background would be dark instead of light because I find dark backgrounds easier on my eyes. I design this site for the readers, which means light is the best choice. Not everyone has an LCD screen yet. Dark backgrounds on a CRT screen (the older style of monitor which is more like a TV) are difficult to view.

Dark text on a light background is what the majority of Internet users are used to. It is what they see on most websites they visit. They are so used to it that when you make a site with a dark background color, they react negatively without knowing why. If you want to appeal to the broadest range of people, you have to take things like this into consideration.

Everyone Sees It Differently

On a forum I used to visit – it is no longer in existance sadly – they had a very dark blue color scheme.. People reading the forum on the older CRT screens often had to highlight the text with their mouse in order to be able to read it.

Users had been doing this regularly for some time BUT NOBODY TOLD THE SITE OWNER they were having so much trouble with the color scheme until the owner was considering making a change to the site themselves. I cannot imagine how annoying it must have been for those people to read the forums.

The Psychology Of Color

When designing a site it is important to consider the psychology of color. When I was a part of the team putting together a scam warning website – which also no longer exists – we looked into what would be the best color for a website designed to support scam victims.

The three colors we considered using on the site were blue, lilac and green. These are calming colors. You’ll note these are colors I tend to use a lot here, too.

For more info on color psychology, check out Color_Expert.

Color Is Important

When you’re putting colors together on your site you need to stop and think – do they work together? Do they look good together? They may look ok on your screen but be sure to check how they look on other kinds of computer monitors too.

Take A Moment

If you visit a blog and something about the design truly puts you off, you may want to consider taking a moment to let the blogger know. Politely, of course. If you are a blogger, you may also want to ask your readers.. but..

Will People Tell You The Truth?

Ah, there’s the difficult part. If you have been blogging for a while, you have a little community of people who love your content. If you made your background red with pink text (take a look, I made it especially for ya’all), they’d possibly still read it anyway, or they might seek out an alternate way to read – perhaps via a feed reader or subscribing by email.

Did you like the clashing red and purple title? How far could you read before you thought hell no, I gotta go! If you ask your readers what they think of your site design, they will tell you what they THINK you want to hear. They will be loyal. They will be polite. They will be friendly. They are the equivalent of men telling their wives “No honey, I don’t think it makes you look fat”.

That’s all well and good – and wise on the part of the man and on the part of the bloggers who read you – by now you are probably reading them back and they do not want to risk your readership by being brutally honest.

Unfortunately it does not help you as a blogger who wants to improve your blog design. It does not help you capture new readers. It does not help you to know what they find annoying. Even if you ask them to be brutally honest, some readers will struggle to do so. Not me. ;) Just so you know. ;)

Brace Yourselves Now

I am about to tell you a harsh truth. New readers coming to your blog for the first time? They will hit the close button in that top corner without reading ONE word of your content if they are put off by the color scheme or your header graphic.

If your blog makes their eyes hurt. If it looks like fingernails on a blackboard for the eyes. If your header graphic is poor quality. If your font is unattractive. There’s a multitude of design mistakes you can make as a blogger which will send potential new readers away quicker than you can blink.

Whether You Like It Or Not

There are many blogs out there – and the majority of blog readers will take a blog with good design but lesser content over a blog with bad design and good content EVERY time.

You work hard on your content so you owe it to yourself as a blogger to present it to potential new readers in a way they can see it. Especially given how difficult it is to get people to visit your blog in the first place.

Ask Someone Impartial.

If you want a fresh set of eyes to take a look at your blog the way a new reader would look at it, use my contact form and ask me. I will tell you the truth. I won’t be nasty about it. I’ll just be honest. It might be hard to hear but you may need to hear it. I also will give you ideas for improvement, which is useful.

Resolution Matters

If you are viewing my blog with your screen resolution set to 800×600, you have a vertical scroll bar at the bottom of your screen. My template width is 1000. That means there’s 200 extra pixels you have to scroll to see. In fact that is my entire right sidebar. Not a good look, right?

When I designed the template, I knew about this. I looked at my site stats and saw the majority of my readers (90%) were viewing the site in 1024×768 – which is becoming the new standard these days. It used to be 800×600 but as people change to LCD screens and larger screens they can’t use 800×600*. Unless they are my parents, in which case they will use 800×600 for everything because it makes the text bigger – they are too lazy to wear their glasses!

Make A Decision

So the first thing you need to do when considering a blog re-design is make a decision about resolution – and you need to take into account what your readers screen resolution is in order to do it. This means looking at your counter – bearing in mind counters are unreliable. 800×600 is one way you can go, 1024×768 gives you a lot more space.

If less than 85% of your readers use 800×600, you could go with 1024×768 but know that you run the risk of annoying people who use 800×600. On my site, they’ll miss out on seeing the right sidebar but they get the full main text and the left sidebar. That’s an OK compromise.

I found these excellent articles which are worth a read before you make the decision – How Tall and Wide Should I Design My Website? and also Understanding Monitor Resolution

Don’t Change

There is a blog I removed from both my reader and my links. The reason I removed it is simple. Each time I went to the blog, they were using a new template. They had changed it many, many times over the last couple of months. I feel like they are never going to make up their mind and stick with one template and frankly, I was tired of watching the indecision in progress!

If you want to try out a new template don’t do it on your actual blog that readers visit. Test it out on a test blog first. Blogger makes this easy for you – you can have as many blogs as you want. So does wordpress.com though that is tougher as they make you pay to customise templates.  When you are sure you’re happy with it, install it on your actual blog – and stick with that template for at least 2-6 months.

Change is Hard

People do not like change. We bloggers are constantly tweaking, moving things around, adding things, removing things, making new blocks in our sidebars. I am as guilty of this as the next blogger. I am not saying never change anything, I am saying keep in mind the impact it has on your readers.

Your readers may know where to find something right now. If you move it and they are looking for it, they will be frustrated unless they can easily see where you moved it to. If you feel the need for change (as I recently did with my sidebars) pick one day, post a note to your readers who may turn up mid-changes to “bear with me, I’m changing some things around”, mess with it till you have it as you like it, then let your regular readers know what you have changed or removed via a blog post.

Above The Fold.

The instant first impression a user has of your website is what loads onto their page that they can see without scrolling. This is called “above the fold” – you know those broadsheet newspapers which have a fold on the front page, about halfway down? They know what is above the fold is what people see – and why they buy the newspaper.

It is no different on your blog. Decide what you want people to know about you when they first look at your page, and put that above the fold.

Browser Matters

Most people only use one internet browser. It might be Internet Explorer. It might be Mozilla Firefox. These are the two main ones you will see on your site stats. Do you know how your site looks in the one you don’t use? Do you know how it looks in different versions of the one you don’t use? A lot of people don’t use the latest version of browsers – when they find a stable one they stick with it like super glue.

Do you know how it looks in the rarer browsers like Opera, etc? Make a blog post where you ask people using those browsers to take a screen shot for you. Your readers using those browsers will generally be happy to help out.

IE NetRenderer allows you to check how a website is “rendered” (how it looks) when using Internet Explorer – several versions of it. I am still looking for a version of this for Firefox. Anyone know where to find it?

Flashing is bad

People associate flashing things with advertisements, which are becoming more prevalent on all the websites we visit these days. For Firefox users, you can get an extension called Ad Block Plus – and let your inner self be at peace without ads interrupting your internet. For your personal blog, I do not recommend anything be flashing. It’s annoying to many people.

Template Blend

Blogger has a standard set of templates which people can use. It is easy to just pick one of those and leave it at that. You would be making a major mistake as a blogger if you did, though. Anyone else using that same template can be mistaken for you. It is sort of like walking into a room where everyone is wearing the same outfit. How do you find the people you know, among the apparent clones?

The least you should do is change some of the colors and the font – Sephy’s post will explain how to do that. You can check it out here – Demystifying Blogger Template Editing.

Good Templates Are Out There

You just have to know where to look. Try searching the name of your blog platform combined with free templates and see what you get.

Not Everyone Agrees.

Good design is not easy. There is no one size fits all. If there were, nobody would want it because all our blogs would look the same. As a blogger, what you need to do is make sure you are not turning off new readers by making bad design decisions. Unless you’re writing your blog just for your friends and family, who will love you regardless.

New readers won’t have a chance to love you. They’ll be leaving skid marks with their mouse in order to close your site as quickly as they can, and move on to another blog – where the content may not be half as good BUT they aren’t offended by the design, or the flashing ads, or the music that starts playing without them asking for it, or the myriad of other things you can get wrong as a blogger.

Further Reading –

15 Design Decisions That Annoy Readers – Some seriously annoying things that bloggers do are listed here – do YOU do any of them? ;) I do – I need to look into that Google Ajax search box, adding it to my todo list for tomorrow.
45 Excellent Blog Designs – Inspirational stuff!
Blog Design at ProBlogger – This is the category for Blog Design which contains quite a few useful food for thought posts.
Top 10 Weblog Design Mistakes – I disagree with number 2 – sometimes I think putting a photo of yourself on your blog is a terrible idea and some of the ones I have seen scare me greatly. Number 5 I think a lot of bloggers miss out on. Your top 5-10 posts should be shown above the fold – give readers the chance to access your best posts as soon as they land on your blog. You’ll note I have moved mine to be above the fold now.

Useful Things –

VisiBone Webmaster’s Color Lab – You can test colors against each other here.
Non-Dithering Colors – Gives an explanation of why the 216 color palette is better for use generally, and also all the color codes you may need.
HTML Goodies – Lots of HTML goodness to help any blogger.

Over to you

What are your thoughts on blog designs? Do you like yours? If not, do you want to change it? Do you need help to change it? Sephy is writing a companion post to this one which can help you with a few things.

If you liked this blog post, feel free to Stumble it. :)

*Unless they are my parents, in which case they will use 800×600 for everything because it makes the text bigger – they are too lazy to wear their glasses! This drives both me and the other half absolutely up the wall. They have a wide screen laptop. I’ll take a photo of what a webpage looks on it for ya’all sometime, but in the meantime it looks bad. Trust me. ;) It’s truly fingernails on a blackboard for your eyes.

**Cybercelt left me a great comment about that a while back, letting me know that you can go into your Blogger profile (on your profile page when you are signed in, click edit my profile, then Show my blogs, then Select blogs to display) and choose which blogs are displayed in your profile. If you have more than one, I suggest you choose one to be the main blog, and link to your other blogs from that blog page rather than have them all listed in your profile to make it easier for people to find you, but it’s your profile. ;)

blog design, blog housekeeping, blog template, blogging tips