Time Stamps on Blogs – How Many Does a Blog Need?

Rachel has been asking some interesting questions about Time Stamps on blogs in an attempt to de-clutter them.

I think it could be an interesting discussion so head over and have your say.

Blog Design for Beginners Part 2

The following post is part 2 (of 3) of a series of guest posts on the topic of Blog Design – written by blog designer, Peter Flaschner from Blog Studio.

In my last post, I described the process we use at The Blog Studio to design a web site. Today, we’re going to take the finished design and turn it into a fully functional WordPress theme.

So, ready? Excellent. For today’s lesson, you’ll need your graphics editor (Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand, Gimp, etc), an ftp program to upload files to your server, and a pencil and paper.

I’m going to gloss over a whole bunch of technical stuff here. The point of this post is not so much to teach you how to write html as it is to give you an insight into the process we use to design and build blogs.

Step 1: Plan the attack
Let’s take a look at the design I whipped up:

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An Introduction to Using Images on Blogs

The following post was submitted by Duncan Riley from the Blog Herald, Weblog Empire and b5media. I asked Duncan to explore the topic of using Images on Blogs. I think you’ll agree that his article below is a very comprehensive exploration of the topic which I hope you will find helpful .

Any good blogger will tell you that images and imagery are vitally important in the development and rise of any good blog, but they are often also quite often the most frustrating, annoying and time consuming aspect of any blogs life as well. None the less its important that you know about them

Types of Images

For ease of use I’ll categorize images on your blog into two categories: design imagery and content imagery. Naturally design imagery incorporates any images you may wish to use in the design of your blog, be that in the header, sidebar or footer. Comment imagery is photos and images you post as part of, or exclusively as a post to your blog. It’s important to understand the differences between the two because although we will be covering a lot of common ground in dealing with both types of images, there are also some separate consideration as well.


Some new blogging tools (such as Performancing for Firefox) allow you to drag and drop images you see on websites and other blogs into your posts, however they serve this image from the source, and that’s generally considered very poor form by most bloggers. You are going to need to be able to save, copy and edit any images you want to use. To do this I would recommend that you consider using Image Manipulation software to give you the freedom to do as you please to your images.

Free vs Paid

Personally I use Adobe Photoshop for all my image editing needs, however, particularly when you are starting out, it would be not dissimilar to learning to drive on a brand new Ferrari. Photoshop is the industry standard image manipulation tool in professional business and is available on Mac and PC, but it’s not a cheap option. Personally I don’t use the latest version of Photoshop because I’m happy with the slightly older version I use as it does everything I could ever want it to (and a whole lot more). You can pick up older versions Photoshop at places like eBay second hand if you can’t afford to buy an new copy off the shelf.

Other commercial programs that are available include Corel Draw and Paint Shop Pro.

If you don’t want to spend money on image editing software though I’d highly recommend downloading The Gimp, which is available for PC, Mac and Linux. It’s a fully fledged Open Source (free) image software package that many claim is as powerful as Photoshop.

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Blog Format Discussion

There has been a bit of talk in the last few days about the need for new ways of formatting blogs.

Michael Parekh talks On Blogs Stuck in a Rut:

‘I’ve long wondered how great it would be if my current blogging platform Typepad (a part of Six Apart) or someone else like Google’s Blogger, WordPress etc., offered more flexible and alternative ways to present content in different forms within the same blog. In many ways, the blogging platforms companies have offered blogging templates that have essentially been frozen in time since blogs were first conceived…. For instance, why can’t we have a blog template with the ability to have multiple tabbed pages?’

Jeff at BuzzMachine suggests that it is Time to blow up blogs:

‘Blogs have already become prisoners of their format. Time to light some dynamite…. The problem isn’t the tools, it’s the templates. Blogging tools are merely content management systems without the million-dollar consultants and bills; that’s what I’m telling newspaper folks who complain that it’s hard to put content online. Templates let you format or unformat your stuff however you like and also include stuff of any medium. I’d love to see more clever examples of templates.’

My own reaction is that while most blogs seem to be doing much the same thing as each other there are many blogs doing interesting things with their templates. Most of them are on non hosted options like WordPress, MovableType and Drupal but really the sky is the limit when it comes to creative formats for blogs.

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Blog Design for Beginners

PeterThe following post is a guest post from the very talented blog designer, Peter Flaschner, as part of the blogging for beginners series.

Hi all. I’m Peter Flaschner, the founder and creative dictator at The Blog Studio. I’m going to walk you through the process we go through when designing a blog or other website. This is part one of two. When we’re done, we’ll have a super flexible WordPress theme perfect for anyone looking to make a buck with a blog.

Design can add tremendous value to a blog. When it comes to making money with your blog, proper web design can make a huge impact on your bottom line. For some reason, I get a lot of resistance when I say this. I think it has to do with one’s perceived definition of design. The typical response I get is ‘ugly sites do well with adsense’. That may very well be true. I bet though, that those same sites would do even better with proper design.

Before we get into this, I need to dispel one further myth: design is not about making things pretty. It’s about making things work to their best ability. Let me quote from

  • To formulate a plan for; devise: designed a marketing strategy for the new product.
  • To plan out in systematic, usually graphic form: design a building; design a computer program.
  • To create or contrive for a particular purpose or effect: a game designed to appeal to all ages.
  • To have as a goal or purpose; intend.
  • To create or execute in an artistic or highly skilled manner.

So, without further ado, let’s design a site. Here’s what we’re going to need: pencil, paper, and a graphics editor (such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand, or Gimp).

We’re going to start by collecting a bunch of information. I know the instinct is to jump straight into your drawing program and start messing around, but it’s not the best approach. You’ll see why as we move through this.

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Keeping Visitors on Your Blog – Give them Something else to Read

Yesterday I had an email from Jim Logan that contains a tip that I’m sure some will find helpful. Jim has kindly given me permission to publish it here:

Hi Darren!

I discovered something on my site that your readers may find of interest. Recently I changed the template of my blog, nothing exciting there, but in the change I added a module that put the name and link to my five most recent posts at the top of every page. Here is an example.

What are interesting are that almost overnight my page views per visitor and number of ad impressions increased by nearly 50%. Likewise, my Yahoo! ad revenue doubled. My site supports my consulting work and as such I don’t post for ad revenue, but I can’t deny seeing the Yahoo! ad revenue double – even as small as it is – is exciting.

What I believe I unwittingly did is offer readers something to click to after they read whatever they came to the site to see. The module with the five latest posts has clearly increased my page views and appears to have increased my ad revenue as well.

Jim went on in his next email to me to write:

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Comment Design Showcase

Smiley Cat has put together a great idea over at their Comment Design Showcase.

The page is a collection of screen caps from some beautifully designed comments sections which each link back to the blogs that they are from.

It’s great to see them all side by side like that.

‘Must Have’ Sidebar Features

BlogSEO has posted an interesting list titled 10 Must-Have Things That Should be on Your Blog’s Side Bar which I’m certain will cause some debate among ProBlogger readers.

As I look down the list there are some I strongly agree with and others which I have a personal aversion to. Here’s their list headers with a few comments with my own opinion in brackets after each:

  1. Site Search – (agree with this one – I regularly search for keywords on others blogs and would include it in my own top 10)
  2. Archives – (I use date based archives on some blogs but not others – the main reason to have them in my mind are for SEO purposes. Search Engines like to be able to find every page on your blog quickly and to be linking back into your archives means the SE bots are only ever a few links from every page on your blog. Of course this can also be achieved with a SiteMap or even by Categories, which is the way I do it here at ProBlogger).
  3. Blogroll – (I used to be a big fan of the blogroll in sidebars but without really ever making a definite decision on it have stopped using them. The main reason for this was that they became so unmanageable as my blogs grew and at times it became something of a political activity that I really didn’t want to buy into. I’m not anti blogrolls but would rather link to other blogs from within my content as they write quality/link worthy posts. I do have a links page that I guess functions as a blogroll but as you’ll see it’s very out of date – I haven’t updated it in many months.) I do have links to other blogs in my sidebar but they are other blogs in the network to which I belong. We’re actually working on a less dominating way of doing this which I’m really looking forward to implementing as the list is now getting way to long.
  4. Recent Comments – (I’d be hesitant to include this in a ‘must have’ or ‘essential’ list and don’t use it on any of my own blogs at all. I agree that it can be very useful for creating community and I have had a number of readers requesting it here at ProBlogger – but I find that on a blog like this that can have up to 6 or more posts per day and that gets upwards of 50 comments on some posts that it almost becomes a little pointless. If readers want to keep track of the latest comments on threads here I encourage them to use the ‘subscribe to comments’ feature instead. Having said this on newer blogs that are attempting to establish community this feature can work well – as a result we have it on quite a few b5media blogs).
  5. Blog Categories – (As I said above – this is something I use on all of my blogs both for reader usability to enable them to find posts quickly but also for SEO purposes. I don’t find it necessary to have both it and a date based archives on most of my blogs though).
  6. Most Popular Posts – (I’ve often considered this plugin but have never found room in my sidebars to use it. Instead I manually highlight some of the more popular posts, as well as those I want to be popular, in my header menus and sidebars. I do this for the same sort of reasons that people would use the plugin but like to retain the control over what links appear there).
  7. Contact Info – (I’ve ranted about blogs that don’t include easily accessible contact details before so will only say that I strongly agree with this one. I just don’t get why people wouldn’t include a way of being contacted – in fact to me it leaves me feeling a little suspicious when a blogger chooses not to have a way of giving feedback in a more personal way than comments).
  8. Short About Section – (I like blogs to have some sort of information on the blog and blogger but don’t always see it as essential, depending upon the topic and goals of the blog. I know my about pages are among the most popular of the blog here at ProBlogger and think they are well worth putting some time into as they can act as a springboard further into your blog if you use them well).
  9. Your Other Projects/Blogs – (I generally highlight some of my other projects at some point on my blog either in the about page, sidebar or footer. Depending upon how many other projects you have you might want to be a bit picky or choosey on this one. I probably wouldn’t have this one as my 2nd highest ‘must have’ but it’s a feature on most of my blogs to some extent so I guess it is important to me).
  10. RSS Buttons – (I personally like to feature RSS buttons or links prominently on most of my blogs – especially those where I know my readership are RSS savvy like ProBlogger readers).

As you can see, a sidebar is a pretty personal thing. Some people choose to have two (or even occasionally three) of them to fit more features in and an increasing amount of bloggers are experimenting with blogs without sidebars altogether and are instead incorporating their ‘must haves’ into their footers, horizontal menus and headers (in fact big footers seem to be very popular at the moment).

Other ‘essentials’ that some bloggers include in their sidebars include:

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Improving the Readability of Your Comments Section

I love it when bloggers get on a ‘hot streak’ with their blogs and write multiple link worthy posts in a short period of time. Rachel’s blog is hot right now in my opinion (I seem to be linking to her a lot) and today she’s written an interesting post on Improving the readability of large numbers of comments which is full of ideas, plugins and suggestions to consider to improve the functionality of your comments section (especially if it’s pretty active). You wouldn’t want to implement all 10 of her suggestions but there are some great suggestions there. Here’s her headings (with more written under each point):

  1. Highlight your (own) comments
  2. Provide visual cues
  3. Show what’s new
  4. Split things up
  5. Newest first
  6. Distinguish Trackbacks
  7. Rate comments
  8. Nested comments
  9. Editable comments
  10. Categorise comments