January 21, 2014

What works for him might not work for you

We have come across numerous blogs, in which the blogger has applied a theme, put widgets or done design experiments that do not suit his blog at all. 

Sometimes it could be due to lazy thinking but in most cases it is due to copying what the blogger found good in others' blogs.

Copying others' virtues is great, but mindlessly copying other blogs' elements is not. We give a few stark contrasts to make our point clear. 

We came across an Indian blog in which the blogger lady thought of monetising the blog fast. So, what she did was to put advertisements from a number of sources including AdSense. When we came across this site during our blogosphere survey, we thought it was a site soliciting romantic relationship. But as its content per se was on family, raising kids etc, we kept it for second check. An inappropriate advt showed up again when we visited the blog after about a fortnight. We still believed that there was no intention of the blogger to have such advertisements on her site and we sent her an email telling her about the advts. She made amends and sent us an email in which she wrote that advertisements from the same source had been carried by some of her friends and she had been influenced by them, and that those friends' blogs had never had such a problem. We reckon that this blogger used the same source but somewhere in the registration process, allowed adult advertisements while her friends checked that out. 

Second, the case of childish experiments on an aged person's blog. The blog talks of the blogger's life-long experiences and gives real good advice on how to deal with emotional issues in the family, but its initial display had a number of animations, social networking widgets, time displays, etc. that didn't fit at all with the blog's subject. It seemed that the blogger's granddaughter had helped him in making the blog. The blog has undergone design change for the better over the last two years and was in the Directory of Best Indian Blogs in 2011-12. 

Third, when a good blog in Blogger platform shifted to Wordpress and lost its sheen. This blogger was influenced by the experiences people shared on a respectable website about different blogging platforms and decided to migrate her blog. In fact, she was so excited with the prospects that she just opened a Wordpress account and immediately exported the blog there and closed her Blogger account. Her first post after the migration was on how professional her new blog looked and how great she felt about it. In one of her latest posts, she has rued her hasty decision as some widgets and colour schemes that were working wonderfully in the Blogger blog were not available in the theme that she had applied on Wordpress blog. Worse, she is stuck with it as reverse migration to Blogger is not yielding smooth results. [We have, by way of a comment on her blog, advised her to open a new blog on Blogger, spruce it up as she had done the first blog and manually bring all posts to the new blog. It would be quite time-consuming but she would have found her earlier mojo.]

Copy others' good points but with care

When we find good colours, layout, linking, archiving and other design aspects in others' blogs, we should take note and visualise whether these fit well in the design as well the subject of our blog. Maybe, something fits well but something else does not. 

In the case of widget, one should see whether it would be useful to the visitor and it would add value to the overall content of the blog [these, in addition to colour, size and other design aspects].  

If you like a colour theme on a blog, apply this theme thoroughly on your blog but do not save it if you are not satisfied. However, if the changes auto-save after every few minutes, you have to be extra careful while applying changes. If you have a self-hosted blog, test it as a stand-alone test page before applying it. 

If you want to add or modify navigational aids such as menu bar, archives, widgets giving old or popular posts, because you found them to look great on a friend's blog, be sure that they will really add value to your blog. Maybe, a horizontal top menubar does not suit your tiled blog design. Maybe, another such widget clutters the blog's sidebar.  

Also see whether the changes you intend to do suit your own personality and your blog's personality. For example, garish themes on a serious blog, or the other way round.

Check if the intended changes will not create limitations of a new kind. For example, small grey fonts might look good as many modern sites use them. But if you have lots of content to read, such font will have a big reading handicap, more so if your website is for older people. If you find big photos on some websites worth emulating, you should look whether the column size of your blog can accommodate such photos, whether your host gives you enough webspace, whether the blog won't become slow, whether big photos will not pixellate [this will happen if you try to fit a small photo in big space]...

One tip that will allow you all sorts of experimentation without risk: open an experimental blog on the same platform on which your main blog is. Limit this blog's viewership to yourself. Do all experiments on this blog, and use them on your main blog only when you are satisfied with them on the experimental blog. 

Another tip to avoid spoiling your blog while making changes. Save the code of the blog and its resources before doing major experimentation. Also, if you are not comfortable with technology, do not use 'hacks' or try code modifications [but if you insist on trying them, do save the code].