Archive for September, 2011

Blogger offers new designs, improved performance

Blogger took a major step today with a rebuild and modernization using the latest web technologies, HTML5 and CSS3. If your blog is hosted on Blogger be sure to check out what is new. You just may want to restyle the looks of your blog.

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There are seven new designs with plenty of ways to customize the look and feel.

You owe it to yourself to explore the possibilities. Be sure to check out the backgrounds and other features.

imageOnce you have decided on a new look and clicked “Apply to blog” on each option page, there is one more important step.

Open Windows Live Writer, click the Blog Account tab. Then click Update theme. Moments later you will see your Live Writer showing the new design, fonts, and sizes.

Here is how it looks for my Café Ludwig blog:

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If you are reading this at Live Writer Basics click Café Ludwig to see this post over there – and vice versa.

Happy blogging!

.:.

© 2011 Ludwig Keck

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How to Spruce up the Three Shingles of Your Posts

Shops of days gone by attracted customers with their “shingles” hanging outside. Your blog posts also vie for readers with public “signs”. Shop SignsThree in fact, and they compete in various venues for attention. They are your post title, illustration, and the first words of your post.

Like it or not, these three “shingles” are all you have for your post to be noticed and to bring in your readers. You might argue that your regular readers subscribe to your blog or regularly look in. Even then, your post must compete for their time and interest. The title and that first illustration must draw their attention and the first words must be compelling enough for them to read on. So it is important that you spend some extra time to “spruce up”, or shape up, these three “shingles” of your post so they perform effectively in selling and bringing in readers.

Consider the many places your posts are publicized. You likely have Twitter, Facebook, and maybe other social sites connected. These in turn may show up in still other places. Search results will find your posts. RSS feeds on your and other sites might show them. Some you may not even be aware of. Let’s look at how posts are mentioned in some of these places.image

On the right are a number of screen clips. The first two are from Twitter and Facebook. This is followed by a Google+ message. You can see already the different ways the post is seen.

Twitter only shows the title.

Facebook shows title, a thumbnail of the first illustration and a bit of the starting text.

Google+ is very similar to Facebook, even to how much of the introductory text is shown.

imageWhen someone searches for information using words that are matched in your post, the results may look like these three items from Google, Bing, and Yahoo searches. Here too, the title is shown followed by a bit of text from the post.

There are other places to consider. Here a couple of RSS feeds as seen in blog sidebars. These show only the titles. In some RSS feeds more information is shown when the pointer is moved to the title. Here is one such case. A fair amount of the introductory text is shown in a screen tip balloon.image

imageThere are places you might not be aware of that also publicize your blog. Shown here is a clipping from my author’s page on Amazon. My latest tweets and blog posts are shown.

When someone pins your WordPress blog to the Taskbar, right-clicking shows recent posts. In the jump list only part of the title is shown. The illustration of such a jump list also points out another problem. Non-alphanumeric characters are replaced with ugly HTML code.

Well, I have illustrated a number of venues where your “shingles” hang out. These pictures also show some of the problems to keep in mind. So here are some tips to help you put your best foot forward.

Title

The title of your post is the one “shingle” shown in all the places. So it it the most important in catching the readers attention.

State the topic

State the topic in your title. Think in terms of newspaper or magazine article titles. Tell what it is about. On this short phrase most readers will base their decision to continue or skip. Make them want to continue.

Be brief

In many places the length of the information is limited. The most severe is the Windows Taskbar jump list. Keep in mind the limit for tweets, the title and the link must fit the 140-character limit.

Do not use non-alphanumeric characters

This is a strange requirement, but a number of “venues” replace apostrophes, hyphens, quote marks, and such, with HTML code. That really detracts from the appearance of the listing. Stick to just letters and numbers in titles, use the marks in your post text when appropriate. Appearance matters.

Have fun

A fun title can perk up a readers attention. Use it when you can but avoid the nauseating teasers of television news fame – even the professionals can’t do those well.

Illustrations

Blog posts are more fun to read and often more informative when they are well illustrated. Select your first illustration carefully, that is the one that may be shown in a listing somewhere, it may well be the item that catches a readers eye.

Illustrations, like the text of your article, must be your own. Copying photos or text from “Internet resources” is not only plagiarism, it can also get you into legal trouble. If someone’s search leads to your post, it may also show the source of the “borrowed” material. Nothing will destroy your credibility more.

The introductory words

The first words of your blog post may be shown in listings. You can see examples in the illustrations above. These are the words that must convince your reader to click to keep reading. People are in a hurry these days. We glance at headlines, the lead photo, and maybe read the first sentence. This is what we all do, your readers are no different. Make the first words compelling.

After you finish the draft of a post, go over it with these tips in mind. With a catchy title, a neat illustration and a compelling introduction, your blog posts will be more widely read and enjoyed. You might even get some complimentary comments!

.:.

© 2011 Ludwig Keck

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Selecting fonts in Live Writer

When setting up a blog connection Windows Live Writer downloads the blog template. This specifies the fonts along with many other features. This does not mean that you have no choice of fonts, indeed, the Font group on the Home tab offers all the fonts installed on your computer.

imageYou can apply any font to the normal text and to the headings, but you cannot set the defaults. Live Writer reverts back to the blog template defaults – as it should. After all, you selected the design and appearance of your blog carefully and you want it to stay that way.

There are times when a different font is called for. As in other applications, like Word, for example, the font can be selected before text is typed or later by selecting the text and applying the new font. There is a problem with that. Your readers may have different machines and may not have the font installed that you have chosen. Their browser will make a font selection that might not fit with the image or mood you are trying to create.

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Here is an illustration of that problem. The four snippets are from the same blog post as seen on different machines. The first shows the text as intended by the writer in a font called “Curlz”. This font is not common on computers and the browsers on two machines substituted common fonts. In one case a sans-serif (Arial style) in in the other a serif font (like Georgia). The fourth snippet is from an RSS feed in which the background color was dropped. I have seen unreadable text in RSS feeds because the original text was white or yellow on a dark background. With the background rendered white, white font disappears completely.

There are some fonts that are pretty well common to all computers. Or at least there are font families that are very similar and the stylistic differences are small. “Helvetica”, “Arial”, “Verdana”, “Calibri”, “sans-serif” will render close enough to each other that a substitution might not even be noticed. Same goes for “Times New Roman”, “Georgia”, and other “serif” fonts. The problem really comes in when you use very decorative fonts. If you are using a special font only for headings or very short text portions, the work-around I like is to insert that part as an image.

Let me illustrate:

Decorative Headings

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Here the heading text is just a screen capture set with no frame. The image does not link to anything. As an image, it will appear the same in all browsers and even in RSS feeds.

When I do that, I also like to repeat the heading in normal text and style – just so the search engines will find the term.

Font sizes

You may notice that all the fonts on your computer are available in the font selection box, the same is not true for the font size selection. Only seven sizes are offered. Let me illustrate why. Here is a line with seven words each set in one of the offered sizes:

one two three four five six seven

Here is the HTML code produced by Live Writer for this line and on the right the font size choices.image

<p><font size=”1″>one</font>
<font size=”2″>two</font>
<font size=”3″>three</font>
<font size=”4″>four</font>
<font size=”5″>five</font>
<font size=”6″>six</font>
<font size=”7″>seven</font></p>

You can see that Live Writer uses font size numbers rather than the point or pixel size. What’s more, when no size is specified the font size is rendered in the design template default, in this example the size for this blog – Arial at 9.8 points.

Keep these peculiarities in mind and your blogging will be easier.

.:.

© 2011 Ludwig Keck

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