Friday, 11 May 2012

make them fall in love - blogging guide pt1

This week it was my fifth year blogaversay! Whoo-hoo, doesn't time fly?

I usually do something special for it but this year I thought I would do something a little different. I have had a few of emails recently asking for advice on blogging and I know when you first start out it is really hard to keep the momentum going. So I thought I would share what I do and why and maybe it will help those of you who are blogging or want to start a blog.

Once upon a time...
I started this blog initially for friends and family back home, I wanted to share what Ebi-kun was up to and we were just starting to build a house so that was my goal when I started out. But, the blog seemed to take a life of it's own, soon I was getting people I didn't know leaving comments or emailing me, it freaked me out somewhat at first but I realised I loved sharing what we do.

I have a lot of blogs in my reader, some are purely eye-candy, some I read if I have time and a handful are the must reads. Looking at the must reads I would say these are mostly blogs I have been reading for a long time, I feel connected to the writer, we probably comment on each others blogs or tweet each other. They almost always have something interesting to say and have a good sense of humour.

I would like to think that the same goes for my readers but I do know a chunk of my traffic just come for the free tutorials or Montessori posts and that is fine by me, if they come often enough they will start to hang around for every post.

When I started writing this and realised it would end up being an epic post, 3 miles long so I have broken it down into bit sized chunks and it will run as a mini series. So welcome to....



First and foremost you need to know WHY you are blogging or WHY you want to start a blog.


If you checked the last box maybe you need to have a re-think.
Why do I do it? Because I love it! I love sharing the crafts we do, the recipes, the crazy ideas I have, our sometimes surreal life in Japan, my love of Montessori and helping kids develop their imagination. 
Once you have your why, the rest is just a technicality.

Next you need a platform something like blogger or wordpress, you don't need to go out and buy a fancy website site since many of them are free. I started off with blogger and on a whole very happy with it. We have occasional hiccups where I assume the little google umpa-lumpas are tinkering in the background but generally I am happy with it. I have recently started using wordpress (for my soon to be revealed new project) and found that pretty straight forward and easy to use too.

Now, when someone new clicks through to your blog you have 3 seconds, yes 3 seconds to make a good impression. That means first impressions count for a lot so let's start by taking a look at design...



Think carefully about your blog design, template and colors. 
  • Take a look at your favourite blogs and at some of the big blogs out there, take note of their design, I think you will find that all the biggies all have a clean and simple look.
  • A light background with dark text is much easier to read than the other way round and green or pink text on a black background? Please leave that to Emo teenagers!
  • Limit your colour palette, you don't want your reader to feel like they are on an acid trip when they visit you blog! All the top brands have a limited palette and they do so for a reason, they also pick colours that compliment each other. Now, colour theory is a BIG topic, if you want to learn more google will turn up a lot of info for you. If not, stick with the colours in the templates on your blogging platform, or if you do change them then make a note of the colour you used and stick with it, for example the hex code for 'my' blue is #8FDCEC
  • Limit the use of fonts, pick a couple and stick with them. Use the 'fancy' font for the titles but the main bulk of your text use a nice, ease to read font. The standard fonts offered are the ones that most of us are used to, they are easy on the eyes and will keep attention for longer.
  • There are a lot of arguments for and against justified text which I am not going to get bogged down in, I would say pick either fully justified or left justified text and stick with it. I use fully justified just because I feel it makes the blog look neater and I find it easier to read. Having text centred is good for image credits but reading a lot of text like that makes you want to go cross-eyed because it is difficult for your eyes to scan the text.
  • Remember to break long pieces of text up with paragraphs.
  • Finally, keep it consistent, when a reader returns you want them to feel at home. Think about your local supermarket, doesn't it just drive you nuts when they start moving the shelves around? Readers want to know where everything is so they feel secure and nice and cozy.

That just about wraps it up for today, I will have part II ready for you next week. If you found this useful please share it with your friends and before you go, I would like to know WHY you blog or if you are thinking about starting one WHY you want to start one. Pop it in a comment down below!

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20 comments:

  1. Can I pick more than one why from that list? For me, blogging is a way to share things that I like to do and how I do them and to meet other people who also like to make things. I want to write about my hobbies mostly, not the PhD materials I read, haha. I would love to share it with my family since they're so far, but they don't seem interested. I've never gotten a comment from a family member, oi. It's been taking so much of time, though, that I've been trying to think of how to make some money from it. Either that or I have to scale back on how much I do for the blog. But I do love it so much that I'm not sure I could stop.

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    1. Sure! I think I blog for a mix of all of them if I am honest.
      I rarely get comments from close friends and family but it often comes out when we are chatting they they have read recent posts.

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  2. wow. I feel like a blogging idiot after reading all that! My main reason for starting blogging was so my parents could read what we're up to. Nowadays I have realised what a great record it is of pur lives and have grand plans of someday cleaning it all up and making a coffee table book out of it like Vicky at Hyotenka life does. I don't keep a diary anymore so my blog is kind of that. I haven't thought about layout and design at all.... hmmmmm food for thought! I have to say the thing I love most about your blog is the frequency and variety of your posts (ok that's technically two things but....) you have such eclectic interests and there's always something interesting here! Happy 5 years and here's to many many more!

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    1. Nooo you're not an idiot!
      I have always been useless at keeping a diary so it is somewhat a surprise that this is still going 5 years on. And yeah, I have those coffee table grand plans too!
      and thank you for your bloggy love xxx

      Hope Amy gets over her ensoku nightmare!

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  3. I envy your commitment. I started blogging too when Manon was a baby but it was too much for me. If you don't blog every day or if you have nothing to write then you feel obliged to do it because you don't want to loose your readers. I felt that way with my french readers. I gave up my blog because there was so much nastiness, people were jealous, left nasty comments about creations, crafts, our life in Canada, renos for the house etc. I did not want to justify myself every time. Some people stole my ideas etc. Blogging reminded me of bullying when I was a teenager ;)..... Now I am just a reader and I am happy with that. But I like your blog and I like reading about your life in Japan. Manon wants to come and visit ;)

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    1. I know exactly what you mean about feeling like you have to blog, luckily I rarely have nothing to talk about lol.
      And I don't understand why people get off about being nasty, some comments on here don't get through, it used to really upset me but now I just dump them in the spam bin and try and forget about it.

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    2. oh yes, and Manon is welcome to visit anytime!

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  4. Great post. i have been reading your blog for a while, but don't think I have ever left a comment.
    I was a bit sad about the comment above this one. I've only ever had a positive from blogging. Not sure what I would do if people turned nasty!
    I love feeling part of a larger supportive community, and have made some real friends through it.

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    1. Thank you for leaving a comment, I also love the community and the many friends I have made online.

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  5. I blog for me. I have the worst memory known to man and I often find myself searching my blog to see when I did something. Also, after blogging for ten years it is a ha bit now :-P

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    1. Lol me too! The first place I look for a recipe is on my blog, I always forget where I have found new recipes. 10 years! That makes me basically a newbie :-)

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    2. Your not a newbie by any means, I just married a computer nerd who wanted me to use my computer more. :-)

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  6. I started to blog to have contact with other people through sharing our life. I don't have that many English speaking friends nearby and I don't like reading so I wanted something that could capture my attention and keep me interested without being a burden. Two years since I started I still love it though I feel I can't give it as much attention as I'd like. I always have an idea but finding the time to stop and write is difficult. I've made some new friends too from blogging, even met some of them so you could say I've achieved what I set out to do, communicate with people.

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    1. I think writing my blog is the only daily habit I managed to stick to, if only I could apply the same to exercise..,

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  7. i blog to interact with like minded people. my family are so sick of my making. You are on of my must-reads.I always cheat and read you out of order in my blogreader.

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    1. Totally hear you on the family front, by husband just gives me confused looks theses days, I give up trying to explain my latest genius crafty idea and come and tell you lot instead!
      You are also one of my must reads! About time for another animal tale isnt it?

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  8. Hay Happy Five Years!!! I think I nay have been reading you - just about forever!!! Love your blog and blogging craftiness... thanks for a great read time and time again!!! Here's to many more brilliant years!!!

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  9. Thank you!
    I often feel worn out after seeing what you and your clan have been up to!

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  10. Happy blogaversary! I love the idea for this series. I started blogging to share what we are doing in Christian Formation but it has blossomed into so much more. Regarding layout/style - I also read a lot of blogs and mainly through google reader. Isn't it disappointing to think how many people don't actually see your blog? From time to time I return to the actual site (particularly to post a comment). But it always bothers me that people who subscribe through feedburner or a reader see a much less pretty version of the blog!
    Thanks for all you do! I enjoyed your video! :)

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    1. I agree! I do read most of my blogs through google reader then when I click through I get a big surprise if the blog has had a makeover. It is a shame the reader can't be as pretty!
      That said I think it still super important to have a pretty blog because you need to entice those new readers to sign up and most people don't sign up on their first visit.

      thanks you for the video comment, i am feeling much more confident to try my hand at more, first I need to get my hair sorted!

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