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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