While content is undoubtedly important, the blogs that I find the most interesting are the ones that are also visually appealing. The images that you put on your blog are so important to the overall impression that a reader gets of your blog. I never gave much thought to the pictures I used before. I often took pictures inside, at night, with the flash on. What I've learned is that the appearance of a picture taken in indoor lighting and with a flash won't even come close to the quality of a picture taken in lots of natural light.
I have been trying to take more interesting pictures. I used to just line my subject up in the middle of the frame, with straight lines everywhere, and take the picture. What I learned from this simple but excellent tutorial from Pretty Handy Girl is that those pictures are boring. What you should try to do is get rid of distracting backgrounds and create some interesting angles in the picture.
I also found a good entry about photography and styling here, compiled by the bloggers at Nesting Place, Thrifty Decor Chick, Tatertots & Jello, Miss Mustard Seed, and Centsational Girl. They talk about lots of things to consider when taking pictures for your blog. One important thing I took away was not to be scared of editing my pictures, which again, I rarely did before. I'm going to have a lot of fun experimenting with taking and editing photos and seeing what works.
Blogger makes it so easy to put a blog together quickly. It provides you with basic layouts, templates and backgrounds to use. However, it was important for me to create a blog that didn't just look like every other blog out there - and we all know that there are tons of them.
One great way to set your blog apart from other blogs is your header. I started with just a plain text header, as provided for in the Blogger templates, but it just looked so boring. If I came across my blog, it wouldn't catch my interest at all.
Then I came across a post on Sneaky Momma Blog Design about using Scrapblog to make your own free header. Even though it was written in 2009, it was still sound advice. I went and checked Scrapblog out and made my own header yesterday. It's still a work in progress, but it's definitely better than the text-only header that I had before, so it will do for now.
Scrapblog is free to join, and while some of their backgrounds and stickers cost money to use, there are a ton of free ones that look great. It took a little time just to get the hang of Scrapblog, but it was easy enough for me to pick up the basics. I didn't want to use a photo in my header, so I just used a background, text, and some stickers to liven up the heading. I had always been jealous of other blogs with great headers and thought that I could never make my own because I have no eye for graphic design, or any desire to spend money on any programs that would help me make a header, but Scrapblog lets you make great looking ones quickly and for free. I wanted a header that was smaller than the image size Scrapblog leaves you with, so I used Picnik to crop it (though, sadly, Picnik is closing this April).
While surfing around, I found an interesting blog entry on Life...With Books called Goldilocks and the Three Bloggers, which is a mix between a lesson on blog etiquette as well as tips for making your blog more readable and attractive. It does raise a few things that I had never thought of (like the word verification setting on comments) and touches on things that drive me absolutely batty, like automatically playing music on blogs. It definitely made me think about what I could do to make it easier for people to read my blog, and what would make them want to come back.
All in all, the last few days have been very educational for me, and I wanted to share all of the amazing information that I found. I hope it helps you too, and if you have any of your own tidbits to pass along, I'd love to hear them!