Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Blogging 401: Template Tweaks

Welcome back, class. I've been involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities (aka my job!) so I haven't been able to teach as much this week. Before I get into this class, I want to thank all those who have been participating and learning, leaving comments and making suggestions. We encourage class participation! Also, once I'm done teaching these senior level classes, I will post another post that will link all the classes together so you can have a one stop registration.

Now, onto the class.

Last time we talked about seeing if your marketing is paying off by looking at you blog webstats. Today we're going to look at how you can have a better overall design for your blog. This could be a lower-level class (thinking you might want to do this earlier than some of the advanced course), but I just felt that the level of understanding the code of the template was a higher level course. But don't fear. You can get though this class quite easily. And you'll want to. It's for your good.

There are a couple reasons why you'd want to tweak your blog template. For starters, after you pick a template (especially from blogger) you'll soon realize that there are MANY other blogs out there that will look just like yours! Tweaking your site will help set yours least some anyway.

The biggest reason you'll want to tweak your template is so that you can link to other blogs that you like. This is called blogrolling. There are sites out there, but with a little know-how, you can do it yourself (especially if you're not linking to a lot of sites). Here's how:

Get into the settings of your blog and choose to edit your template. WARNING: Before you start tweaking, highlight your entire template code, copy it and paste it as a .txt file somewhere. You'll want a backup. Trust me. I know from experience. Now, looking at the code at the top, you'll probably find all sorts of stuff you don't understand. Don't worry. Here's what you need to know. If something starts with (minus the _underscores_), those are comments. You can put them anywhere and the browser won't read them. This is good to use to make comments as to where things are in your code. In fact, your template might come with some comments surrounding some instructions of how to add things. So pay attention.

Also at the top you'll find all the settings that will define the layout and color scheme. You'll probably see things like "background: #ff9900;". That code is the code for the color. You have to use the hex code for colors. Just glace through the code and you'll see consistencies and you'll see how things are defined.

Now as you move down, you'll see the code <_blogger_>. This is the beginning of the "meat" of your template. Then as you move down further, you should see a comment or something to indicate you're in the section that runs the sidebar or "left content" or "right content". Just depends on your template. When you find where you want to add links, use the code you learned in Blogging 102: HTML Code to create a link and also the code to do an unordered list.

It may sound like a lot, but it's not too bad. For example, the code for a link in an unordered list would be <_ul><_li><_a href="">orangejack blog<_/a><_/li><_/ul>. Of course, take out all the _underscores_.

One last reason you should want to tweak your blog by adding links is that is can also increase your traffic. When you link to a blog and someone uses that link, the blog owner that the person just visited will know how they got there by looking at their referral webstats. In other words, when you click on the link to visit the Reality Blogs site, thye'll know it because in their webstats it'll show someone came from this blog. And then, he may just help you out by adding a link to your site. But don't expect it...and don't do it to get the reciprocal link. Do it because it's a place you want people to go.

Well class, this was a tough and long one. Sorry. It's tough because it's not the same for everyone and it's difficult to explain it all in post like this. Just look through your code and you should be able to figure some of it out with a little HTML know-how.

Next time: Blogging Etiquette.

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