Monday, September 24, 2012

Good-bye, Cutest Blog on the Block, et al

What a weekend for blog design! I'm a small-fry blogger, as you know. This blog is a simple place, like a comfy living room. I don't monetize my blog or advertise. I don't pay somebody else to "decorate" my "living room" by hiring a blog designer. For quite a few years, I've used other sites like "Cutest Blog on the Block" or "Hot Bliggity Blog" for my blog backgrounds. I copy and paste their codes into my Blogger layout HTML page element ... and bingo! ... I have a new background. I pair it with a photo I've taken myself and cropped, and then I'd tweak the coloring of the text. It was fun.

No more.

I guess Blogger caught on that their bloggers were using other sites (duh), and they wondered if perhaps they could keep their bloggers here, on Blogger, for all their design. So they did it -- they reconfigured their blog design program. Now, if you want to use your old "Cutest Blog" or "Bliggity" backgrounds, you can, but you'll lose a lot of the design elements you used to enjoy. I tried (insert very sad face here; I intensely dislike change.) That's when I realized that I am stuck with whatever Blogger offers me, for now. (I'm betting those other sites will discover a competitive way around this!)

As it turns out, using Blogger's new Template Designer isn't all bad. In fact, I'm amazed at all the detail they let you adjust. Most of the other sites' background were a 3-column affair:  a design on the 2 outside columns and a blank (usually white) inside column where your banner photo and text would reside. Blogger has come up with a system that gives you more options. You choose a background from the ones Blogger offers. (They have quite a few.) Then you can choose from their endless color options for the tone of your center column. I really really like this. I used to find backgrounds where I liked the outer column design, but didn't want the boring white in the center. Now, I can have whatever I like in the middle! You can adjust all the fonts (except the Blog Title Description -- why don't they allow that?), and lots of colors, down to the fine outlines of your photo boxes and tab bar. I like that too. The color selection in the Advanced Template Designer has always been excellent.

Blogger still has a bad glitch in the new designer though. You can spend an hour fine-tuning your colors, background and fonts, and then lose it all, because the program is faulty. Here's the deal: when you go through the old maze of the drop-down menu, and choosing "Layout" and then clicking on "Template Designer" (when will they make this more straight-forward??), you should click then on "template" and make sure that "simple" is selected. I believe the default selection is "dynamic views." For some reason, if you try to design all these lovely elements of your blog while in "dynamic views," the changes of color and font, etc., just won't take. They will not be saved, applied, or shown on your blog. Frustration! (That's where I was a week ago.)

(This was how I felt about my computer, a week ago.)

In order to do all the fun tweaking to your blog, you must be set firmly in "simple" under the template selections. And you must apply it. And keep that window open. And go back and make sure that you remain in "simple." And whatever you do!!, do NOT exit out of your "template designer" arena and attempt to return to the previous drop-down menu. I did this. I went back to adjust my "Pages" location in the original "Layout" spot. When I did, Blogger reverted me to "dynamic changes." Then I could do no more designing. And when I changed back to "simple" for my template selection ... I lost all the changes I'd made. Sigh.

All that to say:  tread carefully. Stay within the "template designer." You can do everything in there:  choose a background, do all your layout work (including downloading a banner photo), and your fancy color/text design. I bet Blogger will soon realize they need a huge selection of backgrounds, to satisfy their customers. Most of us don't really want to see our background on somebody else's blog too. Kind of like seeing your favorite blouse at a party, on somebody else's shoulders.

Why does Blogger do us this way?

Another great perk:  you don't have to use one of Blogger's backgrounds. You may download any jpg or whatever other photo you'd like, to use as your background, and then still place your center column (of any color!) on top of it. Very nice. But the one thing you cannot download and use in their background selection? A background from one of those other sites. Yeah. Or, if you can do it, I have no clue how to do it.

Oh, one more thing about your banner photo. It should be cropped to a 3:1 ratio. I cropped mine in Iphoto, down to 1000 x 333. Be sure to click on "Shrink to fit" when you're downloading the banner photo. It should be a perfect fit.

I'm sure all two of you who have read all this are asleep by now.  Sweet dreams :)


  1. It's all getting way too easy, I think. We're learning so much about how easy it is and whenever that happens, things change. Oh well. Your blog looks great!

  2. No, you didn't put me to sleep, because just this week I visited the Template Designer to change the font of my blog, and the week before that I investigated the Dynamic View option, which I discovered I *did not* want - I tend to leave everything unchanged forever just because of difficulties that you describe, so I appreciate all the personalized tutorials!

  3. GJ, if you need any clarifications on any of this discombobulated discourse, please do ask!! I only barely know what I'm talking about, but I do think you have one of those older, classic templates. You might want to upgrade to the background/designer combo. If you stick with the one you have, you might have lost some of the ability to mess around with it. I'm not sure.

  4. I need help with iPhoto! I was downloading straight from iPhoto, but I found out (when I had used all my space!) that I should have been resizing. Would you consider doing a post on how you handle your photos in iPhoto (like how you organize photos for the blog) and if and how you resize them and how you put them on the blog?

    BTW, this is a very helpful, informative post:)

  5. Consider yourself hugged today !
    Your insightful instructions to choose the 'simple' template has saved me from moving to wordpress. I was frustrated to that point at not having any changes I so carefully selected and implemented actually result in blog improvements!
    It's now been a fun exercise in creativity & an enjoyable rainy day pastime =)
    I can now anticipate any further changes at will and with pleasure. THANKYOU!!


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