Hello again everyone, today is Day 15 of the Blog Along with Effy and if you are interested in my Day 1-14 posts for the blog along, you can find a list of them all linked at the bottom of this post, so feel free to check them out too!
Yesterday’s post was all about my messy spare room full of craft supplies and how I was trying to get more space. Well I am still working on it today and may be some time lol. Did you realise we are now at the halfway point in the blog along? So today I thought I would talk about blogging or more about the technical aspects of blogging since by now we all know how to blog right? In case you are short on time or not interested in some of the subjects (TL;DR right?) I have added some shortcuts so you can just jump to the relevant sections.
Take your pick or keep reading
History of Blogging (mine) – how dull, skip this lol
Blogger Tricks – don’t use Blogger, then skip
WordPress Tips – don’t use WordPress, then skip
Ask Me Anything (about blogs) – ah that’s more my style
Blog Along info and posts – find out more about the blog along and a list of my first 15 posts
The Beauty of Blog Along – links to free collage papers
A Short History of (my) blogging
I started blogging with LiveJournal back in the day. It’s a third party blogging platform that was basically the only game in town at that time. It started around 1999 and was created by an American guy. Just about everyone I knew back then had a LiveJournal account, including a lot of authors who used to blog there and post short fiction for free. Neil Gaiman springs to mind. Then it was sold to a Russian company but around the same time, Facebook and other social media and blogging options appeared and LiveJournal was kind of forgotten, but it does still exist but seems to have more of a European/Russian audience now.
I’m always a little frustrated with third party sites because I can’t do what I want to do with them. They allow you to use their sites for free (Blogger, WordPress.com, Wix, Weebly etc) but there are always restrictions in place. You can’t for example dig into the code in the back end and tweak it. Not everyone wants to do that lol but if you want to, you can’t. There also restrictions on the front end, with Blogger, you are now restricted to using Blogger’s list of Gadgets. (Gadgets on Blogger are like Widgets on WordPress) On WordPress.com you are limited also to certain widgets and themes and again you can’t access the back end. All of this is for security purposes of course. They can’t allow 1000s of random bloggers to dig around in the back end of their blogging platform and break it lol.
So since 2005 I have been using self-hosted WordPress. At that point it was still in a Beta version of Version 1.5, and it was nothing like the WordPress of today, currently at version 5.7.1. Even compared to my LiveJournal blog, the features were limited and it was boring. WordPress was designed to allow people to write blog posts, get their thoughts out there without all the bells and whistles. Now it has evolved into a content management system which is at the core of many commercial websites. Purists would say that it’s not the same, that it’s now too bloated, but it is so much more than it used to be and can be used in so many ways. It is especially good for ecommerce so if you were thinking of opening an online shop WordPress and Woocommerce could be the answer you are looking for. Woocommerce is free ecommerce software which can be used on both self-hosted WordPress and WordPress.com. I had an online shop from 2014-2019 running on WordPress but I closed due to the reasons I mentioned in my previous post, but if you want to see what it can look like, here is an example of a shop I designed for a friend and her shop Artstacks is live and open for business. They sell their own designed print and digital collage papers. Scroll to the bottom of the page and you will see the design credit! Hey look, it’s me!
This is *not* a sales plug lol. I’m not looking for any new web design work. I just really like tinkering around with my own website, making changes when I get bored with how it looks, looking for ways to make it better and working out how to add new features I want to have.
I also like to help other people so with that in mind, I thought I would share a couple of quick tricks for both Blogger and WordPress (self-hosted).
Blogger offers a “Featured Post” gadget that you can put on your sidebar and then use it to highlight (feature) a post that you want to draw attention to. If you don’t already use this gadget, think about trying it. But what if you want more than one? Blogger doesn’t offer that option but you can make your own version of a Featured Post gadget using one of Blogger’s other gadgets and adding this code below. Firstly, visit your Blogger back end, and and click on Layout. You will see circled in pink, the option to “add a gadget.” This will appear at the top of any of your sidebars in your layout and varies from theme to theme.
Now we have another pop up box, this time with empty fields to fill in with text or code. We are going to fill ours with code to link to a favourite post from our own blog.
Here’s an example of the code to enter in the box. Note this is dummy code for my test blog so you don’t want to enter that, you want to use your own blog address and URLs. This is just an example so you know what to look for and how to identify it in your own blog. So firstly, you need the URL of the blog post you want to feature. You can see below that mine is double underlined in pink to make it easier to see. You need the full URL from the “https” to the “.html” (all Blogger post URl start and end this way. Once you have yours, you need to enter it twice as shown. There are reasons for that but you don’t need to know what they are. Next you need the URL for the image you want to display. This is usually an image from the blog post you want to feature. Go to your blog post and choose an image, then right-click on it and copy the URL. Paste it where I have double underlined the line that starts “src=’…” You can see this starts with “https” again and ends with “.jpg” indicating that it is an image. Yours might also be a “.png” image. Blogger image addresses are super long so make sure you copy it correctly. Last thing to notice is the width circled in pink “width=’166′” this represents the width of the image in pixels and this width is set by my theme because I have a narrow sidebar. If you want your image to be wider, change it to something higher but be careful not to make it wider than your sidebar! If you don’t know the width of your sidebar leave it as is, or experiment, or you can find it in the theme information or by viewing the page source and searching for it.
To make it easier for you, here is the code that you need to copy and paste into your own blog gadget but you need to change the URLS to your own blog post links!
<div class='widget FeaturedPost' data-version='1' id='FeaturedPost1'> <div class='post-summary'>
<h3><a href='https://yourblog.blogspot.com/yourpost.html'>Put your title here</a></h3>
<img alt='' height='205' id='Image35_img' src='https://yourownimage 1.bp.blogspot.com/-zJcM5ilM3DQ/YHa5tv-mV1I/AAAAAAAAFLU/vaJQl_dMqqs1qlIYrXamV0y_4j-HTAu8wCNcBGAsYHQ/s16000/sfw-P4131790.jpg' width='166'/> </a>
Once you have your code copied and changed to your own blog post URLs and image, save the gadget.
The new gadget will appear at the top of whatever sidebar you put it in. You can then move it up or down if you don’t want it in the top position. Here’s how it will look on the front page of your blog. Note that I gave my gadget a title (test gadget) to help you see what it was but that title will appear on your blog, so if you don’t want that, just leave it blank, or use it to add some other kind of text like “check out my favourite posts” etc. The clickable link for people to go read your post, is shown in green text in my example as that is the colour from my theme.
The tip for WordPress is much shorter and doesn’t require you to hack any code . Back in the day, at the beginning of WordPress, and until a few versions ago, there used to be a feature called Blogroll (which always sounds like “bog roll” to me but never mind lol) and it was where you could add a list of links specifically designed to link to your favourite blogs, but it could be links to anything. A few versions ago, they eliminated this feature from new installs of WordPress as they decided it wasn’t necessary, as a similar thing could be done using another feature of WordPress – Menus. This is true to an extent but it is not the same! My WordPress still has the links feature because I’ve had it since 2005 and this makes me happy. But if you installed in the last couple of years, you don’t have it. So if you want a list of links to other blogs or anything else, there are a couple of options you can try. One is to use the built-in Menus feature which can be found under Appearance, in the Admin panel. It’s fairly self explanatory and all you need to do is create a new menu, give it a name and start adding your links to it eg it could be called “Favourite Blogs”. You will likely already have a menu created for your site navigation so this is the same thing only for external links. Once you have created your “links” menu, visit Widgets, also under Appearance and look for a widget called “Navigation Menu” or similar, and add that to one of your sidebar options (this varies depending on your theme). And that’s it! Done, you have have a list of your favourite blog links.
However, if you want something more than just text links, there are a few plugin options. This one (Link Library) gives you icons as well as text and is highly customisable. To install a plugin, you can visit the WordPress site, download the plugin file to your computer and then upload to your site, or do it the easy way – visit Plugins in your Admin panel, click on “add new” and then search for the plugin you want and you will see a list of available plugins from WordPress.org. From there, it is a one-click install for any plugin, then activate and follow the instructions.
Ask Me Anything (about blogs)
So there we have a trick for Blogger and a Tip for WordPress self-hosted. I like to help people if I can, so if you have any questions about blogs and blogging, leave your question in the comments and I will try and help during the blog along, depending on what it is and how much time I have available. This varies, but ask away as it might be something I can answer quickly and if I can, I will!
Blog Along with Effy – Day 15
Links to all the days of the April blog along
April 1st – Day 1 – You don’t have to be perfect to be amazing
April 2nd – Day 2 – Cat hammocks and sneak peeks
April 3rd – Day 3 – Favourite Children’s Books
April 4th – Day 4 – Green Crochet Socks Story
April 5th – Day 5 – A Short Family History of Scones
April 6th – Day 6 – Happy Tartan Day
April 7th – Day 7 The Unbearable Lightness of Old Wallpaper
April 8th – Day 8 Off with their heads my Queen
April 9th – Day 9 – Andy Warhol Cat
April 10th – Day 10 Tiny Book Covers WIP
April 11th – Day 11 Happy National Pet Day
April 12th – Day 12 Collage Fodder, Recycling, Stealing from Kittens
April 13th – Day 13 Company of Liars ATC Book Cover
April 14th – Day 14 This is What Happens when you Make all the Things
April 15th – Today!
This month I decided to join in with Effy Wild’s blog along – 30 posts in 30 days and hope I can think if enough things to say. every. day. I’ll do my best to keep up. The idea is to blog every day but also to comment on other people’s blogs to keep the conversation going. There is a facebook group where you can link your posts and find other people’s to go visit and comment. During April you can find all the Blog Along posts linked on my home page for convenience. If you leave a comment, I’ll be sure to return the favour!
The Beauty of Blog Along
As part of the blog along, I get to read other lovely blogs and here’s an example of how visiting and reading other blogs is so fun. For her Day 15 post, Donna over on Donna’s Creative Space is sharing some of her lovely art journal pages and her newly carved logo stamp so I went over there to read the post. But also she has given us all a heads up about some free collage papers offered by Marta from Maremi’s Small Art in a recent video. If it hadn’t been for the blog along I would probably have missed it as I don’t have a lot of time to watch all the amazing YT videos out there. So go visit Donna’s blog and read her post and then visit Marta/Maremi’s free collage paper download page and get yourself some free digi papers! I downloaded mine and took a quick photo of the bird one…
As always thanks for reading and today thanks for making it to the end of this longer post. Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
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