Once you have your blog setup, you need to get your overall design together. There are a lot of different choices, but I focus on the following three elements:
I’m sure there are plenty of people who would argue with me on this, but for me, simplicity is best. I’ve tried different settings and configurations over the years, and to be honest, keeping it super-simple has really turned out best for me. But it’s up to you. Whatever you like and works for you, is just as good.
And always remember — you can go back and change things later, if you like. Just experiment with it, and see how it works. You’ll learn a lot, so keep an open mind and have an adventure 😉
Sidebars are the columns to the right or left of your main blog content area. Many blogs have two of them, but a lot have only one, on the left or the right. I prefer a sidebar on the right, because it looks better to me — more like a blog, and less like a regular website. There’s nothing wrong with having a design like a regular website, but the convention for blogs seems to be putting your extra stuff on the right.
Some themes will let you pick and choose how many sidebars you have and which side they’re on. The theme I use just puts it on the right, so that keeps it simple.
Widgets are the extra stuff. You find them under the menu with the little paint brush:
You’ll see the options you have for widgets, as well as where you can put them.
Widgets include “follow” buttons, email signup fields, lists of archives and recent posts, social sharing, as well as promotional and nice-to-know additions on the right. I’ve seen authors put pictures of their books on the right, and then link to their “buy page” so you can get a copy of their book. I have put extra stuff like quotes and facts and figures in my sidebars. These are all done through widgets in WordPress.
Depending on your theme, you can have a ton of different options. Here’s what I have to choose from:
Obviously, I’m not going to use ALL of them. I need to pick and choose carefully. So, after years of experimenting, and realizing that some things were more trouble than they were worth, I ended up using these:
Sharing is a really important piece of your setup, because you want to reach as many people as possible, and giving others the ability to share your posts with others. You can put a Social Media Icons widget in your sidebar, at the bottom of your posts, and you can also configure your blog to share automatically for you.
You find your sharing settings under the Settings Menu:
You’ll see this page (if you’re hosted on WordPress):
First, you want to set up your Publicize settings. Click the Publicize button:
And you’ll go to this screen:
You can see that I have only connected to Twitter. I blog anonymously, so I don’t want my posts connected to any of my “real life” personal or professional social networks. So, all I have connected to is Twitter. You may wish to connect to everything. That’s your choice.
Whenever you post to your blog, with Publicize, you’ll post to all your connected social media without needing to do anything. For someone with memory and sequencing issues, this is a godsend — you don’t need to make a checklist of where all to post after you blog something. Publicize does it for you.
That’s why it’s so important to set it up.
Next, you want to set up your Sharing Buttons (which will appear on your pages), so people can share your posts with others. You just drag all the Available Services down to the Enabled Services area. You can see that I only have Twitter, Facebook, and Email enabled, because my posts are very text-heavy and also very personal. I could put the Print button in there, but people usually know how to print pages, so I won’t take up the space on the page.
You also want to turn on the buttons for your whole blog — check all the boxes beside “Show buttons on”, and you can also put your Twitter username in there, so whenever your readers tweet your posts, your own username will show up.
Like and Reblog are also turned on for me — especially Reblog because that makes it really easy for people to share your posts on their blogs.
So, that’s the lesson for today — three basic things to do that aren’t terribly complicated but will make your blog easier to use and share with others.