Here’s where we get to the nitty gritty of blogging, making it look pretty. This section is going to be broken up into several sections. I suggest reading them in order, but feel free to jump to the sections you want to learn. I didn’t have enough time to even start the tutorials section, but it is open to suggestions.
You will need a text editor where you can view and write HTML and CSS. Windows has the infamous Notepad, while Mac users can use TextEdit.
Image Editing Software
In order to edit your pretty book photos, or swag, you’ll need basic image editing software. Since Adobe Photoshop is ridiculously expensive, GIMP is the one to download. It does exactly what Photoshop does without all the bells and whistles. Image manipulation is a snap, and it can run on PC or Mac, and even Unix operating systems.
I use Adobe Photoshop CS5 and sometimes I don’t even use all the plug-ins. Just the very basic tools is what I use on a daily basis.
Most designers start with a piece of paper and sketch where all the elements of their blog will go. There are three components: header, body, and footer. Sometimes sketches will do, if you have a client, use a wireframe. It’s lot more tidy and looks more presentable for clients.
When you design, put the most important elements above the fold. Above the fold is a term used in print where the first big story appears hence the name. It’s the same in web design, the part that’s visible before the user starts to scroll. Remember to put the most important parts above the fold so users will see that first.
How are visitors going to find your reviews? How will they find you review policy? This is why navigation is so important in a blog. You will need to create a site map. Which category will link where? Where do your contact pages go? By being organized you can let visitors come to your blog and know that all the right elements are there.
Book blogs have standard pages. The most commonly used navigation includes:
All others can be added in. Some other pages/categories that are used:
Choose a colour scheme that you want to draw your visitors in not make them close the window. I use a standard rule of three to four colours per project. Two bright colours, and two accents. Any more colours and you can annoy your visitor. Please don’t have such a dark background with light coloured text. If you want people to stay on your blog long then please avoid it.
There are literally thousands of fonts, so how can you possibly narrow it down to two or three fonts? You can’t. You can use a minimum of three fonts in your blog. One for headings and titles and quite possibly quoted text. Another one for copy. And the last can be used in your nifty blog header, or button.
You’ll need some beautiful stock photography to jazz up your blog. It’s illegal to do a Google search and grab any image as your own. There are copyright laws! You can be sued and you’re liable to pay those fees if that ever happens. So please don’t take images from Google and mark them as your own.
The only photos I use that are taken from Google are book covers, and since we book bloggers work with publishers, there is already permission to be able to use them.
There are other ways to get photos for your book blog, and none of them include infringing copyright laws.
You don’t need to have an expensive camera to produce high-quality images. This is a book blog, not a photography blog after all. All you need is a camera, and even phones take great quality photos. I sometimes use my phone to take photos and edit them in software later.
These sites allow photographers to upload their images, and people can download them for free as long as the credit is clearly indicated. The only down-side to this is that most of the photos are out-dated. Also if you’re looking for specific photo, the selection is quite limited.
These sites have a “pay-as-you” subscription where you buy a set number of credits and use them to purchase photos. Other plans also include a subscription where you can download as many images as your plan indicates. This method can get rather expensive, and I don’t recommend paying so much for one little book blog. But if you’re willing to pay for your stock imagery, then the sites below have a great selection. They’re also royalty-free which means you buy a photo with a license and you’re free to use that photo anywhere you choose for any project.
If you don’t like the look of photos, you can also go the illustrated route and make your blog look pretty. These illustrations follow the same set of rules. You can use them in your projects just as long as you keep the credit intact. Some are great quality and sometimes I can’t believe they’re free. The one pictured here is a free vector!
Social media is very important. What better way to promote your blog and get your name out there than Twitter? Icons are useful for the side bar and many other bloggers design their own to match their layout.