16 March 2014

Back to Basics - Blogging

Hello there, today in my Back to Basics episode I wanted to talk about setting up, having and maintaining a blog. I have been asked a few times about this and so finally I wanted to make a post about it.
Setting up a blog
There are a few things you need to think about when setting up a blog
  • What platform do you want to use?
  • Do you want a free blog or are you happy to pay for it?
  • What will I call it? Will this be the same as the domain name?
  • How do I want it to look?
Different platforms
There are a few different platforms you can use for your blog. The most popular ones are Blogger which is free, wordpress.com which is also free and wordpress.org which you need to pay for.
I have to be honest, I do not know that much about Wordpress, I have never used it so I asked my fellow CBS teamies Caryn and Debby about it. wordpress.com is free to set up and I believe it is like Blogger in that you can pick themes for your design and your domain name will be www.whateveryoucallit.wordpress.com. Caryn and Debby both use the self hosting wordpress.org. For this you need to buy hosting, a domain name and then you load wordpress to your hosting account. You can then completely upload a design (one that you have made yourself or bought from places like Etsy) or you can use one of themes already in Wordpress and add a few bits of your own.
I use Blogger. I know some people complain about it but I honestly do like it. It does have it's problems, currently it is not very compatible with Internet Explorer 11 although I do believe they are working to try and sort this out. Blogger is free to set up, you will have a www.whateveryoucallit.blogspot.co.uk/.com domain name and there are themes that you can use for your design. You can also upload your own complete theme or you can upload separate bits and tweak the themes that are on there. You have control over your fonts, colours, pictures etc. You can also pay for a personalised domain name (with another company) and you can set your blog up to use that domain name.
Naming your blog/domain name
You do not have to use the same name for your blog as the domain name but it does help people remember it. Some people use their actual name as the domain name e.g. michelleshort.com and then you can have your blog called whatever you wanted or could change it as time goes on. If you are going to keep your domain name as your blog name then I suggest you think carefully about what you want to call it. For example, by blog is called The Card Grotto but some people call it Card Grotto, I think this may be because I do not have the 'the' as part of the domain name. It might not be though. My domain name was bought from Google. Unfortunately they no longer sell to personal users, only business which is quite a it of money. For the domain name on my personal blog I use Go Daddy. You don't have to have a personal domain name at all but I just hated the .blogspot.com part so I decided to get one!
Blog design
Blog design is always going to be a personal thing. For my current blog at the moment I designed everything and uploaded it myself (apart from the social media buttons that I got from Etsy and the photo of me which I bought as part of an old design package). I made the header myself in Paint Shop Pro as well as the email me button and my watermarks on my photo's. My social media buttons were bought from a seller on Etsy. Etsy is a great place to by design elements, or complete themes, from if you do not know how to do it yourself. In the past I did get a designer to make-over my complete blog. It cost a lot and to be honest with you I wasn't happy with the service I received. I did use it for a little while but ended up not liking it over time so I had to re-do the whole thing. There are some extremely talented people out there that make blog designs for people, all I can suggest is that if you are going to go down that route do your homework first. Research the person, if you like someone else's blog ask them who designed theirs and did they get good service etc.
Blog designs can always be changed though, there is not one person I know who has not changed their design in one way or another since they started it. We are creative people so it is only inevitable that our blogs will grow with us and we feel like we want to change it to better suit our needs/style. I know I have changed mine SO many times! At the moment I am pretty happy with it. I have my text and pictures on the left and my sidebar on the right. I also have page links at the top. These are helpful so that you do not have so much stuff on your homepage. I also personally do not like too much on my sidebar; just like my cards, I like my blog CAS! I have a little about me at the top as well as a picture - I think this engages you with your readers a little. It is nice to see who is making the cards. I also have links where people can follow me or contact me - this is important too. In this day and age with social media, it is nice to follow people on different platforms - Facebook, Twitter (although I am not on it that much!), Instagram etc. I also have a copyright notice (again this is important, some people may not take it seriously but the work you share on your blog is your property. It should not be copied, at least without authorisation or acknowledgement). I then have links to past posts and labels. I personally find these really helpful if I want to search for a particular brand or card on someone's blog.
There are many blogs that I like the design of, here are two in particular ...

Image used with permission
For me, Stephanie's blog is very pleasing to the eye. She has a great logo/blog header. The links to pages are clear and her sidebar is not too cluttered but still has all the information you need on it. She uses a nice colour palette and fonts that are easy to read and has big clear photographs.

Image used with permission
Again, for me, I love the look of Jen's blog. Her logo is clean and pretty. You know exactly what her blog is called and who it is made by. Her pages are easy to see and although her sidebar has a few more things on it than Stephanie's, it is still easy to see what is on it and all the information it needs. Although you cannot see in the screenshot, her photo's are big and clear. Her text is easy to read and I love the colour palette she uses. 
Added Extras
I personally think it is a good idea to watermark you photo's. Not only does this make it harder for people to steal them (as they have to erase the watermark) but I feel it is like you are signing your work, like a painter does with a painting. They can be made yourself with various photo editing software or quite a few people make them to sell now. I have bought them from Pink Gem Designs, Karen Giron and Dina Kowal (although it looks like she no longer makes them for sale sadly).
Advertising may be something you want to think about. I have only just recently added Google Ads to my blog in my sidebar. For me this is not for money, although I am not allowed to tell you how much I make from the ads, we are talking pennies not pounds! I have it there because it links to my Google Ad Sense that I use through You Tube. You could also think about having paid sponsors on your blog if you want to make some money from your hobby.
I hope that has helped some of you who may be thinking about setting up a blog and a little of what it entails. Thanks so much for visiting me today, have a great day!


  1. love your blog too!!!!!

    Jen xxx

  2. Wow, thanks for the help Michelle. How weird that you've posted this just as I've given my blog a facelift this morning! I'm pretty clueless and am completely self-taught by searching for help on Google. This is really helpful. PS. would love to know what you think about my fresh new look! :) xx

  3. this is just awesome!! I'm really struggling to be honest I gave up with the blog thing , reading your post has inspired to have another go!!! didn't realise you could stuff of etsy?! thanks for taking the time to do this Michelle! enjoy your Sunday! xxxx

  4. I didn't know you could get stuff for your blog off of etsy either. Nice post, Michelle!

  5. Michelle, I didn't know any of this stuff since I don't have a blog! I know, I know, but I'm not sure I could keep a blog going. I have given it some thought and may try it one day. I'm favoriting this post for future reference :) Thanks for all your research and for sharing all this important information. It's so very much appreciated!

  6. Very informative! Thanks Michelle! :)

    Big hugs
    Roni :D xox

  7. Hi Michelle!! I love your blog, your CAS card art, your hauls and all of your helpful tips. I started a blog on blogger, but it was not ipad friendly. After a few months I moved it to WordPress.com and they have continued to update and improve things as Apple releases their updates for ios. Some things are so deep, it's hard to find answers, like Gravatar profile, it's taking up the whole side bar on my blog. LOL I'm not really computer tech savvy, I know just enough to get into trouble. Google's YouTube's take over and melt down in the Fall of 2013, really gave me head aches and I couldn't upload my videos for 60+ days, they still seem to have a few glitches. Uploading from iphoto app to YouTube is hit or miss. I loved that it would work in the background, while I read email. The Capture app has some neat features, like fusing 2 videos into 1, but it does not allow you to leave the app before it's done uploading the video, so it pauses and ques and you have to restart it, if you leave the app. I find it sad that the tech world can't work together better for a more seamless integration. I need to figure out how to add water mark to my photos. Thanks for all you do Michelle!

  8. Designing your own blog is much more fun than buying one,I did mine in Craft Artist 2 Professional, which is what I used to create my watermark & to add the watermark to all my photos.
    Like you I've redesigned my blog a couple of times & now your post is making think about updating it again!


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