Sunday, October 7, 2007

a blog by its cover

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you've probably noticed that it's gone through an number of aesthetic iterations. I started out with one of the standard Blogger templates -- Minima Lefty. I picked that template for two main reasons: first, it looked like the plainest, least intrusive of the choices, and, second, I wanted the sidebar on the left hand side, since, for reasons too dull to go into, although I'm right-handed, I mouse left.

I found a picture of a krater, an Ancient Greek vase used to mix wine and water, with clay-colored figures etched on a black background, illustrating the death of Niobe's children. The image was in black and white, which suited the uncluttered look I was trying for, but because the krater is curved and the screen is flat, the edges of the scene were cut off, which bothered me every time I opened the page. Because the scene was relatively complex, I tried to find a simpler graphic for the header that wouldn't compete with it. For a while I used the image of a piece of marble, then I tried a photo I had taken by pointing the camera straight up on a sunny day, reducing the contrast until both sky and and clouds were shades of grey. But, although it was an improvement, the header background struck me as too derivative of (and not nearly as pretty as) the one on the Louvre's homepage .

I couldn't find a header background that I was happier with, until I tried my photo of the green-grey waters of the Seine, which had the advantage (as someone pointed out) of looking a little like a river of tears. Once that was up, I decided that there was now enough color and texture that I could finally get rid of the Greek vase painting, though I wondered if it would be disorienting when readers clicked on my blog, only to find the most recognizable image gone. From the very beginning, I had wanted to carve out a white column for the text, because I didn't think that the letters and photos showed up clearly enough otherwise. But it took me months of fruitlessly manipulating the html before I was able to figure out how to do it.

How did you design the look of your blog? How and why has it evolved? Are you happy with it? What do you wish you could still change?

33 comments:

Grad3 said...

Mine is a boring standard template but I changed it several times before settling on my current one.

I really like the colors of it, they feel relaxing to me... they are my favorite colors in nature. I am happiest when I am outside on a fall or late spring day.

I want to figure out how to add links in blog text and pics. I would also like to become more articulate in my writing. I think of myself as more people savy person- not computer or brainy type person. So I have lots of work to do!

bubandpie said...

I really like the blogs that have a wider area of text. I assume the way to get this on a Blogger blog is to use one of the Minima Stretch templates. I haven't switched though for two reasons:

1) I like having my header corresponding exactly to the width of everything underneath it. (Again, I suppose there are ways to achieve a wider screen and a great big header, but that goes beyond my minimal skill level.)

2) I like the look of well-defined boundaries on my blog, because I'm a structured, boundary-type person (J). Heavy margins, thick brown headers and footers - they suit me.

On the other hand, I'm also the kind of person who enthusiastically embraces occasional change - so I suspect I'll need to revamp my template once a year or so.

thirtysomething said...

I started out with the basic green template from blogger (almost too green), then came upon the more outdoorsy one I have now. I have searched and searched for a different template that just grabs me, but haven't found one yet. I am satisfied enough with the one I have now though. I do wish I had more time to devote to adding links within my blog though. Often I want to sned a reader to another blog with just one word or phrase, but have been unsuccessful each time I have tried it. Despite everyone's guidance. My computer illiteracy is THAT pronounced!
I would love to learn more about how to decorate the sidebar as well...
I love all the changes to your blog. It has evolved with you and is quite inviting.

Eva said...

I use a template called "White as Milk" since, at the time, the main thing I was talking about was pumping my milk. Now I keep it out of nostalgia mostly.

Wabi said...

I really like your green-waters banner a lot. It looks like a cross between the stormy sea and a scrying bowl. Spooky.

My blog is completely cut and paste in its design: blogger template all the way. The only things I spent any time on were selecting the top-right photo (which I wanted to go with the whole "wabi-sabi" aesthetic, but not look like a sterotypical Asian motif) and writing the blurb about me that goes under the photo.

The biggest thing I wish I could do is add captions to photos that appear in posts. (Anyone? Is that possible?) Aside from that, since I don't really do anything in my writing that requires fancypants graphics, I'm pretty ok with what I've got.

Aurelia said...

I used the standard blogger beta template, then realized I could change the background colors a bit and get something different.

Trouble is that because I had the beta one, I couldn't buy a template anywhere or install one of the free ones. So for a long time, I just kept this.

I am bored now, I'd love a new one and I think I can get one pretty easily, but I just haven't been motivated. Hmmm, maybe this week?

Waiting Amy said...

I started with a minima blogger template too. Tried fiddling with it, but don't know much html yet. Found my new pomegrante template on a free templates page. I like the pomegrantes but not the double side bar. I'm seriously thinking of ditching it, although there are certain aspects that I really like. But I'd rather be more minimal too. I really need to learn to tweak a basic template. I'd probably like something like you have done, with a simple personal picture at the header.

brenda said...

Im a little boring and just use something provided in the wordpress list. I have had a few different ones and I do always try and keep them bright. I figure my blog can be sad enough sometimes with out adding a dark background. I would love to have a background of photos but am just not clever enough to do it. lol

I like the one you have now much better than the Greek background.

Hugs
xxx

LeRoy Dissing said...

I just used a template that came with blogger. I haven't really had the time or inclination to work on changing it although someday I might. For me, its not so much what it looks like as the content and if it makes me think - your does!

LAS said...

The name. My blog needs a new name.

niobe said...

Las: what kind of name are you looking for? why do you not want to keep the one you have? I'll try to come up with some ideas, if you give me a little guidance.

thailandchani said...

I am not visual enough to even consider designing something like that. There are plenty around that I like.. but I just like them. I'd have no idea how all the various pieces fit together.

Mine was designed by TTQ, another blogger who was offering at one time to do other people's sites if they left her a comment requesting it.

It is all 100% her work.


Peace,

~Chani
http://thailandgal.blogspot.com

I know you can hear me... said...

I agree with the others, I love the waters on your template - it is classic and beautiful.

My template is, like a lot of others, straight out of blogger. I don't know a whole lot abut it, and so I'm not even sure how I would go about changing it. But that's definitely an adventure to keep in mind for a rainy day...

Pamela Jeanne said...

Funny I'm left handed and mouse right. As for blog looks, I wanted to have my own domain name plain and simple so I went with GoDaddy, which offers a blog option. (Yeah, I'm a bit of a control freak.) I didn't want to be forced down a narrow path. The good news is the template is very customizable, but the bad news is you need to be fairly technically sophisticated. I'm on my third blog look/feel rev since Feb. It's getting there but not entirely what I'd like. Biggest complaint, I'd like columns on both sides rather than left or right. I'm liking what you've got going on...

Kristen said...

Mine is also a boring template but I've tried to jazz it up with graphics. Over time, it has gotten longer and longer because I can't stop adding people to my blogroll. It's an addiction and it's hard to break but it's getting hard to keep up with all of them.

I wish I could change my background to a different color but its not a big issue for me. Yet. ;)

LAS said...

That's an interesting question - what kind of name? I think I picked the name because when I started the blog I was writing about surviving breast cancer - and being in early sobriety - things that I thought would never pass or never end. I thought it would never get easier. But now I know - everything passes, everything changes - feelings, they go away - the bad ones and the good ones. I feel like my life has always been about waiting - waiting to be happy, waiting for the next thing to happen, waiting and waiting for whatever it was to change so that I could just get on with it. I'm tired of waiting. I want my life to be about living - right now, and being happy right now. No more waiting. Maybe the name is as good as any - I don't know. It was definitely fitting at the time.

painted maypole said...

when I started blogging in june, I breifly browsed through the templates, the dots one was the first one I liked pretty well, I picked it, and haven't really done a thing to it since!

Tash said...

Ok, not to sound too much like my therapist, but it does sound in your case (and in Las') that the blog has somewhat evolved as your grief has changed. Once you're better able to articulate what it is you want, feel, want to see, what bothers you, then you're better able to put that feeling into design. On the one hand, this applies to me: I've got so much balled up I want out that I really don't give a crap what my blog looks like -- it looks a bit tombstone-y to me, and that suits just fine. Something about juxtaposing the simple with the profane language works for me too. I'm not far enough along to have any beautiful metaphors I can use pictorally. On the other hand, I'm an html doofus of the highest order, and I'm amazed I set up a google account correctly, so in the event I do figure out a way to design things a bit neater, I'll probably end up paying someone to do it, or just leaving it as a nice idea.

The Oneliner (Christina) said...

i pay more to use a picture for a header that i designed. that i do not like. i've ordered a tablet to change it. stay tuned.
i don't like the name of my blog either. i want to change it...but am too afraid.
i like yours. the river of tears. so sad, but true.

passingwindows said...

I just used a simple template that I liked. I'd like a more personal header, I think it makes one's blog more identifiable, but I just can't be bothered to sit here fiddling around it works - I have no patience! I have only just managed to upload a photo into the sidebar, after months of trying, and now I find I want to change it!

I like your new header a lot, it's a nice mixture of art and metaphor and the wording on it is great.

Amelie said...

I play with the templates every now and then, either because I don't like the current one any more, or find a new even better one, or just for procrastination. Changing the background picture is easy, so I do that more often than other adaptations I'd like to do but don't take the time to make it all fit together again (I'd like to change some colors) or find out how to do it in the first place...
I like the fact that it is dynamic enough so that I can change the look whenever I want. After all, what I write about changes, too.
Your picture of the Seine is wonderful. I might be biased, though, since I love looking water.

Lori said...

Mine is standard blogger template all the way. I liked it because it sort of reminded me of a more handwritten journal, which was the intention of my blog.

I would change it up if I knew how. How do you get a photo within your header like you have done? I know... I know...it's probably easy.

furrow said...

complete and utter neglect. That describes the look of my blog. One can hope for better days.

Feebee said...

I started with a standard blogger template. Then one night I stayed up all night in a fit of creativity and made it into what it is now. I always intended to perfect it over time but never got round to it. Which is a bit lazy and a bit odd when you think about the amount of time I spend writing on it.

Thanks for your support on my blog.

Kami said...

Mine is standard blogger too. It is on my list to dress it up a bit, but I am bad about making time for those kind of details.

becky said...

I'm fine with the layout of my blog. I wish that it allowed widgets on the side bar, but I have learned to somewhat navigate my way around it, which is a big step for someone like me. I am not computer savvy.

Magpie said...

If I were more energetic, I might change things. But I'm less than energetic.

That said, how did you make the photo into a header?

And your whole blog is nice and clean. I like it.

niobe said...

Lori, Magpie and anyone else who wanted to add a picture to the header:

For Blogger blogs, this is *really* easy, because you don't need to fool around with html:

1. go to customize
2. click on add a page element
3. one of the choices is page header. click on that
4. add a picture either from your computer or using its url, the same way you add a picture to a post.

My Reality said...

I have a vision in my head of how I want my blog to look, but I haven't figured out how to do it. I will get around to it, one day!

Christine said...

i just liked the brown best. then i got bored and changed the wallpaper. now i just need a header, i think. i just have to find the right one.

EB said...

I'm new to blogging and am setting up my first attempt at the moment - this discussion has been really, really helpful to me althoug a lot of it is way over my head at the moment. Thanks again!

Sarah said...

yours looks great! i love how the white box highlights the posts, i may try to copy that idea. mine is just very plain because i am too all over the place to pick one theme and stick with it. that, laziness, and lack of time.

Patience-please said...

My blog is new and still evolving. I love your header image. You write beautifully.