“…customize my blog’s design right away.”

Completing this sentence is today’s Blogathon topic, asking participants to reflect on what we would do differently if we were starting out blogging, given what we’ve learned.

I started blogging in January last year, and used the Blogger template Travel. I loved the background picture, the Mylar-style overlay of text, and the white font. Pretty soon I heard the white font was hard to read. But I liked it, so I stuck with it. Then, last summer, I took a blogging class for writers run by Kristen Lamb, and white font was one of her no-no’s because it’s hard to read on mobile devices. I still ignored that advice, because I liked that template’s look.

But by the fall I had grown tired of it, and worse, I’d come across a few other blogs that were running on the same template. That’s like going to a party and finding another woman wearing the same dress. I had also visited enough other blogs to start feeling like they all looked the same, as they were running on one of the WordPress or Blogger templates. I also met some bloggers whose blogs looked individual, whose design impressed me, and whose blogs were thus memorable. I realized those people had put time into their blogs’ design. They had thought about what kind of look they wanted. Some were classmates from Kristen’s class, and so I asked them how they did it. No secrets there: They looked at lots of other blogs, noted a few they liked, and hired a graphic designer to help them come up with a look.

So finally, last fall, I did the same. I took the time to figure out what look would be most “me.” I found a few blogs whose design I wanted to emulate, although not quite. I sat down with a designer friend, and we came up with my banner, and my look, customizing a Blogger template with a banner that can be updated periodically by switching out the pictures.

My blog banner Nov 2011 until today

According to my blog statistics, page views increased by about 50% after I customized my blog. Is that a direct consequence? Of course I don’t know, but since I wasn’t doing any other special blog activities like a blogathon or a class in November or December, evidence probably supports the idea that a more individualized blog draws in more readers. Improved readability helps, too.

To go with today’s theme, I’ve updated my banner, so that all you faithful readers don’t get bored over time. Let me know how you like it.

New banner

The pictures are, left to right:

Photo of my daughter and me, Summer 1996
LaSalle Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois, April 2012
Laundry in Hongkou, Shanghai, March 2012