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15 minutes to a better blog + blogging + Life + Tori Bowman / Thursday, 28 Feb 2013

Tips for a better blog: how to use Pinterest

by Tori Bowman of That Pair of Crutches. Tori contributes weekly with tips about how to improve your blog. See her others posts here

We all use Pinterest. Whether it’s to help us decide what to cook for dinner or create our dream home, there’s a good chance that we check it at least once a day. And while planning meals and wardrobes isn’t a waste of time, there are ways that we can use Pinterest as a tool to improve our blog and maybe even make us a bit of money. 
1. Stay In Character: Create boards that help you to create better content and expand on the content you’re already offering your readers. Do you have a food blog? Pin recipe ideas and inspiration for future posts. Also try to pin things that will help your readers improve their cooking skills. They are reading your blog because that’s what they are interested in and likely assume that your Pinterest page will be an extension of the type of content they find on your blog. Give them what they’re looking for. 
2. Keep Some Things Quiet: Pinterest recently introduced private boards. This is an amazing tool you can use to better your blog. Create a private board with inspiration and images for upcoming posts. Create a board with items or shops you like to feature on your blog or partner with in the future. Use private boards to get a head start on a coming theme you’d like to cover and make it private until you’re ready to announce the theme to your readers. You can even use them to collect inspiration for an upcoming redesign.
3. Join An Affiliate Network: Are you always pinning clothes? Have a site that you are constantly getting lost on and come out on the other side only to find that you’ve pinned half of their products? Why not get paid for it? Rewardstyle is my favorite site for this because there are so many great companies on there and it’s rare that I can’t find what I’m looking for. It’s simple to join and you will be making money doing something you do anyway. It’s really an easy decision.
4. Collaborate: Use group boards to your advantage. Pin inspiration for a series with your contributors. Create a board for you and clients to pin to and use them to create a mood board for the project. Every month, invite one of your favorite bloggers to help you curate a board. Pinterest can be a little unsocial, but group boards are one way that you can use them to connect and build relationships with others, which is the reason you started blogging, right?
How do you use Pinterest as a tool instead of just another time suck? I’d love to hear!

15 minutes to a better blog + giveaway + Life + Tori Bowman / Thursday, 21 Feb 2013

Tips to a better blog: How to work with a designer and GIVEAWAY!

by Tori Bowman of That Pair of Crutches. Tori contributes bi-weekly with blogging advice. See her others posts here. See her amazing giveaway after the jump (you can win a blog redesign!)

We’ve talked a lot about simple ways to improve the look of your blog, but when you don’t have design training or knowledge of coding, there’s only so much you can do. If you really want to take your design to the next level, chances are, you’re going to have to hire a designer. 

Scared? Don’t be. It can be a bit scary to hand your blog over to someone else, but here are a few tips to help you through it. 

1. Know what you want. Before you turn your vision over to someone else, make sure it’s clear to you. It’s important to know the feel you want your brand to portray, and to know exactly what your budget and timeline are. You also need to nail down details like what you can live without if they don’t fit within your budget. What are your non-negotiable items? 

Once you’ve nailed down those terms, start to work on the feel. Do you want your readers to think of their grandma’s kitchen when they see your brand? Or their cool older sister? Create a Pinterest board and figure out the emotions and imagery that you want people to associate with your brand. 

2. Be open to different options. 
I know, I know… You spent all that time figuring out exactly what you want and now you need to be open to other ideas? But hear me out: you are handing your idea of what your brand should be over to a someone who creates brands for a living. They know what they’re doing and they are going to do all that they can to create the brand that fits you perfectly. While it’s great to have a “feel” nailed down for your blog, don’t be too rigid on specifics like, “It has to have a banner,” or “Polka dots or bust.” Keep an open mind and give your designer room to create something amazing. You hired them for a reason. 

3. Speak up!That being said… If you don’t love it, tell them! And tell them right away. Don’t wait until three proofs in to tell them that you actually hate the mark they’ve created for your brand. They won’t be offended, I promise. Be very specific about what you do and don’t like. Knowing what what is working for you is just as important as knowing what isn’t. Remember that you’re creating a brand that will define everything you do and that you’re creating something that will last. Things like that take time and deserve effort. 

4. Listen and obey. Ok, you’ve got your brand. Your mark in three different colors and the two fonts you were told to stick to, no matter what. Your designer has outlined how all of the elements should be used and made sure you understood how they should not be used, ever. Now listen! Trust them! It will keep your brand looking cohesive and keep you looking like you know what you’re doing. You will not regret it. 

So there you have it. How to be the perfect design client and get exactly what you want. Everyone wins.

Thank you Tori for the great info. Sometimes the process can be rough, so hopefully, this helps you.

With that in mind, Tori, a graphic designer, is offering a blog redesign giveaway today and I’m already so jealous of the winner. The winner of this giveaway will receive a custom header, favicon (the small square image on the tab of your browser), social media buttons and sidebar headers, and minor adjustments to the theme code.

To enter: Visit Tori’s blog, That Pair of Crutches, “like” That Pair of Crutches on Facebook or Twitter @tpocblog and then leave a comment below telling us your plan for your redesign. 

Good luck everyone!

The giveaway ends Thursday, February 28th.

Picture from A Proper Pinwheel

15 minutes to a better blog + blogging + Design + Tori Bowman / Thursday, 7 Feb 2013

Simple Tricks to Redesign Your Blog

by Tori Bowman of That Pair of Crutches. Tori contributes bi-weekly with blogging advice. See her others posts here.

The month leading up to Alt Design Summit was the month of the blog redesigns. The people of the blogging world were getting their virtual space cleaned up and ready to be seen by the attendees of the conference and let me tell you… those bloggers didn’t disappoint. There have been so many good redesigns, and so many unique approaches to the problems that we all face with our blogs, that I wanted to share a few of my favorite facelifts with you and pass along a few tips from each for you to use on your own blog!

First up is the Coterie blog (above)

If you aren’t familiar with Heather, you’re missing out. The lady is a doll, with the little cutest boys you will ever see. Her love from her family oozes out of every post and you can’t help but leave her site feeling inspired to not only create cool stuff, but to live a little bit better and be happy with what you have. 

You also can’t help but be inspired by the design. When I was in design school, the one things my teachers tried to drill into my head was that simplicity was king. Create something and then simplify it as much as you can before it loses its meaning. It’s a fine line and Heather has hit it right on with her new design (and the help of her designer husband :). 

Want take a page out of heather’s book and go for the ultra simple look? One simple way to do this that doesn’t require vast graphic design knowledge is to stick with a type-based header. There are so many beautiful fonts out there that can help you create the look you’re going for, while keeping your site looking nice and clean. Try mixing multiple fonts and playing with the arrangement of the words. Brittany here has a header that does just that and feels totally put together and complete. 

Here are a few great font round-ups to help you find the perfect font for your header! One from Emmadime, two from Breanna Rose, three from A Subtle Revelry
Next we have Create Like Crazy 

Jordan is one of the funnest ladies you’ll ever meet. Every post is so full of life and unique, even when she’s talking about basic things that we hear about all the time. I promise she’ll leave you wanting to “create like crazy.” (ha!)

Again, her blog is very simple, but she adds interest in simple ways that you can recreate very easily! First, take advantage of things you can control, like photography. A post full of beautiful pictures can do so much for the look of your blog. Second, pick great colors and roll with them. I love how the color of Jordan’s date tab matches perfectly with her profile picture and the image from her header. You can also adjust the colors of your sidebar headers and text links to fit with your look. Third, don’t be afraid to mess with the code. Just go into the backend of your site, copy and paste the existing code in case you mess up and want to start fresh, and experiment away!

Finally there’s Grey Likes Weddings

The beauty of this site is in the details. Two fonts are used throughout the entire site to keep things looking cohesive. They’ve shaken things up a bit by changing the color of some of the words, making the links in the content the second font and a different color. It is far from boring and keeps their theme and look flowing throughout every piece of their site. 

Second, they weren’t satisfied with the standard options. All of their buttons and icons are customized to fit their look and brand, they’ve left nothing out. From their search form, to their page links, to their social media icons, they have their hand in every piece of the site. While it’s not easy and a lot of bloggers don’t know how to do all that coding, here’s an easy way to customize your site: you Use free Illustrator-like programs such as Gimp to create custom buttons and page links and upload your images to Picasa Web Albums. Once you’ve done that, right click on your image, copy the page location and then stick customize the following code:


All you have to do is stick that piece of code into a HTML widget on your site and you’re set! Make sure that you create the right size of buttons (if your sidebar is 300 px wide, make sure your image is too!) to make sure everything fits!

While it’s difficult to create the blog of your dreams without the help of a professional designer or coder, but these simple tips can help you create a space that’s a little more you and a little less cookie cutter. It’s a road that involves a lot of trial and error, but you’ll be happy you tried! Good luck and once you’re done, please share your links so we can see! 

Thank you Tori! Noted!

15 minutes to a better blog + Design + Life / Friday, 30 Nov 2012

15 minutes to a better blog: fonts, fonts, fonts!

This is is the fourth post in a new weekly series by Tori Bowman of That Pair of Crutches teaching us how to build a better brand for your blog. To see the rest of her posts, click here.
Fonts are one of the most important parts of a blog. They set the tone for the content and can either help or hinder your readers as they peruse your site. Here are a few tips to help ensure that it’s the former, rather than the latter, that happens. 
Choose a font that fits your brand. Is your brand a bit more feminine and classic? A serif is probably the best choice for you. And san-serifs are great for more modern and minimal brands. 
Make sure it’s easy to read. Are there any characters that make you pause as you’re reading? You might want to try a different font. Your readers shouldn’t have to think about what specific letters are; the characters should create a natural flow through your posts. 
Remember that opposites attract. If you choose a nice serif for your body type, try a thicker, bolder font for your header. Contrast like this helps create interest and makes your brand more visually appealing. 
And simple is usually better. Don’t over do it. Too many flourishes, fonts, changes between bold, underline, italics can be distracting. Choose 2-3 good fonts and stick with them. Think about what you will be using fonts for before you choose your finals ones so that you can make sure they fit all of your needs.

Make sure it’s one you love. It’s always a good idea to see what your readers think about your fonts. Are they easy for them to read, ect. But ultimately, it’s your blog, your brand. So choose fonts that you love.
What are some of your favorite fonts? And what are your font pairings? I do love a good match!
All of the above fonts came from Google Web Fonts. Here are the names from top to bottom:
-Gentium Basic
-Crete Round
-Croissant One
-Signika Bold
-Old Standard TT

15 minutes to a better blog + Design + Life / Thursday, 15 Nov 2012

5 Pinterest lessons from a real pin board

This is is the third post in a new weekly series by Tori Bowman of That Pair of Crutches teaching us how to build a better brand for your blog. To see the rest of her posts, click here.

If you’re anything like me, Pinterest is slowly but surely taking over your life. With infinite space to collect all of your favorite things, from recipes, to photographs, to DIYs, how can you not be obsessed? Especially when it makes organizing the many facets of your life so easy and the end product so beautiful. There are so many things about Pinterest that make the organizing inspiration more convenient, habitual really, that it’s become somewhat of a thoughtless process, at least for me. Here are a few lessons we can learn from a real pin board that will help us give more attention to our pinning and turn our Pinterest boards from good to great. 
1. Space is an issue
It’s easy to be picky when you only have a small bit of wall to work with. But when you have the whole of Pinterest at your fingertips, it doesn’t take long to get carried away. Don’t be too quick to repin things when you’re browsing. Try to only pin things that truly inspire you, DIYs you might actually do, recipes that sound good. And don’t be afraid to pin passing interests (i.e. planning a remodel or a party) to specific boards so that they can all easily be deleted when you’re done with them!
2. Explain yourself.
When someone walks up to your inspiration board in your office and asks you about a specific image, do you spout off the description from the magazine you snagged the image from or do you explain in your own words why you liked it? You should try to do the same when you write descriptions for Pinterest. Some pins don’t need more than a general title (Best Chocolate Chip Cookies), but others might need a little altering (like the descriptions that say “for my husband” when you are actually single). Pay close attention to descriptions as you pin and personalize them whenever possible. 
3. Keep to a theme.
My favorite pinners are the ones that have a consistent style. Jennifer Hagler, is the queen of black and white minimalism, Bri Emery, always boosts my spirits with her bright and fun pins, and if you’re looking for some wonderful florals, Brittany is your gal. Learn what your style is for the different things you pin. It’s ok to have the clothes you like be a different style than the interiors that inspire you. Just figure out what each of those are and try to pin accordingly!
4. Stay organized.
Create as many or as few boards as you like. Make them as broad or as specific (but not only one pin specific!) as you like. Create a board for every new product you’re working on if that’s what works best for you. Just stick to your guns. No pictures of cute dogs on your cat board. Don’t post inspiration for bathrooms on your board full of ideas for your kitchen remodel. Be consistent with your pins and pin according to the descriptions on your boards. 
5. Know what to keep to yourself
Some projects for clients are better kept secret. Surprise party inspirations for your sister probably shouldn’t be advertised as such if she is on Pinterest, too. Cue private boards. And choirs of angels, because really, how long have we all been waiting for this? It’s amazing. But with only three boards, you’ve got to be a bit picky. If you’re using them for client projects, use one at a time for your current project. If you have too many things that need to be kept private, try using another organization tool like Evernote for all of your work and keeping things light and free of work and projects on Pinterest. Do what’s easiest for you and helps you to stay organized and inspired. That is, after all, what these tools were created for!

What tips have helped you be a better pinner?