Sunday, February 6, 2011

Google Blogger: Operational Design Excellence

Google's Blogger is a powerful tool for free blogging  - yes, as close to absolutely free website and blogging that one can get on the Web. There are a few other very good free services like WordPress.com, Weebly.com and Wix.com but Google gives you the most free storage and bandwidth resources among this elite group of no-cost Website and blogging services.

Design Strengths of Blogger

Now one thinks naturally enough of Blogger as just a blog service - Wrong! Blogger allows users to create  Web pages so that a user can create a  professional grade website for an art gallery, or a baseball team or a small business. But if you want to include a blog on your website, users can do both.  And the design tools make it easy to do. See here for how to sign-up and create your first website on Blogger.

Once you have created your Hello World Website in blogger you are invited to choose a template for its overall design. What Google does not tell you explicitly is how easy it is to change that original blog design and styling. That is what this posting is about.- how to redesign your Google Blogger website.

Getting into Redesign Mode

UnlikeWordPress, Blogger has its menus and admin navigation scattered all over the place so here is the basics:
1)Go to your blog;
2)Sign in [using the upper right corner command ];
3)Click the Design button   which will  take you here:
 You want to click on the Template Designer. This is a new addition to Blogger and has all the power of such programs Artiseer which allow extensive editing and control of blog designs and layout. Clicking the Template Designer button will bring up the following Blogger Template Designer.


Now you are ready to redesign your website/blog. You can make as many or as few changes as you want. The Blogger Template Designer will constantly preview the changes in the look and styling of your blog immediately below the design area. Nothing is finalized until you click the Apply to Blog button at the top right of the screen [not shown in the screenshot above]. But even after that it is so simple to change the layout and all stylings, one does not have to worry about the Website design when using Blogger. This post will show all the control users have over their design using the Blogger Template Designer.

The first design choice [see the tabs in the left column of the screensot above] is what template you want to use. If you are happy with your  just click on your next choice. However, if you do want to change your overall design you have 6 major templates to choose from and then 3-8 specific styling variations. In the screenshot, I have chosen a dark look with a dramatic, semi-transparent  background.. But even this background can be changed as  shown below.

Even more important to blogger users is the capability to use literally thousands of free template  designs  available for free on the web. Btemplate is typical . They offer dozens of free Blogger Templates and have the instructions on how to load a selected free template into your Blogger site; it is a fairly easy 3 step process. WordPress has this capability for its full blog; but not yet for its free WordPress.com site.

Template Designer: Background Change


The background tab allows the user to choose the background image from about10- 50 pre-designed WebTemptationsbackground images [as done in the screenshot] per category, or upload your own image.Given there are 20 categories, users have hundreds of choices for a background image.However, there is not an ability to have a separate background image for the header part of your template as in WordPress.com. But users do also have a selection of color palettes to choose from for a simple color background. The next choice is Layout.


Template Designer: Layout


Clicking on the Layout option allows users to choose the basic body and footer design for their blog. One can have the sidebar on the left or right or on both sides with two sidebars. The sidebars themselves can be one or two column side bars. Likewise the user gets to choose between 1, 2 or 3 column footers.

The content of the sidebars and footers is done in the main Blogger Design window where a set of default gadgets may be replaced by user selections. These gadgets or widgets provide awealth of options for customizing your website with Search capabilities, Facebook+Twitter connections, Recent Posts summaries and over 1000 other options. With the capability of adding your own widgets or simple HTML+JavaScript blocks, Blogger goes well past WordPress.com in user refinement of their free blog. And the Layout tab allows the user to get a better layoutdesign to accommodate all those gadgets.

Template Designer: Adjust Widths

One of the simplest of the Template Designers options, the Adjust Widths tab allows users after they have chosen a layout to then set the widths of the sidebar[s] and overall body of the website/blog. This seems trivial but in many systems from Drupal to Wordpress, this task is such a bloody mess to do - almost inevitably it means messing around with CSS templates files - and sometimes not a simple one entry change.

So to have sliders and an immediate preview of what it will look like in The Template Designer is a god send. Lots of hacking work is avoided. Strangely, the final Template Designer tab, Advanced, does the same thing - it allows users to make a bunch of CSS and HTML changes to your Blog's detailded formating in one place and fairly simply as seen below.

Template Designer: Advanced Tab

Blogger users that are fanatic about the formatting of their blog, will love the advanced tab and all its options. Users can change the font, its styling and size for just about every element in a Blogger template. The screenshot shows how the Tab Text is being changed . So users will quickly learn that although there are many options to control, the way to change them is very similar and pretty simple. Other Website tools have this capability but either it is limited or requires CSS+HTML smarts. Blogger makes format and styling changes routine.

Summary

Blogger's Template Designer really brings a robust design and styling capability to completion for the system. True, users can import external designs. And if they are CSS+HTML savvy they can hack and control just about every detail of their blog's design. But the Template Designer brings styling to just about any user. And the options are fast and easy to use. This is  no small advantage to the overall worth of Blogger in general.

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