Blogging Resources for the Graphically-Challenged
I have always loved to write and as I started reading more and more blogs, I thought, "I want to do that too!" I started researching the how-to's of blogging and it quickly dawned on me that blogs involve A LOT of graphic design.
Graphic. Design. Not my forte.
I mean, I can usually recognize bad design. And I definitely get irritated by cluttered design. But how to create good design? Yikes! Not my area.
And at a minimal, posts need some kind of graphic or visual for people to share. Groan!
So when I began my blogging adventure, I decided to focus on finding and using anything that made creating visuals, pictures, images, and design easier.
Here are some of the gems that I unearthed:
I automatically love this guy because he designs book jackets.
And then I love him even more for creating a graphic design guidebook that anyone can understand. Even me. Everything about his presentation is visual. I keep this book close to my desk, so that I can easily refer to it.
If you are like me and you've never taken a graphic design class, then you need to read Go. It covers the basics with clear examples. Go will steer you in the right direction.
I did a lot of reading about Blogger, WordPress, and Squarespace. I eliminated Blogger early on because Google would own my content. Yuck. Plus some of the blogs I saw on Blogger did not visually appeal to me. They looked disorganized and too full of widgets and ads. No appeal there for me.
So then it was between WordPress and Squarespace. I'm not a coder, nor do I want to be one. I have enough technical skill that I think I could learn WordPress, but why? I'm blogging because I love writing and sharing my ideas for being a more productive, but less stressed human. And I knew that I was already going to have some difficulty with graphic design, so why would I want to blog on a platform that requires some coding knowledge, which basically could amplify my anxiety? No thanks, WordPress.
Sure, Squarespace may cost a bit more, but the advantages they offer are worth the cost to me. And so far I love Squarespace...so much so that the middle school teacher in me refers to them as The SquarePants.
What a journey into this classic font!
Helvetica is a documentary tracing the font's history and influence. I knew that Helvetica was loved by some and loathed by others, but following this font on its way toward world domination was fascinating! Seriously. Seeing how much Helvetica surrounds us was eye-opening for me.
And I gained a new appreciation for the important role typography plays in how information is presented.
So there I was ready to start blogging. I had found a platform that was easy to use. My Person was helping me set up a template. I had researched just enough knowledge to be dangerous. Now I needed to make visuals for each blog post. And that's when I found Canva!
I took one look at Canva's interface and thought, "I could figure that out." And I did. It's very intuitive. I'm not saying my visuals are all gorgeous because that's a bold-faced lie. But Canva sure is easy to use. Sometimes I create visuals that I'm proud of and other times, I just shrug and hope people like my writing.
Many items in Canva are free. And the elements that do cost are $1 each. Very easy to remember that fee. And I can upload images that I want to use within Canva. That's how I created my visual for my post on Key Ring. My Person had taken the picture of my little crocheted Indiana Jones doll, and I just uploaded that picture to Canva so I could create a pinnable (taller) visual.
I have only recently begun to use PicMonkey. Many of the features for editing photos I just don't need. That's sort of one of the perks of living with a professional photographer. My Person edits all of the photos that either one of us takes. Plus with Squarespace, I don't need PicMonkey to resize an image for me. I can do that myself within The SquarePants platform.
However, I am playing around with some of the PicMonkey features and I'm liking the interface. In particular, I love how I can choose fonts from their collection or from mine. I've been gathering a variety of fonts, so naturally I'd like to use them. Canva limits me to their font choices, but PicMonkey gives me the ability to use what I have and want.
I stumbled upon Amy Lynn's website in my early blogging research. Once I got up and running, I revisited her series on how to start a blog and subscribed to her Useletter. I don't know about you, but I subscribe to many blog newsletters. Many. Generally, I open them all, but I don't read them all. At least, not thoroughly.
I love her play on words with the name Useletter and it really is useful. She basically changed her mental model on how she wanted to blog. She still posts on her site, but her weekly effort is placed into the Useletter, which is chock full of tips!
Amy Lynn's is the ONE newsletter that I not only read, but look forward to every Saturday morning. Her tips are about blogging and running an online business from home, but I've found many helpful tidbits about graphic design or free graphic packages through Amy Lynn's Useletter.
Again, this resource is not exclusive to graphic design. But Cynthia Sanchez knows her way around Pinterest, an incredibly visual platform. And the platform that I decided to concentrate my social sharing efforts with for my blog. Even though I had been a Pinterest enthusiast for years, I had been using the site on a personal level. When I switched to a business account, I started paying more attention to my analytics. And that's when I discovered Cynthia Sanchez.
Her podcast offers great tips on how to create visuals that are Pin-worthy. She interviews phenomenal people who are willing to share their stories of how they've adapted their marketing strategy to appeal to various Pinterest users. Her advice is always easy to follow and actionable. She doesn't suggest the impossible. Plus, she keeps up with how Pinterest makes changes (like to their Home Feed, or Smart Feed as they call it).
Since I use Squarespace, Lauren Hooker's series on how she utilizes Squarespace allowed me to play with my blog and site much much more. Sure, I had read the tutorials available on the Squarespace site, but that was months ago when I started with The SquarePants. After My Person helped me design a basic template for my blog, I focused on writing. I wanted to produce content.
As 2014 drew to a close, I knew that 2015 would be a year where I would need to get serious about how my blog looked. When I saw Elle & Company's pin "So You Jumped on the Squarespace Bandwagon...Now What?" I was thrilled.
I started following her series on Squarespace and watched both of her video tutorials. I've been making some small changes to my blog design and Lauren's posts have definitely helped me. Her posts on blogging, branding, and design have also inspired me to create a visual brand, a consistency that I'm currently lacking. I'm just bandying about ideas right now, but I'm consulting with an artistic friend to see what my next steps should be.
I truly hope Lauren Hooker produces even more Squarespace content in the months to come.
Fix8 Media has wonderful inspiration and resources in their Insights section. Squarespace Secrets and Squarespace Styling have simple video tutorials that inspire me. I really appreciate how they break their video content into very manageable pieces. I can watch a video and start brainstorming ideas about how to integrate that piece of information into future blog posts. Or I can implement a small, but significant change to my site right away. Like when I learned how to add Search to my navigation! Love it!
And finally, if you're thinking about starting a blog with Squarespace, you may want to check out this amazing Squarespace 7 Template Comparison Chart created by Miko Coffey at Using My Head. She analyzed the 36 Squarespace 7 templates and even individually reviewed many of the templates.
I wish I had stumbled upon this resource before I started using The SquarePants. I went through every Squarespace template and eventually realized the Five template would be my best bet since I'm not a coder or designer. I needed something with flexibility. But her analysis of the template was particularly helpful...even after I've been using the Five template for months!
If you found this list of resources useful, please share it with others. I'd really appreciate it!
And if you have any graphic design resources that you can't live without, please share in the comments. Seriously. Life-long learner here. I'd love to hear your suggestions!