What Does Your Blog Look Like On Other Browsers

I had the awful experience the other day when showing my blog to a friend on their computer. I found out what my blog actually looked like in IE6. As you probably know, web browsers tend to behave slightly differently to each other, handling formatting in different ways. So how do you know what your site looks like on a different browser?

The problem that IE6 was having with Pingable was that some screenshots I had used filled the entire width of the content column, and the margins of objects surrounding had coursed IE6 to push the right sidebar down to below the left sidebar…ugly.

Unless you own three different computers, a MAC, a Windows PC, and a Linux PC, it’s impossible to see what your site will look like on every possible web browser.  Any number of your users could be browsing on a different browser that may be having all sorts of issues with the formatting of your site. So what’s the solution?

Browser Shots

This site takes screenshots of your Web site in different web browsers then posts them for you to view. The process is rather slow, however, it is very reassuring to know what your site looks like on other browsers. It is well worth a visit if this sort of thing worries you.

Update: Another useful site on this topic: Any Browser

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Mobile Phone Blogging

Orginal Blog Post:

It’s not all that easy or enjoyable to write blog articles on a mobile phone. So before you go on vacation make sure you write some extra posts and use the post date feature to publish them while you are away. Galway in Ireland is very nice by the way ūüôā

After writing the original post via my mobile phone, as quoted above for a bit of fun when I was on holiday, I got to thinking about posting to blogs via mobile phones, so I thought I would add the following information for anyone interested:

    Opera Mini – A great little tool for browsing the web on your mobile phone. It uses very little data which is great for your phone bill and it’s easy to use. You may want to turn off images, as they look rubbish via a phone screen and waste data, but it does a great job at checking your blog, making comments, and even making a short post as above.
    Yomoblog – I haven’t tried this myself, but is a service that is aimed to make it easy to blog via your PDA or Mobile phone.

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Ten Writing Errors That Makes Your Blog Less Good

I’m sure you wouldn’t have to look too hard to find enough writing errors in my Blog to sink a small fishing boat…so I’m riding shotgun on this one while my girlfriend (who’s an English teacher) gives me some advice. In her opinion, obvious errors in an article are as distracting as a really ugly font or a bad color scheme. Here is her top ten list of easily corrected writing errors.

  1. Spelling. It might sound obvious but you’d be surprised how many people let their enthusiasm for posting overwhelm the necessity of a decent spell check.
  2. Punctuation. As glaringly obvious as this point may be, if you’re distracted by what you’re writing and forget to check your work over, full stops and commas are the first things to fall off the back of the article. If you don’t have the correct punctuation the sense of your writing can be affected. Have you heard the story about the Panda who eats, shoots and leaves? Did the Panda have a nice meal of bamboo foliage, or did it consume its food, kill the waiter and run away? It’s all about putting the right punctuation in the right place.
  3. Apostrophes. These deserve their own bullet point. Here’s a really basic list of rules.
    • Use an apostrophe if the word is a contraction. (If it’s made smaller by taking out some letters, the apostrophe stands in for the missing letters) E.g. Can not becomes can’t.
    • Use an apostrophe to show possession. E.g. The cat’s toys. (The toys belong to the cat) If there are multiple cats then you have to shift the apostrophe to the other side of the ‘s’. So it would read: The cats’ toys.
    • NEVER use an apostrophe to show plural. E.g. Apple’s for sale should actually read Apples for sale. NO apostrophe.
    • Apostrophes should not be used with possessive pronouns because possessive pronouns already show possession – they don’t need an apostrophe. His, her, its, my, yours, ours are all possessive pronouns.”
  4. Slang. As tempting as it is to write as you speak, even with the idea of appealing to a certain audience, slang is clunky to read, tends to reduce your assumed authority on a topic and may alienate more people than it attracts on the basis that they have no idea what you’re talking about.
  5. Followed swiftly by the dreaded text (txt) language. Lts of ppl cnt rd dat txt lang, cos its 2 abv.
  6. Circumlocution. The word that I have aforementioned is a term that is not commonly used and in fact, not generally known by many people but it serves to define a regularly occurring phenomenon in blog writing that has the tendency to detract from good ideas and genuinely favorable writing by filling the readers receptors with an overwhelming and therefore unacceptable amount of words. Or…Circumlocution: the use of more words than necessary to express an idea.
  7. Tense. Are you writing your article in the present, past or future? Any of them are fine, but make sure you pick one and stick with it.
  8. Sense. This might seem like silly advice to give to anyone over the age of 12, but you need to make sure that what you have written, from the individual sentences to the bigger paragraphs actually makes sense. Read it out loud…sometimes your eyes will miss it but it will usually sound wrong to your ears if you’ve messed up somewhere.
  9. Use features like CAPITALS, italics and bold effectively. They are brilliant to provide emphasis but if you are too liberal with them then they lose their impact.
  10. Nobody ever said formal or correct writing couldn’t be funny, clever or individual. These common mistakes distract your reader but correcting them shouldn’t mean that you sacrifice your style. If you clean up the minor errors in your writing then it means that what you’re actually saying will become more attractive to read.
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What Are The Characteristics Of Your Blog’s Niche?

If you could pick a niche to blog within based purely on the advantages and characteristics within that niche, which would you pick? This article looks at some of the advantages and disadvantages of different blogging niches.

Blogging about Blogging – aka Blogging Tips

Advantages: There are plenty of blogs about blogging out there, so there will be no shortage of other blogs to link to in your posts. It is a constantly evolving niche so there’s always new stuff to¬†write about. Every blogger is¬†potentially your audience because they use what you write about.

Disadvantages: There are plenty of blogs about blogging out there, so it will be difficult to stand out.

Blogging about “Make Money Online”

Advantages: You can be completely soulless and do anything on your blog for money. Paid reviews or¬†copious amounts of internet ads are not a problem here,¬†because after all, your blog is all about making money, and the more money you make the more visitors you get. There’s also no need to think about linking strategy, just try to think of as many ways as you can to get others to link to your site¬†using the anchor text “Make money Online”

Disadvantages: There are lots of blogs out there about making money online, as it turns out there are millions of people around the world who hate their jobs and want to quit and work from home. However, if you have any aspirations of getting Google hits, John Chow¬†has the search term “make money online” well and truly sorted. Also with all the John Chow copy cat blogs, every man and his dog has placed a claim on the anchor text “make money online”, so¬†you will find it hard getting a good rank on¬†Google SERP’s (Search Engine Result Pages).

Blogging about Gadgets

Advantages: There is no shortage of affiliate schemes to push products onto your readers should you become successful and want to make money.

Disadvantages: Once again, this is a well established niche with plenty of high authority blogs. It’s going to be hard work making a mark on this niche.

Blogging about your life

Advantages: There is always new content to add to your blog, like what you are doing tomorrow, or what you did yesterday. It could be a good way to keep friends up with what is happening in your life and to avoid using evil sites like Myspace and Bebo.

Disadvantages: Unless you are famous only your friends and family care about what is happening in your daily life, so you have a limited audience.

Blogging about Health

Advantages: There is a lot of affiliate schemes to push various products onto your readers to make you money if you become successful. There is no shortage of people searching the net for health and fitness advice, as it turns out, a lot of the world’s Internet users are rather unhealthy and overweight.

Disadvantages: If you are giving daily advice about health you are going to need to stay healthy. So you¬†will have to lay off the pies, cigarettes, McDonalds and binge drinking and sort yourself out a gym membership… maybe that should be an advantage.

McDonalds Logo

Blogging about SEO

Advantages: There are plenty of blogs about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) so there will never be a shortage of blogs to link to in your posts or others to network with.

Disadvantages: It’s a very competitive niche and¬†unless you actually do some experimentation¬†over a long period of time or work for Google…Matt Cutts… you probably only have second hand information to pass on.

Blogging about Business

Advantages: You can promote your own business. Blogs are a great way of creating dynamic content for businesses that may otherwise only have a few static html pages. By updating regularly you can drive traffic to your main site creating customers or buzz around your business.

Disadvantages: Amazing as it sounds, people may not want to read about your business and if you don’t have an existing customer base it may be difficult to gain creditability.

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Using Social Media To Market Your Blog

Social media sites like Digg, MySpace, Flickr and del.icio.us are very popular. They have millions of users, and you want in on that action. But how do you get traffic from these sites?

How Are Social Media Sites Good For Your Blog?
  • You can create pages¬†with links back to your site, or submit an article which is voted on by users, if it¬†becomes popular it can generate large amounts of traffic. Extra traffic can also equal more¬†links aiming at your site which is¬†good for SEO.
  • You can build profiles on popular sites that can attract links, attention and contacts from other members. When you have a profile that people recognize on¬†popular social media sites¬†you have a significant ability to influence discussion¬†and popular opinion within the community around the site.
  • You can generate niche specific traffic. Submitting an article to a niche specific site like Dzone¬†which is a site for programmers and web developers can bring traffic that is interested in your field.
Mistakes and Misconceptions about Social Media and Blogging

Going for volume of traffic over traffic quality out of the box

It is likely that you won’t immediately succeed on the very popular main stream sites like Digg and reddit. When you are starting out you may be better off focusing on smaller sites specific to your niche. For example¬†a small design blog would be better to focus on writing content¬†that appeals¬†on a site like designfloat. This will bring qualified¬†users who are interested in¬†design.

Design Float Screen Shot

Not having a strategy when you start

A lot of¬†people see the buzz around the Internet with different blogs and social media sites and think they just need to start their own blog, post a few YouTube videos, and put a link to their Flickr account and think that their site is going to be a instant classic. However, all successful sites have a clear purpose, and target a specific niche. If you don’t know what you want to do before you start, then maybe you shouldn’t be starting.

Posting you own irrelevant content

If you can’t look at your own writing and decide what is likely to be relevant to the masses and what isn’t then you need to do some rethinking. Not every article you write is going to appeal to the masses. Don’t post day to day rubbish, focus on writing pillar articles as often as you can and only submit what has a chance of being useful to others.

Use appropriate language in your commentaries

When you have an opportunity to promote your article,¬†for example,¬†in a forum or in the comment section of a social media submit form, use appropriate language. Don’t be a “know it all” or¬†don’t use sale-speak. Be informative and friendly, and speak in language that is appropriate for the medium which you are submitting to.

Expect it to be easy

Everyone has a blog these days, and everyone uses social media sites, how hard can it be to make a quick buck? Building readers and trust online takes time and requires a lot of effort. The best path to success will require you to freely share your expertise and to work hard to create genuinely interesting and useful content.

Advice On Getting The Most Out Of Social Networks

It is important to remember that these sites are not there for your purposes of promoting blogs,¬†they are there for people to enjoy, so you shouldn’t “just” use them for¬†marketing purposes. It is transparent and may build you a bad reputation. If you want to be accepted in social media communities you need to put effort into developing your reputation. On sites like Digg it is a good idea to leave comments on submissions. If you want your comment to be more visible, comment on recently submitted articles which are in your niche or that you think are good, so then if they become popular your comment will be at the top and more visible.

It is a good idea wherever possible to use a profile image, either of yourself or a logo of your site. It makes you stand out. On Technorati this is a great way to make your articles stand out in search result pages.

It is important to build up friends. It is great to have others who have your back, and are more likely to vote for an article which they see is yours. A good technique to building up friends in a social media environment is to view people who have voted for your articles in the past, then add them to your favorites. If they liked something you have written then they are a likely candidate to like future content you write about.

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Is Your Web Design CRAP?

I want to discuss some of the key principles of design. When I teach design to school kids I use the acronym CRAP for them to remember, which stand for: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity. These terms come from the book The Non Designers Design Book. If you evaluate a design using these terms, you can see how they are almost always present in well designed sites and print.

Contrast – the difference in visual properties that makes an object distinguishable from other objects and the background. – Source: Wiki

Skelliewag Screenshot

Original theme used at Skelliewag Grid Focus

Skelliewag makes very good use of contrast. The dark text and page elements make them easily distinguishable from the background, and there is also a contrast in size used in the logo where the .org font is much smaller than that rest of the letters.

Repetition – repeat styles down the page for a cohesive feel. Source: Vitamin Features

Mosaiko Screenshot

Among other good design features Mosaiko makes good use of repetition. There is a button section in the side panel where the color of all the logos have been altered to keep the color scheme repetitive. The color scheme is consistent throughout. The article image header shape and size is repeated throughout. Font sizes and design are repeated also. Overall, a very effective site design.

Alignment – Everything on the page needs to be visually connected to something else, nothing should be out of place or distinct from all other design elements. Source: Vitamin Features

Brian Gardner Screenshot

A strength in Brian Gardner WordPress themes is that they all seem to have very good alignment. Have a look at his homepage and any of his themes to see good use of alignment.

Proximity – Proximity creates related meaning: elements that are related should be grouped together, whereas separate design elements should have enough space in between to communicate they are different. Source: Vitamin Features

John Chow Screenshot

One of the main strengths of John Chow’s new theme is the effective placement of page elements, which gives the site good proximity. The four blocks visible in the screenshot show related objects grouped together effectively.

Final Thoughts

Evaluating your design work using the CRAP design principles is good way to double-check your work. If you constantly question the details of your design work, good habits will develop.

www.pingable.org

Pro Blogger and John Chow Theme Upgrades

The last few weeks have seen some very high profile bloggers do some major redesigns on their blog themes. First we saw Darren from Pro Blogger completely revamping his blog. And today John Chow has finally ditched the “Misty Look” theme for a classy new professional theme.

What can beginning bloggers take from some of the design decisions that these pros have made?

Problogger.net logo

Overall Impression – I am a fan of the new Pro Blogger theme. I think it’s crisp and modern and makes use of some innovative features.

Landing Page – The new look Pro Blogger makes use of a landing page. What this means is that when you go to the home page of Pro Blogger you are taken to a page with all sort of links and information about his site instead of to the actual blog itself. The reason why this is great for Pro Blogger is that Darren has a huge archive with lots of great articles. It is a real resource for anyone interested in blogging, and using the homepage to promote all that archival content is a great way to get extra hits on not only new content, but all the content he has created over the last few years. So if you have a well established blog, using a landing page like Pro Blogger may be a great idea, however for a beginning blogger it’s probably not going to be the best idea.

Problogger.net Screenshot

Massive Footer – Pro blogger has a huge page footer, which has been a trend in blogging of late. The footer on pro blogger is so large that it fills the entire screen of my wide screen laptop. A footer is a great place to have content that is useful for your established readers. So I wouldn’t recommend advertisements. It is on the bottom of every page in your blog, so you want it to contain navigational content, categories, maybe some plugin content with various lists of recent comments or top commenter’s.

Featured Post – The landing page of Pro Blogger has in a key spot a section called featured post. I think this is a great way of promoting an article you are particularly proud of or think is very good or important. This article from Max Limpag will show you how to use categories, to manipulate your WordPress blogs layout so you can have a feature article, however it requires some expertise.

Color Scheme – The new color scheme on Pro Blogger is crisp and modern. It is consistent throughout the site, and I think it works very well.

Logo – The new Pro Blogger logo is a point of discussion. I think it is okay, but not great. It uses the color scheme of the blog and makes good use of fonts. Where I feel it is weak, is that it would look average without the color, or if it was very small. A classic logo should look good in black and white, and should also look good small or large. I don’t think the new logo quite pulls this off. It’s just a minor criticism, of what is overall a great new theme.  

John Chow Logo

Overall Impression – I think the designer of John Chow dot Com has done a great job. It is quite a different approach to Pro Blogger, however, it is still very good design.

Above the fold – The key space above the fold of the page when you load the site has no actual article content, instead it promotes subscriptions, his free Ebook, Popular articles and various money making programs. This is like an equivalent to Pro Blogger’s landing page, as it directs visitors of the site to key content.

John Chow Screenshot

Still with the Super Car – It wouldn’t be John Chow dot com if it didn’t have a ridiculous super car image filling key space in the header of the site. The Famous Pagani Zonda is still there, however this time the new photo is smaller. Why I think this is important is that it’s a trade mark of John’s Blog. You want users to remember your blog, and I think the super car is John’s way of reminding return users that they have been to his blog before.

Crisp Color Scheme – I think the site makes good use of color and is consistent throughout. It is very modern and I am a big fan of the overall look of the site.

Final Thoughts

I think it is a good idea to keep an eye on what these very successful bloggers are doing. Often they set trends which others follow. However, it is important to remember that what works for them isn’t always going to work for you. Both John Chow and Pro Blogger have huge readerships, and are well established, which not only gives them the budget for such great design work, it also gives them the authority to influence what is considered good and what isn’t.

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Important Points to Remember While Choosing a Theme

When selecting or designing a theme for your blog there are some key design considerations. How wide should it be? How many columns should you use? What colors work best? What fonts are easiest to read? What color schemes are easiest to read? This article will look at some of these decisions.

How Wide Should Your Theme Be?

As someone who blogs on a wide screen laptop it is all to easy to forgot that not every screen resolution is the same as mine. So what looks great on a wide screen may look average on a smaller screen, or be unusable on an old dinosaur CRT. Most of the theory on web site screen resolution suggests that you shouldn’t go wider that 800 pixels. Most of this theory is old, and almost every Internet user has a screen that at least has a horizontal resolution of 1024. So is it safe to go with a a theme that is 1024 wide? Probably. The situations I can think of where it may be better to have a 800 width theme is 1) if your niche is likely to have a lot of readers who may be viewing your blog on their portable device i.e. phones, or PDA’s etc. 2) You blog with-in a niche where the characteristics of that niche lead you to believe that most people have really old computers i.e. Windows 95 & 98 user tips. The other option is to have a fluid width theme where the objects on your page move depending on the screen size the page is being viewed on. Although this may sound like a good solution it tends to open another whole can of worms relating to page element placement, so it most situations this probably isn’t a good option.

How Many Columns Should Your Blog Have?

Pingable is three columns and has a fixed width of 1024 and is centered. Three columns gives you more opportunity to have side bar content above the fold. The fold of a web site is a term used to label the upper region of your site as viewable when the page first loads without scrolling. You can have features such as recent articles, badges, ads, etc displaying more content in a cleaner fashion than the same theme in two columns. To view some amazing three columned themes view Arpit Jacob from Clazh’s article with a gallery showing some of the Best 3 Column Themes for WordPress. 

Blog Color Scheme

When it comes to selecting a color scheme for your blog there are two main considerations. Attractiveness and readability. Of course you want your site to look good, so picking a color scheme that looks attractive is important. Readability is also important because if people find the colors you have selected difficult to read they won’t bother reading. It is also important to mention that a small proportion on the world’s population are color blind, so certain color schemes may actually be completely unreadable to them. I think black text on a white background is the best option almost always, as it is both easy to read, and if used well looks great. CSS Juice has an article on Popular Color Scheme Generators. You could use some of the tools listed in this article to work out what may work best for your site.

Fonts

There are two main types of font. Serif and San Serif. Serif fonts have flecks on the end of letters to help your eyes flow between words like traditional hand writing. An example is Times New Roman, the default font in MS word. An example of a San Serif font is the font used on Pingable. For digital media like a blog, San Serif font’s look cleaner for larger bodies of text. Serif fonts tend to be a bit fancier so using a serif font for your heading may be a good choice.

Final Thoughts

If you have got this far through the article then I hope you you have learnt something that will help you with design decisions for your blog. Hopefully I have provided you knowledge as to why a certain theme may be a better option for you than others, or why that theme with yellow text on an orange background isn’t a good choice. Anyway, thanks for reading and good luck with your web design or blogging project.

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Using a Post Slug to Improve the Search Engine Friendliness of Your Post Title

Ever wondered what a Post Slug was? You know that little box in WordPress. Chris from Blog-op.com has written an article about Using WordPress Post Slug to Increase Search Engine Traffic.

What is a Post Slug

A Post Slug is text that will appear in your URL in place of the title of your post. You will notice that I used a ridiculously long name for the title of this post. It gives you a clear idea about what the post is about, however it’s not very clean. Now look at the URL and you will only see “Using Post Slugs” where the title normally appears. So what a Post Slug does is provide you with an opportunity to have one title for your readers and one title for search engines.

Where do I find this feature?

WordPress: If you look in the writing panel of WordPress, on the right side bar you will find the box for writing your post slug (pictured below).

Wordpress Post Slug

Windows Live Writer: WLW also has a slug option which you will find in the expanded option bar at the bottom of your post edit page.

Why use it?

Using a posts slug won’t be appropriate for every post you write, however, in some situations, particularly when you need a longer title, a post slug may be well worth considering.

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Blogrolls and SEO

A blogroll is a list of sites that a blogger lists, typically in the sidebar or footer of their blog. The idea behind this is to promote other blogs which the author sees as valuable to their readers. However, blogrolls tend to get used as a means of sharing link love between bloggers. i.e. if I put you in my blogroll will you add me?

I like to think I put a fair bit of consideration into SEO, and incoming links from other blogs are great. The two issues I have with blogrolls are:

  1. In terms of SEO incoming links are great, but outgoing links are not great. So having a list of 50 random blogs loading in the sidebar of every page of your blog is actually going to have negative implications on the SEO of your blog.
  2. If you have obviously only added a blog to your blogroll because another blogger has added you to theirs this is kind of silly. If the blog you are linking to has no connection to your blog topic, and in many cases you may not even know the blogger, what is the point. It sends a message to your readers that ultimately you are just trying to just maximum traffic, regardless of where it comes from, and it also adds clutter to your sidebar making the site less user friendly.

Now before I go into too much of a rant about this topic, I think their are plenty of sensible bloggers out there who use their blogroll sensibly. They only have a select list, and they are typically sites which the blogger respects, and are often with-in the same niche. If this is the case I think the use of a blogroll is great, it provides your readers with a service by giving them other blogs of value, and it sends the message that you actually care about your readers. Just some food for thought if your blogroll is longer than your average article, maybe you need a clean out?

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