Building the blog

Lady in Red

Lady in Red I’ve been spending quite a bit of time looking around the amazing world of blogging, which led me to choosing to jump in at the deep end and go self hosted on WordPress.  After some research of the different options, I just thought it would allow me to have more control over my site.

It’s been a bit of a slow process but I think I am making progress with how I’d like this blog to look, in terms of design and functionality.  I’m not a WordPress or a design expert and I’m sure there will be many changes over the coming months as I discover more and more little features, widgets and plugins, that do things I didn’t even know I needed or wanted.  I may even change it totally!

To bring my blog creation progress up to date, this is what I have been up to:

Theme – I have chosen the Mantra theme, which is free (always welcome!), has lots of customisation possibilities and seems to do everything I need, for the moment at least.  I love its simple layout, which can all be shifted around to suit, and after looking at a few blogs, I think I prefer those where I can easily navigate around and find what I’m interested in without too much hassle.

Menus – what a faff they were!  But I love the way trial and (mainly) error are the best way to learn!  All I wanted to do was nest menu options under a main category.  Easy for a WordPress guru, but for someone who will always look at support documentation but gets bored after a paragraph, it was hard work.  The Eureka moment came when I started dragging them around.  All looking good now.

Widgets – those handy little compartments on the blog page that link to and display useful bits of information.  I have a few widgets on the go, but I’m keen not to clutter the look of the blog with too many.  So just the basic ones on the left; search, tags, archives etc. and Social Media ones on the right.  But in my quest to keep the design clean, I discovered a new feature of Jetpack that allows you to tweak the visibility of the widgets, so now my right hand widgets only appear on the home page, hopefully allowing a clear run at reading the post.

Plugins – it’s like downloading free apps on my iPhone, some clearly more useful than others and there’s loads of ‘em!  I’ve got a few on the go, but the most useful one has been Jetpack, a link to which came bundled with WordPress.

Spam – that Louis Vuitton must do doing a great trade if the volume of comments from various suppliers is anything to go by!  The scourge of WordPress, I’ve never seen such a load of cr@p coming through, some of the comments  the length of a full essay.  But thankfully I have my Akismet spam filter switched on, and the first thing I do when  I log in is delete the lot.  I really don’t know why they even bother, doesn’t everyone do the same?  I’m probably missing the trick!

Outstanding issues – just the two I’m aware of and I think they might be linked, if the first paragraph of support pages are anything to go by.  I downloaded a backup plugin, but it regularly fails, when I should be getting regular backups.  Possibly due to a wp-cron issue, with the possible solution requiring some fiddling about with a .php file somewhere, this is beyond my technical capabilities, and file fiddling always ends in tears, usually mine!  The second issue is scheduled posts, which aren’t working.  I believe my wp-cron may be up the creak!  Something to investigate when I can’t sleep methinks.

Oh, and to work on lots more content!

Resources – a few links to sites I have found particularly useful:

BritMums – great resource of blogging advice and community

Mammasaurus – Annie has some great little bits a pieces of ideas and tutorials to brighten up any blog

WP Beginner – really useful how-to blog on the basics of WordPress

Would welcome any ideas, tips and comments to help improve my blog, or perhaps a simple solution to my wp-cron issue!  Please contact me here or leave a comment.

 

Asking for a Favicon

Favicon3

Favicon3Peeking at the Twittersphere, as you do, I stumbled across a tweet from Annie Spratt, writer of the Mammasaurus blog, and one of the lovely bloggers I met at the recent BritMums Live event.  On her blog she has given a tutorial about how to create and upload a Favicon to your blog. Favicons are those small icons you see on your internet browser tabs, a logo representing the brand of the web site.  So I thought I would give it a go as part of Project Blog, and create my blog’s own Favicon.

As one who always follows instructions on any new gadgets and pieces of flat packed furniture, I followed her instructions to the letter.  Well, I thought I had a pretty good knowledge of basic computer packages, but could I work out how to create a box in Windows Paint?  To my shame, it took me a good hour just to work that part out, but I got there in the end.  And thankfully the rest was plain sailing.

Importing my colour filled box into PicMonkey, I added the initials ACM (see above), rounded the corners, and I was done.  Next step, upload to the blog.  Annie recommends a WordPress plugin called All In One Favicon, which worked a treat, simple, but job done!

There are quite a few nice bits and pieces on Annie’s blog, I think I may use it again very soon.

Time to get a header

Almost Cool Mum

Cannon Hill Common

cropped-ACM-Header-new5.jpg

So, the first couple of posts are up on the blog, enough to play around with.  After my initial shenanigans of losing my blog posts, I thought it might be a welcome change to try something creative and produce a header for the blog.

During the BritMums Live event, and Julia Poggio‘s fantastic photography session in particular, I discovered a great web based photo editor called PicMonkey.  As a mobile photographer all my photo editing is carried out on an iPhone or iPad, there is an app to do everything.  My favourite is one called Snapseed, and it used to be available in a desktop version, but sadly no more!  But for basic, and quite a bit more to be fair, PicMonkey is perfect for desktop photo editing.

So I set about designing a header.  I recently won a photo contest organised by the My Raynes Park Festival, and with the photo shown here.  I thought it looked pretty cool, in more ways than one, so I thought it might look pretty nice as a header too.  Adding some text from the many fonts available in PicMonkey, I managed to produce my first header, as shown above.

Feeling pretty pleased with myself now!

So far, so good

IMG_6213

IMG_6213

So I’ve taken the plunge into ‘Project Blog’ and set up a hosted WordPress account with Go Daddy, and I have to confess, it was a lot more straightforward than I thought it would be.  It downloaded and installed with no hitches whatsoever.  I’m now at the stage of trying to to find out how all the features work, and how to make the site easy to navigate.  It’s a steep learning curve, and it almost ended in tears when I thought I had lost my main blog page.  Turns out I checked the static page option, and forgot to switch it back!  As I said, steep learning curve…..