The Blogware Mechanic is a series of articles that covers how to get the most out of your Blogware blog through customization. In this series, we'll look at all sorts of ways to take advantage of the flexibility of the Blogware blogging platform and make your blog better-looking, easier to use, funkier, more highly-ranked by search engines and even help make you a little money! If you have a Blogware blog and want to soup it up like those fancy "A-lister" blogs, then this series is for you.
Every series has to start at the beginning, and that's what I'll do here. I'll begin with a couple of articles on basic customization. If you've been using Blogware for a while, there's a good chance that none of this will be new to you; in fact, you'll find the same information in the Blogware Publisher Guide. However, in the interest of being thorough and for the benefit of new Blogware users, I'm going to go over the basics before diving into the fancy stuff.
This article is the first of two that cover the basics of changing your blog's appearance. I'll cover two things:
- Changing Your Blog's Color Scheme
- Changing Your Blog's Column Layout
The rest of the article is after the jump.
Actually, I know a number of developers who have some sense of what a user interface should be like. But I also know some other developers, who when charged with creating a UI create monstrosities like the one below:
For more on this dialog box, see this entry in the blog Coding Horror.
If you're short on user interface designers, you might do well to follow the advice in this blog entry: Never design what you can steal.
At Cameron Moll's site, Authentic Boredom, he's posted all sorts of media from his presentation, Essential Web Skills, which he made at the Webmaster Jam Session in Dallas, Texas. Among his slides is this gem, which explains 9 skills that separate the good designers from the great ones:
|Good designers...||Great designers...|
|"Less" is more||"Less" and "more" co-exist|
|Inspired by genre||Inspired by total environment|
|Everything at once||Selective iteration|
|Treat text as content||Treat text as UI|
|Use good typefaces||Use good typography|
|Code for one instance||Code for many instances|
Even if you've got a full-time graphic designer at your disposal, going with standardized icons is a good idea. They'll give your designer more time to work on the graphic requirements that are unique to your application. Furthermore, we've established certain conventions that define the "language" of graphical user interfaces over time, so in most cases, it's probably a bad idea to re-invent icons for common elements like documents, folders, users and so on.
Luckily, there are a number of good icon sets for sale, but I'm going to talk about the free ones today. The MaxPower.ca blog maintains a list of sites that offer icon sets that are both "free as in beer" and "free as in speech" (they're public domain or licensed under one of: Creative Commons, GPL or LGPL).
In case you were looking to drive your users crazy and have them marching to your door with torches and pitchforks, the SAP Design Guild has a list of Golden Rules for Bad User Interfaces.
I'm not sure how I'd react if a user of something I'd developed came up to me and called it "the most white male fascist tool I’ve ever had the misfortune to use."
Dan Russell, one of the writers at Creating Passionate Users did the right thing when it happened to him. He took a deep breath and asked "And what made you feel this way?"
It may not be pleasant to deal with a customer who's all fired up about your product or service for the wrong reasons, but as the article Screaming Users Considered Good points out, you can learn a lot from users who are struggling with it, don't "get it" or have had a strong negative reaction to it.