Customize your Blogger blog

11:14 AM

This blog is, and always have been hosted on Blogger, from the time I first created it in 2004. I never saw the point to move it to Wordpress, self hosted or not. The Blogger vs Wordpress has been raging in the blogger community for as long as these two platforms have existed, and Dana from the Wonder Forest explained the pro and cons of each platform.

One of the many point I have heard against blogger is that it doesn't allow for a lot of customisation options and has very few plugins or Widgets you can add to it. Which couldn't be further from the truth. There is a LOT you can tweak, alter and customize in a Blogger blog.

This very blog is the living proof you can as it is currently using the simplest, barest, most minimalistic template blogger offers on its dashboard: The simple white template.
It hasn't been my template of choice in the past, in fact over the 11 years this blog has been up and running it went through quite a few design changes (from back when it was called "Cyn's Adventure in India").
Since changing the name of the blog in 2014, I want for a cleaner, white theme I could customize more easily and which would look good with my image header. I then added a lot of HTML codes and CSS to modify the look further to look like the blog you are reading right now.

Here are some of the things you can do to make you plain "out of the box" Blogger blog look a bit more custom made without using a paid template :

1) Get rid of the the Blogger Navbar. That search bar that stick to the top of the blog and has the orange "B" blogger logo isn't that good looking, and guess what? It doesn't even have to stay, you can choose to hide it.
To do so simply go to the "Layout" tab on your dashboard, click on "Edit" on the Navbar element and select "Off" then save your chage.

The only drawback from removing the Navbar is that the option to search your blog disappear with it. But, this is not much of a problem. You can add a search box to your side bar, either by adding the standard "Blogger Widget" for it or using a custom code. The one I am using right now can be found here.

2) Add a custom header. The blog title with my picture is an image I created using Paint Shop Pro 8, but you can use Canva or Pickmonkey online to do it as well. You can use custom fonts, graphics, or photos to make a Blog header that is truely unique. Once done, you simply need to go to the Layout tab in blogger, and click on Edit on the "Header" part of the layout.  You will have the option to upload and image and have it being displayed instead of the title and description.

3) Make full use of the "Customize" feature on the template tab. When you click on the "Template" tab on your dashboard it will let you chose between Editing the HTML and Customising the template. While the HTML is a bit tricky and I would not recommend changing anything there without knowing how, the Customize option is a pretty easy tool to use and it let you do a LOT of things.
Changing colors of the different text area, changing the fonts, changing the width of the blog, the number of side bars, adding a background image, changing the content area's colour, it can all be done in the customize feature. It also has an Advanced section where you can opt to enter CSS codes that will change the look of some of your widgets and elements (and there are plenty of tutorials around to teach you how).

4) Add LinkWithin. This nifty little widget will suggest some of your older posts that are related to your current content to your reader. This is a great way to ensure your readers stay on your blog longer and help lower your bounce rate and boost your SEO. You can follow the instructions to instal it on the LinkWithin website. Then, you can head to this blog to learn how to customise its look, the round thumbnail look I have going on can only be achieved using a fair bit of CSS coding I got from the aforementioned link.

5) Add pages. You ideally want to have an "About Me" and a "Disclosure" page among other more blog specific. Pages are blog posts that are stand alone posts and do not get lost in the date stream. They can be displayed on the Tab bar (on my blog that is the light pink one right under the header). You can choose which of your pages will be displayed on that bar by going to the "Layout" tab on your dashboard and clicking "Edit" on the Pages element.
The About me let your readers know more about you and your blog, and the Disclosure page becomes handy to let people know about any affiliate programs you are part of, your Copyrights terms, and warn people about the use of cookies on the blog (EU now requires websites to disclose it).

These few points alone will help your Blogger blog look a bit more personal and less "Blogger-ish". There are of course TONS of other tweaks and tricks you can apply to it. In fact I have been thinking about writing more "Blogging tips" post this year.
Not just about how to customize the look of your blog, but about taking pictures and editing them, scheduling posts, using social medias to promote your work and just plain old blog writing tips.

A few days ago I gave a shout out on my Facebook page and my G+ profile asking you to let me know what you would want help with so I can build a list of topic to work with.
I will again, invite you to do so by leaving a comment below, if your question is simple enough, I might even help you right away by replying to it. 

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  1. Hey Cyn,
    I had my 1st troll today! I feel like a real blogger now!
    So I spent a day looking at cooking blog templates to purchase with fancy recipe indexes and printable recipe doohickeys and such. I found one I liked, it was only $39 but then they wanted $9 a month forever and ever after that. I'm ok with paying up to $100-$150 for an elaborate pre made or custom template, but it wasn't really clear what the monthly $9 got me.
    Oh well.
    So I spent an afternoon putting pages on my tab bar instead of just doing a one page recipe index. Still not sure if I should put all the recipes under one tab called "recipe index" or split them up under different tabs like "main dishes & curries" etc. How much room is on one page anyway? How many recipe links could I fit on one page? Like 100?
    Anyhow, thanks for your help!

    1. A page is technically a blog post, so it can be as long as you want it to be. I think you could keep an Index page where you add all your recipes per categories as you go. And then have the category tabs that will direct you to that specific label and display the posts in chronological order.

      There is a big chunk of code you can use on a blogger blog to display only the first thumbnail picture and the first few lines of the blog posts on the Home page and in labels. I did that recently.

      I looked for an Index page type of code in Blogger a while back, but could not find one. Not sure if it even exists or if all those who have a recipe Index on a Blogger blog aren't just updating it manually.

      The whole 9$ extra a month for a pre-made layout sounds weird.


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