12 Witnesses

Let these stones be a witness to what we have done here this day.

Better Blogging: The Theme or Template

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blogIf you are picking this post up in your rss feedreader, then you might consider popping by the main blogsite at twelvewitnesses.com. The template here has changed significantly for the first time since the original inception back in September of 2005. Oh, we’ve had a name change and the template has been tweaked from time to time, but it has always been black background/white writing and the orange links and accents have been around for almost two years.

So, aside from just changing to change, why do such a dramatic revolution? There is nothing happening here that hasn’t been happening on most other blogs/themes. No video boxes in the sidebar and even the lens flare outer space graphic header has been exchanged for simple title graphics. What’s the benefit?

Actually, there’s a lot of benefit, and it all rotates around the idea of simplicity, which translates to streamlined for search engines, browsers and actual people.

This blog is not graphics intensive, which simplifies the load process on any browser. I just loaded it in Explorer (with nothing cached) and it loaded in .389 seconds. This is mainly for people who drop by. People who have to wait for a page to load, don’t like to visit it. That simple. It is something that will never change. In fact, because the internet is so much faster now, waiting is more aggravating than ever.

I achieved this three ways. First, there are no complex graphics, like the former header. Second, the graphics that are here are simplified and compressed so they are small. Very little load on the system. Finally, only the top article is featured on the main page. This means that I can use graphics on every post, but the person visiting the home site only has to download the graphics of the top post. it makes for a very speedy site.

The next thing I did was to make it a little more readable. This is a four column blog, rather than a two column blog, so the content on the main page does not take time to scan. Very few people have small screens anymore and most have wide screens. This blog LOVES the wide screen. But even if you don’t have that, the column widths are fluid, which means that they adjust to your screen. If it is wide, then they all spread out. If it is narrow, then they compress and make the page a little longer. Also, the far left sidebar (in the middle of the blog) drops out when you click on an article, so the article can spread out even more.

In order to create a little more readership, I placed a very large rss icon in the top right corner of the blog. It drives me nuts to look for rss links on blogs that I discover and then I can’t find the feed link anywhere. I’ve actually had to go to bloglines and have it search for a feed because none was there. Don’t do that to people. Most aren’t as determined or even proficient as I am. Make it very easy to catch what you are throwing. That’s the point, right?

Finally, I put the content on the left side of the blog where people and search engine bots can pick it up quickly. It makes it much easier to be found by search engines and people like it, too.

Oh, and the archives at 2.5 years now don’t stretch down the page. There is a page for them now, and I love the way it lays out. It gives the title of every post in chronological order. David Phillips turned me onto this with a plugin called kgarchives. You’ll need to create an Archives page and with the html editor (not the visual editor) put in this tag: <kgarchives />

That’s it.

Hope you are digging it. I did keep a little of the old site around with the orange, gray and black, but just a hint of what has gone before.

Blogging Update

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Just to let you know, I have been blogging, but you haven’t seen it yet.  I have been working on a massive overhaul of my template that will have very few references to the current template.  I plan on rolling it out overnight tonight, if I am able to carve out the time.

Anyway, accompanying it will be a “Better Blogging” post on your template and what effect your template can have on increasing your readership.  I hope it helps you.  For that matter, I hope it helps me.

If all goes as planned, check in tomorrow to see the changes and why they were made.

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