You may (or may not!) have noticed that there are some new “digs” around here! Since we are now in a new house, I wanted a fresh new design to go with it!

Originally, I had planned on hiring a “real” blog designer to do my blog design for me (I am such a sucker for cute graphics, matching logos and seamless functionality!). But after researching costs, I determined that that money could be better spent (like on a new piece of furniture or more fabric 😉 and figured I’d treat the blog design as just another DIY project.

I am by no means a blog expert…in fact…there is SO MUCH I don’t know about blogging and website design! But that’s the very reason I decided to write this post! I am pretty proud of my new blog design, and I accomplished it all using some mad google skills, digital scrapbooking software, and an optimistic attitude!

I’ve learned so much by doing this myself, I thought I’d pass along some helpful hints and tips to anyone out there craving a new blog design but not knowing where to start!

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Let’s get started, shall we?!?

1. Find inspiration. Like many people out there (I assume), I am 100% lured into a site by its design. if it’s pretty and coordinated and easy to maneuver, I am more likely to follow along. Likewise, if it’s messy, distracting or hard to find things, I tend to close my window pretty quickly! For a while, I have been craving a new design that would not only speak to who I am and what  my blog is about, but also look professional, clean, and inviting. So when I sat down to work on my own blog design, I looked no further than the blogs I love and follow. I spent a lot of time looking around these blogs for inspiration and ideas! I noted how each laid out their pages, what kinds of widgets they included, and most importantly, designs and colors I liked and didn’t like! I also used Pinterest to keep track of blog headers, designs, fonts, and color schemes that appealed to me. It’s pretty difficult to start with a blank screen and come up with an entire design (especially when graphic design isn’t your thing!), but if you have some sources of inspiration, at least you have a starting off point. My final design doesn’t look anything like the blogs I follow….but gazing at their pretty sites helped me get my ball rolling!

2. Google, google, google. Friends, these days, there is a tutorial for practically EVERYTHING! If you see a widget or particular functionality you want, google it and pretty soon, I guarantee you that you can have it on your blog! Now, this doesn’t go for everything…there are lots of functions that don’t exist within a “widget” format, but many of them do…so poke around, find the html code, and get it on your page!

3. Track good tutorials. A lot of very savvy bloggers (much savvier than myself) have written really wonderful posts or even series about how to do certain things on your blog. When you come across these, bookmark or “pin” them so you have them for easy reference. Even if you aren’t ready to do certain things, having all those links in the same place will save you time hunting them down again in the future. You may even find a good go-to spot for tutorials or questions. Listed below are two of my favorites. I kept coming back to these sites time and time again for their quick, easy, and successful tutorials! And when they don’t have something posted, I don’t hesitate to ask them via email – they are pretty quick and always happy to help!

4. Use an external site for photos. So this one was a biggy for me. I noticed that most bloggers linked their photos from an external site, and not really understanding why, I just assumed it was because of their level of traffic or their web server. Those things may or may not be true, but I also discovered throughout this design process, that there really is so much more you can do with photos (like make them  links!) if they are loaded into an external site (I am using Flickr). Again, I was totally against doing this because I thought it was another unnecessary step in the already lengthy blog-post-writing-process, but I quickly discovered that there is so much more functionality (i.e., linking, sizing, posting to other social media sites) that it’s worth the extra step! Additionally, sites like blogger restrict the size and quality of images, and by linking them to an outside source, I have more control over the quality you ultimately see on your screen! And the added bonus? If anything does happen to my hard drive, I haven’t lost my photos forever!

4. You don’t need fancy software for graphic design. I designed my ENTIRE  blog design using Stampin’Up’s My Digital Studio digital scrapbooking software. No, it is not a program made for web design, but it allows me to create really great graphics and export them, which I can then upload to my blog. Sure, I would love to use a more sophisticated program like Photoshop, but I’ve found ways to do what I need to do using the software I have! Similarly, if all you have is Microsoft Word or PowerPoint…those programs are phenomenally powerful and can do similar design stuff too! Lastly, there are online photo tools that you can also use. I have used Pixlr on occasion and have read a lot about PicMonkey….so gives those sites a go and try your hand at doing your own graphic design!

5. Setup a “practice” blog. As I was designing various elements for the blog, I really wanted to see how they would look “live” but didn’t want to change out my actual blog until I had everything done. So I could test drive different looks, widgets, and functions, I started another blog (through blogger) that I would use as my practice blog. I restricted the site so that no one can search it or find it, so any manipulating I do is only seen by me! Not only is it a great way to test out ideas and work out kinks, but once something is just right, all I have to do is copy and paste the code into my “real” blog. Having this practice platform has been invaluable to me as I figure out how things in this blog world work!

Last but not least, whether you’ve been coming around here for a little while or this is your first visit here, I wanted to show you some new features of THIHM!

1. A new domain name. Take a peak up at your browser, and you’ll notice that I no longer have at the end of my domain name. Yup, I took the plunge, shelled out the whopping $10 (and crossed my fingers so tight they hurt that nothing would go wrong) and purchased my own domain name through blogspot/GoDaddy. There are some great tutorials and “I did it and survived” stories out there; after reading a few, I decided it was worth making the change now. The process was truly quick and easy, but what I didn’t know about was the “latency” in getting the old bloodspot address to start auto-forwarding to the new domain. It’s takes a good 3+ days for everything to work the kinks out, so if you go for it and it doesn’t seem to be working right….walk away for a few days. When you come back, you can do a little happy dance when you see that is all is working just right and you have your very own web page!
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2. A new North Carolina tab. As I’ve done with all of our other homes, I have started a brand new page to log all the updates and projects we do while living here in NC. If you take a look now, it’s  empty, but I assure you it won’t take long to start filling it up. In case you missed any of my last posts, my Japan, California, and Virginia pages are all up to date!

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3. New following options. One element that I was really lusting over on other great blogs were the cute little social media “buttons” over on the sidebar. Once I figured out how to make them and link them up, I was eager to add some additional “follow” options to my site. Now you can follow me on Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, and RSS…and as always, don’t hesitate to contact me via email!

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4. Links to my most popular posts. I’ve had the opportunity for some of my projects to be featured on some amazing websites, resulting in lots and lots of hits, comments, and “pins.” So you don’t have to go searching for them, I have all my popular posts right in the sidebar for quick and easy reference! I will update these as newer projects take center stage.

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5. Where I contribute! Once a month, I am over at Amy’s amazing blog, Positively Splendid. In case you’ve never been over there or want to catch up on my featured projects, here’s the link always at the ready!

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6. She Dreamt It, He Built It! My husband is one of my biggest supporters and has an endless amount of patience for my crafting and blogging. While many of the projects I post here on the blog are done by little ol’ me…most of the “heavier lifting” projects also involves A LOT of input, time, and effort from him…and often, he feels that his insights about a particular project get lost when I do the typing. SOO…I am really excited to announce this new “column” on the blog, where every now and then, my husband will chime in with his tips and pointers for successfully completing a particular project. We already have his first post in the works…so stay tuned! You’ll be able to find all his posts under this new button!
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PHEW!!!  I think that is enough for one post, don’t you!?!? You’re probably thinking, enough with the blog design, let’s see more of the new house! Well, it’s coming dear friends…and very, very soon! Next week, I will be showing you all of our inspiration boards (for each and every room of the house!) AND show you all our recent handiwork with a paint brush!
Have a great weekend!!!

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I am linking this post to:
The 36th AvenuePositively SplendidLil'Luna

See You Soon!