Over the last few weeks it seems like everyone in Blogland (or WordPress at least) has been making their sites look a lot prettier. Sarah and Amelia have both revamped their blogs, and you might have noticed that I’ve been working on mine too. So let’s have a chat about what’s new!
I’m not sure I like the word ‘brand’ to describe what I’ve done here, as I think it makes it sound like I’m selling something, and ‘visual identity’ conjures images of marketing meetings. Either way, I’ve tidied up the way things look. I liked the pink that came as standard with my template (Sela) and I picked a blue-y grey to go with it. I’ve used these colours, plus the scissors motif, to make a couple of images on Canva.com. If you haven’t seen Canva yet, go and check it out! It’s a free, easy to use, online graphic design tool that’s perfect if you don’t want to shell out for expensive software (I’m looking at you, Adobe). I made a new site header, some generic blog post images (like the one above, plus here and here), and even managed to get a little logo that sits on the browser tab!
While I liked my template, the way I was using it wasn’t working for me anymore. The old green background made the site look dated and messy, and I wasn’t happy with the way I was using the pages and the sidebar. Sela has some nice features – I just had to make the best use of them.
I’ve started to use the template’s ‘featured image’ function which gives each post a header image, but is also the one that’s displayed in the WordPress reader. If you don’t select one, WordPress will pick one for you to display in the reader (typically the first you upload) and crop it for you. As the space is landscape, and I use mostly portrait photos, you risk the system picking a crotch close-up. That’s not really what I want to show the world, and I’m sure it’s not what makes WordPress users click on my posts.
I’ve updated a few of my pages, too. The Stuff I’ve Actually Made page was getting really untidy with all my makes since 2013 crammed in there. I’ve split them into different categories so it’s a bit more user-friendly and you’re not constantly scrolling to find a particular skirt or dress.
I’ve revamped the Recommended Reading pages too, including different books, and adding in a section on cookery. My tagline for Stuff Jo Has Made has always included cookery, but I think I’ve only posted about it once or twice since starting blogging here four years ago. While I’ll continue to focus on sewing, I’m going to start dropping in the occasional post about food, cos I do love to cook and I’ve been trying a lot of new recipes recently.
One of the nice things about the Sela template is that you can use grids on your parent pages. I’ve used Stuff I’ve Actually Made and Recommended Reading parent pages for navigation, in addition to the drop-downs from the navigation bar. You’ll now see a cute grid linking you to specific pages, with images and a little blurb about the content. Looks totally professional and I’m properly pleased with it.
While I’m pretty happy with what I’ve done here, I’m getting a bit frustrated with WordPress and what its free plan can do. I’d like to be able to be able to change font colours and make the site more mobile-responsive. To get the grid feature on pages, you need to set a featured image. I didn’t necessarily want to do that as most of the sub-pages are image-heavy anyway, but it was a price I had to pay to get the pretty navigation I wanted. It would have been awesome, too, if I’d been able to make the changes I wanted and then publish them all at once, but there’s no real opportunity for you to work in draft and preview properly.
I’d like to go to a paid plan (e.g. WordPress, SquareSpace etc) to take advantage of better options for customisation, but I know what I’m like. I’m blogging a lot at the moment because I have a lot of spare time on my hands, but I know that when I eventually get a job I may not be able to keep up with the pace. And then, is it really worth getting a paid plan with fancy features and my own domain name if I can’t get the value for money?
Anyway, here’s my new-look blog – please do take a look around!