Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tech Tuesday - It's Time to Freshen Things Up!

It is Spring although the weather is not exactly cooperating ~ today brought us rain, rain and more rain.  However, we just had a beautiful Easter!  In the spirit of reawakening and rebirth that is what Easter and Spring is all about, why not take a look at your blog and see if it could use a bit of freshening up.

Digital Image by Maggie Smith

First, take a little time and check out a dozen genealogy blogs (try to choose these at random from the Genealogy Blog Roll at Geneabloggers).  Do you find them interesting and/or appealing to read?  Why or why not?  Take a good look at their layouts and gadgets ~ are any of these gadgets "new to you?"  If there were blogs that you found difficult to navigate, why was that? 

Now, take a look at your blog and answer the following questions.  Even better, ask someone (who will be brutally honest with you) to take a look at your blog and answer the following questions:
  • Is my blog easy to find? ~ Is the URL easy to remember and input or is my blog easy to find with a google search?
  • Is my blog "easy on the eyes?" ~ Are the colors complementary, too bright, or too blah?  Are the font styles easy to read, are the margins wide enough for an easy flow of blog posts?
  • Is my blog clean and easy to navigate? ~ How busy is the blog and is the busyness distracting to a reader?
  • Can you easily figure out how to subscribe or follow my blog? ~ Does the reader have options for following the blog and are those options "front and center" or somewhere lost in the long scroll to the end of the page?
  • Are my posts free of obvious errors and do I change it up enough with a variety of themes or topics to keep up interest? ~ Obvious errors imply a "lack of attention to detail."  In genealogy, as in blogging, details matter.  Do you give yourself enough time after writing a post to proofread, spellcheck and re-edit? 
  • Are the gadgets on my blog helpful and/or interesting? ~ Have you taken advantage of the ever changing gadgets and improvements that your blogging platform and/or third-parties provide?  Are you making your blog as attractive and user-friendly as possible?
  • Are you able to copy and/or print a post from my blog? ~ Have you made it easy for your readers to save, email, or print your posts?
  • Do I include enough links or photos or examples to assist, entertain or educate my readers? ~ Have you varied your posts so that you provide both written and visual material?  Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words!
  • What would make my blog better?  Go ahead, you asked for it, now graciously accept any constructive criticism. 
In this vein, I took a look at a dozen blogs and checked out some "new to me" gadgets.  The first thing I noticed is that the Pages idea has taken off in Blogger and I like how polished some of the blogs that use Pages look.  I decided to start working on Pages for my blog and hope to have anything up and running within the week ~ come back next Tuesday for a new and improved version of The Keough Corner.  I was intrigued with the "Posts by Topic" and "Post by Date" in Julie Cahill Tarr's GenBlog and thanks to her great post detailing how to do it, spent some time playing around with html code today (thanks to those who write code for the rest of us and those who post on how to incorporate these great ideas in our blogs). 

As to the remainder of the blogs I checked out (twelve in all) I saw things I wanted to avoid as well as some great ideas and formats that I plan to borrow from because they impressed me.  Comments on six of them follow:

  • The Shy Genealogist ~ just love the look of this blog; the posts are well written and the images are great
  • Genealogy's Star - excellent writing, he is always thought provoking; however, I find the layout distracting and scrolling through the page is endless
  • Genea-Musings - clear, bright and really well written, lots of material (too much for me) in the sidebar
  • A Twig in my Tree - interesting blog posts, great job with pages, nice research toolbox, the green in the sidebar is a bit bright for me but I love the other colors
  • Before My Time - great pages, a real mix of all things genealogy and family history
  • Potato Roots - lovely layout, terrific sidebars, great images, lots of great information especially as it relates to Irish history

I also had one of my sisters (who is brutally honest) check out my blog and answer the questions I posed above.  She gave me a solid B ~ I got points for the first five questions but she thought the side gadgets were too busy and I did not have the ability to print from my blog.  She thought more personal stories and pictures or maps would make my blog more interesting and she thought I was a bit wordy. Ah, thanks sis!

My To Do List
  • Add PrintFriendly to my blog ~ My father has asked a couple of times about printing a post, why not make it easier for him and everyone else.
  • Add some Pages to my blog ~ Pages should free up some of the sidebar space and if these items are on specific pages they will not appear on every page of my blog (it seems that the sidebar gadgets appear on every Page in Blogger).  Be sure to check out the Blogger article on this subject ~ Pages in Blogger
    • Table of Contents - Post by Topic (Labels gone)
    • Table of Contents - Post by Date  (Archive gone) 
    • People, Places & Things - a Page that includes why I blog, the surnames and places in my genealogy and the products I use (Surnames Keough and Murphy gone, Favorite Things gone)
    • Favorite Sites - a Page that includes the websites (with links) that I make use of for my genealogy ~ thanks to Thomas MacEntee for this "Genealogists Toolbox" idea (Favorite Sites gone).
    • Plate Cove Families - a Page that details my Plate Cove, Newfoundland Keough families
    • Nebraska Families - a Page that details my Nebraska Murphy families
  • Organize my Labels before I finalize my Post by Topic Page - I really liked the format used by GenBlog and spent some time organizing my labels around Archives and Libraries, Columns, Families, and Locations.  Hopefully this will make the topics easier for readers to navigate. Be sure to check out the Blogger article on this subject ~ How to Edit Labels.

How do you plan to freshen up your blog?  Got any great ideas to share with the rest of us?


  1. Some great ideas here. I will have to evalute how I can clean up my blog, especially the labels. Thanks for sharing these great ideas.

  2. Excellent suggestions. I subscribe to some of the blogs you mentioned but I need to check out the others and then go back to work on my blog.

  3. I got a lot out of your comments and suggestions and must look at them further. Many thanks for such good tips.

  4. Thanks for the interesting and specific freshen-up ideas--especially links to "how to" in Blogger, my platform of choice.


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