Exercise 3

6steps

Total time: 45 minutes
Resources needed: Computer or Phone
Goal: Have your blog laid out and template picked.

Exercises one and two have had a heavy focus on writing.
Which, in the grand scheme of things, is the most important thing. Content is king.

Exercise three starts to put some skin on your writing.

Today we will start to layout our site and get an idea of exactly what we are looking for. Now that you have the subject that your blog will consist of, you need to start to work on what the home page will consist of.

If you remember back to exercise one we focused on writing out several topics or subjects that we enjoy. Sharing this experience with you, I have come up with the site that I want to write about. It is called HowToMentor.me.
Let me give you some back-story to how I came up with the site name.
I am passionate about mentoring. Thoughts on mentoring was something that I wanted to write about and be a part of. So my subject of choice was clearly mentoring.

I hope that over the last two exercises you have been able to identify your subject. Today we are going to figure out what your homepage will consist of. This will be the first impression of your site. The very thing that everyone sees before they start reading your content.

You need to decide how you want people to see your content. Maybe you want a sliding featuring of content or your header to be displayed first. You might want to have a quick blurb about your site as the featured content area. Do you want to advertise?
These are some of the choices that you will have to make when thinking about the feel and tone of your site.

For more reading on this check out this post: The First Page Of Your Blog.

DIVING DEEPER: HOW TO SET UP A LANDING PAGE FOR YOUR BLOG

My next step will be to look for inspiration. What do I want my site to look like? What sites do I really enjoy? What emotion do I want people to feel when they land on my site?

There are several places to look for inspiration. You can look at other bloggers sites and see what they have done or you can look at showcase websites that feature great site design.

Here are five websites to check for inspiration:
Web Design Ledger
Web Design on Pinterest
Web CremeLine25 Sites of the week
Abduzeedo sites of the week
Siteinspire

Go ahead and check those sites out and see what you find. I will still be here while you are gone, so take your time.

What you will notice about those sites is they consist of a lot of web design for business or product, not specifically for blogging. The reason I sent you to look at websites that do not have a heavy emphasis on blogging is so that you can start to see how others have laid out their content. Any time I start a project, I want fresh and new ways to see content displayed, delivered, and designed.
As you look at other websites I would encourage you to adapt a bit of a process that I started four years ago. Every time I see a site that I like or want to reference later I take a screenshot. It is an easy habit to develop.
If you are on the mac hold COMMAND SHIFT 3.
If you are on a PC hold down the ALT button and hit the PRINT SCREEN key.

Take ten minutes to look at some different sites for inspiration and take five screenshots of sites that you could see your blog looking like.

What are you looking for?
-Colors you like.
-The way the navigation is displayed.
-Fonts being used.
-The way the title of the site is being displayed.

Check out my Pinterest board of great website inspiration here.

Picking A Theme:
Now that we have our screenshots it is time to start looking for a theme that is going to allow us to do what we want. As you think about your blogging theme think about it more in a way of a house than anything else.

Everyone buys a house differently. You might want something brand new that doesn’t need any work. Something that is turn key, that has all the bells and whistles and never has to be updated. Or maybe you are looking for something that needs a bit of character added to it, a bit of your own touch. Maybe you want something that has a great start to it but can be added upon. Or maybe you want the frame of a house, something that gives you a palette to start to build on to. That’s when you know you have found your spot, it has your name all over the design of the house. You might even utter the words, “It just feels like home.”

Blogging templates are the same. There is something for everyone.
But before you dive into the thousands of blogging templates out there you need to figure out what kind of theme (house) you want to have. Turn key, customizable, just a framework?

We have our site inspiration, we know what theme we want, now it is time to go and find our theme.

There are several places to find themes. Most are junk, but some are great.
What we are looking for is a theme that has strong SEO, is customizable (custom CSS), and has the features we have identified for our site (sliding content, featured header, content featured on the left, advertising options, etc.).

Here are 3 places to find great themes:
ThemeForest
WooThemes
WordPress

My theme of choice is always Standard Theme. I have been with this theme since it was started. I know the developers and designers who put this theme together; they are all great guys. The support community for this theme is outstanding. The layout is great. And the code is very easy to work with. I highly recommend this theme.

When choosing your theme, make sure that you can customize the layout. Make sure that you like the way it feels (take it for a demo). Make sure that it has good practices with SEO (the code is written correctly). These decisions will all go in to our later discussion on how to make your site look the way you want it to feel and read.

So did you find a theme? Let me know what you choose. Hit reply and share with me what theme you chose and why.