My Blogging Secrets Revealed

I’ve spent the past two days solid tinkering with design.  I think I’m finally finished.

Here’s why the urgency now:  I was inspired to do some introspection on how I communicate after hearing Kem Meyer speak last Saturday in Atlanta.  Her topic was about how churches communicate, but she encouraged us all to start first with doing the work we needed to do within ourselves, personally, to be more effective communicators.  Now, I’ve got a lot of other “inner work” I’m doing with my therapist simultaneously that’s applicable and needs to happen as communication self-work, but what can I say?  I’m addicted to my blog.  My ultimate goal is to be able to speak in person as authentically (and maybe even as loudly) as I lay it out in my writing here.  I’m working on it.

I had a lot of extraneous junk here at Tickle the Sun that just needed to go.  Menu items, tag clouds, ads, books, full articles versus teasers…it was all just too much.  As a bonus, Jared helped me rid myself of that annoying little smiley face that has been plaguing the bottom of this page, under the footer, for as long as I’ve been a WordPress convert.  (It was 6 pixels.  Most of you probably never noticed it, but it was the bane of my design existence.)  It all got in the way of the way I want to speak to you, my readers.

The blurb about myself beside the animated girl may change.  The books may change.  There may even be another ad or two, though I’ve only got one more in mind for which I am really hoping this site gets accepted, and at that, I promise I don’t expect my readers to buy anything.  My pledge to you is that the ads that you may see here are companies I can endorse because I’m a customer myself.  And, once I get a few things on Etsy, you may see a link again.

Otherwise, I think I’m done with design for a while, which will free me up to concentrate harder on content.  So, what are my secrets?  I’ll share a few.

I’m a hardcore self-hosted WordPress convert.  Read about the how-to’s behind it at their site.  Note that I’m talking about WordPress.org, not WordPress.com, which I’ve also used before and I like, but it has limits that kept me from expressing my full creativity.

My site is hosted through GoDaddy.  Their service is phenomenal; I’ve had them on the phone at all hours and I’ve used them for multiple domains which have served various purposes now.  I love them!

I likely could have built the same site from scratch were I a genius like my husband Jared, but I’m not.  So, I had a little help.  My theme is a child theme I’ve built off of the Genesis Framework.   My first theme through them was one I bought last fall and that’s where I got introduced to the wonders of the work they do at Studiopress.  In January, I decided I wanted to play a little more, though, so I invested in the plain framework.  I’m a constant lurker at their forum.  Though I’ve never gotten into the discussion or asked directly for help, I know for a fact their customer service is stellar; the forum organization is awesome and the search function has never let me down.  My impression is also that they often answer questions they don’t have to answer, questions that are not directly related to their product.  It’s an amazing organization.  My color palette is also a free resource from Studiopress.

Plugins I think are a must:  Akismet (spam protection), Amazon Tools (bookshelf), Archives (built my pretty archives page without me having to do much of anything), Search Meter (lets me know what people are looking for on my site).  Jetpack from WordPress.com made the transition to self-hosted much easier because it has a lot of the same features offered by the .com interface.  I’ve also got at least half-a-dozen Genesis plug-ins that made design much easier; but they only work if you’ve got the framework installed.

As for CSS, I have to admit that I just plowed right in and started changing stuff to see what happened.  It all looked like a foreign language two months ago, but now I can muddle through at least to change a font size or color.  You, my readers, have watched it happen over the last couple of months as font sizes and colors changed, as footer colors and sizes changed.  I went against the grain of most advice out there and have been changing my live site.  Thanks for bearing with me!

Other helpful tools:  I don’t think I would blog as happily as I do without my MacBook Air or my Sony Alpha NEX-5N camera.  They make blogging life so much easier.  Also, I use Pixelmator as my photo-editing software.

Pro photographers I’d be remiss if I didn’t credit here are Moment by Moment Photography and Griffin Gibson.  These ladies are really fantastic to work with.  Whether it was capturing our wedding events, our newborn Liam, or just a fun family morning, we really couldn’t have been happier with the experiences or the final products.  They have been gracious enough to sell us rights to use their digital images as we see fit, so I use them here.

That’s about it.

 


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