February 29, 2012

A New Look for Joburg Expat

If you’re reading this, you will have noticed that my blog has a new look. And if you read on, you'll find out how it came about, but I suspect only fellow blogger will have any interest in that. If you're not one of them, just take the day off:-)

Redesigning your blog is always a scary prospect. Your blog almost feels like your identity, and you’re reluctant to mess with it. It’s like deciding to get all your hair chopped off, or coloring it red. But sometimes it has to be done, especially when your good friend tells you it’s time because the header belongs in a museum.

So you decide, oh well, putting a new picture in my header is way overdue, let’s do that quickly before I have to make breakfast in half an our.

Okay, well, that precisely is the problem with me. “Do it quickly” is often my thought, but then my actions don’t pay any heed to that whatsoever. Before I know it, I’ll be immersed in it knee-deep, not emerging from that particular project until weeks later. I once decided to replace the knobs on my kitchen cupboards and ended up having the entire kitchen redesigned and rebuilt.

And so it was with the new header for the blog. I didn’t have a good picture, so I decided to make a collage instead. Easy enough, I thought, with my newly acquired skills (or I should call it illusion of skills) in Photoshop, shown to me by the same friend a while ago.

About three days later I had a satisfactory header image. What happened, you see, is that I discovered all this cool stuff you can do in Photoshop. Blur edges. Improve sharpness. Fade the image. Put the imagine in the wrong place by accident and find out that it actually looks cool when the ones behind are showing through. Go online and find a website where you can download actions that do much more than fade the image. And once you're online so much looking at websites, you get new ideas from other people's blogs as to what your header should look like.The good news is, I think I now finally understand the concept of layers and layer masks. I'm sure that's got to count for something in life.

Of course I didn't stop with the header. Looking through so many pictures, I had found some that would look nice on the About Me page, so that ended up completely redone, with a new story while I was at it. Which is when I realized those nifty new pictures fading into the background wouldn't, well, fade into the background if there was an ugly frame around them, so off I went on a wild goose chase to figure out how to get rid of those and learned all about CSS sheets in the process.

My Google profile picture and story was next. Then it was on to my own domain name, something I had been thinking about for a while. The more you become entrenched with your blog, the more it becomes your trademark, and the thought of someone else snatching the name Joburg Expat for themselves was nagging at me. So I went and purchased the name. But of course purchasing is the easy part, but what the hell then? I entered precisely that into Google: "Purchased new domain name, and what the hell now?" and about half a day and many useless articles later I struck gold and was able to copy a bunch of what looked like random numbers into a form somewhere, and magically it worked. Amazing the people you trust when you go searching for solutions on the internet.

During all this I came across many Blogger help and tips sites, and of course I couldn't just get past those, oh no. While they weren't telling me how to fix the problem at hand, they WERE showing me all these other nifty tricks and gadgets, so I left them all open to get to later. At some point in time I had twenty-seven tabs open on Google Chrome. Wanting to align my Facebook and Twitter share buttons under the posts, I found a gadget that lets you float them on the side. Had to have it! From there it was on to a tabbed box to fit all that stuff I previously had in a long column down the side. Then the summarized snippets on the home page. What, the search box can be put in the header, saving space down the right? Bring it on! But in Blogger, you see, you can't simply add these gadgets willy nilly, you often have to delve deep into the HTML code of your blog to make it work. Which is a whole intriguing world of its own, one that I admit immediately had me hooked.

I learned that you have to be very careful when you change that code, or all of a sudden something that worked previously no longer does. So now your Facebook and Twitter share buttons might be lined up perfectly, but the comments box has disappeared. Which then makes you realize you need an entire document with all the tips you've learned and the links to where you've learned them, because often you will have to go back there and do it again. That's a whole new project of course. At this point I'd like to say a huge THANK YOU to GreenLava at BloggerSentral. His posts on how to program Blogger gadgets, and his timely and diligent responses in his comments section, were of huge help to me. I hope he makes plenty of money from his blog, because it is simply the best out there. If you're on Blogger, you should check it out. I no longer Google my Blogger questions, I simply head over to BloggerSentral directly.

As Murphy's Law would have it, that same week I was doing all this was also when I had the best inspiration about my actual blog content in ages, possibly helped by all the coffee I was consuming to get me through those late nights (you remember Kramer in Seinfeld when he had that coffee addiction? - that's how I felt) so I had to interrupt every now and then to start another story draft.

But it's mostly done now (I'm trying hard to heed my resolution this year of "pretty good is good enough"). 
The whole venture was only possible because Noisette was travelling last weeks, and some of the kids were at camp, so no one was holding me accountable. I didn’t cook for a week, didn't leave the house, didn’t make the bed (didn’t actually USE it very much),… I was in absolute heaven!

I hope you like the outcome and aren’t mad at me for changing the way you’ve been reading Joburg Expat in the past. I also hope it hasn't gotten too slow, what with gadgets and header and all, so do let me know if there are any loading issues. Enjoy!

18 comments :

The Loerzels said...

Lovin' the new look Sine!

Sine said...

Thanks Marie. BTW, am featuring you on an upcoming post about writing blog posts.

- Suzie - said...

Great new look, like the faded header, your self-made buttons and of course the story. The page load is perfect and fast over here in Thailand.

Sounds like you deserve a break now!

Sine said...

haha, I just told myself the same, that I need a break, and then for some reason was checking my other blog, the one I never check because it hardly has any traffic, Desperate Mothers, and realized a bunch of links were broken. So I fixed them and then realized the blog looks ancient, with no social buttons or anything. Guess what I was doing from then on:-)

Conrad said...

So dann gebe ich auch noch meinen Senf dazu: also insgesamt hat die Auffrischung dem Erscheinungsbild sehr gut getan, Gratulation! Ein schönes Foto von Dir, flottere Intro-Texte als bisher. Aber -typisch deutsch- und Du hast es ja auch eingefordert: Diese verblassten Farben in dem Header wirken auf mich weniger afrikanisch erdfarben, sondern eher wie alte verblasste Fotos aus der Vergangenheit. Das wiederum passt aber nicht zu einem Blog, der aus dem täglichen Leben, aus der Gegenwart berichtet. Dann, was mich am alten Blog am meisten gestört hat, war dass man nicht langsam nach unten scrollen kann sondern dass das so ruckartig geht. Und gerade das hat sich nicht geändert. Nun könnte das auch an meinem Computer liegen, aber es geht mir eben nur bei Deinem Blog so, sonst eigentlich nicht, daher vermute ich das Problem eher bei Dir. Vielleicht kannst Du es mal prüfen.

Conrad said...

ja und gottseidank konntest Du die blöde Verifizierung abschalten, super!

cat said...

Great new look girl

Stephanie said...

Well done. I've been thinking I need to redesign what I've got going on but frankly, I just don't have the patience. It's working for now. Basic as it is. Good job and learning and redesigning. :-)

Sine said...

@Conrad: Danke fuer's Feedback. Das ruckartige Scrollen weiss ich nicht, woher das kommt, ich glaube aber schon, dass das mit der Ladezeit was zu tun hat. Bei mir kann ich manchmal gar nicht scrollen, aber dann nach einer Weil schon. Ich kann aber mal versuchen herauszufinden, woran das liegt. Den Header - hmmm, ein guter Punkt, den ich natuerlich nicht bedacht habe. Das habe ich hauptsaechlich gemacht, weil es mir vorher zu knallig war und dann das Augenmerk zu sehr auf den header faellt und das zu sehr ablenkt. Naja, mal schauen, jetzt bleibt er erst mal eine Weile so. Und diese bloede Verifizierung macht mich schon lange bei anderen verrueckt, nur nicht bei mir, weil man sie selber naemlich nicht hat. Deswegen hatte ich mir darueber nie Gedanken gemacht.

Sine said...

@cat & Stephanie - thanks! Yep, definitely an exercise in patience...

Anna Williams said...

I have re-designed my blog a couple of times but I finally decided to bring someone in to do it properly which will hopefully be done in a week or so. Can't wait to see it! Glad my mini tutorial helped - your blog looks amazing by the way! Love that header!

Sine said...

Thanks Anna. I wonder if the header wasn't the hardest piece of it, because Photoshop is possibly the one thing that is even more confusing than HTML programming. And thanks for the help on word verification, though I must say Spam immediately went up. But as long as google keeps putting it directly into the spam folder I guess it's fine...

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading through your blogs. We are moving to Johannesburg in July and you have given me some wonderful advice.

My comment on your new look is that the old header was better. The new one is messy and the overlapping pictures look like they need to load correctly. "Less is more" as the saying goes.

Keep up the interesting and informative blogs - I will be reading with excitement.

suzie said...

Also deutsch sieht der header nicht aus. Vielleicht wie aus einer Broschuere einer britischen Schule... aber ehrlich gesagt dachte ich, das "faded" passt, es wirkt wie die Afrikanische Mittagsonne. Kannst ja in einem Jahr wieder aendern ;-)
Dann wuerde ich das Ortsschild aber mit Joburg tauschen.

nikkimoffitt said...

Love the new look and the header rocks. Am inspired to make a change too - I just need the patience to work through it all. x

nikkimoffitt said...

ps - YAY the comment worked ;)

nikkimoffitt said...

ps - YAY the comment worked ;)

Sine said...

it worked so well it worked twice!