Blog Design – It Ain't What Your Mama Taught You

Well.. ok – my Mama didn’t teach me anything about blog design, but boy my job sure has changed in the past 4 years..it’s not what it used to be. Gone are the days of very simple templates for blogs (ala’ Blogspot defaults) and in came the days of full blown Content Management Systems (CMS) with all this wild functionality that wasn’t possible 4 years ago. Tagging.. social bookmarking.. podcasting.. video blogging.. Websites turned to blogs and blogs seem to be turning back into websites, with the extra added kick of social networking, interaction and easy multimedia updates and additions.

Blog designers don’t only need to know how to design and put together a functional Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) in order to function in life. Over the past year, I’ve seen my job change and grow into something it never was before. These days – I need to know my way around PHP, without getting lost – – I need to be able to write functional SQL query strings and be able to wing my way through some serious database management. This was all stuff I didn’t know, or feel comfortable with, 5 years ago. Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks? (Ok Astro – I hear ya!)

In the past 5 months, I’ve had about a dozen clients who’ve come to me not needing design work at all. Instead – they needed help with their existing blog. The requests varied from “Help! My hosting company ate my blog!” to “I need a good conversion to another platform” to “I have 1300 database tables for categories and I need a decent navigation structure that won’t kill the CPU or piss off my visitors“.. or “I need a plugin that does thus and such – can you build it?

Now, I’m no expert on PHP or MYSQL, by any stretch of the imagination. I have a long way to go when it comes to such things, and luckily I have my handsome husband around to catch me when I fall… he’s constantly teaching me new things and keeping me sane in the process (sort of sane..kind of). But I’m finding with coding and development that, 5 years ago, I used to outsource – – I’m now able to handle myself, most often. When I started E.Webscapes – I expected to design blogs. Make pretty graphics. Whip up a wicked style sheet. Then sit back and ooohhh and ahhhh over my, self-proclaimed, artistic creativity. (even if no one else was! Heh.)

There’s nothing artistic about code. Or is there? WordPress says that Code Is Poetry. Could it be?

Seth Godin coined a phrase to describe it best – – he calls us Tweakers (and blogs more about tweakers here). So sought after are the skills of tweakers – Seth put together a lens on tweakers over at Squido:

Tweakers make things better. They take a car or a book or a project and improve it without changing the original intent.

The web needs tweakers. Firms (or passionate individuals) who can take your website and, without overhauling the whole thing, make it better. Adjust the type or the pictures or the wording or the site map and make it sing. This is a site about tweakers.

Seth even included E.Webscapes as part of the Tweaker Lens.. thanks, Seth!

….

About the client whose hosting company who ate their blog (not our hosting company, mind you)- this could have been an easy fix – so here are a few tips for bloggers everywhere – – BACK UP! I can’t say that enough times… and I can’t get blue enough in the face about it, because no one ever listens to that simple advice. It seems there is a “it won’t happen to me” mentality when it comes to such things – – and when it does happen to you.. well it’s one of those V-8 moments, isn’t it? Woulda, coulda, shoulda…

For WordPress users – it’s easy. See the WP Database Backup plugin that exists in under the Plugins tab in your WP admin panel? USE IT! Activate it – and use it. It’s so easy – your dog could do it. WordPress users basically need three things: 1.) A backup of your database, 2.) A back up of your theme, 3.) A back up of any plugins you’re currently using. That’s it. If you have those three things – Godzilla can eat your blog, and you can still restore it back to the second before the beast got hungry.

Other platform users – same basic principle applies. Database back up, theme/design backup and any addtional plugins/scripts or addons you may be using. Back those three things up – and Godzilla can feast weekly at your blog table – and you can still replenish his appetite.

But..But…how can I make backups? In your CPanel/NetAdmin/Plesk admin areas – whatever user interface your host offers to administer and manage your hosting account. You can also easily create backups by downloading those items via FTP. (Here’s some easy and informative guides to FTP for beginners.. or a refresher for those in the know.) For those with a hosted blog solution (ala Blogspot, Typepad, WordPress.com..) – check with those providers about how to back up your data.

That’s my PSA for the day.

7 thoughts on “Blog Design – It Ain't What Your Mama Taught You”

  1. Lindsey – you’re too kind, thank you ๐Ÿ˜€

    And you, more than anyone else, sure know the value of backups! BTW – you weren’t the client who got their blog eaten lol – but I know you recently had issues, and good backups saved the day ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Would like to add that my (ex) host chewef my db completely (due to incompencies but I won’t name and shame them here) – and my backups saved me an awful lot of trouble (tho I decided to re-design the whole thing and start it properly anyways; still those backups meant I was not considering hari-kari when I figured out they’d blown-out the wrong server!!!!

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