Today we're digging into some nitty-gritty stuff - the little details that really make your blog look great! I'm going to go over the value of getting a custom domain, how to set up a Favicon, customizing your sidebar, and how to make a GIF. Guys. This is going to be fun.
Purchasing a domain name can seem daunting. It makes everything feel a bit more real, right? That's totally fine! Making moves like this are so important for you and your brand. And if you're concerned about price, don't be. If the name you're looking for is available, there's a big chance that it's going to pretty cheap! I'd recommend using GoDaddy.com - purchasing my name was only $15/year. 100% worth it!
A favicon is that little graphic icon that shows up in your tab in your browser window. I use Google Chrome and they look like this...
A favicon is something small that, when done, makes your page look incredibly professional. And it's so easy! I use Squarespace, and all I have to do is go to Settings > Basic Information > Browser Icon (Favicon) and upload an image there. Remember that your image is going to be tiny, so you might want to test how it will look in Photoshop! If you have Photoshop, open it and create a new file that's 30px x 30px*. Then drop the image you want to use in there and scale it to fit. This will give you a good idea of how it will look. You may need to simplify what you've got! And it's really best not to put your name in there. You could try one letter, bolded - and remember, your name will be typed out next to the icon! You don't need it. The simpler, the better :) Save it out as a .png or .ico and upload away! If you're not on Squarespace, here's a tutorial on how to upload your favicon to Wordpress or to Blogspot.
*Your icon may display down to 16x16 and some sites will tell you to make it to that size. However, there are instances on certain browsers where it could be as large as 64x64! I'd go ahead and play it safe by building it to a size somewhere in the middle. Then if it is larger than 16x16, it's not very pixelated and still looks crisp and clean.
Your sidebar is great place for navigational imagery. Use your nav across the top as the main fields people want to get to, then anything additional, put in your sidebar. I've updated mine as time has gone on and more content has been added, changed, or topics have arose that people particularly love. This is also a space where you can consider selling ad space. Since that's a whole other can of worms, I'm only going to be addressing the fun basic stuff today :)
It's really great if you can have a picture of yourself at the top of your sidebar. Not only does it make people feel welcomed when they come to your page, they can also easily identify who they're speaking to when reading your page or browsing your products. Putting a face to a name helps you to be more memorable, and gives a great personal touch to your brand. You can also turn this image into a clickable link that leads to your "About Me" page. That's a very natural transition!
Your sidebar is also a great place for your social media platforms. While a lot of companies and businesses keep their social links down in their footer or small in the top corner of their site, as a blogger or small business owner, your social platforms are a very helpful extension of your brand! (That's true for companies, too, but because they typically function as more than one person and want to first and foremost promote their product, social is lower on the ladder of importance.) Your social media accounts add more authenticity to your brand and function in the same way your picture does - helping people to feel like they know you. I fully believe in embracing social media and it's power for good. We can talk about that another day too :)
I also keep my search bar in my sidebar, but that would work well in your top nav as well. Just personal preference.
You can keep your categories over here, bloggers/brands you follow & love over here (but be selective! Include the ones that really line up with who you are and what you're about), and you can also include links to series that people enjoy. You could consider highlighting 1-3 featured posts. Maybe you have a shop? You can have a link to it in your top nav, but also include an image link here in your sidebar as well. If your work is featured elsewhere, you could link to it here. Maybe you're part of a group or have been recognized by a brand and have a badge for it (though I think these would look good on your "About Me" page, too). The options are endless!
Now, this one is really fun. Now that we've talked about sidebars, you may have noticed an image in mine that changes - the link to Desktop Downloads. So fun! This is called a GIF, and these show up everywhere. If something is flashing in your email from J. Crew? It's a gif. Your favorite animated meme's? They're all gifs. The image of me dancing in this post? Gif. The gorgeous cinemagraphs by Jamie Beck & Kevin Burg? All gifs! Gifs are really simple and fun to make - in fact, there are a few iPhone apps out there as well that let you make them with video footage you've shot on your phone. I use Photoshop, and I made a little video tutorial to show you how to make them! I typed up the how-to for a friend a few months ago, and realized later it sounded so confusing. It's only a few simple steps and I wrote her a novel. (Sorry, Paisley!). So here you go!
I made this video early in the morning, so excuse my sleepy voice :)
You can pin the top image on this page for easy reference (just be sure to open this post to show it on it's own - not on my homepage, or you'll come back and it'll be my latest post). I hope this is helpful for you! Let me know if there's anything else out there that you're curious about - most often, I can probably answer your question or it's something that I'm curious about it too! It'll spur me to do some research ;)