December 31, 2014

New Year's Wishes & A Shop Discount


On this last day of the year I won't spend too much time looking back on things. I always believe more in looking forward. You cannot change the past, but hopefully you learn from it in order to make the future better.

I'm ever so grateful though that my little design business took off in 2014 and I hope to expand things a little more in 2015. I was blessed with good health and a loving family in 2014 and I hope to feel healthy and alive amongst my loved ones in 2015 too. I hope my family and friends will all be able to let their dreams come true over the next year. May they all be happy and healthy!

And for you, my dear reader, I hope 2015 will be a year full of creative possibilities, moments of love and peace shared with your loved ones. Let 2015 be the year of Love, Light and Freedom!

To celebrate that the New Year is upon us I will be guest posting on Daydreams Of Summertime tomorrow. It's a blog I love to read and the blogger behind it, Sarah, is on vacation right now and gave some other bloggers the opportunity to write a guest post on her blog. I'll be guest posting with my personal blog but thought it would be a nice idea to offer all her readers a 30% discount on all my Premade Blogger Templates. And not only her readers of course, I am sharing this discount with all my lovely readers on here as well.

So if you are in need of a nice Premade Blogger Template with installation included, use coupon code SARAH at the Etsy checkout when you make your purchase and a 30% discount will instantly be deducted from the $25 a Premade Template costs. Instead you will pay $17.50! The discount is available throughout the full month of January, so you don't have to make up your mind just yet!

A book with 365 empty, white pages lies in front of us, please make the story that will fill the pages a good one! See you all next year!

December 29, 2014

Using An Editorial Calendar In 2015


With the New Year fast approaching I thought it would be nice to cover the subject of editorial calendars in a blog post. Because if you think that an editorial calendar could be a helpful tool for you after reading this post, you've still got a couple of days left to make one for yourself for 2015!

WHAT IS AN EDITORIAL CALENDAR?

But what exactly is an editorial calendar? When you are a blogger yourself it's likely that you've come across this term before. And maybe your are already using one. Well, editorial calendars can be used by any writer. You don't have to be a blogger to use one, you can be a novel writer or a writer of articles. It's basically a system to schedule the things you want to write about. By scheduling your blog posts, articles or whatever you write you keep yourself on track with your writing. Of course it won't prevent you from writer's block, but if you have mapped out the subjects you want to write about you can write draft posts on a certain subject when you feel like it and when you have lots of inspiration and publish it on the (later) date that you have scheduled it.

It's also a helpful tool to schedule seasonal posts because you have to start thinking about when would be the best date to post that Easter Cake recipe or those Summer BBQ tips and tricks. By setting up an editorial calendar you force yourself to think about your content and which subjects you really want to cover. And in an editorial calendar you don't only schedule when you publish what kind of post, you can also write down when you will be working on different posts. An editorial calendar doesn't necessarily have to cover a whole year though. You can make these calendars each month if you don't want to plan any further than a month. All in all it will give you some structure to work by.

OTHER THINGS TO COVER IN AN EDITORIAL CALENDAR

Next to the publishing of posts, post ideas and the scheduling of your writing you can think of other things to put in your calendar:

* your goals
* launches of new products, ideas etc.
* collaborations with other bloggers or companies
* giveaways
* surveys

HOW TO CREATE AN EDITORIAL CALENDAR

Editorial calendars can easily be made by yourself. You can buy any paper calendar that you find suitable for this purpose and start filling it up with publish dates, ideas for posts and writing time. If you go for a paper calendar, make sure you choose one that has lots of room for your scribbles on it. Put it in a spot close to your computer, so you have a clear vision on it when you sit down to blog. And when new ideas start to pop up during blogging you can easily add them to your calendar.

If you're more into digital scheduling I've got a couple of sites for you to check out. You can make your own schedule in a program like Excel (Windows Office), but you can also take the easy way and download a premade one on one of the following websites:





While the use of an editorial calendar was a subject I definitely wanted to cover on my blog, it's not a tool I use myself (funny, right?). I write down new ideas for this blog whenever they pop up in my head and sometimes I write posts a couple of weeks in advance, but most of the time I just go with the flow and kind of trust that an idea will present itself when it's time to write a post. And if not, well, the world won't come to an end when I skip one of my regular post days ;-)

With my personal blog I certainly don't use a calendar. Those stories really have to come from the heart and they can't be scheduled. For those posts I use my inner calendar: go with my flow!

I wish you all happy blogging in the New Year, whether you are going to use an editorial calendar or not!



December 26, 2014

Freebie Fridays #35 - Cook & Food Blog Headers


Hi dear readers! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! We are still celebrating Christmas over here in the Netherlands. It's spread out over two days in our country. So while I'm still having family time right now I made sure that I had today's Freebie Fridays episode scheduled for you all.

This time I'm sharing three blog headers that can be used for Food & Cooking blogs. Of course you can use them as labels or backgrounds for other projects as well if you want. Just be creative!

The headers are 1000x350 pixels in size and instructions to add text are included as well.

Maybe food is the last thing on your mind after a big Christmas Dinner, but you can always come back at a later point in time to download this set. And I made sure the food displayed in the headers in of the healthy kind ;-) See you next week!



December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas & Some Info On Office Opening Hours


Hi everyone! I know that not every single one of my readers will celebrate Christmas, but for the ones that do: I wish you all a beautiful Christmas celebration, surrounded by loved ones!

Here in the Netherlands we even celebrate Christmas on more than one day. Of course there is Christmas Eve, which is especially special to the people that go to church, since there will be late evening masses that night. And then we have first and second Christmas day (December 25th and 26th) on which days most people visit family and friends or invite them over themselves for dinner.

We'll be having family over on Christmas Eve and first Christmas Day. And second Christmas day will be spent just by the four of us together (husband and kids). Since I really want to spend some time with my family I decided to close my office for a couple of days.

My design office will be closed on December 24, 25 & 26. You are more than welcome to buy something in my Etsy shops or to email me with a question or an inquiry for custom work, but I will get back to you after Christmas, on December 27. And all custom orders will also be dealt with from that date on.

Have a great time and Happy Holidays!

December 22, 2014

We Heart It - The Other Pinterest & Instagram


A little while back I shared some links to photography sharing websites similar to Pinterest and Instagram, but more specialized in one subject like recipes, fashion or outdoor adventures. While these sites are absolutely gorgeous they can give a blogger a hard time to when it comes to image acceptance. Your photos have to be of a certain kind of quality before you are able to make it to their boards, while as with Pinterest and Instagram you can share any image.

I don't use Instagram myself, only Pinterest, and while I love scrolling through all the inspiring images on Pinterest, it's not a medium that brings in a lot of traffic for my blog. I know some of the big food blogs get a truck load of traffic through Pinterest, but for some reason it's pretty difficult to get to such a place when you're starting out.

One day I happened to stumble upon a Pinterest like site called We Heart It. To be honest: it's a lot smaller than Pinterest and a lot of the pictures shared on there are a bit too cheeky for my taste, but I decided to give it a try. And not without result I might say!




Because it's smaller than Pinterest I got noticed more easily and in the months that followed I got far more followers than I have on Pinterest, and my images were shared a lot more than on Pinterest. I can also see that every day at least a few people click through to my blog and my Etsy shops via We Heart It, while this only sporadically happens with Pinterest.

So if you're just starting out with a blog you might want to check out We Heart It. And if it isn't to share your own images, you'll probably get caught up in picture gazing for a while ;-)

December 19, 2014

Freebie Fridays #34 - Printable Christmas Menu Cards



Remember that at the beginning of this week I shared a tutorial on how you can easily make your own printable menu cards with the free image editing program Photoscape? Well, I'm back with more menu cards for this episode of Freebie Fridays.

With the Christmas parties and dinners just around the corner I thought it would be nice to share 3 printable Christmas menu cards with you all that I made myself. These ones have been made with the use of photos and the purple one was made with Photoshop. So if you are not in a position to make them yourself with the help of the tutorial, you can download these and print your favorite one to use at your Christmas dinner.


ADDING TEXT
As you can see in the image on top of this post, the menu cards are blank except for the title text. Since I don't know what you're planning to eat at Christmas you have to fill in the menu yourself. 

There are two ways to add your menu to the cards:

1. Just print out the card of your choice and write down the menu text yourself
2. Add the menu with digital text before you print it. If you don't know how to add text with an image editing program, then please view this tutorial: http://www.thedutchladydesigns.com/2014/07/add-text-to-images-with-photoscape.html
And if you want to use a lovely font from www.fontspace.com but it is not in your image editing program yet, view this tutorial to find out how you easily add these free fonts to your program: http://www.thedutchladydesigns.com/2014/05/how-to-add-more-fonts-to-photoscape.html


ABOUT THE MENU CARDS
The menu cards are 6x6 and 6x4.25 inches in size. They are all high resolution (300 dpi) .JPEG files, so they are perfect for printing. Of course it's up to you on what quality paper you decide to print them.



If you are celebrating Christmas and you've got dinner preparations to make, I wish you lots of success with it! Our family decided to split the work, so my mom-in-law and sister-in-law each prepare a course while I take care of the main course this year. A bit more relaxed than cooking an entire dinner on my own ;-)

December 18, 2014

Christmas Giveaway Winners


I've been really looking forward to write this post. It's just so much fun to give something away especially at this time of year.

Last week I wrote a Christmas Giveaway post for one of my Premade Blogger Templates & Installation. All you had to do was leave a comment with a link to your blog and with the name of the template you would love to win.

Since my blog isn't that big yet I knew that the people that would take the effort to leave a comment would have quite a big chance of winning. I also knew that there was even a chance that no one would leave a comment. But hey, that's life right?

I'm glad though that two ladies wrote a comment under that giveaway post and today is the day that I am going to announce a winner. But there won't be a winner. I'm not going to throw two small papers with names into a jar, hussle it and draw one out. Instead I've decided to give both lovely ladies the template of their dreams with full installation!

So congratulations Laurita & Linda! I'm going to install the Silver & Gold template for Laurita and the Josie McArthur template for Linda. I will send both of you an email or Etsy message with instructions and questions for the new blog layout.

I'm looking forward to installing a beautiful blog for you ladies!

December 17, 2014

Great Designer Tools For Determining Digital Sizes



One of the first things I noticed when I started out as a designer with a world wide clientele was that size is measured in more ways than one and not all countries use the same standard size for items like cards, business cards, clipart and papers.

Here in the Netherlands we use the metric system, meaning that we measure everything in centimeters and meters. Working with customers in the US and the UK I was confronted with using the inches system to measure things. And because I only create digital stuff, a third system was added to these two: the pixel measurement system.

Enough to get you crazy I might say, but as my great business inspirator Marie Forleo tends to say: 'everything is figureoutable' ;-) And I got to give her credit for that, because it is, if you want to put in the effort to sort it out of course.

Over time I stumbled upon some great websites that really offered the solution to my measurement craziness and I thought it would be a good idea to share them with you. In case you ever want to design your own cards for example and have no clue what size it should be in pixels, inches or centimeters.

And this blog post might also come in handy when you read last Monday's post about creating your own Christmas menu cards with the image editing program Photoscape. In that post I shared a tutorial on how to create a nice card background and how to add text. In the tutorial I used a card of 6x4.25 inches (or 1800x1275 pixels), but maybe you want to use a different size or shape. Then this post is for you! Let's find out the two steps you have to take to create the right size digital card/paper/business card.


STEP 1 - WHICH SIZE DOES YOUR DESIGN NEED TO BE IN INCHES OR CENTIMETERS?

When you want to design a post card or a business card you first need to figure out how big you want your card to be. Not all countries have the same standard sizes for post cards, papers and business cards. So before you start designing you need to know which size is standard in your country. When you want to print your design in a print shop it's probably safest to go with one of the standard sizes of your own country.
And to find out which size that is, you can easily hop on over to http://designerstoolbox.com/, a site that offers a ton of information on international design sizes.

For international business cards sizes view: http://designerstoolbox.com/designresources/businesscards/ (it will give you the sizes in inches and in millimeters!)
For international paper sizes view: http://designerstoolbox.com/designresources/paper/

And for US post card sizes view: http://designerstoolbox.com/designresources/postcards/ unfortunately the site doesn't give international sizes for postcards, but if I convert them to the Dutch sizes, they are pretty much the same as the ones we use over here.

Converting inches to centimeters and back

If  a website only states the size in either inches or centimeters you can easily convert these two measurements to one another. Just go to this great tool on the internet: http://www.inches-to-cm.com/

Okay, so now you have your size in centimeters or inches, but how many pixels is that when you want to make a digital item?


STEP 2 - CONVERTING INCHES AND CENTIMETERS TO DIGITAL PIXELS

The thing with pixels is that you can't just say: so many inches is that many pixels. Digital items have a certain resolution that makes them either suitable for web use or for printing. When you design something for printing, like a post card or a business card, you will have to design it in a high resolution (more pixels per square inch) for the best print results, while if you want to use an item just for online use, you can do with a lower resolution. The most important thing to know is that a resolution of 300 dpi (high resolution) is best for printing. Anything lower than that is okay for online use.

So if you are going to design a post card, a business card or a paper for printing you have to set your design to the 300 dpi resolution. That means that the amount of pixels per square inch is a lot higher than when you would use the design for online use. And that is the reason why you can't just convert this many inches to that many pixels.

But no worries, for every problem you can find a solution somewhere. And for this particular issue the solution can be found over here: http://auctionrepair.com/pixels.html

On this site you can either put in an amount of inches or pixels, then select the dpi resolution, and the program will automatically convert everything for you! Since this program only uses inches, you might need to use the aforementioned inches-to-centimeters calculator first when you start out with centimeters in mind.

Putting this into an example to make some sense

Maybe your head is spinning right now with all this mathematical mumbo jumbo, but don't worry. Let's take a look at the example of the menu card I made in last Monday's tutorial:

* first I figured out the size I wanted use over here: http://designerstoolbox.com/designresources/postcards/ - I decided to make the menu card 6x4.25 inches, which is the size of the smallest US standard size post card.
* I knew I wanted to print my design, so I needed at least a resolution of 300 dpi. With this info I went over to http://auctionrepair.com/pixels.html and put in the inches and the resolution, which resulted in a pixel size of 1800x1275 pixels as you can see in the image below.




Once I knew the size in pixels I had to use for my design I could start my project in Photoscape. It might all look a bit like abracadabra when you read this for the first time. But like Marie Forleo says: everything is figureoutable. Just take some time to let this info sink in and I'm sure you will be able to start making correct sizes for your designs from now!

December 15, 2014

Make Your Own Printable Menu Cards With Photoscape


It's been quite a while since I shared an image editing tutorial on the blog. Lately, most tutorials have been about Blogger and Blogger design, but this week will be all about card design. With Christmas around the corner I though it would be a nice idea to show you how you can easily make your own printable menu cards for Christmas dinner. So let's get started!

NOTE: I'm using the free image editing program Photoscape for this tutorial. You can download it for free over here.


STEP 1 - CHOOSING SIZE & BACKGROUND

When you've downloaded Photoscape and installed it on your computer you can open the program to start designing. Choose the option 'Edit Photos' on the start screen.



Now you are in the opening screen of Photoscape and we can start designing. I have decided to use a 6x4.25 inch card for this tutorial. Of course you can make your menu card any size you want, and I will share another blog post this Wednesday on how you can easily find out how much pixels you have to use per inch for you card. Because Photoscape works with pixels and if I want to make a card of 6 by 4.25 inches I will have to know first how many pixels that is.

For now, all you need to know is that 6x4.25 inches is 1800x1275 pixels. And later on this week we'll dive into this subject a little deeper so you can start making cards of other sizes as well. But for now we are going to create a card background of 1800x1275 pixels. And to do that you need to click the 'Album Sheet' tab on top of the screen: 



You will now get an album sheet background on your screen. Mine is square, white and according to the sidebar 400x400 pixels in size. You see that the album sheet is divided into photo areas. You can add photos to these areas, but I just use this option to create a colorful background for my card. So stay with me.



First, we are going to change the size of the background. Right now mine is 400x400, but I really want 1800 (height) and 1275 (width) for my card. So I'm going to fill in these values in the pixel size boxes. The first value displays the width of the background, and the second one the height. Notice that the background in the screen increased in size.



Now that we have set the right size it's time to choose a nice background color. You can of course leave it white if that is what you are going for, but if you like a bit more color then click the Background Color button in the sidebar. A little screen opens where you can select the color of your choice, so browse around here and choose the color you like, you can even select the 'more colors' option. I'm going for rich, dark purple.





Now select the 'Edit' button in the sidebar and you will go to this screen, where your card background will be displayed in full:





STEP 2 - ADDING TEXT TO THE MENU CARD

Now that we have the background and the size covered, it's time to add text. Go to the menu bar below the screen and select the second tab which will say something like 'Additions'. Now you will have the option to add text by clicking the 'T' button.



A small screen now pops up with the option to start adding text. You can type your text in the little text screen. Then select a font, a font size and a color. And if you want to take things to the next level you can even add a shadow to the text or a line around it. Just play around with this menu until your text looks nice.



Now your text is ready to be positioned. I started with the text 'Christmas Menu' which I want to position centered on top of the card. So in the text option screen go to the 'place text' options and select where you want your text. I chose the 'On Top' position and then let the text slide down a little further because I didn't want it to be right at the top edge of the card. I did that by typing in the value of 150 pixels at the 'Y' box. The Y stands for vertical alignment and the X for horizontal alignment. So if you want to move your text around just add a numeric value here and see what it does. You can even give it a negative numeric value in these boxes, just type -150 in that case.



Okay, now you know how to position the text, and don't forget to save everything by clicking the 'save' button. But what if you have set your text to size 100 (which is the largest option) and it still looks too small for your taste? Don't worry, we'll just drag the text to a larger size. For that you need to close the little text option screen. Now place your cursor on the right lower corner of the text box and start dragging outwards until you have the size you like. Then let go of the cursor. 



Of course the text isn't centered anymore after this last action. All you have to do is double click on the text and you're back in the text option menu. Now you can center the text again with the 'place text' option.

Now fill in your whole menu with the font style, font size and color of your choice till you like what you see.



STEP 3 - SAVE YOUR CARD FOR GOOD QUALITY PRINTING

When you design something that needs to be printed you will get the best print quality when you save it as a high resolution .JPEG file. High resolution for printing is 300 DPI. Don't worry about what it all means, you only have to know how to save your file the correct way. So let's do that!

My card is ready for saving, so I pressed the 'Save' button. Now a screen pops up and you will notice that there is an option here to select the DPI value. Set it to 300.



Now, click the 'Save As' button and make sure you save it as a .JPEG/JPG file. That's it! You're card is now ready for printing!




TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL WITH BEAUTIFUL FONTS & IMAGES

You can take your card design to the next level by adding images to it (clipart, photos etc.). If you want to know how to do that, please view this tutorial: http://www.thedutchladydesigns.com/2014/05/how-to-add-clipart-to-digital-images.html

And if you want to go over the top with gorgeous font styles, just download a nice free font style at www.fontspace.com and learn how to install it to Photoscape so you can actually use it with this tutorial: http://www.thedutchladydesigns.com/2014/05/how-to-add-more-fonts-to-photoscape.html

I hope this tutorial will get you on the way with designing your own cards. Now you know how to make a background and add text to it, so the possibilities are endless. Let's be creative!

December 12, 2014

Freebie Fridays #33 - Digital Corded Gift Tags


Finally another episode of Freebie Fridays. I had hoped to write one or two blog posts this week with tutorials and other design and blog related subjects, but the design shop is crazy busy right now. Everyone seems to need new blog layouts and logos for Christmas ;-) Well, I'm not complaining.

In between all the orders I managed to find a little time to set up our Christmas decorations. We don't have a lot of them, not even a tree, I'm not so into all this stuff and I kind of seem to suffer a bit from Christmas Blues I have to admit. But I did manage to gather some nice clipart items for today's Freebie Fridays.

It's a set of 64 digital gift tags with cord. I thought it would be a nice item to give away with the spirit of Christmas in mind. Which, to me personally, is more about giving than getting. 

Talking about giving, don't forget to sign up for the Christmas Giveaway if you are in need of a new Blogger layout. If you sign up before December 18, you have a chance at winning one of my Premade Blogger Templates and installation.

Have a nice weekend and till soon!



December 8, 2014

A Christmas Giveaway - Win A Premade Blogger Template & Installation


Last week, unfortunately, was so busy that apart from the post on Monday I did not have a chance to write another one, let alone upload another Freebie Friday episode. But I hope to be able to make that up to you this week! We will start the week with a real Christmas Giveaway!

While we don't celebrate Christmas with gifts at our home, it's still nice to give away a little present from time to time. So I'm going to give away one of my Premade Blogger Templates with Full Installation Included!

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS GIVEAWAY?

To join the giveaway please make sure you do the following:

1. Go to my Etsy shop and visit the Premade Blogger Template Section
2. Take a good look around to see which template you would love to see on your blog!
3. Then come back to this blog and write a comment down below telling me which Premade Template you would love to win and give us a link to your blog as well (if you already have an existing Blogger blog).

On Thursday, December 18, I will announce a winner. I will also contact that winner personally so we can exchange necessary details and info in order for me to install your new blog layout. So if you want a new blog layout, please join and maybe you are the lucky one that gets to have a new blog for Christmas!

GOOD TO KNOW

The premade template and installation is only for the Blogger platform, unfortunately these templates don't work on other platforms.

The installation will involve: full template installation on your account - installation of your social media icons - installation of an Instagram slide show gadget in the sidebar (if you wish) - installation of a Pinterest 'show off your pins' gadget in the sidebar (if you wish) - installation of your picture in the sidebar - installation of all the pages you like on your menu bar. After the installation, all you have to think about is right good content!

This blog, The Dutch Lady Designs, isn't that big yet, so I'm not expecting a ton of people to react to this Giveaway opportunity. All the more reason for you to join! Your chances of winning will probably be pretty good.

Hope to see your comment down below!


December 1, 2014

Blogger Basics - Turn Off The Comment Option For Pages


When you're the owner of a Blogger blog you can give your readers the opportunity to write a comment underneath each post you write. And that's a great thing, because interesting discussions can evolve out of that or just nice conversations and interactions with your readers and other bloggers.

Blogger not only gives the opportunity to comment under blog posts, but also under each page you have in your menu bar. And while some bloggers might be totally fine with that, I always thought it was not adding to the cleanliness and stylishness of a blog. 

When you give people the option to comment on each post and to contact you for other things through a contact page in your menu bar, what's the point in having the comment option under each post?

Of course you're totally entitled to keep the comment option under your pages if that works for you, but if you are like me, and you like a clean blog look, there is a way to switch the comment section under pages off. Let's take a look!

When you create a new page, or when you open an already existing page you will see this on your screen:


Notice that in the right side bar there is a button called 'Options'. All you have to do, once you've created your page (gave it a title and content) is to select this button and you will see this next screen:



Now check the 'Don't allow' box under 'Readers comments'. Save it by clicking the 'Done' button and you're done! When you view your page now in the menubar it won't show a comment section anymore.

Till next time!

November 28, 2014

Freebie Fridays #32 - Gingerbread Men Clipart


With Thanksgiving in the United States behind us, it's time to start focussing on the December holidays. While most of the Western World will celebrate Chrismas in a couple of weeks, the Dutch have another holiday coming up next week. It's called Sinterklaas and this is the holiday where the kids over here get their presents. 

Fun thing to know: our Sinterklaas figure (an old Bishop), was actually the base of the Santa Claus figure that gives the presents at Christmas in other countries. While originally we didn't celebrate Christmas with presents over here, it's gotten more popular over the last decades. But for the kids Sinterklaas will probably stay the main event in December.

Our Sinterklaas celebration goes together with certain treats like gingerbread, just like Christmas in other countries. That gave me the idea for sharing these 3 cute gingerbread men with you today.

The cuties are 1000x1692 pixels in size and in .PNG file without backgrounds. Use them as clipart, decorate your Christmas cards with them or print them out to make gift tags with them. Whatever way you use them, have fun with them.

Oh, and don't forget that today, Friday November 28th, it's Black Friday Discount day in both my Etsy shops. When you use coupon code BLACK at the check out you will get an instant 50% discount on every purchase, even on custom ordered items!

Etsy shop with small instant download items: www.etsy.com/shop/thedutchladydesigns
Etsy shop with more custom made digital design: www.etsy.com/shop/dutchladydigidesign




November 26, 2014

Black Friday Discount In My Etsy Shops!


Black Friday is not an event that we Dutchies are used to. In fact, we don't celebrate Thanksgiving at all. Of course we've all heard about it, but it wasn't until I became a food blogger (way back in the past) that it became clear to me how big this holiday actually was in the USA. And with reading about all the Thanksgiving recipes and family get-to-gethers of other food bloggers I first heard the term Black Friday.

It basically seems like a 'shop till you drop' day to me, but people seem to get really excited about it over there in the states. And because I have a lot of clients and readers from the states I thought it would be nice to give anyone, world wide, the opportunity to do a digital shop-till-you-drop in both my Etsy shops on Black Friday (November 28th).

On Black Friday you will receive a 50% discount on every item in both my shops! All you have to do is make a purchase (you can buy as many items in one purchase as you wish) and use coupon code BLACK at the check out. This will give you an instant 50% discount on your total purchase.

And since I want all my clients, world wide, to benefit from this offer, my Black Friday will cover a period of 48 hours, so that every time zone can use the coupon code on November 28.

CAN THE DISCOUNT BE USED ON CUSTOM MADE ITEMS AS WELL?
Yes it can! So this is your chance to order a custom made Blogger Template, or a premade template with full installation, or that custom made logo for your business, or maybe a nice custom made blog header for your new blog.

To give an example of what you will save by using coupon code BLACK on November 28:

* custom made blogger design: from $85 for $42.50
* custom made business logo: from $40 for $20
* premade bogger template with full installation: from $25 for $12.50
* premade business logo: from $10 for $5
* custom made blog header: from $15 for $7.50

Don't let this chance pass you by. You can check out my shops now to see what you would like and come back on Friday to buy it with the coupon code.

For instant download clipart, social media icons etc. visit my shop The Dutch Lady Designs.
And for more customized design projects visit my shop Dutch Lady Digi Design.

I hope to see you around in the shops this Friday, and if you are celebrating Thanksgiving: have a wonderful day tomorrow with your loved ones!

November 24, 2014

Why You Should Have A Popular Post Gadget In Your Sidebar



I'm quite a minimalist. Less is more with me. So when it comes to the design of a blog I like a clean look. It doesn't have to be too modern, it can have decorational borders, frames, floral images, whatever. But by clean I mean that a blog shouldn't be stuffed with gadgets and other items that serve no purpose at all. Maybe it's just me, but if I stumble upon a blog that has tons of flashy advertisements all over the place and a sidebar full of junk I'm not hanging around for long.

When you want people to read your content, that content should be visible and not covered under layers of pop-up advertising space and cute, but useless gadgets in the sidebar. At least, that is my opinion ;-) 

But one of the gadgets that definitely deserves a space in your sidebar is the popular post gadget. It displays a link to posts that your readers love. And you can either show a snippet of text from that post or a thumbnail image with the post title if your posts have images.

So, why am I such a fan of the popular post gadget?
Well, it makes it easier for readers to find other posts on your blog they might like. Let's be honest, people are lazy beings (or at least most of them). When you don't provide them with the option to click through to other interesting posts, most of them will read the post they came for and then leave the blog again. And you don't want that, do you? You want them to spend an entire afternoon on your blog, snuggled up on their couch with a pot of tea or coffee, submerging themselves into your stories. The first step to keeping your readers on your blog is offering them an easy click-through option to other posts in your sidebar.

How to install the popular post gadget on Blogger
You can easily do this yourself, even as a beginning blogger. Just go to your Blogger Dashboard and select option 'Layout' on left side of the screen:




When you've selected Layout, a screen will open that shows your blog's layout in blocks. My blog has the sidebar on the right, so on the right you see the gadgets of my sidebar as a pile of blocks. On top of that pile is an option to add a new gadget, click that option:




The Blogger gadget menu screen opens and now look for the Popular Post gadget and click the '+' button to add it to your blog:




A little screen opens up in which you can customize the gadget a bit. I've checked off the boxes to display posts that were viewed the most in the last 7 days, I only want to show a thumbnail image with the title of the post and not a snippet of text, and I want to display 5 recent posts in my sidebar (you can add more):




Now click the 'save' button and your popular post gadget should appear in your sidebar. You can drag the block of this gadget to another position in your sidebar and then click 'save arrangement' in the upper right corner if you don't want this gadget to be the top gadget in your sidebar.

Done!

November 22, 2014

Premade Blogger Templates & Full Installation



When I started the second Etsy shop I thought it was a good idea to offer Premade Blogger Templates two ways: instant download templates people had to install themselves and templates with a full installation included. In the shops of other template designers I saw that they were selling a lot of these instant download templates so I thought there would at least be a market for it. Also because in the past, before I ever became a designer myself, I bought a couple of these do-it-yourself templates on Etsy myself.

But it only took me a couple of months to realize that for some reason most of my clients seem to prefer the template package with full installation. I can't blame them, it's the most user friendly option.

An instant download template is great when you know a little about coding, just enough to tweak some little details after installation of a template. An ever returning problem with the instant download templates is the blog title and tagline. While it may look great on the demo template, it might look like sh*t on your own blog. Why? Because in the coding of the template the designer has to mention the pixel size of the title font for instance. When you have a blog with a long title, it might not look as good with that font size, while it looked amazing on the demo blog. Unless you know how to alter this in the coding or buy an add-on from the designer to do it for you, it can be rather frustrating.

Since I'm a bit of a perfectionist, I decided to quit selling the instant download templates. I might loose a bit of income on it, but on the other hand it will make me stand out as a designer. For $25 (the current price of a Premade Blogger Template & Installation) I will go the extra mile for anyone in need of a nice blogger template. The only thing you have to do is choose the template you like, give me all the info I need and I will take care of full installation on your Blogger account. Oh, and think about what to write in your next blog post of course ;-)

With offering templates plus installation I can guarantee that the end result will look perfect. Interested? Then hop on over to my Etsy shop and take a look at the Premade Blogger Template Section. Oh, and keep an eye out for next month, because then I will do a giveaway where you can win a premade template & installation!

November 21, 2014

Freebie Fridays #31 - Handdrawn Stitched Labels



This week started out as an empty week. Empty on the calendar and empty as far as client orders. So I had a lot of plans to do other things, but as always, life got in the way and in the end the week turned out rather busy. Sounds familiar?

Yesterday a big part of my day was filled with doctor's visits with my daughter. The poor girl caught a nasty intestinal bug and was incredibly sick. And although I call myself a designer, I'm a mum first. So the weekly freebie comes out of the old Etsy box this week. It's one of the items I once had in the shop but it never sold. Now it comes in handy in this week with too little time on my hands ;-)

When you download this week's freebie you will receive 40 digital stitched labels in PNG file. The labels were once drawn by hand on colored paper by yours truly. I then scanned them and turned them into digital items. Half of the labels have text on them, the other half is empty so you can add your own text.


I'm hoping that my girl will start to feel better over the next days and that next week will be a better one for her. I wish all of you a lovely weekend and upcoming week!






November 19, 2014

What Size Should Your Social Icons Be To Fit Your Sidebar?



You started a blog or website, even got as far as to tweak the layout in such a way that you are really happy with its looks, but you trip over the installation of your social media icons. Sounds familiar? Well, believe it or not, but I've been there myself in the past.

When I found out how to install them on Blogger in such a way that they were actually clickable and lined up in the sidebar (tutorial: http://www.thedutchladydesigns.com/2014/05/how-to-make-social-media-icons-work-on-blogger.html) I still struggled with the size of the icons.

On Etsy you can buy the most beautiful social icons for your website and blog, but these icons come in various sizes. How do you know which size is right for your sidebar? Well, that's what I'm going to explain to you today and we will need a little math for that, so let's go!

1 - DETERMINE THE WIDTH OF YOUR SIDEBAR
When you decide to put the icons in your sidebar, or any area of choice on your website, you need to determine first what the width is of that area if you want to display your icons in a row.
The width of your sidebar area can be found in the coding of your blog or website and will be displayed in pixels. Most sidebars are somewhere between 200 (narrow) and 360 (pretty wide) pixels wide. If you are not able to find this number yourself in the coding you can ask your designer (if your blog or website was designed especially for you). In all other cases you will have to estimate what your sidebar width is and take things from there.

To determine the width of your sidebar you have to pay attention to any kind of border or padding around your sidebar too. Take a look at the sidebar of The Dutch Lady Designs. I has a grey colored border around it and inside that border you can see that the content of the sidebar is not stretched from one border to another, there is a little space between the border and the content. That is called padding.

The following are snippets of code from my website with which I want to demonstrate how the width of the sidebar is determined in the coding:

.column-right-inner aside{
width: 300px;
border: solid  #e8e3dc 15px;

.widget.Text .widget-content {
text-align: justify;
padding-right: 20px;
padding-left: 20px;

The purple coding shows the width of the inside of the right sidebar, which is 300 pixels, it also shows that there is a 15 pixels wide border around the sidebar. The blue coding is all about the content of this sidebar. You can see that I've given the content area of the sidebar a padding of 20 pixels on the left and the right side.

Now we have to do a little math: while my sidebar is actually 300 pixels wide, I gave it a padding of 20 pixels on both sides. That means that only 260 pixels are left for content (300-20-20 = 260). So any icons I want to put up in my sidebar will be placed over a width of 260 pixels. Now that we have found out the exact width of the area we want to display the icons on, it's time to determine the size of the icons.

2 - DETERMINE THE SIZE OF YOUR SOCIAL ICONS
After you've found out what the actual content width of your sidebar is, it is time to determine how big your icons have to be to fit in a row on this sidebar. In this example I will work with the size of my own sidebar, which is 260 pixels for displaying content.

But before we do a little math to find out how big your icons need to be, you need to know how many icons you want to display in one row on your sidebar. My website obviously has 6 social icons, but maybe you need more or less.

In my case, I needed to display 6 icons over a width of 260 pixels. So I divided 260 by 6, which is 43.33 pixels. Because you will always need a little bit of space between the icons, your icons should be smaller in size than that 43.33 pixels. Mine are exactly 42 pixels wide each, but to be really sure that they will all fit in a row you could save 5 pixels for space around each icon, which would lead to an icon of 38 pixels (43.33 - 5 = 38.33).

Now let's do the math for the situation of 5 icons in a row. Divide 260 by 5, which is 52 pixels exactly. To leave a little room between the icons I would go for icons that are no bigger than 50 pixels, and a little smaller, between 45 and 50 pixels would probably even be better.

Of course, in case of an even number of icons, you can spread them out over 2 rows under each other. Then you can make your icons bigger. In my case, if I wanted to spread my 6 icons over 2 rows, I would need to divide 260 by 3, which is 86.66 pixels for one icon. To leave some space in between the icons I would probably need an icon of 80 pixels wide in that case.

I hope this explanation makes some sense. I know that math isn't every one's best side, but with these issues it comes in handy.

Now that you know what size your icons should be to fit your sidebar you can buy a set of beautiful icons from a designer you love. It is important of course that the designer states the size of the icons, don't go buying icons just because you like them without knowing how big they are!




FOR SOME BLOGS & WEBSITES THIS METHOD DOESN'T WORK
If you have a website or blog that is hosted on another platform than Blogger you might have a design that let's you upload social icon images in any size. The coding of the design then takes care of resizing the icon into a fixed size.

The advantage of such a blog design is that you don't have to worry about the coding to make your icons work. All you have to do is upload a nice icon image and the program will take care of the rest.

There is a little downside to this as well though, which I found out last week when I got an email from someone who had bought a set of my social icons and thought they displayed too small on her site. I was a bit surprised when she mentioned she had used the biggest icons of the set, the ones that where 100x100 pixels. They should normally display pretty big. When viewing her site I found out what the problem was. She had such a site where you upload the image and the program squeezes it into a fixed size. So while uploading a big icon of 100x100 pixels the website only showed the icons in a 40x40 size. The only way to change this is to ask the designer of the layout to alter the coding in a way that the icons will display bigger.

HELP, I REALLY DON'T KNOW MY SIDEBAR WIDTH!
If you really have a hard time finding out your sidebar width, let me know in the comments below with a link to your website. I will try to find it out for you!

November 17, 2014

My Experience With Sidebar Advertising - Part I



Just a short while ago I promised to write a post on my experiences so far with advertising in the sidebar of other blogs. It's a service that is offered on many blogs, but so far I haven't been able to find many reviews of bloggers that have actually taken the step to promote their blog or business on another blogger's sidebar. So, let me be (one of ) the first!

When starting my little designing business on Etsy I also had to start thinking about how to promote it. I decided to start this blog as an extra service for clients and other people interested in digital design. But of course that isn't enough. While Etsy's traffic to my shops is not bad at all I'm always seeking other options to promote my design work, and since I make a lot of blog related items I thought: why not go to the source? Why not advertise in a place where lots of bloggers and wannabe bloggers gather? So I started looking into the option of sidebar advertising on other blogs.

Setting up a sidebar ad
A lot of these sidebar ads are managed by a company called Passionfruit Ads. If you want to give people the opportunity to advertise on your blog you can create an account and Passionfruit will take care of payment and promotion of your blog on their site. Of course this will cost you a bit, but at least you don't have to worry about people not paying for their ad. As an advertiser you can also create an account and then look for blogs you want to advertise on.

I picked out three blogs that I read myself to advertise on. The first ad was up during the month of July, the second ad from half September to half October, and the third one from half October till half November.

The first two ads were on relatively small blogs, so they didn't charge a lot. I paid $8 for the first ad and $9 for the second ad. None of these blogs had a media kit or a page where I could see some info on their blog's statistics, but given the fact that they had multiple comments on each post they wrote, and multiple ads already in their sidebar I thought: let's give it a try.

My sidebar advertisement results
Unfortunately the results were utterly poor to say the least. The good thing about Passionfruit Ads is that it tracks the total amount of views in the period that your ad is in the sidebar and also the total amount of clicks on your ad. The first blog had a total amount of page views of 2.038 in that month and the other one had 4.903 page views in the month of advertising. On the first blog a shocking number of  only 3 people clicked on my ad and on the second blog it was even worse: 2 readers decided to click on it. Now that's what I call disappointing.

What was even more disappointing was that the blogger from the first blog did a monthly sponsor post, shedding the light on the sponsors in the sidebar, but wrote it a week too late. The purpose of this roundup post was to mention all sidebar advertisers of that particular month, linking to the websites of these sponsors and sharing a little bit of background info on them. The blogger failed to come up with this roundup post in July, and eventually wrote one after the first week of August, using the excuse that it had been a few busy weeks.

I don't care if it were busy weeks. We had a business agreement. I paid for a spot in the sidebar and to be mentioned in the monthly roundup post at the end of the month. What's the point in mentioning sponsors when they have already disappeared from your sidebar?

The other blog did no roundup post and I had to conclude from the first two experiences that it was best to look for a blogger who showed his/her blog's statistics and who proved to keep their end of the deal by writing their roundup posts on time. So I continued my advertising adventure.

Stepping up my game with a more expensive ad
After two small and cheap blogs I thought it was time to step up my game and look for a much larger blog with matching advertising prices. This time I was willing to spend more money in order to reach more people.

I eventually chose a blogger who charged $45 for a month in the sidebar. This blogger also shared the blog's statistics and it stated that in August 2014 the blog had just over 100.000 page views for that month and a little over 11.000 unique visitors in that particular month. Furthermore, this blog had over 5700 followers on Bloglovin. So I thought that the $45 was a fair price to pay for this kind of exposure.

I have to say that this blogger keeps her end of the deal and writes lovely roundup posts every month. She gives some info on the sponsor, adds the link to their site, or, in my case, to my Etsy shop, and she always gives a link to her favorite post on that blog, or, in my case, to a product in my shop that she liked. The day this post was published my views on Etsy definitely went up quite a bit. But unfortunately in the days after the post they went down again. I gained one new client from this roundup post, but it was nearly not enough to cover the $45 I had spent on the ad.

All in all, even for $45 it was a bit of a disappointing experience. In the end I received 18 clicks out of 43.904 page views that month (these are not the clicks from the roundup post though, Passionfruit only registers the clicks on the sidebar ad). The page views were rather disappointing. Of course they were huge compared to the first two blogs, but they were no where near the 100.000 views this blog supposedly received in August. So it makes me wonder if either Passionfruit somehow registers the views in a different way than Google Analytics does for the blog, or that the blogger is a bit too optimistic about the page views and just picked out a month when for some reason the views sky rocketed compared to other months. To be fair to the blogger and not automatically assume that she is exaggerating her monthly page views I've written an email to Passionfruit with the question if they register page views in a similar way than google analytics does. I've emailed them a week ago, but so far no answer. I hope to be able to have an answer by the time I write Part II of my advertising experiences.




The conclusions so far
Even though I offered a 25% discount in my design shop on all three occasions to the readers of the blog, the response was minimal. I gained only 1 client from these three advertising adventures.

You might ask if I'm done with sidebar advertising. I've asked myself that same question. But I want to give it a few more tries before I decide to throw in the towel. The blogs I advertised on were all UK based blogs, my next advertising adventures will be on US based blogs, since most of my clients come from that continent.

I will probably also try out some ads with my personal blog The Daphne Files. Will it make a difference when I advertise for the sake of gaining more readers or for the sake of getting paying clients for my shop? It's totally possible. I assume people might be more willing to click through to a blog that looks interesting and is free to read than to a shop where the purpose is to sell things.

Of course I will write another post on part II of my experiences with sidebar advertising once I've tried out a few more options. This post will probably be written upcoming January or February, so keep an eye out for it! In the meantime, if you want to share your experience with advertising on other people's blogs, please do so in the comments below! I would love to hear some comments from people who had really great experiences with this type of advertising, just to give me some hope for the next few advertising experiences ;-)



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