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 ;-)



November 14, 2014

Freebie Fridays #30 - Printable & Desktop Calendar 2015



Well, the year is slowly wrapping up and coming to an end, so I thought it was about time to share a calendar with you for the new year.

I've made a printable one-page calendar in A4 paper size (International Standard Paper Size) for you, as well as two versions of this calendar to use as desktop wallpapers.

Since there are multiple screen sizes available I have made one wallpaper that will probably fit a lot of the modern computer screens. The size is 1366x768 pixels, which will do for a stretched but not so high screen. The other wallpaper is in size 1024x768 and will probably fit the older, more square shaped screens. Just see what works for you.

On the wallpapers I've put the calendar to the right side so that there is plenty of space left on the the left side for your desktop links and images.

While we still have about 6 or 7 weeks left until we enter the year 2015 I really hope it will be a good one for this planet and all of humanity. The world could use a little light these days!





November 11, 2014

Full Branding Package For Bloggers & Small Business Owners



As of today I've got a new product in my Etsy shop: a Full Branding Package for bloggers and small business owners!

With a branding package you will take it one step further than with just a custom made business logo. With a branding package you can create a unique and uniform look for your blog or business on multiple platforms.

WHAT IS A BRANDING PACKAGE?
A branding package is a tool to promote your business or blog. It basically consists of a number of digital items that are designed just for you. With these digital items (logo, banners, buttons etc.) you will be able to promote your blog or business in a uniform way.

It's a step further than just a business logo. With a branding package you will be able to show off your brand and its unique look on multiple platforms and in different places. In such a way that potential clients, customers or readers will recognize your blog/business/brand easily on every platform.
WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU ORDER A BRANDING PACKAGE
The custom made branding package I design for bloggers and small business owners consists of the following digital items:

*** a unique and custom made logo - this is the basis of the package, we work on the logo first and once you are satisfied with that, we start working on the other items of the package in order to create not only a unique look for you, but also a recognizable look
*** custom made website/blog header - we will take your logo to create a header for your blog or website if you want
*** custom made banners for all your social platforms - think of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, maybe you have an Etsy shop you need a banner for that represents your brand and logo, all kinds of banners are possible here
*** custom made website buttons & avatars - you can choose up to 5 different sized buttons or avatars. Website buttons are often used to promote your blog or business on other websites, or you might want a 'grab-my-button' button for your blog, anything is possible
*** a business card (in 300 dpi JPEG file, ready for printing) in a size of your choice with the information of your choice
WHAT DO I NEED FROM YOU?
If you are interested in working with me on a custom made branding package, please contact me first before buying this listing.

After you've contacted me I will send you a questionnaire to fill in. With this questionnaire I can get to know you and your blog/business. With the questionnaire I hope to get your visions and dreams for your branding clear.

After I've received the filled in questionnaire back from you I will get to work on your logo first. I will make 3 draft logos for you to view. We will take it from there and see if we can take one of the draft logos to the next level by making the necessary changes to it. Once you are satisfied with your logo I will ask you to buy this listing. At that point you have had the chance to get to know me and my work a little better, which to me is important in a good working relationship.

After we've designed your logo and you've paid for the listing we will work on all the other digital items of the branding package that you need. When you are completely satisfied with the package I will then email you a zip-file with all your branding files.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?
This depends totally on how many changes we have to make to the design. I think that if we are able to reach out to each other on a regular basis, it should take no more than 2 weeks to complete a branding package.

In case you have any other questions about a branding package or working with me, please don't hesitate to contact me!

November 10, 2014

Create A Professional Email Signature



The other day I came across a very valuable little gadget for business owners, professional bloggers, coaches or really anyone that wants to leave a professional impression with their emails.

You probably have seen it before at the bottom of business emails, they automatically show all important information that a client needs to know. Think of website links, phone numbers etc.

Being a small business owner and blogger myself I use my Gmail account for emailing clients and answering questions from readers. I tried to put my full name and business name under each email I wrote, but I often forgot at least a part of it. Signing off with only my first name, or forgetting to include my business name at the end. But those days are over now!

The cool gadget I want to share with you today is the Wisestamp Email Signature. When you head over to the Wisestamp website you will be able to make your own professional email signature in just a few minutes. If you really want the real deal with all kinds of beautiful options you can opt for an upgraded signature, but I have to say that the free signature that I made for myself is awesome too.




You have the option to add your photo and make it square, rectangle, circular or with rounded edges. You can add your name, your profession, your business name, the link to a website, a phone number, an address and even links to your social pages. Just follow along with the instructions and before you know it you have a professional signature on all your emails. The signature shows up automatically under each email you write.



I'm loving it and wanted to share it with all of you. I hope it will make some of my readers as happy as it made me. A big THANK YOU to Wisestamp for offering this great service!

November 7, 2014

Freebie Fridays #29 - Watercolor Vine Blog Headers



If you're a blogger you might have come across the term NANOWRIMO which means National Novel Writing Month. In the month of November writers are encouraged to write every day and complete a novel. A lot of bloggers use this month and the event to catch up on their own writing by maybe setting a goal of writing a post each day, writing better posts, doing more research for posts, whatever. Fact is, whether you are a novel writer or a blogger, this event might just be the kick in the butt you needed to fire up your writing spirit again!

So to celebrate this lovely event I am going to share a free set of blog headers today. After all, you need a great layout to match your great content, don't you? ;-)

These blog headers are 1000x250 pixels in size and have transparent background. The vine decorations are in a sort of watercolor style, in two different shapes and each shape in three color tones: teal, green and grey.

When you download the set of header images the images will only show the decorational vines, you will have to add the blog title and an optional tagline to them yourself. This is not as hard as it may seem. All you need is a free image editing program like Photoscape to add your text. A while back I've written a tutorial on how to add text to an image with Photoscape, you can view it here:


Of course you don't have to use these images as blog headers, they are after all a form of clipart. So you can use them for digital scrapbooking, card making and digital photo decoration. Or, if you happen to be a novel writer that uses this month to complete a novel, these images will look great on the cover of a book ;-) Have fun with them!






November 5, 2014

How To Install An Instagram Slide Show On Blogger



It may be hard to believe that I am one of those fossils without an Instagram account. As a digital designer and blogger I should know better, right? But right now my life is a bit too busy to use every social media platform out there, so I stick to Pinterest for now ;-)

Of course that doesn't mean that you have to. And if you have an Instagram account there is way to display your Instagram feed in a beautiful little slide show on your Blogger sidebar. I will share how to do this with you today and don't worry, this one is pretty easy! Oh, and before you start to wonder: I used my sweet daughter's account for this tutorial ;-)

Important things to know first
There are two things you need to know and make sure first before we start off with the tutorial:
1. you need to know how wide your sidebar is in pixels (most sidebars are between 200 and 320 pixels in size).
2. you need to have your Instagram account set to Public, otherwise it won't work

Okay, let's start with the tutorial!

Installing an Instagram slide show in the sidebar
Start by going to this site: http://snapwidget.com/

You will see the screen below, now press the 'Get Your Free Widget' button.





In the next screen that opens you will have to add some data. To get the coding for the slide show first fill in your user name and select the slide show option:





Once you've selected the slide show option, the options on your screen will alter a bit, and it will look like this:





Most important is that you fill in how wide your slide show has to be, here you have to fill in the width of your sidebar. Mine is 260 pixels. You can then choose if you want a border around it or not, a background color and if you want a hover effect when someone moves over the slide show with their mouse. I chose the option of no border, no background color and a fade out hover effect.

You can preview your slide show by pressing the 'Preview' button and when you're satisfied with how it looks, press the green 'Get Widget' button. With this action the site creates your code:





Copy this code, open you Blogger Dashboard, select the Layout option in the left sidebar and click the option to add a new gadget to the sidebar:





Add an HTML/JavaScript gadget and paste your widget code in the box:




Save the widget and drag it to the position in your sidebar where you like it to be. Now click the 'view blog' button on top of the screen to see what your slide show looks like:





Notice that my slide show exactly fits the sidebar width. It will now show your Instagram feed in a slow paced slide show mode.

What if your slide show is not centered?
If for some reason your slide show is not centered it is either wider than your sidebar (in that case, try another width), or smaller than your sidebar. In case the slide show is smaller and is displaying on the left side of the sidebar, you can easily center it yourself by adding a little piece of coding.

To do so, go to Blogger Dashboard, choose Layout and click on the HTML gadget that contains your slide show coding. Above the coding you type: <center> and right below the coding you type: </center>. The whole coding should look like this:

<center>
<!-- SnapWidget -->
<iframe src="http://snapwidget.com/sl/?u=ZGFuYWUyNGFtYmVyfGlufDI2MHwzfDN8fG5vfDV8ZmFkZU91dHxvblN0YXJ0fHllc3xubw==&ve=051114" title="Instagram Widget" class="snapwidget-widget" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="border:none; overflow:hidden; width:265px; height:265px"></iframe>
</center>


Save this coding and when you view your blog the slide show should be centered in the sidebar now.

I hope this tutorial was helpful and that you are now able to add a gorgeous slide show of all your Instagram images on your blog!

November 3, 2014

Gaining Blog Exposure Through Sharing Your Photography



As a blogger one of the biggest challenges is to attract readers. It doesn't matter whether you blog to share your personal chronicles or if you keep a blog for business purposes. In the end we all love a growing number of readers. But how can you stand out from that overwhelming crowd of worldwide bloggers?

I'm by far no expert in blog marketing strategies. It's probably the side of business and blogging that I struggle the most with. So I'm not here to give you advice on this matter. But what I do want to share with you is my personal experience in blogging and blog marketing. The things I found out through time, the things that have worked well and the things that didn't work at all, at least for me. I've always found it very helpful to read about other bloggers' experiences on this matter, so that's why I opened a new section under the Tips & Tutorials page in the menu bar called 'Blogging Business'. You will find my marketing experiences under it as well as other blog posts related to blogging and being a small business owner.

Today's post will cover the subject of using photography to gain blog exposure. I'm sure all of you bloggers know how to share your posts and pictures on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, so I'm not going to talk about them. What I actually want to talk about is a few other platforms to share your photos on that can get you quite some traffic.




Gawkerverse & Notcot
The two platforms I want to bring to your attention are Gawkerverse and Notcot. Both of them are platforms where people can share their photographs. These photographs are linked to the original blog post and have a little description underneath them.

I first stumbled upon them when I was a health food blogger and wanted to gain some more exposure to my recipes.




Practical Sub Categories
The great thing about these sites is that they have sub websites for different categories. Gawkerverse has websites for food photography (foodgawker), wedding photography (weddinggawker), style and fashion photography (stylegawker), crafts photography (craftgawker) and interior and home design (dwellinggawker).

Notcot has sites for food (tasteologie), fashion (notcouture), cocktails and beverages (liqurious), and one that is especially interesting for travel bloggers and bloggers that love to capture landscapes, nature and places to go (notventures).




Big Exposure
Both websites are not amongst the smallest of sites, so if you manage to get your picture on one of these you will definitely see an increase in traffic to that particular blog post. And hopefully some of the visitors will turn into regular readers or followers of your blog.

From my own experience (at least with both food categories) Gawkerverse seems to be the big one of the two. There are tons of people visiting this site everyday looking for inspiration on all levels.




Great Photography Skills Are Key
While Notcot is less stricter with the photos that are submitted, Gawkerverse demands the best photography skills from its submitters. I'm going to be honest here with you: out of over a 100 recipes I made during my time as a food blogger only a handful of photographs was approved by Foodgawker. They want absolute class and a professional look. I can't blame them, it's their way of standing out from the crowd and being different from platforms like Pinterest and Instagram.




My photography skills are so so. Sometimes I'm really happy with the result, other times it brings tears to my eyes, and not in a good way ;-) But I see so many bloggers with great photography skills and they can definitely benefit from sites like Gawkerverse and Notcot. So why not give it a try? And don't take the rejections personally, it just means you have to work on some skills and you can grow from there!

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