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Blogging 101, Day Seven: Start Personalizing

Today’s assignment: create and upload a simple header, background, or both. Already done? Try a custom widget.

Welcome to Blogging U! This course isn't currently active, but you can learn more about what we offer and register for upcoming courses on the BU home page.

Picking a theme you love is the first step. Next, make that theme your own; start with the basics, like a header and/or background. Lots of you have already begun — keep it up. If you’re happy with your header and background, try your hand at a custom widget.

Today’s assignment: create and upload a simple header, background, or both. Already done? Try a custom widget.

Why do this?

  • Because these are free, simple ways to add instant personality to your site.
  • Because photos, images, and colors work with your title and tagline to tell new visitors about your blog, helping to draw readers in.

To verify that your theme supports custom headers: check this list or hover over you blog’s name on the left of the bar across the top of your screen and open the Customizer. If you see “Headers” as an option, you’re ready to go.

Not sure what we mean by “header”? It’s the image or text across the top of your blog. Check out this example — on the left is the standard homepage for the Oxygen theme, and on the right is a magazine site that’s added its own header:

oxygen-beatroute-layouts

Don’t worry if you’re not sure what you want. Start simple, and pick an image that represents what you want your blog to be. If you’d like to tweak it a bit — change up the colors, add some text — we love the free and simple image editor PicMonkey. (In fact, we like it so much we published a tutorial on using it to make a custom header.) Your background can be an image, color, or pattern. Choose a color that complements your header, upload a photo, or browse our suggested patterns.

Need inspiration? Here are a few other headers we love:

eggton

witchin'

americanvagabond

sagexclare

lifeabsorbed

thebumplife

mobile views

No need to whip out your phone to preview your blog — head to the Customizer and look for these icons. They’ll show you what your blog looks like on a computer, tablet, and phone.

You can preview headers and backgrounds without committing to any, so feel free to play. Be sure to preview them on your phone or tablet, too; a header that looks perfect on a 19-inch monitor might not translate to a 4-inch iPhone.

You may ultimately decide to stick with a simpler look, or have a header already. Preview a few headers and backgrounds anyway, to see how different images and colors transform the feel of your blog. You can change headers and backgrounds at any time, so you’re not locked in to anything.

When you’re ready, review the instructions for uploading and previewing headers and backgrounds, which also have some great examples. If you need more of a boost, we’ve also got advice on picking visuals for your blog.

If you’re ready to start customizing some widgets, start with the ideas in Widgets 101. Already too simple for you, you overacheiver you? Head to Widgets 201. Take the words and visuals in your header, and start puling them into your sidebar.

Not sure what visuals will work best for your blog? Your co-bloggers in The Commons will be happy to help!

 

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  1. Waddup people! My theme don’t really allow much flexibility in custom headers, but I was going around and visiting other blogs and I realise many of ya’ll have really nice headers that work really well with your blog. Keep it up guys! Great work. Link your blog below in the comments, I wanna explore more and learn more from you guys 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The header looks great, but the one thing I noticed as a “problem” was the post titles. I found them difficult to read clearly but I’m not sure if that is color or font related. The widget titles on the right have the same issue as well. Other than that, I find the page nice and simple, easy to read. Good job!!

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    1. Hi there, I know what you mean. I have looked around at other blogs and I feel they are more advanced than mine. I have so much to learn!! I also feel limited too in my creativity with the look of my blog. But here it is if you would like to take a look at what I have done so far:

      http://beckygblog.wordpress.com/

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      1. Hi Danny! I checked out your blog and for some reason your header is not showing up for me. It might just be my browser but I wanted to let you know. Anyway, your content looks great and good luck with blogging!!!

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    2. I have quite a few widgets already, including some customised ones. I have an image one, a couple of text ones, and a live traffic feed. There’s also a tag cloud, category cloud and the archives list. I love widgets!
      I’ve just knocked up a custom header in PSP. I don’t know yet if I’ll keep this one or make another, but at least it’s better than the default!
      As always, feedback is welcomed with open arms!
      Nick

      http://dark0phoenix.wordpress.com

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    3. Hey there! 🙂 though I signed up for the challenge a while ago, I’ve been really busy and only just posted Day 1’s challenge and I would love for y’all to check my blog out 🙂 I’ll definitely be posting more often 😛

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    1. I would change the color to white to the writing in the header, as unfortunately when it goes over the tire it’s hard to read…interested in reading more though!

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    2. I think the picture is great for your blog (I got a racecar, if you were still changing and trying new ones), but I agree that the words don’t really stand out, try a brighter colour or white as mentioned above, maybe?

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      1. I have tried different headers and font colors, but it’s hard to come up with a generic font color that would work with background header images. Some have light backgrounds, some have darker backgrounds. Oh well, random header images are going to be a bit more involved I guess.

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  2. See I do not have an artist bone in my body. The chances of me making my own header is a billion to 1. I have seen some of the other headers over the last few days – some are amazing. Is there software that you guys use? Any advice would be appreciated.

    In the meantime I have just put up a post all about seasonal fruits in my village. Feedback is, as always, welcome.

    http://janeyinmersin.com/

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    1. There’s an online tool called PicMonkey that’s really useful — you can start really simply, by taking a photo you love, and layering your title/tagline over it. There’s a tutorial linked to in the post above.

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      1. My daughter was playing with it last night. Again love that an 11 year old has to do the work. Anyway now its making me think I SHOULD change my theme! Damn you Michelle LMAO!!!

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    1. Wow, your theme is absolutely awesome. I love how every aspect of your theme relates to traveling in some sort of way. Even down to the connotations of the colour scheme. Great job 🙂

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    1. I’m not really sure if the header really reflects your blogs theme? Also, the blog name and tagline can be removed from the standard position (where its appearing currently – i was using the same theme earlier) and can you can try picmonkey and change the position/font/colour your title/tagline. Hope this helps 🙂

      Like

    2. Humping Heart-The picture is actually from one of my posts, but you’re right a little experimenting wouldn’t hurt!:-) Thank you!
      Shawn-I was aiming for it to be as simple as possible, but I’m definitely willing to try out a new header!:-)

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  3. I chose the pachyderm theme when I first started my blog. I tested out other themes when we had the assignment too but stuck with pachyderm. You can see the theme on animallove.me (I got a custom domain recently 🙂 ) and it already has a header with some cute little cartoon animals which I think it already perfect for my blog which is all about animals so I’m hesitant whether to try and create my own header, which I imagine will be time consuming and difficult. Opinions anyone?

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    1. Hi! This is the first blog I saw with the same theme as I have (animallove.me). I like that you changed the color, I dunno how to do that or maybe it’s a paid feature? I think changing the header will be cool because a lot of newbies tried different themes so it will look familiar to them but if you think the default header is better than what you can actually do, then stick with it. It’s related to your blog anyway.

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  4. I have just done my first header! Now to change my theme to something that matches!

    thecandleindoors.wordpress.com

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    1. I like the header design! One suggestion might be to add a tagline to it, so readers can easily tell what your blog is about. After looking at your posts I understood it is about literature, but a simple and concise tagline can go a long way. That being said, I really like the blog!

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  5. My current header is already customized because it switches between 8 different photos I took (mostly in India) But I am interested in doing a Logo or something. Does anyone know anything about that? Can someone recommend something – preferably open source/freeware. While I’d love to pay a graphic artist – it just ain’t in the cards at this point.

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    1. I like the header designs, it is really interesting to see a different picture each time. I was looking into logos recently I did a quick google search for free logo makers and found a couple things. To be honest, though, I found it hard to resize the logo after I made it. Also, I wasn’t allowed to edit it after my first (free) design was used. After that, I ended up just going to MS Word and picking a font I really liked and making a very simple graphic from the shapes. You can see that at expandingexistence.com if you would like. The shape is not perfect, but it is something. Even just picking a font, though, and putting your name in it can be a logo by itself. That is definitely a good way to start out, because you can at least resize it and go from there. I hope this was helpful to you, I can’t afford a graphic artist at this point either.

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      1. I’m going to play around in Publisher/Word later this week once the kid is back in school and I’ve folded the laundry, damn laundry fairies went on strike 🙂

        I understand what you are saying about the “free” logo makers out there as we looked at those for my husbands startup first before going with a graphic artist.

        BTW – I really like the layout of your blog and hard to believe you are only 21 – you are incredibly self aware for 21. I wish I had been that self aware at 21.

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      2. I hear that! The dish fairy seems to have disappeared around here, too! Best of luck with that logo design. 🙂 And thank you so much for your kind words regarding my blog. Honestly, I had to go through a lot of the bad before I was able to see the good, so it is definitely a combination of circumstances and self. Thanks for the visit.

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    2. If you do decide you want to get graphic help, there are places where you get really affordable, quality graphics — Etsy has tons of folks who make blog logos and headers.

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      1. Thanks – I ended up going into MS Publisher (I use the suite for professional purposes) and creating a logo that I’m pretty happy with. I knew what I wanted and lucked out that I have used Publisher so I was able to manipulate pretty easily to get the results I wanted and the basic art was already in the free Microsoft library.

        It is my new Gravatar image – I will work it into my blog over the weekend I don’t like to do major tweaks during peak traffic, plus I am looking at potentially changing my theme even though I am pretty happy with the Forever theme…you guys are challenging me to consider other options.

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  6. This was so fun! I love the photo editor, and my blog looks much better with the banner! I will definitely take any suggestions or comments on it, as far as how it looks and if the font is the right fit, anything you guys notice. I can’t wait to see all the new headers!

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    1. What photo editor are you using? I think is the picture is great and also the font that you used. I suggest that you put some effects on the text (the title and tagline) so there’s an emphasis on it. I’m thinking outer glow is the best.

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    1. First, I absolutely love your new theme, I think it fits really well! Second, I knew he would make the next move, and good job on waiting a few hours, that is key. Third, I adore your post about self-love. It is so important to love yourself first!

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      1. You were right :)…have increased the size of the title. It was getting lost especially since the font of post titles is pretty big in the theme I’m using. Is there anyway to change that?

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  7. I’m pretty happy with my header, so I decided to try some widgets. But they aren’t showing up on my blog! Help! Is this because of my theme (I’m using Blissful Blog) or am I doing something wrong? According to my dashboard there should be a Facebook Like widget and a Follow Button on the sidebar, but I don’t see them. Anyone? http://simplymadebyangie.wordpress.com

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    1. I had some trouble with the Twitter widget as well, not sure why. I know that’s not helpful, but I did want to say I love the concept of your blog. Doing things naturally and holistically is very important to me. Good luck.

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    2. Blissful doesn’t actually have a sidebar on the main page. There’s a page template you can use to get a sidebar on individual pages, but otherwise, it’s sidebar-free — that’s why you’re not seeing them.

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      1. Thanks! The height was intentional – I wanted to give readers a second to develop their own ideas about what the blog is about. Would you still suggest a shorter image?

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    1. I like it! I almost want to say it would flow better if it was “A” Work in Progress. That way the tagline works better when you say “the” masterpiece. Just a thought, but I am a huge fan of your header image!

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  8. Thank you for sharing PicMonkey. I always wondered how people were able to create such amazing customs headers. Now I’m having trouble limiting myself!

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  9. I added a Tag Cloud widget under the heading “Stuff What I Talk About.” Changing the background is tempting, but I really, really like Sorbet’s simple look. It has a nice, clean feel to it and I’m reluctant to start tweaking it, or any other theme, until I get a better feel for what makes for a good layout for a blog.

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      1. I agree. I thinks it’s very elegant and readable. If I were more of an aspiring photo blogger, for instance, then I would lean towards something else. Besides, it took me hours to settle on this one. I don’t want to get sucked into a decision paralysis loop again.

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  10. I would agree that Pic Monkey is awesome. I don’t have an eye for design, but with Pic Monkey I was able to make a pretty decent header. http://paws4moment.wordpress.com/ Make sure you’re header works when viewing on a phone or tablet. I was going to go with one theme, but found that the header didn’t work on those devices. Losing my laptop for a month, otherwise I would play around with the widget ideas.

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    1. The colours, background and banner work well together, but I am wondering if you can increase the font sizes in the banner? They are so lovely, just don’t pop out enough, perhaps?

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      1. I tried to play around with the sizing. The problem I was having was when I would increase the font and upload the image as my header it would expand the top part of my theme. So basically where the links to my categories were dropping lower and covering more of the background image. Sorry, I’m not sure if that makes sense. I’m letting it sit for now and will probably go back and fix it again. I just don’t want to look too much of my background for the sake of the header. And right now I really love the theme I’m using so it’s tough!

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  11. I see that there are often personalized messages above the box inviting replies. For example:

    Join in the Discussion
    Your Comments are Treasured Rewards
    Leave a Reply

    I found a site that says how to change it in the HTML code but I don’t know where to find HTML code on my blog. Is there a simple way to do it? (I do know some simple HTML)

    Or is there a way to change it using a template?

    Karuna
    http://livinglearningandlettinggo.wordpress.com

    Like

    1. You can easily customize that message! On your site’s dashboard, go to the Settings -> Discussion page and scroll down to the bottom. You should see a Prompt message there for your comment form that you can edit. Remember to click the Save Changes button when you’re done!

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    1. Your header is really great, I love how the texture almost becomes amplified due to the light fade on the edges. It almost reminds me of an inverse vignette. I think you’ve done really well 🙂

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    1. It looks really nice. You might wanna consider getting a lighter form of light flare though. For example, on the “b” in the ‘sanabazaar’ heading. Using less light flare will make the heading look firmer and it will stand out more in the end. Good luck 😉

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  12. I never thought I’d be able to figure out how to do these things with my blog. This is so cool! I was able to add a header. I think it’s really fitting since I moved from the north to the deep south. Let me know what you think!

    http://ftnttslisa.wordpress.com/

    I already have some widgets for following my blog so it would be awesome if you used them so I can see if they work. Thanks!

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    1. Clever idea to use those neat maps in your header! They add a nice splash of color since that theme is traditionally quite dark. 🙂

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