This post explains how I made the "buttons" in my sidebar and got rid of all the clutter over there.
Changes That I Wanted
Initially, I didn't really notice the clutter in my sidebar. But, I noticed it on other blogs that I read and it irritated me. I didn't like that I couldn't find things without scrolling up and down and just thought the whole thing looked messy and crowded. Then, when I took this standard back to my blog, I realized I was just as guilty.
Also, I wanted to add the bloglist gadget with the thumbnails (for reasons below.) I felt that I couldn't add that until I had taken away some clutter.
Inspiration for Change
I recently added a slideshow and I've had several people comment to me how much they like it and how effective they think it is. That planted a seed.
I should also state that what I did is not original with me. Several people have used the same idea. Perhaps I have taken it the farthest, but Casey Klahn has "buttons" in his sidebar and Kasie Sallee has buttons along the top of her blog. I'm sure there are others as well, but those two leaped to mind.
Changes I Made
- Got rid of archives and category list - This felt a little radical at first. However, I realized these two gadgets bring the most clutter to the sidebar and I almost never use them. I never search through a blog by date and usually not by category either. These gadgets, although standard, aren't all that useful - particularly for the more established blogs that I would likely search (the archives and categories are just too numerous). As well, for any series or categories that prove particularly popular, I can make a button - hence my "book reviews" and "on blogging" buttons.
- Made buttons to link to things - this makes the sidebar nicer to look at and also puts the words of the blog posts in focus.
- Went for White - Although I liked my previous template with it's greys and "boxing in" of the blog - it just felt a little clunky. I decided that if everything was white, then colorful images would stick out.
- Got rid of archives and category list - In the blogger "Layout" Tab, "Page Elements" page, just edit the gadget (archives or categories) and remove it. If no one ever clicks on it, why have it?
- "Buttons" - This is as easy as putting in a "Picture" gadget in your sidebar. Make an image the size that you want for your buttons in an image editor. In blogger, add a picture gadget, upload the image and fill in the url box to where you want the button to lead people.
- Side note on picture gadgets - I did not give my picture gadgets a title (Casey Klahn does - that's the only difference between his and mine). That decision makes mine read more like a menu than Casey's, but it does mean that all of my image gadgets are labeled "Picture" in the blogger page elements page. This is slightly annoying, as you have to know which one you want to edit - it's not as easy as knowing the name. But, as I don't really edit these all that often I'm willing to pay that price. I really like the effect - more than I dislike this small inconvenience.
- Profile button - I got rid of the profile gadget, but I just made an "about me" button and attached the url to my profile to it.
- Category buttons - those are just a matter of copying the "search/label" urls that are used on categories. (If you look at the urls for my book reviews and on blogging buttons you'll see that they are nearly the same apart from the specific search label.)
- Contact Info - Again, I put the image with my email address into a post. Then used the post url to link to the button.
I wanted to add this because I know that I benefit from it's use on other blogs. When I have an eye-catching image at the top of my posts, I always get more clicks from other blogs. People see that thumbnail and click through to my blog. Since I have been benefitting from it, I wanted to extend the same favor to those blogs that I enjoy.
In the next month I plan to update my website and sales blog, to give a consistency to all my "sites." I haven't done those yet as I am thinking of restructuring things a bit, I'm trying to streamline my "updating" process. I'd like to make website updates as easy as possible. I'll let you know if I come up with any insights there.
On a final note, I do think that these changes have been successful - I have more clicks than usual on my sidebar offerings. :D That feels good.