Monday, September 25, 2006

Much about Mastheads

So, my temporary job is over. There is an off chance that it can continue on, but I am not holding my breath at the moment, and continue on the search. I've beem informed that I am in mid-career. Well thats good news I suppose. Its all downhill from here, as I coast through to retirement. I wish.

Many thanks for the thumbs up on my seasonal redesign. I thought I'd take a minute to explain to Trudy (of Hypergrafitti fame), a bona fide author in her own right, how I go about this business of mastheads and such. I am living proof, that just about anyone is cut out for web publishing, and I probably work at the same pace as a 100 monkeys typing randomly on a PC.

There are a couple programs and pieces of equipment that are invaluable to my project:

1. My pathetically unsophisticated digital camera. I have a Kodak EasyShareDX4900. It really is nothing to brag about. I dream about the Nikon D70, but that comes after buying a house and winning the lottery. Scoring a great job might do the trick as well. I digress. So, all the images on my mastheads are my own, and I don't have to worry about copyrights and other attached strings
2. Sid has also become a prerequisite to my redesigns. He is 100% plastic replica of a granite buddha, who I truck into my backyard to shamelessly pose. I am sure the neighbours wonder what they hell I am up to...especially yesterday when I was contorting in weird formations to snap the shot in the rain.
3. I also use Photoshop, and I am a recent convert from Corel PhotoPaint. I learned most techniques on PhotoPaint, but find that PhotoShop is more flexible. There are benefits to each - there is more help on the net from a host of PhotoShop tutorials to achieve really cool techniques. I usually teach myself a bunch when making a masthead. I find the process to be the most fun.
4. Time. This is usually the most precious of all resources. You have to be willing to invest in flops, failures, trials, tribulations and the incessant want to poke your eyes out with a fork. Warning: Experimention can induce feelings of self harm.
5. Then, its all about CSS. Cascading Style Sheets. I hunted and searched for a CSS template that I liked, and that had elements compatible with Blogger. I discovered a site that had a template I could work with. I was basically looking for a 2 or 3 column design with a nice sized masthead that I could replace with one of my own. Originally, I was aiming for a 3 column design but found that feeling of poking my eyes out was so intense that I resigned to having a 2 column layout.
6. Once you have your layout, then it is a matter of replacing the new CSS code with the code in your Template tab on blogger. You can access this through "settings" at your blogger dashboard, or the "template" tab is there when you are editting/composing a post. Its best to create a new test page just to be sure. Thats what I did. Its all about cut and paste now. And going blind reading code that means very little to you. Incidentally, you WILL learn what it means when in this process. Its usually nestled somewhere between fork poking and the rush of success...
7. Then, in the non-sophisticated completely unteckky manner I am used to, I cut and pasted all the blogger elements that did not exist in the new template - such as the comment fields, blog rolling, site counter etc. Use your old blogger template. Thats why creating a test page is a good idea. You can actually see what a working blogger template looks like.
8. Lastly, I color coordinated the headers, links, etc with my masthead. You know, just like your purse and shoes ought to be. There are a couple of sites out there that can help with that...Such as this one and that one.
9. This one should be higher up on my list of priorities...but I am a huge advocate of using Firefox as my browser. Tabbed browsing comes in very handy when editting your work, copying from one page, plopping it into another and checking your own progress. It's also free and Open Source and more flexible than the inflated competator. (Eh Em). Firefox has a handy FTP extension that lets you upload your masthead to your own server.

10. Finally, when things are working on your test page, copy and paste it into your blogger template. You might want to save your old code in notepad, just in case...

And if you are lucky like me, you'll have all sorts of gracious onlookers ooh and ahh at the process that just about killed you. I'm old hat now. And getting the urge to retry a three column have all been warned.

You can put your forks away too.


Arwen said...

this is beautiful. I may need to email you when I am ready to re-design my blog. I wanted to do a woman sitting around the fire taking notes and the people she is watching are all guys in suits with laptops - half athropologist / half corporate america - all ridiculous.

hotboy said...

It's very nice, but dearie me! That sounds like a whole lot of learning to do stuff! I gave that up years ago. How do you find the time? Hotboy

TrudyJ said...

You make it look so easy ... and sound so hard. If you ever see a new masthead on Hypergraffiti you will know I have begun to climb up the learning curve! (The time element is definitely the biggest killer!)

Kim said...

It does look lovely! Nice job! I have no patience for redesigning my blog right now--and mine is in great need of freshening up!