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How to Use Blog Widgets to Add Graphic Interest

Posted on October 25, 2007 by Kathleen

Blogs that are high on text and low on graphics can be visually boring. If you don’t have relevant photos or art for your blog, you might want to consider adding visually interesting widgets.

Some are useful. Some are just fun. I try to select (or edit) them to get the look I want. Widgets are easy to move around or replace as needed to help your blog layout, too.

In WordPress, I sometimes remove a widget and park it for awhile in the available-widgets area of the Widgets page in the WordPress admin area. Later, when I need something that particular size and shape, I can just drag it back into a sidebar.

Blog Design with Whatever Works

I know this goes against the advice of hip, trendy blogging, but it can work. The theme of this WordPress blog is feature-laden, intended for monetization—and visually boring. It came with Alex Sysoef’s wonderful Web 2.0 Wealth blog-authoring package, and that’s why I use it.

I tweaked the colors a lot, but still the original theme needed something. I started adding affiliate ads partly for visual interest. (Some have since been removed.)

Some ad graphics work well; others don’t. A product you really want to recommend may clash with your blog. If it’s a really great product, I use the graphic anyway. If not, I just put a link in the blogroll. What do you do?

Blogging Community Widgets

The MyBlogLog widget came with this theme, but I added Blog Catalog. I think the rows of tiny avatars give a sense of community, of real people reading the blog. That was why Alex recommended MyBlogLog. (I prefer Blog Catalog. There really is a great community there.) To join either one (or both), click on the link at the bottom of the widget.

Sadly I see the MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog widgets on so many blogs in the default colors, which often clash with the blog. You can edit those, you know.

Changing MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog Widget Color Schemes

I always turn off the gray background, change the border to white, and change the heading colors to blend with my blog better. I keep adjusting the width (in pixels) till I get the maximum little pictures to fill the column.

For a new blog that has few visitors and needs more graphics, I use the larger size avatars. When you have a lot of visitors, you can go back and change to the half-size pics to make room for more.

Turn Your Blog Into a Book

The bright red “Turn Your Blog Into a Book” widget is also from Blog Catalog. Adding that widget to your site raises your ranking in Blog Catalog by 10 points. Theoretically that gets you more exposure in the very active Blog Catalog community, resulting in more traffic.

Feedjit World Visitor Map Widget

Recently I found another blog-visitor widget that I really like, the little map near the bottom of the right-hand column of this page. You can change the colors of the heading, frame and map-marker dots to suit your blog. It is from Feedjit.com.

Feedjit also offers a larger widget that (instead of a map) shows a list of the places blog visitors came from (but does not name the individual visitors) with a tiny flag beside each visitor in the list. It’s very cool but not as graphic as I wanted, and it takes up a lot more vertical space than the pretty little map. That’s why you don’t see it here.

I do use it on my Art Fun Cheap blog, which uses a different WordPress theme. The Feedjit widget is in the left-hand column, and I think it looks good there.

Sophisticated Cartoon Widget

And finally, for a sophisticated graphic look there’s a black-and-white cartoon widget from A Gaping Void. It doesn’t do anything except change periodically, but I love the way it looks.

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