2.06.2009

Make It Work (Thing 25)

The first thing I focused on was the design of my blog. I wanted the design to coordinate with the title of the blog and to be unique, i.e. I was not about to use any public templates. My design process began with a search on Flickr for pictures with a creative commons license thus allowing me to use the images on my blog; Flickr's advanced search options and integrated licensing (on the artists' end) made this very easy to do. Teachers and students who are looking for pictures that they can (legally) use for lessons and projects should definitely utilize Flickr as a resource. The pictures I chose to use in my design are Scribble by armeck1 and Orange Cupcakes by chocolate monster mel; both are cited beneath my footer. In the spirit of sharing and encouraging creative commons licensing by others, by blog also has a creative commons license...not that I really expect anyone to use any of my content. As a final touch on my design, I also created a favicon via favicon.cc.

Google Analytics

Moving on to the backend of my blog, I turned my focus to use usability. One of the best ways to judge the usability - or usefulness, even - is to track your visitors; so, I installed Google Analytics (GA) on my blog. Besides the fact that I tend to use Google applications whenever I can, GA is the best tracking application I have ever used. GA can tell you not only how many visitors you blog receives, but also how they got there (direct vs. referral from another website vs. search engine), how long they stayed, what pages they visited, and even what browser they were using; the amount of information GA can tell you about a visitor is almost creepy. To be honest, with the amount of information Google knows about me, they could probably produce a better psychological profile than the FBI could...I think I need to go reread Google's privacy policy again. Also, by routing my RSS feed via Feedburner (now a Google product as well), I am able to track my RSS subscribers as well. Feedburner also gives me more control over how my content is published via RSS; although, I haven't really done much with Feedburner other than set it up and add a subscription button to my sidebar.

As for frontend usability, I wanted visitors to be able to easily share content from this blog and to discover more information about topics I discuss. As such, I integrated AddThis buttons--> to both my blog and each post. These enable a visitor to share content on almost any social website (e.g. Facebook), to bookmark (locally or via a social bookmarking site ala Delicious), or to even just email content. I also added a gadget that transforms Google's boring label gadget into an awesome, interactive, 3D tag cloud. Want one for yourself? Head over to Blogger Buster to get the code.

Last but definitely not least, I am using Apture to add interactivity to my hyperlinks. Apture links are designated by icons preceding the links; the icon specifies the type of content available. By hovering over an Apture link, visitors will see a pop-up with additional media and other related content that I have chosen to be displayed. For example: if I were blogging about dogs, I could link to Youtube videos with cute puppies or Wikipedia articles on dog care, post a map of local dog shelters, or even link to any document I've created - all this via one link, without making a visitor to leave my blog. There is a wide-variety of content available for linking, and only the content I choose is shown. I only wish that links were interactive on my RSS feed as well. Apture also makes it very easy for a blogger to embed content in a post. I highly recommend trying out Apture.

Needless to say, I've spent too much a lot of time setting up my blog. I won't admit how much...to be honest, I just lost track.

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