I do this stuff for a living

The Girl Clumsy Project

Earlier in the year I had the pleasure to work with one of Brisbane’s multi-talented thinking women, Natalie “Girl Clumsy” Bochenski. Natalie is a journalist, writer and performing arts director. Amongst her many lofty pursuits, she writes a personal & lifestyle blog, The Bruising Adventures of Girl Clumsy. It’s a bookmark-worthy site for anybody who wants to laugh at life, current events and adventure. And if you don’t happen to fall into that category, then perhaps you should close down your computer or device right now and take a good hard look at yourself.

As much as I get geeky gooey over projects that give me the ability to wield start-of-the-art technology to my every whim, I get just as much satisfaction in building boutique websites whose primary purpose is to extend the personality of its owner(s). I get a buzz out of these types of projects. Natalie seemed to enjoy the project too. At least I think she did since she was kind enough to write some very nice words about me over here.

Girl Clumsy's home page

Girl Clumsy's home page

A blend of iterative software development methodologies (Agile & RUP to be precise) was taken to revamp The Bruising Adventures of Girl Clumsy. When I described the approach I wanted to take, Natalie jumped in head first as the world domination-inclined tend to do. Even while being ferried around from place-to-place during the recent QLD state election campaign she didn’t stop making significant contributions or providing timely feedback. She listened to my advice on web design standards and sprinkled her own unique flare all over the design.

The website is hosted by Blogger, a free web publishing platform owned by Google. Blogger is arguably the most maligned of the widely-used blogging platforms so it was with curiosity and trepidation that I lifted the covers of Blogger and learned exactly what could and couldn’t be done with it.

Conclusion: The platform has more bugs than a sleazy motel bed on the Hume Highway. There isn’t enough core functionality, and like many of Google’s applications, the user interface leaves a lot to be desired. But it will not prevent you from working around its limitations and extending the functionality if you want to do things it doesn’t support natively. However without the advantage of a committed development community to develop and share these extensions, such as what WordPress offers, you will mostly be on your own in building them yourself because most either don’t exist st all, or of the one’s that do, don’t go anywhere near to fulfilling your requirements. And it’s a good assumption to make that they don’t and they won’t. But if you are prepared to do the development yourself, or engage someone who can, hooking them in is easily achievable.

Assuming you don’t want to build your Blogger template from scratch, start with the Blogger Template Designer to get your basic layout. If you don’t find the layout you’re after, source a ready-made Blogger template in your preferred style from an online marketplace such as themeforest.net. If you are really cheap, look at the freebies, but buyer beware. With web-based site templates you tend to get what you pay for. And all too often the freebies you find are sloppy with bugs at best and downright malicious at worst. I recommend swallowing the $5 – $15 bucks on a premium template which will be clean and well-coded. This is true regardless of the platform. A premium template is a no-brainer investment.

Strip away anything from the template that you don’t want (remembering to keep the structure in place) before styling and customising until your heart’s content. Despite many tutorials on Blogger templates suggesting you keep all your code – HTML (content and structure), CSS (presentation), and JavaScript (behaviour) – all in one file, don’t be fooled into thinking its necessary or good practice. It isn’t. Unless you want to end up with a great big plate of spaghetti code, separate your code by storing any JavaScript, CSS, fonts, images, and any other website files elsewhere. Any publicly accessible file or web server with a guaranteed uptimes of 97% or higher will serve your purposes nicely and unless you’re planning a site of mammoth proportions, not a lot of space is needed. Incidentally if you are planning a site of mammoth proportions on Blogger you should definitely rethink your strategy.

Inside the Blogger template, ideally you should only be left with Blogger-specific code and HTML. If some of your widgets (Blogger calls them ‘gadgets’) are locked and can’t be moved or deleted from the Layout section, you can unlock them by setting the attribute locked=’true’ to locked=’false’. This will give you as much flexibility over the layout as Blogger will allow.

I cannot recommend Blogger as a platform to new bloggers or website owners. It’s too buggy, it lacks everything but the bare bones in functionality and Google appears to have no plans to invest in it anytime soon. Joomla!, WordPress and Drupal are still miles ahead of Blogger if you’re looking for a similar website platform. If you’re just starting up your first blog or magazine style website, my advice is to give Blogger a miss until a bit more investment has been made by the people at the Googleplex.

But if you’ve invested time and effort into Blogger and the effort to migrate from Blogger to another platform simply outweighs the benefits, there is hope for you. With a little time and stubborn determination, you can make that boutique Blogger site work for you.

Check it out: The Bruising Adventures of Girl Clumsy

Recommended free web based publishing platforms

*none of these companies pay me to endorse their products. It’s just my opinion and I give it freely.

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