New Year, New Blog Design

It feels so good to have a new blog design.  I don't know about you, but the old one just wasn't doing it for me anymore.  It was too colorful, too doodlely, and too what I felt like 2.5 years ago.  The new one is completely me at this point in time.  That's the beauty of having a personal and professional blog. It evolves as you evolve.

In case you are growing your blog design skills, here are the tools I used for the new design.

You know I am an avid PM user.  For the first time ever, I used PM for 95% of the graphics.  Yep, 95%!  The only reason I cracked open my Photoshop Elements was to meticulously space the social media icons you see in the right sidebar.  PM doesn't have a gridline view feature, so when you want to be precise, you have to open up Photoshop or something similar, like Gimp which is free.

I sent the beta-version of the new blog design to two friends, Laura and Susan. They both have a good eye for design and experience blogging.  They knew I wanted a crisper design that was also playful yet professional.  My original design had zero color in it besides black and white.  Both women wanted to see more color.  Color?  Ugh.  I was sick of color from my last blog design.  Lil O voiced the same concern. Choosing colors and how much color to add became a design nightmare during my 36 hour redesign. Until....Lil O and I stumbled across the coolest color wheel tool on the planet, Paletton.  After 15 minutes of playing on Paletton, I knew the color scheme I wanted for the blog. Whew.  Lil O, by the way, is one of the most decisive humans I know.  She picked out the blog colors in the first two minutes of using Paletton.  13 minutes later, I came around.

HTML and CSS Coding
The one course I took in graduate school at Johns Hopkins University that including a two-week HTML crash course continues to be one of the most useful courses I've taken this century. Seriously, if you blog or dabble in any elementary web design, you've got to know an itty bitty amount of how to code. You should see the tweaks I'm making to the HMTL and CSS codes behind-the-scenes.  You would never know it, but my blog is actually a Blogger blog.  And if you've ever seen a true Blogger blog, it comes pre-packed with all these bells and whistles, which I coded out to make Upcycled Education more unique and interesting.  Using code is also how I was able to tweak the sidebar on the right - adjusting spacing between items and adding cute little banners - plus, I overrode the features that limited my ability to add my own custom blog header at the top.  In summary, two weeks of code class is a life-changer.  No wonder One Hour of Code gets so much hype (though, that particular coding class isn't enough, in my opinion, to deepen your coding skill set for tweaking HTML).

Image Mapping with Gimp
Once I made all the new blog graphics in PM (and yes, I made every last one of them), I needed to image map the blog banner and the social media icons, so that when you clicked on a specific portion of the image, your click actually brought you to a new online destination.  There are several tools on the Internet to help you image map.  In my opinion, though, nothing is easier than using Gimp and Crafterhours's tutorial on how to create an image map. What used to be a dreadful process for me, now I can do in under five minutes per image, which includes image mapping and loading the new map into the blog. I was high-fiving myself and texting Susan a big thank you at 1am when I finished the new design.

New Favorite Font
Seriously, y'all (I am originally from the South, so I think I can use y'all authentically.  Though, by South, I mean the Ft. Lauderdale area). Ha!  I've been wanting to embrace this font for two years: Amatic Small Caps.  I originally noticed it on PicMonkey.  Then, dreamt about it for the next two years.  I finally embraced it for the good, I believe, this week with the new blog design.  It is totally playful, hand-drawn, and barely professional.  It is ME at this point in time.  Me, ME, MEEE.

I'd love to hear your feedback about the new design.  What do you like?  What do you want to see more of?  What did I forget?

Have a great weekend - see you on the other side.