Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

Designed: How to Write A Better Blog Post

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My sister-in-law knows how to get stuff DONE. She edits. She writes. She actually writes very well. We were talking about how she needed to write a book.

Three days later she sent me her book.

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Seriously? It’s amazing. Also, her tutorials (i.e. chapters) for writing a better blog post are pretty awesome. She gives me actionable items that I can actually use to make my writing better. It’s not like I follow them all the time, you read this blog, but when I do I feel more confident about my writing.

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I formatted, designed and added my two cents on formatting for blog posts. It’s a must-not miss. The book is available for digital download in my shop.

In other news, the calligraphy workshop was a hit! I’m hosting a second lecture-style workshop tomorrow at a friend’s design office in Redwood City. For details and sign up, click here.

Equal Parts Inspiration and Fun

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I feel like all I’ve talked about for the last 3 months is Alt Summit. It really is the best blogging conference for design-minded social media-ites, and so worth every minute of preparation and stress. I don’t feel like I can move forward with what I learned from the conference without touching on it here. I’ve collected a few of my thoughts that I feel work generally in life as well as in blogging. After-all this isn’t a blog about blogging, it’s a blog about creativity.

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The keynotes this year were wonderful. Stefan Sagmeister said something that of course struck a note. How sound-bite worthy is the above quote? Something that I can live by. He’s author of The Happy Film. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m looking forward to taking some time to watch it.

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Erin Loechner spoke about managing her online time, and I thought this quote she shared with us was so perfect. She talked about planning out time, your golden hours, and saving that time for the big stuff. This really hit home as I have no idea what fills those dedicated work hours sometimes. I’m going to work on being a) more focused during the work hours and b) more present in the family hours.

Striking a healthy work and home balance has been really hard for me these last few years. I feel like I’ve made great improvements, but I still have a long way to go.

Alt Design Summit 2013 photographed by Justin Hackworth

My co-panelists. See link list below. Photo by Justin Hackworth.

I spoke on effective DIYs and Pinterest with Chris, Chelsea, Jenny and Jill. I feel like each of us could have touched on meaty information had we taken the whole day to do it. We had 40 slides of juicy information (available here) to pack into 50 minutes. We sorta did it, I kind of ran over.

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One of the key points that I touched on was the above: “We are creatives, we can think outside the box.” Nothing is original anymore, but we can think outside our own personal scopes and come up with unique ideas. And we should.

This, of course, was not coming from a place of perfection. They’re my thoughts about my own personal work. All too often I get in creative ruts.

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Lastly, One of the many themes of the conference was transparency. Showing readers your best and ugliest self, being upfront about expectations from brands and how to approach contributors or collaborators. Communicating clearly to one another, readers and sponsors is incredibly important!

On a personal note, I don’t think I really learned how to communicate until I got married. Chris taught me a lot about bucking up and saying the things I might not feel comfortable saying. I try to be as transparent (I’m really the same person online and off) as possible, but I could benefit from thinking on this more often.

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I feel like I went to this conference with a better vision of what I wanted and who I am. I feel like I planned my presence well (making sure I had handmade, vintage and thrifted items on my person, creating pretty business cards and showing up prepared with a printed media kit in case an opportunity cropped up), but I may not have scheduled my time as flawlessly as I had imagined.

I did miss out on half the classes that I had planned on taking, and mostly that was because of lack of focus. I really should have geared up for the conference with more sleep than I had. That week I was working on something like 15-20 hours of sleep in 7 days. NOT SMART.

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Stacy, me, Tiffany

I did take advantage of all of the photo booths. I didn’t take a single photobooth pic last year, I had to fix that. It’s really a fun way to break the ice with others. I’ve got some awesome goof-ball shots from it, too.

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Miranda, me

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Chelsea, Dayna, Miranda, me

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Photo by Michael Rowley

I also took time out to do a creative project: chalkboard lettering for one of the mini parties. It was a great little creative escape in the middle of the conference and fun to get to know a few of the awesome people behind Hayneedle.com. They were a real pleasure to work with.

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Diana, me, Miranda, Alycia

This year was the second in a row that I stayed at a hotel and not at home. I knew I would get distracted by my adorable kiddos and sweet husband, that I decided to just act as if the conference were out of state. It was basically like an extended sleepover, minus the high school drama and double the fun. It was nothing short of a miracle that we were able to find accommodations so close to the conference since everything was completely booked solid. I thank my lucky stars for that. Next year I’ll book my hotel before I buy my ticket.

I had an absolutely wonderful time (not sure how this conference gets better every year, but it does!) and I’m looking forward to going through my giant stacks of pretty business cards this next week.

The New Look of MelissaEsplin.com

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Have you noticed something new? Last week, just before I left for Alt Summit, Chris implemented my redesign. It’s been about nine months in the works, percolating in my brain for at least a year. Last year I wanted to implement a new design, but I knew I’d be back to square one if I rushed the rebrand at all. And I was right. I wanted to make sure I took enough time and thought about each step thoroughly.

Hurdles of a Rebrand: The URL

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I refer to my blog as I Still Love You – my place to do the things I still love even when the chaos of motherhood is in full swing (like right now – we all have the stomach flu). It would be perfect to have istillloveyou.com for that very purpose. But the insert explicative noun who own and are still trying to sell istillloveyou.com were looking for $15,000 for the domain. I gave them the middle finger. Frustrated, I decided that I needed to go another direction.

Ultimately we decided that it was more cost effective to stick with the current domain but restructure a bit. I am embracing my URL as melissaesplin.com, but “I still love you” is (and always will be) my personal motto, and a motto that I hope many of you will adopt as well. The reason why I have a blog isn’t for $$$ (although being able to bring in extra income is nothing short of a blessing), but it’s to share my creative process with others and to keep in tact the creative person I was before diapers and drool came to the scene.

Hurdles of a Rebrand: My Style

Trying to nail down my style was like trying to hit a moving target with a bow and arrow, having never shot a bow and arrow before. This is not a niche blog about any one theme, unless you consider that one theme the entire umbrella of creativity.

I love trends old and new, but I didn’t want my blog to feel outdated the second it went live. So I opted for a plainer canvas than I’ve done in the past. I don’t mind the orange and pink from days of yore, but it was getting old, and it was too girly. Each year we will be changing up the theme’s main color for the Pantone color of the year. After I broke down the elements of my own personal style, it made a theme so much easier to work on:

  • feminine, not girly
  • handmade surprises
  • dimension and depth
  • simple, but eclectic

Features and Implementation

I wanted the site to be the kind that was welcoming to all people and easy to use. I’m hoping it comes across as such. The biggest priority we had was to find new ways to dredge up old content. I’ve been blogging for 5 1/2 years now, that’s a lot of old content! Here are a few things that are new to the site:

  1. Easily share posts to facebook and twitter on the right of the content, click the share and a drop down drawer will show up.
  2. Visual links to Pinterest boards for both tutorials and printables
  3. Shuffle button (in the middle of older and newer posts) to dredge up old pages of posts
  4. Reply inline  to comments in the comments section
  5. Sticky menu and search
  6. Simplified mobile site with a swipe-to-view sidebar
  7. Background parallax (currently only in Firefox and Safari)

The build was a lot of work on Chris’s end. I keep saying that this design (between mine and Chris’s billable rates) would have cost in the $6000 range. It was A LOT of work.

But it feels so good to have it complete. I do hope you take a look around and take advantage of the new features. Be sure to send a shout out if something doesn’t look right. I really appreciate the feedback.

Let’s Talk Pinterest

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I’ll be speaking at Alt Summit in a few days on effective DIYs and how to market with Pinterest. Jill, one of my co-panelists, is very well-versed in Pinterest and will be covering that aspect of the panel very thoroughly. I do want to mention a couple of things here, though.

I’m not sure if this post is for me, for beginning Pinterest users or for my co-horts (not sure how many of my fellow blog friends actually read this) but I figure it’s good to get this off my chest and get my personal feelings out there on the matter. Feel free to chime in on the conversation in the comments below.

WHAT DO I PIN?

There were (and still are) a lot of mixed feelings about Pinterest when some terms of service changed, begging the question: What should be pinned to Pinterest? For me personally, I keep it to original sources only. DIY blogs, food blogs and shops are pretty easy ones. I also pin from fashion and interior blogs but only when the author of the blog publishes original content. For example, I’ll pin an interior that someone has styled and photographed themselves as opposed to the interior images they used for inspiration.

I never pin from tumblr, google images or stock photography sites.

HOW DO I PIN?

This is a dumb question, I know. But some people may not necessarily think about this so I feel it’s worth mentioning. I pin directly from permalinks – I click through to the single blog post or product page, then pin what it is I want. Pinning from the main page of a blog is really annoying – content always shuffles on that front page, so you’ll never be able to get directly to that blog post after new content appears.

If I’m re-pinning from peeps I follow, I’ll quickly click through the link to make sure proper attribution has been given. If re-pinning a recipe from Pinterest, wouldn’t you click through the link to make sure that the site is still working and the recipe is worth making? I treat all other pins the same way. Especially with art and design.

I also pin with descriptive language. I want people to be able to find the same awesome things that I’m pinning, so I make the image searchable with key terms. I also like to write little notes to myself about what made me pin the image in the first place. I never pin full tutorial instructions in the comments. It’s just plain annoying and just like stealing the content from that site or blog.

HOW DO I ENCOURAGE PINNING?

This is kind of a funny thing. I’m getting more into this now. Pinterest is a great way to get your content out there, but I say this with hesitation. I don’t like following pinners that are self-promoting all the time, so I try not to. I’ve not done a great job of this recently, but I’m working on striking a good balance.

After much thought I’ve decided that if I’m going to be pinning my own work, I should be pinning to boards marked for self-promotion. I feel like this works in my favor two ways: 1) It clearly tells my followers that this is something of mine, I’m not sneaky about promoting my work. 2) It’s a great way to aggregate all of the stuff that I’ve done in one spot. It’s easy for people to find what they’re looking for and to repin as they see fit.

I’ve also enabled a “Pin It” hover over all of my in-line content images allowing readers to pin directly to a permalink without having to click through to a single post. Chris developed this widget for me (you can download your own ISLY Pinterest WordPress Widget below). When you hover over any of the graphics in the main column on this blog, you’ll see a pin it icon. Simply click the icon and it takes you to a Pinterest pop up where you can pin that image and the attached permalink straight to a Pinterest board. Slick, and properly attributed. If you plan on installing it on your blog, it comes stock with a Pinterest icon, but you can certainly customize it using simple code.

I don’t write about this stuff very often, but I thought it was appropriate to share since Chris put in a lot of effort to make the widget for me and we are more than happy to share this with others. I’m looking forward to hearing Jill’s insight and advice on Pinterest. I have a feeling that I’ll be learning a lot from her and my other amazing co-panelists: Jenny, Chris and Chelsea.

 

I’m Speaking at Alt!

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The official Alt Summit Schedule is out! I am thrilled to bits to be speaking this year. I’ll be speaking with Chelsea, Chris, Jenny and Jill. We’re part of the beginner blogger track (although I think all bloggers could gain some insight from my fellow panelists). We’ll be discussing all of the nuts and bolts of a fabulous DIY or tutorial and how Pinterest comes into play. I’m excited to be included in this list of amazing DIYers. Makes me feel like I need to step up my game a bit.

Nikki, me, Michelle, Deb

I had a fantastic time the last three years at Alt, I’m looking forward to rocking out for a fourth year!

I would love to hear your thoughts about our topic, whether you’re a reader or a fellow blogger who participates in DIYs. I’ve made a short questionnaire below, I would love to read your insights on the topics we will be discussing!

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