Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Blog Appetit Goes New Blogger -- My Trek into the Unknown or How I Switched

I have to admit I am not the most sophisticated, knowledgeable or fussy user of Blogger. I appreciate the (free) service, the fairly stress-free way it makes my words appear on the internet and feel pretty lucky to have found a template that looks something like one I would design for myself if I could design a template for myself. (That's a big if.) However, even a straight forward user like me has a few customizations and changes and, shall we say, eccentricities that converting an existing blog to new Blogger can jeopardize.

I won't say I couldn't sleep tossing and turning all that I needed to do, but I did go to bed late a few nights after researching my options and practicing for the big conversion. Here is a recap of my experience with a list of steps I recommend before your own C-Day. Included is a list of sources I found helpful. Please keep in mind two things:

I 'm no expert, so I might not have done things the elegant way, the best way or any other way that made sense, but it worked for me, so that's the way I did it.

I'm no expert, so if you have some suggestions for me, please don't hesitate to email me through my profile or leave a comment or link below.

Taking Baby Steps

Everything I tried, I did on my test blog first. Hopefully you have one in Blogger original that you can play with. If not create one in New Blogger with the same template you hope to use after the big switch and play with that as appropriate below.

4Tip #1 -- Back up your template every time you change it

First thing I did was back up my template. I did this while still in Ye Olde Blogger by exposing my html code and then copying it and pasting it as a text document. I know Blogger says they'll save your old template, but I felt better having direct access to it and it proved handy to have later.

Next, I just switched my current template to New Blogger without changing to the layout design. That kept all my boxes, links, bits and pieces just like I had before. The big change? I could now add labels. I knew I wouldn't be able to display a separate list of my labels without making a commitment to New Blogger layouts but it caught me unawares that clicking on a label title would only show a maximum of 20 posts with that label. Also, the label name shows up at the bottom of your post in a way some Blogger users have found to be unattractive.

4Tip #2 -- Have a Test Blog and Practice on It

I worked with my classic template in New Blogger for a bit, felt that my world hadn't caved in and went for the next step. I backed up my template yet again and converted my test blog to the same design as a layout in New Blogger. I waited nervously for the computer screen to update. And then I saw it, my updated, new look, New Blogger layout. I took one look at the revised header and practically screamed. It was ugly. The Blogger Team that had adapted Rounders4 had not done a good job of sizing the graphic or something and had added a dark green margin around the photo but only on the top. It wasn't the end of the world, most viewers might not even notice, but I wasn't about to let Blog Appetit go out in public wearing that!

The Obsession Begins

I began to try to find a fix from the difficult to a non-expert like me (download the blogger url for the graphic, attempt to change the size and then get it rehosted somewhere) to the pitiful (randomly changing header code in html based on what I thought was the right code in my original template). I got rid of the margin on top but lost the curved "rounders," I created four rounded sides but had a thin slice of dark green margin sitting on top like a squished beret, I somehow lost all four rounded corners and had a nice rectangle and almost settled for that, but it just wasn't what I wanted.

I hunted and linked and searched all through Blogger help, tried in vain to email Blogger about it, actually searched for and found a way to email the template's original designer to plead for help and to let him know how they had ruined his vision and art (he never replied), contemplated changing templates, changing photos, and the list goes on and on. Finally I did what I should have done from the start -- I went to the Google Blogger Help Group and searched for "rounders header" and got my answer.

4Tip #3 -- Look to your fellow sufferers for help -- Use User Groups

Here's the link to the Blogger Help Group. I also used tricks and tips from several dedicated Blogger enthusiasts. Sometimes they didn't have the exact fix I needed, but they started me thinking in the right direction. Here are some of those links:

Beta Blogger Resources
Blogger Tips and Tricks
Beta Blogger for Dummies
The Real Blogger Status

I can't find the link to the Blogger Group User who solved my rounders4 template issues, but when I do, I'll update this list to include his post. (If you need help with your rounders4 header, check out my source code to see how I've swapped the header and the header wrapper and try that or email me or leave a comment below and I'll send you instructions.)

The Last (But Not Least) Steps

With the success of my header fix in my test blog, I thought I was good to go so I made the big switch for Blog Appetit and threw up a post about the blog being worked on to excuse any little peculiarities until I could fix them.

Did it go smoothly? Well, let's just say I hit a few speed bumps. Some of my content (links and blue plate specials from the sidebar) which transferred without a glitch in my practice blog didn't in my "real blog." Only three of my links survived the big migration and the blue plate specials were MIA.

Here's my fixes: I went to page elements, selected a new element, picked HTML/Java for the kind I wanted, copied and pasted in what was missing from my old, saved template. Worked like a charm and saved me from having to retype each individual link on my blog roll. (I may eventually do that anyway so I can use the easy-to-use link adder function in the links box, but for now my links are back in action!) I repeated the steps to get the "Blue Plate Specials" back on the menu.

My blog stat counter I did similarly, but as a footer.

I had one "color" issue. I didn't care for the color the Blogger team selected for the footer and the footer seemed to be the only page element color you could not change from the handy-dandy color and font device. I got around that by selecting the color I wanted on the gizmo, writing down the color code (a six digit number) finding the html code that referred to the footer color number and switching it out with my new choice.

(I also played with font size and choice on my header through the fonts and colors selector, which was nice and easy.)

In addition to my dealing with the links page element in the future, I am still grumbling and ruminating over a few other changes that were made to Blog Appetit or that I would like to make, but they are mere quibbles and I'm hoping that future forays into the user group will pop up with suggestions or that Blogger will come out with fixes or new features, but in the meantime, I am fairly satisfied, which brings me to my last tip:

4Tip# 4 -- Know When to Give It a Rest


Trig said...

Yeah - I did my update much the same way. I've kept my testbed going, with all the settings private, so I can check layouts of new posts and test any new changes to the template.

Sherrykins said...

I want to thank you so much for the link to Beta Bloggers Resources.

the sobsister said...

Thanks for the tips and links. Very useful. I started with New Blogger so there's no switchover anxiety but there's still a ton I don't know. Cheers.

FJKramer said...

Dear Sobsister,
Checked out your new blog, it looks fine. IS that Kim Novak and Piwacky (sp?) in your profile pix??

Good luck as you explore the blog world, check out http://foodblogscool.blogspot.com for ideas re blogging tricks and tips although you are more a political commentary blog.

Trig, you mastery of blogging always amazes me.

Sherry, my pleasure, your blog really helped me.


the sobsister said...

good catch.
that is Ms. Novak and Pyewacket (yeah, not an obvious spelling) in my av pic.