19 March 2010

Ideas for the new Blogger template designer

Last week, Blogger introduced a great new feature to improve the design of it’s numerous hosted blogs and at the same time simplify the customization of templates for those of us not happy with the default look. I’ve been planning for a long time to work on the blog design, but now I’m glad I haven’t. After playing around with the new template designer for a couple of days, here are some things I have noticed and also suggestions I would like to make to the Blogger team:

  • First of all, the template designer needs an ‘undo’ option. I like experimenting with different colors, but it’s difficult to revert to the starting point. You can either ‘Reset to template default’ or discard all the changes you made by clicking ‘« Back to Blogger’, so I usually end up loosing more changes than the ones I don’t like.
  • A lot of customization elements should have labels, captions, tool tips or some other form of explanation. The live preview doesn’t show actions like hovering, so I spent a lot of time figuring out what interface element each box controls. This should be much more straightforward and user-friendly.
  • Allow users to set blog widths larger than 1000px or to have the blog automatically adjust to the window dimensions, with a minimum width maybe. I would like to set the sidebar to a fixed width for example, because the gadgets there don’t change from one post to another, but have the contents fill the rest of the remaining space.

Another thing that annoys me about the template designer is that the color boxes don’t have a preview of the color currently used in the template. I’m not sure, but it could be the original template color; either way it’s not at all useful while editing. The new Blogger template designer

Of course, switching to an entirely new template will wipe away all the changes made by editing the raw HTML code behind it. I was marginally aware of it, because the TweetMeme button I added under the post title disappeared. But it finally sank in when I logged in to Google Analytics and saw I had no visits for the past two days… Also, verification codes for Google Webmaster tools were gone, as well as other changes made to gadgets. I was able to bring the features back with code from an older template backup, but it’s fortunate I didn’t had many customizations. Other bloggers may not be so lucky and could stay away from the new feature altogether.

Besides the new template, I continued to make changes to the design by editing the template the old-fashioned way and by adding new gadgets. Searching the web, I came across a very nice Blogger gadget to display related articles based on labels. Another thing I discovered recently is that Blogger gadgets can be displayed selectively on certain pages, for example only on full post pages or on the new static pages. This is a very useful trick, because you can make the blog design more dynamic and more clean. And some things don’t really make sense outside of post pages, like buttons to share the current page or the above mentioned related posts. On top of that, excluding gadgets from the home page of your blog can make it load faster, something that seams to be very trendy these days. I think it would be great if Blogger would introduce this type of page-specific gadgets on the standard interface sometimes soon. It would make customizing your blog a bit easier.

Update: My last suggestion just got implemented in the new template designer: now all the new templates have support for variable widths with a bit of CSS code!


  1. Thanks so much for the feedback! I've shared this with the team who built the template designer, and am happy to report that several of these specific issues are ones we've been thinking about. (I'd *love* an "undo" button.)

    There's also a discussion going on in Google Buzz about this (courtesy of a share by Louis Gray) here.

    Keep in touch, and thanks for using Blogger!

    --Rick Klau
    PM, Blogger

  2. Glad to see we're on the same wavelength! :)
    I love the new designer overall and I'm sure lots of other people find it useful as well.

  3. Thanks for this info. I changed my template also but didn't realize all of the customizations that I need to reinstall.

    I agree with all of your suggestions.


  4. Absence of an "Undo" button was the first thing I noticed. I too was tired of changing the margins each time I wanted to experiment with a new template - God knows why it is traditionally so thin! So I am in **love** with this designer! I shall be experimenting more with it, but for now I have changed the layout temporarily.

  5. hi bro...
    thanks for your share..

  6. Very nice piece of work, especially for your first attempt. Very clean and good use of colors :)

  7. i'm getting this error when I tried changing colors for my font and backgrounds. I think it might have to do with me manually tweaking the HTML before. anyway, here's what i see on the error page:

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