Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blogging 101 ~ Lesson #7: Setting Up Your Blog's Navigational System

Now that you have finished lessons one thru six in the Simply Blogging 101 series, you are just about ready to start publishing the information you want to share with your future readers.  In order for those readers to navigate thru your site easily and find older posts of interest to them you need an easy way for them to navigate your blog.

The foundation of the navigational options is the set of labels, or tags, you give to each post.  For instance, at Simply CVS I tag each week’s deals with the date of the corresponding ad date, I have CVS 101 Lessons tagged as such, as well as Tips & Tricks, Printing Coupons and so forth.  If you click on any one of these you can see the posts that I wrote about that have to do with those subjects.   They will show up just like they did originally on the home page (as a partial post), but categorized for only those topics.

I also have certain posts or pages that I have a navigational link to and it will take the reader directly to that full post.  For instance:  CVS 101 for Beginners, Ask A Question, My CVS Shopping Trips and About.  So if you click on any of the above links it will take you directly to that post.

There are several options for adding navigational links to your blog and I will share a few here.   All of the ones that say “on Blogger” can be found in the “Add a Gadget” section on your design page.

Pages Gadget on Blogger

The Pages Gadget on Blogger can be in the header (as seen on this blog) or in the sidebar and include links to the 10 stand alone pages.  This is added thru the design page and an “Add a Gadget” link or when you post a page it will ask you if you want to add a gadget for them.  You can edit the gadget to include whatever pages you wish and in the order you desire.

Link List Gadget on Blogger

The link list gadget is what I use on Simply CVS.  You can see it in use in the top of the right sidebar at Simply CVS.  It is easy to update and change if I want or need to.  I also like the option of titling each set of categories for the ease of my readers in finding the topics they want.

You simply add the name you want the link to be titled and enter the URL for the page or posts you want to show up when clicked on.  To find the URL, go to the post and copy the address in the bar at the top of your browser.  If you want a series of posts, click on the tag at the bottom of one of the posts in the category you want to include and then copy the address in the bar.  You can also copy the URL by right clicking on the post title or the link title and choosing "copy link address."

Labels Gadget on Blogger

These are lists of the tags you put on your posts at the bottom in the “labels” window.  You can choose to show all or just some of them in this gadget.  You can see an example of showing just some of them in different lists at Nurturing Cuisine in the right side bar.  By dividing them under different titles you can organize your labels for your readers’ ease in navigating your site.  You can choose to show the number of posts or not in each category.

The labels can either be added in a list format as on Nurturing Cuisine or in a cloud format as on The Aldi Spot (look for this halfway down in the right sidebar—as of the date of this post).  When in a cloud format the labels with the most posts are larger than the others. 

Picture Gadget on Blogger

If you have a series of posts and you want to advertise them with a picture, you can use the add a picture gadget and put your picture in with the URL to the series of posts the picture represents.  Like the chalk board picture in this post.  I could put that in the side bar with a link to all of the Simply Blogging 101 series posts.  So when the picture is clicked it takes the reader to the posts.

Search Box Gadget on Blogger

This gadget allows your blog to be searched for posts including the word or phrase searched.  A pop up window appears with the title and part of the post showing—when the desired post is clicked it opens in a new window.  You can try it out on this blog in the top of the right hand side bar.

Blog Archive Gadget on Blogger

Another option is the Blog Archive which shows the history of your posting on your blog.  There are several options of how this can be displayed.

Recent Posts Gadget on Blogger

This can be found in the Add a Gadget section under “Featured.”  It is actually one that will slow down the loading of your blog—or at least it loads more slowly itself.  It has to retrieve the information each time.

Most Popular Posts Gadget on Blogger

This will automatically display a list of the most popular posts on your blog—those visited the most often and can be helpful to reader in finding the posts that are most relevant to the majority of your readers.

Add a Page with List of Links

I have done this on Simply Blogging.  The tab above this post that says "Lesson Index" is a page that has a list of each lesson within each series.  This is also a convenient option for some of the main topics of your blog.  The only problem is that Blogger only offers ten stand alone pages, so think carefully before you use up your pages.  You could even use a post, but it would show on the home page when posted unless you choose a date and time in the past thru the "post options" and then it will not show up as a new post.

Drop Down Menus

Blogger does not offer this option.  You can see an example of these at Frugality Is Free.  She found the instructions online and edited her template HTML to include them.  This is a little more complicated, or rather, a lot and is probably best left for those familiar with HTML or for those of us currently unfamiliar with it to wait until we are more familiar to tackle this.  If you really want to add these you can just Google (or Swagbucks—and earn Amazon Gift Cards or other prizes while doing it) “adding drop down menus to blogger.”  There are directions out there for header and sidebar drop down menus in several places.

So today’s assignment is to look over these navigational options and visit other blogs and see what they use. Think thru your planned content and how you can label the posts accordingly to be able to utilize those labels in your blogging navigational choices.  Choose how you would like to set up your navigational system and add gadgets that you can based on the labels in your welcome post.  If you do not have any posts yet, and thus no labels, these will not show up because there is nothing to display.

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