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Learn As I Blog: Widgets, Gadgets & Graphics

I'm learning that these days, blogging is about more than just content.  Although content is a major piece, some of my favorite blogs keep me close by having useful and cool widgets, gadgets and graphics.  I am here to share my learning and exploration into all things widgetty and hope that it will give you some cool ideas to add to your own blog.
Whether you call them widgets, gadgets or plug-ins, they all add jewels to the crown that is your blog content.  These tiny additions located in my sidebar are all designed to connect me with readers in more ways than just reading my blog on Google reader.

Like most bloggers who have been blogging for a while, I want to connect with my readers in several different ways.  Adding social media buttons near the top of my sidebar makes it simple to connect with me outside of the blog.  I found these free social media buttons on Pinterest and created my own custom widget!
Here's a list of other gadgety widgets that I use to connect readers to my blog
  • Subscribe via RSS feed or via email boxes
  • Follow Blog - so readers can add my blog to their Google reader via Google Friend Connect for Blogger
  •  Like Box - a Facebook widget that makes it easy for readers to like my Facebook fan page without leaving the blog.  Click here to get your own like box!
  • NetworkedBlog Box -  similar to the Facebook like box, the NetworkedBlog follow box connects me with other bloggers who are members of the NetworkedBlog community.
Pin with me
By far my favorite widget would have to be my Pinterest pin feed!  It's something I spied on a Wordpress blog many moons ago.  I have been a bit consumed with Pinterest as of late {wink}, and this widget only fuels my love and gives readers a peek into my other interests, connecting us in yet another way.  Because I saw the plugin on a Wordpress blog, I wondered if there was something similar for us Blogger blogs.  There had to be smart techies out there that have figured out how to get a Pinterest widget onto Blogger, so I searched.  In a few clicks I found Code it Pretty and she figured out how to get Pinterest on your Blogger blog!  I also added my own "follow me on Pinterest" button to the end of the feed as another easy way of connecting.

Bloggers love comments, I know I sure do {hint}!  It tells me that I'm not talking to myself, but that someone is listening.  In my very early blogging days, it was hard for me to know if a blogger has responded to my comment because everyone is on different platforms and I rarely remember to go back to a blog that I've commented on.  There are times when I'd get the occasional email response to a comment, but I always wondered, "Will her response be posted on the blog?"  I've wondered that about my own blog as well.  When someone comments, should I respond via email, directly on the blog or both?  What a terrible dilemma! Once again, those smarty techy angels have thought of everything and were 100 steps ahead of me!  I now use Intense Debate to power my comments.

What I love about Intense Debate is that is has everything I've ever wanted in my commenting.  For bloggers, there is a feature called CommentLuv that instantly feeds a blogger's latest post {or post of their choosing} directly into the end of the comment, so no need to code it in yourself!  Another great feature I love about Intense Debate is that anyone who comments can subscribe to replies which notifies them the moment I do respond to a comment.  But my favorite thing is that I when I get a comment notification in my email, I can respond directly through email and it will not only post my response on the blog, but it will also send the reply to the commenter {if they subscribed to replies}!  Genius!!!  If you don't have this on your blog, get it here now!!!  It has changed my commenting life!

Graphics is the last jewel in the blog crown that I will cover.  We are visual creatures and graphics adds visual interest to our {my} wordy blog posts.  My graphics are what visitors will associate with me and my blog.  If you are clever enough to have thought up a blog name that lends itself to an obvious graphic choice then your graphic options are easy peesy lemon squeezy!  Take my blog for example, Gifts We Use {to grow, love and serve}.  What better graphic to incorporate than a gift box!  So cute and so simple!  Take a look at how I use graphics to add some sugar and spice to my blog space.

Basic Blog graphics
My own personal must haves for my blog.
  • Blog header - tells a visitor where they've landed on the blogosphere
  • Blog buttons - to share with other bloggers
  • Post thumbnail - to mark my posts distinctly
  • Post sub-headers - to break up the post and add some spice
  • Post Signature - to end each post with a bang
  • Self portrait - to connect readers to me
Advanced Blog graphics
Getting a little fancy and technical because I was always the one who wanted extra credit.
  • Favicon for web - displays my icon in a reader's web browser and on a blogger's blogroll

  • Favicons for iPhone and iPad - so anyone can add my blog to their home screen, and it will look just like an app!

  • Download button - An image hyperlink that I use for my printables {NOTE: image below is not a hyperlink}
Widgets, gadgets and graphics are the ribbons, bows and gift tags to the gift that is my blog.  They make a great gift even better.  I hope that this post has given you inspiration to think intentionally about what you add to your blog's side bar and maybe even your posts.  I will post links to my favorite resources on my Blogging page created especially for bloggers looking for direction, inspiration and support.  It's my way of gifting my learning forward.  I pray that as you follow along with me, that you would take your gifts and gift them forward as well.

Next in the series, Blog Planner & Printable >>>

This post is part of the Learn As I Blog series
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