Edublogs: How to create an engaging blog

Have you registered an account, then changed the template of your blog – only to find that everything has moved and your blog looks and operates differently?

This post will take you through how to setup your blog, to make it engaging and help you achieve a rich and functional space.

If you have just started with Edublogs, you should explore some of our existing pages on getting started with Edublogs and creating posts and pages.  Otherwise, let’s get started.

To change the template of your blog, you just need to go to the ‘Appearance’ menu and select ‘Themes’ > you can search for different styles and live preview sites before you activate them.

Live previewActivate

For this post, we’ll be using three example blog sites – these are fictitious and have been created to give you an idea about how different templates work and provide a good starting point in terms of the kind of site that is achievable.

To begin with, take a look at the below sites – browse through them and familiarise yourself with the look and feel of them. (each image is clickable)

Bushwick templateTracks templateUMJC01 Template

Bushwick

This template may be a good example of the kind of template you might use for a portfolio blog, or to track a diary.  It has a split vertical screen, with a nice big space for images on the left-hand side with an attractive font style and clear navigation.  What’s not so clear with this particular template are the widgets, but if you know where to access them – it’s intuitive.  The starting page has also been set to the home page for this particular blog, so it’s operating more like a traditional website.

Tracks

This template is another good example of an attractive site that looks particularly good for displaying your posts.  The template has some nice dynamic stuff going on, so images move slightly when the mouse hovers over them and the posts themselves are very neat and easily readable.  The widgets are less accessible, being at the bottom of the page, but they can be set to appear ‘after page content’ through the customisation menu.

UMJC01

One of the standard set templates that are available when you first setup an Edublogs account or create another site.  It’s fairly functional, but not particularly appealing from a visual perspective.  Note, if you select this template and then later change it, you won’t be able to go back to the UMJC01 template.

Quick tip:

To change the starting page for your blog site, go to Settings > Reading – you’ll see the below view and this is where you can instead select the starting page as your home page or any other page rather than posts or leave it set to posts.

Home page display settings

Widgets

Widgets are additional sections that you can add to your blog site and you can add as many or little as you like.  For example, if you click on the three line icon in the top right-hand side of the Bushwick blog, it will open up all the widgets that have been activated for this example blog.  As a standard most templates assume that you’ll want things like recent posts or a search box.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that depending on the template you use, your widgets and indeed the layout of your page will work differently.  Some templates won’t have feature images on each page by default and some may work better than others if you want to set the home page to be the first page your visitor sees.  What does that mean?  It means that instead of having your posts set as your home page (the default setting), you may want the visitors to your site to go straight to your set home page.

Task:

Add some widgets to your own blog and see how they look, why not try out ‘categories’, ‘recent posts’ and ‘tags’.  (make sure that your posts have tags and categories or nothing will show!)

How do I get the widgets on the blog?

Visit the existing help page about how to customise your blog site, this will explain how you can add widgets to your site.

In terms of the widgets used on the Bushwick example site, there are some that require a little more involvement.  For example, if you wanted to have an RSS feed or a set of podcasts, you’d need to find a site with an active RSS feed and for the embedded podcasts you’d need to copy embed code and then enter this into the HTML widget.  If you’d like to find out about how to do this, contact a member of the MeLT team.

Tip:

If you add a widget for ‘Tags’ or ‘Categories’ remember to create some!  If you don’t create any, then nothing will appear.  To add tags, all you need to do is use the right-hand Tags box and just type in your tags separated by a comma and click on ‘Add’ for each post.  To add a category, go the right-hand panel in your post (when editing) and click on ‘+ Add New Category’ enter the category and leave the below box set to ‘Parent Category’ and hit the ‘Add New Category’ button.  Categories, may be more generic, like ‘sports’ for example and tags may be things that are associated, but not specific, like ‘ligaments, tendons, muscles’ for example.

tags and categories

Drop-down menus

Q: How did you get the drop-down menu for Diary? Aren’t those posts?  I thought only pages could be at the top?

No, if you want your posts to appear as a top menu item, like a static page, then they can be.  You can also make categories as links within your top menu as well.  There is a useful TEL help page available to guide you through this.

Task:

1. Create a new page and call it ‘Diary’ – this will be the main navigation name at the top that will contain your blog posts.

2. Go to ‘Appearance’ > ‘Menu’

3. Enter a title for your menu and click on ‘Create menu’.

Menu

Create menu button

4. You need to now check the boxes for all the pages that you want to display at the top and you may want to click on the ‘View All’ tab to see a list of all the pages you have and not just the most recent ones.  When you have selected all the pages, click on ‘Add To Menu’.

Menu items
5. Once you have added all the pages, you will be able to see them in the centre of the screen and each page can be moved dynamically up and down in order of preference.  So if your ‘Home’ page was third on the list, you could click and drag it to the top so that it shows as the first link on the blog.

Add to menu

6. Check the box under menu settings for ‘Primary Menu’ – this means that the pages will appear at the top.  (note: if you check the box for ‘Automatically add new top-level pages to the menu’ this will automatically add any new pages to the top navigation menu)

7. So to add your posts to your diary page, you would go back to the ‘Pages’ menu and click on the ‘Posts’ tab – this will expand the tab and you should see a list of all your posts.  Check them and then click on ‘Add to Menu’.

8. When they are in the menu structure, you can click on them and drag them under the ‘Diary’ page – if you slide your mouse to the right slightly, it should let you drag the post as a sub-menu item.  As you click and drag an outline of a lined box should appear to help you align the post as a sub page.  (Sub-pages are essentially drop-down items, so when you hover your mouse over a page with a sub-page, it will appear as a drop-down)

Sub menu

9. When you then preview your blog site, you should then see your blog posts as a drop-down menu item at the top of the page! Remember that you’ll need to go back into the menu to add any additional posts or future posts you create if you want them to appear in the menu for your diary.

Menu sub

 

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Matt Ewens

Digital Innovation Technologist at Plymouth Marjon University

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