Jul 28, 2011

You can do some amazing things with Blogger

Confluent Forms LLC specializes in creating gorgeous, engaging websites with custom content management systems (CMS, software that enables easy management of your website content without a web developer), and we’ve found that Blogger can be a great platform for web development when a custom CMS isn’t needed. Blogger provides a ton of functionality and design freedom for our clients, and not just for blogs!

Unexpected, right? Using blog software for a website?


(To be really amazed, check out some of the gorgeous sites we've built on Blogger. You can also learn lots of tips and tricks for Blogger by visiting our other blog, BlogXpertise.)

Most users do not realize the value and flexibility that Blogger offers, including free hosting, complete customization, personalized domain options, WYSIWYG editor and more. Because Blogger is a Google product, you can also easily integrate with other Google services such as: Google+, Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, Google Docs, AdSense, Picasa and more. All of this is available free of charge while providing a simple, easy authoring environment for the small business owner.

As a web development firm, Blogger provides us with a different value proposition.

When we discuss a Blogger-based solution to a client:

  • we can provide my company’s services to customers at a lower price point while maintaining full creative freedom and giving them a basic but user-friendly CMS
  • we don’t need to set up a paid hosting account for my client (avoiding the associated headaches)
  • we don’t need to worry, or have the client worry, about security patches or upgrades
  • we don’t have to be concerned about uptime and availability
  • we can show the client drafts while we develop by keeping the site invitation-only until it is ready to go public
  • we can easily transfer ownership and management of the site to my client or keep us both as co-administrators

It can be hard to envision a platform’s potential from a list of features and value propositions, so here are some examples of websites Confluent Forms has done recently for a number of business. We’ll highlight the unique aspects of them from a Blogger standpoint as we go.


1) Juniper & Ivy

Juniper & Ivy, San Diego CA
Websites built in Flash have their time and place, but when you have a restaurant that wants to continually update their site with new content, have it accessible through mobile devices like the iPhone, and take advantage of search engines, it’s time to find a different solution. But can you make a site as beautiful and as interesting as a Flash site and build it in Blogger? Sometimes clients don’t want to know what the solution is under the hood, they just want the site to look great, work great, and be simple for them to update when they need to make changes. They don’t want to feel that they’re being constrained by something (like a CMS) that they don’t really understand, but they want all of the advantages that it provides.

Yes, this site is a Blogger website. This site takes advantage of JQuery, an advanced Javascript library, for the backbone of the bells and whistles. You can integrate JQuery and other Javascript libraries (MooTools, Prototype, script.aculo.us, etc.) into your blog, and Google even provides them via the Google Libraries API! The site also pays particular attention to all of the different widgets and includes that Blogger provides within the site, from the “read more” links to social media buttons. Crafting these items, and changing them from the defaults, was a matter of identifying them (the Chrome browser’s “Inspect Element” functionality was extremely useful) then customizing them in the CSS or in the “Expand Widget Templates” of the Blogger “Edit HTML” page.

In the words of our designer,
“It’s a fully functioning site of which no design limitations were encountered. Its content is fully editable by a client who is running multi-faceted business with little technical experience. As the graphic designer using Blogger in this way is liberating. For my clients it’s empowering.“


2) Pinch Goods

Pinch Goods, Northampton MA
Pinch was our first foray into delivering a custom site using Blogger. Our goals for the project were to create a platform that would enable this small town gallery to showcase new artists whose work they carry, engage the dedicated fans of the gallery with updates, and empower the owner of the gallery to easily keep her site fun, fresh, and beautiful with a fully branded presence. All of the content on each and every page within the site is easily updated by Pinch’s owner without needing to know anything about programming.

While still technically a blog, we think this site is unique in layout, design, branding, and organization. Parts of the site required extra customization - the product category landing pages and the change in layout from the homepage template to the interior page template to the categories page template (such as “Ceramics” in the header). To change the layout we used Blogger’s native if/else functionality combined with the ability to determine page types, and to accomplish the category page design we wrote a script to locate the first image in the article and display it as the thumbnail.

3) Renew Pilates Studio

Renew Pilates, Easthampton MA
Renew Pilates Studio is a Blogger site that doesn’t look or act like a blog. In fact, looking at the site, you’d probably never guess that it was in Blogger. The site takes advantage of the static pages functionality for the content pages and fills in the “news & events” section with blog posts. The underlying code of the site notes the page you’re viewing and changes the CSS rules accordingly, setting the correct background image for that page as well as the navigation indents.

Confluent Forms designed a custom form for the Contact Us page submission that uses Google Docs, submits user-supplied information to a Google Docs Spreadsheet from a custom form, and notifies the owners when a visitor has filled out the Contact Us form. By extracting the resulting HTML from the form, we could then embed and restyle the form to match the page design, and using a bit of Javascript, create a post-submission redirect to a thank you page. And using Google Calendar, the studio is able to create a class schedule in an easy to read format that interested students can then add to their own Google Calendars. Students now have an up-to-date class calendar available to them 24/7 - no reprints or web-site checks involved.

4) Concentrics Restaurants


Concentrics Restaurants, Atlanta GA
There are so many amazing features and functionality in this site that it's hard to know where to begin. Interactive and dynamically generated slideshows, custom submission forms integrated with Google Docs/Drive, clickable features with special effects generated from content stored and managed in Google Drive spreadsheets... every page within this site is an experience, while presenting the content and gorgeous photography of the company's restaurants and clients in the best possible light.


5) Artkraft Taxidermy


Artkraft Taxidermy, Hollywood CA
How to present a taxidermy rental company online and still make it beautiful and cool? That was the challenge that we strove to achieve. Clean, gorgeous presentation, easy to manage and beautiful slideshows in the Collections section, all combine to present taxidermy in a way that intrigues you. And as the purpose of the site is to target studio people needing taxidermy for music videos, commercials, movies and tv shows, making the "product" easier to browse and easier to imagine, helps the company bring in new business.

6) LPC Restaurant


LPC Restaurant, Atlanta GA
A restaurant website is all about image. It's about capturing the ambiance and experience of the restaurant and making that come through in the website. It's about showcasing the food in a way that makes you, the visitor, want to reach out and taste it, so that you're almost bound to make a reservation. This restaurant website achieves that goal.


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We hope the examples above have opened your eyes to some of the possibilities of what you can do with your Blogger site.

Contact us now to build you your own site!