Confluent Forms LLC, located in Easthampton MA, is a boutique branding, graphic design, web design, web development, Blogger development, and PHP/MySQL application development firm providing services to customers from the Fortune 100 to local non-profit organizations and academic institutions. Serving Western Massachusetts and beyond.

You can do some amazing things with Blogger

by on July 28, 2011
Last updated on
Confluent Forms 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)

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 our 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 our 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 our 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.


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.“


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.

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.

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.

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.

The Crack Shack

The Crack Shack, San Diego CA

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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If you've got some time, and would like to hear my voice and see my face, give this Google+ Hangout on Air a viewing for some straight talk about Blogger, Wordpress, and choosing the right platform for you.


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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!

Join the conversation

37 comments:

  1. Great post, thanks. I've been trying to work out if I could put a shopping cart on my blog - but after reading this and looking at all your links - it looks like I still need a website if I want to sell online?
    Kate
    Rapt!Upholstery

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  2. You can certainly put a shopping cart up on your site using blogger! Check out Elbow Room Coffee. Blogger site, Paypal shopping cart. The other e-commerce site of the bunch, Pinch Gallery, uses BigCartel, which is a very inexpensive option (also uses Paypal), and pretty quick to migrate your Blogger template to.

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  3. I've seen people do these types of amazing sites with Word Press. I had no idea you could do it with Blogger too.
    Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Hey! Thanks for such a great post! (I read it originally on Blogger Buzz but then read the full version here.) I am in the midst of creating a new business and was getting quite frustrated by the hosting companies out there and all the hidden fees (why should I have to pay more for a faster loading page? shouldn't that be what everyone gets??!) I already have a blog on Blogger (www.delanah.com) and love it's platform so now I'm expand my capabilities! Thanks again! :)

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  5. Great post, and pleasantly surprised to see full flexibility of Blogger as a CMS system for a site.

    Sent you an email to your "info" address to inquire more about your services.

    Thanks.

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  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this! After working with Blogger for years,I had become quite comfortable with the format. So when it was time to build a website for our consulting business, Blogger was the natural choice. With simple css customizations I found that I could make a website that looked very professional and not too "bloggy" - it was a lot of fun and started bringing us new clients.

    Then a family member needed a website for their feed store, so I designed them a Blogger-based website too. After that, I realized that what I considered to be basic online skills were actually valuable commodities and even marketable. Also, because I had spent so much time playing around with customization and layouts and researching how to do everything, I could save someone hours of research by designing a website for them. Hence "“Created by Erika” Small Business Website Design" was born.

    I have now designed Blogger-based websites for many clients who are thrilled to be able to run their website themselves after I finish setting it up for them. And it saves them hundreds of dollars over traditional web design, not to mention FREE hosting forever! I have been a proponent of this for awhile now, but some web designers look down on such methods. So I was thrilled to find your article on Blogger Buzz! Another voice in the wilderness! :D Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us and backing up what I've known for awhile now - that you can do some amazing things with Blogger.

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  7. Great post--thanks so much for sharing your information!

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  8. Great encouraging post for a new (a few months old that too occasional) blogger like me! Thanks to Blogger Buzz for picking you to show what we can do with the blogger platform.

    I've found blogger platform a great platform to start with....many pro bloggers suggests for Wordpress but somehow I have a great faith on google - that in the coming days this platform will become more powerful and pro website creators will also recommend it.

    The sites you've mentioned are just too good and beautiful..having thorough professional looks. It really encourages us that what can be done with blogger platform.

    There's lot of things to ask on how u did that and that....but some other day...never thought to use google calendar (in Renew Pilates studio site) in this way..great innovative idea.

    BTW..u forgot to provide the link for the last website mentioned by u "Elbow Room Coffee Company". Hope its http://www.elbowroomcoffee.com/

    will come up with my blogging queries any other day..

    Thanks & Regards
    Swapan Das
    My Blog - Human Placental Extract
    Join me @ Google+

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great information. I loved seeing the sites you've already developed using Blogger.

    Like DeLana said above, I'm also creating a business and have been looking for an easy-to-use and versatile website solution. After blogging for a little over a year now (and feeling quite comfortable with it), Blogger has just jumped to the top of my list!

    Thanks again for sharing!

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  10. This is really a good information for a blogspot blogger. This post encourages me to do lot in my blogs.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Subscribed to this blog as well.

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  11. Totally agree - Blogger is an amazing platform, and I've done one site that's totally non-blog-like with it.

    But it fascinates me that they insist on putting the attribution gadget at the bottom of every designer-template blog.

    So far I've kept on top of how to remove it (I keep finding a way, they keep writing new code to stop it working ;-) - and my how-to blog gets a LOT of traffic from people looking for the answer.

    But it's annoying and plain narky that they're doing it. Feels like they're saying "yup, you can do amazing things" on one hand, and holding us back with the other.

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  12. Hi Mary,

    What "attribution gadget" are you referring to? I see Attribution1 on your blog, are you referring to that one? If so, in your CSS, why not add:

    div#Attribution1 {
    visibility: hidden; height: 0; width: 0;
    }

    You might notice that there is no such thing in any of the examples above :)

    -David

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  13. This is a super timely and helpful article. I love all the designs shown and love blogger. I'll be trying to figure out how to at least make my blogger blog better. If all goes well, I'll try and make a business site along the lines of the ode site. My goal is to eventually use it to sell my handmade fashion and wedding gowns :) Thanks for the inspiration!

    Cynthia

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  14. Excellent designs! Thanks so much for sharing and it's great to see you with such helpful responses to the comments...shared on my facebook and linked to my blog page ~ planning to incorporate some of your creative ideas! Melinda ~ Melinda Orr Designs

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  15. Great post, I am new to blogging and have limited skill with web design. I have a website that I need to change and get a new format. It is currently get free hosting with Microsoft Office Live Small Buisness which is coming to an end in October. I to would like to have contiue wit a FREE website hosting option.
    Does anyone know of any "how to make a website with blogger books" or video's? I would like to give this a try but a step by step guide would be a great help.
    Thanks for sharing this information with us. It gives us a new option other than using Wordpress and paying for a webhost.

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  16. Hi Gord -
    This was a very helpful book - Beginning Google Blogger - easy read and nice step by step instructions.
    http://www.amazon.com/Beginning-Google-Blogger-ebook/dp/B0041N3H20/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1312224908&sr=1-1
    Enjoy! :)
    DeLana

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  17. Hi DeLana, thanks for the information, I will check out the book to see if will help. I already do have a blog (timeandmoneyconnection.com) using blogger. What I am wanting to do is to create a website with blogger that does not look like a blog. If any one knows of any books or videos that may be useful to achieve this please let me know.

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  18. Great post. I was amazed to see the websites you guys have designed using blogger. Inspires me to dig more into HTML code.
    Thanks :)

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  19. I agree with what Erica has to say about this great post 100%. Traditional and expensive ways to market your product or service could actually be culled. You just need to dig further if you really have a tight budget. As they say, success of anything begins with loads of research, and seeing such designs by Confluent Forms LCC and being generous enough to say why and how is amazing.

    I believe with exciting innovations primarily by Google and other OpenSource proponents, it would really make it harder for people who refuse to adapt to these changes, pretty soon many will be left wondering why so many left and are not buying their absurd fees anymore.

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  20. Great post, thanks for sharing that!

    I like mostly
    360 Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark
    and
    Pinch Gallery.
    I wish I could find some blogger templates like those great designed sites. This could help bloggers like me, who are not designers.
    Best regards from Athens - Greece.

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  21. David,

    I know I'm coming to this party a little late, but OMG! I am totally overwhelmed by what you have accomplished and sharing. I am self-taught including a breached labor and delivery of a WordPress and Hostgator website.

    An absolute Google total solution package is exactly what I need with every asset in one location. No concerns for constant security reviews, widget and gadget updates and upgrades of the entire platform including version discord between different elements.

    What you have shared with me today will allow me to create an outstanding blog "AND" a viable website without anxiety attacks. I will immediately present this to my client as a win-win-win scenario.

    With sincere gratitude and appreciation,
    Craig - Richmond, VA

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  22. I checked some of these sites and blogger's new Lightbox seem to mess with them. When I click an image, it takes forever to load - even here on your own page - and then it loads images I don't even want to look at, including tiny page graphics in at least one case.

    Given that Lightbox is driving a lot of people nuts, do you have any advice on how to adequately disable it? Have you spoken to Google about it?

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  23. Hi Andy,

    Let me first start by saying that I greatly prefer their new lightbox to the old behavior. Before the lightbox, when you inserted an image into your article/page, that image would include a link out to the photo which was an awful behavior. I strongly prefer this behavior. I believe you can disable this in the same way you would disable the previous functionality: by removing the wrapping anchor tag.

    We're planning on stripping out the Lightbox functionality we created for those other sites as now there is no need plus it creates a Double-Lightbox (sort of like a Double Rainbow and just as annoying), just waiting for some down-time to launch the revision.

    I'll look into ways to disable it (and email you if I do), but have yet to spend much time with it.

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  24. Thanks David, It looks like Blogger have finally listened to concerns and revised their decision until further notice, so you migt want to hold off undoing existing LB functions.

    I fully appreciate that javasctipt albums make sense for some sites, or even some pages of sites, but not for every page of every blog-based site.

    Your coffee site is a prime example. every coffee been separator graphic, and what I assume to be a grey spacer graphic, loaded multiple times in LB if you clicked on the main image - and it took a very long time for the main image to show.

    For the science-based blogs I tend to read, a photo album viewer interferes with the experience by loading a mishmash of charts and graphs into an album with no narrative context.

    Anyway, thanks for responding. Hopefully this will be launched as a much-improved option next time.

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  25. This is just what I've been trying to do - create an index page which uses a totally different template to the main content. I can't however, figure out how you are doing it!

    Can you point me in the right direction?

    Thanks!

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  26. Hi Dom,

    There are two ways to identify the home/index page and hence to make that page work differently than any other page.

    One is:

    (stuff on homepage)


    The other is a variation of this index page determination.

    Good luck!

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  27. Thank you!

    I knew it had to be that simple, but pages and pages of search engine results turn up two, equally stupid, answers: 1, it can't be done, or 2, post-date an entry and limit displayed blogs to 1. I've done it!

    However, maybe you can help with one more issue. My site currently runs in a blog format, and I like the ability to browse recent posts. As I said, I want to replace the start page, but is it possible to link to the "most recent posts"?

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  28. I will have to check this out the next time I have some free time. Maybe in July. It is great to see how people can customize their blogs. Thanks for sharing this.

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  29. Such a good post. Do you know of any sites that offer training on how to do all of that? I'm interested in learning.

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  30. You haven't posted any technical details.

    Are you using conditional tags to bring up the templates for different pages?

    Do you make regions where client can add gadgets? I cannot figure this out with conditional tags for different pages.

    Are you using the built-in blogger tags or the JSON API to load content? (i.e., Do you bypass the bloated blogger code?)

    How do you host graphics for your layouts?

    Nicely done websites.

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  31. @Mike Ritter,

    It depends on the usage. For many sites it's easier to use page-level conditionals (if page url = '') to show specific elements, css, widgets or sections. To have a non-template following homepage, if blog.url = blog.homepageurl is a simple method and allows me to have that page alone not follow the normal template structure.

    Yes, clients are able to manage all of the content, and using similar to above, wrap the section in the if statement to show based on the URL. It'd be cleaner if you could put a conditional within a section so only the specific widget is conditional, but you can't and it has to be around the section.

    With the exception of a page features/functionality, all of the sites use the blogger code. Pinch Gallery uses JSON to load content, but it could have been done without...

    All graphics hosted in Picasa :)

    -David

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  32. Hi,

    So I found this post and can agree, the static pages provides interesting way to host a very good website in the Blogger platform.

    I actually spent the day converting my personal blog into a website.

    I also found the way to get back to the blog posts, was to link into http://sitename/2012 somewhere in the navigation.

    Have a look at www.who-els.co.za as a sample.

    Thank you.

    Johan Els

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  33. All I can say is, WOW! Super impressive. The sites you showcased are brilliant. I have been considering integrating my website within my blogger site (http://angeebees.blogspot.com/), but was not sure if it could be done and still maintain a "non-blog" look. I would really prefer to have all of my stuff in one place, at one URL. Thanks for the information. I have some further research to do before I take the plunge. :)

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  34. Hello, great post and commentings! Please: whre can i find "static layouts" for my blogger (blogspot) static website? I am not a programmer but i wouuld like to build duch a static website with blogspot. Are somewhere ready designs? THANKS

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jafeth, I'll be honest, I don't know where you'd download static website blogger templates... mainly because we custom design and develop them for our clients.

      Delete
  35. Boy, Blogger sure has improved since i used it back in the stone-age, around 2006!

    Over time, Google will give us more and more reasons to use Blogger (ie; integration with Google Plus) .. until eventually we have no choice.

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