Friday, June 10, 2011

Editing your Blog's template: advantanges and disadvantages

This article is about the consequences of modifying your blog's template.

Previously I've explained that your blog is made up of a number of components:   your content, and a number of other parts including the blog template.

Initially, every blog has a blog-templates chosen from the options supplied by Google when the blog was created.  However it's possible to change to a different blog-template at any time, and there are lots of options both from Google (custom, layout and now designer templates), and from third parties.

You can edit your template, from the Layout / Edit HTML tab.   And the recommended answer to many "how do I ..." questions in the Blogger Help Forum is to do just that.

However there are some consequences, and (at least) one of Blogger's software engineers recommends not editing your template [in the comments following from this post]- even though s/he also says that doing so is very much part of the supported features that Blogger offers.

This article explains these consequences, so that you can make an informed decision about whether to edit your template or not.

Google's blog-templates

Google / Blogger offers four different types of template:  Custom, Layout, Designer and Dyamic.  (Ref:  types of blog template) - and there are mobile variations within the Designer options, too.

For Layout, Designer and Dynamic templates, they also offer a number of different styles, for example Minima, Minima Stretch, Denim, Rounders, Thisaway Rose, Simple, Awesome, etc).

For each style of template, Google has a current version.   But there are also earlier versions that used to be current but have been superseded as problems with them have been found and fixed:

When Google make a change to their "master copy" of a particular template, they also look at all the blogs that already use that template:  if a blog's copy of the template has not been editied (by the owner), then it is updated to include the changes that Google made to the master copy.

But if a blog's template has been changed, Google cannot update it with the improvements that they've made to the master template, because doing so would over-write the change that the blog-owner made.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The major disadvantage of editing your blog template is that you may not get the benefits of improvements that Google make to the master template.

There are some other disadvantages too:
  • You might make a mistake, and corrupt your template (possibly in subtle ways that you don't notice at first).
  • You need to take back-ups, just in case you make a really horrible mistake - and it can get confusing managing all the versions of the backup file.
  • It's more difficult to get support from the Blogger Help Forum is your template is non-standard (because the helpers there don't know how you've changed things
  • When it's time to update your blog to use a new template, there is no way to make a list of all the changes that you have applied to your current template (unless you've got a copy of the un-changed template as it was when you applied it to your blog for the first time).
But there are some pretty major advantages:
  • You can make changes to your blog that you cannot make in any other way
  • It's easy to back up any changes that you make:  while there are some changes that could be put into HTML/Javascript gadgets on your blog, there is no easy way to back these up.  If you accidentally delete a gadget, the only way to get it back is to re-create it manually.

Final thoughts

The Add CSS function in the Template Designer is at attempt to let us change our templates in a way that is known, and gets around these issues.   But I'm not convinced that it always shows all the template changes I've makde, and there are some changes I want to make that don't relate to the CSS.

Personally, I'm going to continue editing the HTML in my blog-template.

You need to make the own decisions about whether to do so or not.   Hopefully this article will help you to understand the consequences, either way.

Related Articles 

Components in your blog

Types of blog template.

Adding a new CSS rule to your blog's template

Setting up Google Analytics for your blog

Adding a line between your posts

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  1. Interesting article. I have been using blogger for years and modifying the templates to create a unique design and functionality. Up until recently I was able to add javascripts ( hosted elsewhere and just called upon by the template) without any problems. I can't get this to work at all now any thoughts?

  2. I don't know what may have caused that: have you posted to the Blogger Help Forum, to see if anyone there knows about a change that might have caused it?