Blogs & Blogging

What Is A 4-5-4 Calendar (And Why Bloggers Should Use One)

Since studying fashion merchandising I've learned so much about the business from the college side, but what do you expect, right? One of the things that solved such a huge mystery to me was how it seemed that some retailers would begin selling merchandise so early. Like when they'd be selling Halloween merchandise, it would seem like they practically would skip Thanksgiving and were already selling Christmas merchandise. Well, if you have a small business and don't know about the 4-5-4 calendar it might just be the answer to some of your questions. 

What's-a-4-5-4-Calendar

So what IS a 4-5-4 calendar?  

If you divide the retail calendar into 52 weeks of seven days each, or 364 days, it leaves an extra day each year to be accounted for. As a result, every five to six years a week is added to the fiscal calendar. 

Why was the 4-5-4 calendar created? 

According to NRF.com, prior to and during the 1930’s, retailers used a straight calendar to report monthly sales. This calendar became problematic as Saturdays and Sundays became an increasingly large percentage of sales, since the number of weekends in a month varied year to year. A calendar that maintained the same number of weekends in comparable months was desired and the 4-5-4 Calendar was developed. 

What's the purpose of the 4-5-4 calendar? 

With the 4-5-4 Calendar in effect it serves as a guide for the retail industry and ensures sales comparability between years by dividing the year, or each quarter, into months based on a 4 weeks – 5 weeks – 4 weeks format. The layout of the calendar lines up holidays and makes sure there are the same amount of Saturdays and Sundays in comparable months. Like days are compared to like days for sales reporting purposes.  

That's great and all, but how do you USE the 4-5-4 calendar? 

Let's take a look at the 2016-2018 4-5-4 calendar. Let's use Valentine's Day since it's the next holiday coming up. For 2016 and 2017, Valentine's Day falls in Week 3, but in 2018 it falls in Week 2. That means retailers have three options here. They can either begin distribution and promotion of Valentine's Day merchandise a week or two earlier (Week 51/52), they can wait that week to begin distribution and aggressively promote the merchandise in the smaller time period, or do a combination of both. 

So why should bloggers use the 4-5-4 calendar? 

For practically the same reasons. Comparing analytics, editorial calendar purposes, and if you sell items through a shop, when you can start sales and such. If you know you only have a week and a half between the new year and Valentine's Day, you might start working on items for posts around the last week of the year to have them ready for the week of Valentine's Day. 

 Photo Credit: Studio Curve

Amanda ❤

Times, They Are a-Changin'

2014 is around the corner and with a new year comes changes. But specifically, I'm talking about changes to the blog. 

If you haven't noticed, some items have moved around now that I'm focusing more on specific things. I've decided that I won't continue with the Monday Quotables posts but I have a plan to fill the spot. 

There will be more food and fashion posts, but most importantly, there will be more personal posts. I always shy away from writing them because I feel nobody wants to hear personal stuff. It's an effort to keep my OLW: PUSH at the forefront of everything I do. 

Other changes will be behind the scenes. Things that have to do with SEO, blog goals, alt image tags, and pretty much getting over the stigma that saying "I'm a blogger" seems to come with. I also plan on commenting more on other people's blogs and marketing. There's no way this place is going to grow if I don't make other people aware of it, right? Right!

I can feel it. 2014 is going to be a good year! 

XO Panda

Amanda ❤

Fix My Blog: Distorted Images

A couple of weeks ago I talked about one of the things that irks me in blog advertising, unreadable text. This week, I'm talking about the other item which irks me the most, and that's distorted images. 

So I was perusing IFB and the ads stuck out at me again, for the wrong reasons. 

Distorted Images as seen on IFB

I took a screenshot so you could see what I was talking about. The two offenders were Fashionaholic and Travel Pumps. I decided to fix them up a bit. 

Travel Pumps Before-After
I checked ad sizes for these two different blogs and for Travel Pumps, the dimensions are 125x125. Obviously the before image is too big for the allotted size and therefore the image gets distorted. Also, I decided to zoom in on the picture a bit and move the text over to a more appealing space. The lines from the wall, the angle from her shoulder and the way her face is pointed makes it look as if she were looking at the blog title for her ad, whereas in the before photo, the text gets lost in the busy-ness of her hands. I also lightened the exposure a bit. 

Fashion A Holid Before-After
The dimensions for FashionAHolic are 300x145, also too big for the allotted space and therefor GREATLY distorting her blog ad. Since she only has a small amount of space to work with I decided to try zooming in on an interesting piece of her photo. Although the photos aren't exactly the same, they're similar so I had decided on focusing on her hand, purse and sleeve of the coat. I don't know what font she originally used but I went with Bauer Bodoni because Vogue uses a similar looking one and what's more 'Fashion' than Vogue? Also a white stroke to help it stand out against the photo. 

Like I said the first time, If you're going to spend $150 and $75 on blog ads to get more eyes on your blog and turn that into a profit, you have to make sure that those images stand out from the others to get a decent return on your investment. Not following dimensions makes your brand look unprofessional and turns readers away because it's not pleasing to the eye. 

Bottom line: Follow the specifications that you're allowed so you can get the full impact you deserve. 

XO Panda

Amanda ❤

Unreadable Text in Blog Ads

I may not have finished the Viscom program at school but I learned enough and I wanted to talk about one of the things that irks the holy hell out of me in blog advertising. Unreadable text. 

Picture 2

I'm a frequent reader of IFB and a while back after IFBcon, they started offering ads to their members, which is cool. I applaud that, since they're all about blogging comraderie. I recently headed over there and decided to check out some of the blogs they were promoting. 

Instead of checking out the blogs, I was bothered with two of the buttons on the list. Purely Bloom and Travel Pumps. While Purely Bloom isn't necessarily my cup of tea, Travel Pumps might be something I'd check out periodically. The problem is, their ad buttons are purely uninspiring. If I didn't know better, I wouldn't have even given them a second glance. 

This is the problem with both of the buttons. The text doesn't stand out from the image, and excuse me if I'm wrong, but that's the whole point. To make it stand out to attract readers to your blog. So I went to their blogs and found the images that they'd used for their buttons... and redesigned them. 

I mean, if you're going to pay $75 for an ad spot, you'd want to make sure that you're getting the bang that you expected for your buck, right? Right! So here's what I came up with. 

Up first, Purely Bloom. 

Purely Bloom
In her original button I'm pretty sure she's using Verdana but on her blog she uses a cursive font. I wanted to try using the cursive font from her blog but I couldn't figure it out, so I just ended up using Lavanderia because I think it lends itself to the 'bloom' aspect because of the flourishes on the p,y, and b. I used a drop shadow to help make the title in this ad stand out. In the original she also used a violet-red font color that blends in with the colors of her dress. You want contrast. You want something that's going to stick out, not something that's going to blend in with your image because that's not going to get you many pageviews. 

Next, Travel Pumps. 

Travel Pumps
For Travel Pumps, I stayed with her original choice of using Verdana for her font. It wasn't a bad choice since it's a clean font, and her fashion choices are equally as clean. For some reason, this button also used a violet-red font color so I used the color picker to pick up the color from her sunglasses which gives amazing contrast to her cream outfit. Adding a stroke around the title is what helps make it stand out. I also focused more on her upper half choosing to show "The girl behind the blog" instead of using a whole body shot like she did. The angle that her arm is posed is perfect for leading the reader to the title of her blog placed at the bottom instead of dead smack in the middle which got swallowed up by the busy-ness in the picture beforehand

So all I'm saying today is this, if you're going to pay a nice little chunk of your hard earned money, make sure you're getting a decent return on your investment by making your ad stand out from the others. 

Amanda ❤

Why I Blog

Why I Blog
Today I wanted to talk a little bit about why I blog and how it's changed my life.I originally tried blogging with Blogger, as does everybody but I found it to be cumbersome even though tons of people agree that it's easy, simple or what have you. I soon found Typepad there after and I loved the backend of it so much. It was streamlined and organized and WAY simpler to me than Blogger ever was, and I've stuck with it. Some people complain about having to pay for a blogging service but I honestly love it. If I didn't, I wouldn't have stayed with them for so long and ANY typepad customer will agree that the customer service is BEYOND amazing! I can ask the simplest of questions and their response is usually within 24 hours. I can search in the archives for ways to add HMTL/CSS code to add that something special to my blog or ask customer service and they'll direct me to where I could find more info. It's honestly great! 

I've been with Typepad for the past 6 years or so, with a previous blog where I shared a lot of personal content about me and a now ex-boyfriend. Then we broke up and I didn't want to keep working on a blog that held me to the past so I closed it down. I didn't know what to blog about anymore, so I quit for about two months.

After a weeklong trip to North Carolina to visit my mom I had so much inspiration and growth that I realized I couldn't NOT blog. I had done it for so long that it had become a part of me and I missed it. I missed taking pictures for the sole purpose of the blog. I missed creating things to share with people. I don't have many readers and that's just fine with me. I do it because I like to do it. I do it because it's a part of me that I enjoy. 

I love that blogging has gotten me to do things that I normally wouldn't have done. Held me accountable to challenges I've created for myself. Done things so that I can share. It makes me get up an hour earlier to go take pictures at the beach on a Monday morning on a clear, beautiful Southern California day. How I can have a case of the Monday's when my Monday includes going to the beach? How can I have a case of the Monday's when the above picture is my view? It makes me think of projects and recipes I'd like to try, DIYs to share and probably the most significant thing, forced me to be okay with taking pictures of myself. Trust me, there is nothing more self-concious than taking an outfit photo of yourself on a random street, or park, or beautifully painted mural. 

As I'm writing this, I realize that blogging is the equivalent to my best friend, Richard. Just like he makes me want to be better, so does blogging. I want to learn to take better pictures, I want to learn to create things with techiniques I've never tried before, I want to grow this blog with more followers and eventually create a small business with it. 

To put it into better terms, blogging makes me dream. 

XO Panda
Amanda ❤

The Time is Almost Here

Afterfocus_1342164821813_Sophia_Baham_Clean

For this weeks blogging post, I thought I'd bring up the impending change here at City Spirit. If you've followed me for a while, you'll know that This blog once started out named something different. I'm one of those people the feel like when they've outgrown something, it's totally okay to move on. Blog names are not the exception. I mentioned here that I had purchased a new domain name and that I would be switching it over to that new name once the my time with CS is up. I've decided to speed things up a bit and implement the new name come September. I've already started changing a few small things here and there that aren't visibly noticeable. 
As much as I've loved working and growing under the CS name, I think this new name will make it easier for me to continue in the direction that I've chosen to go in as far as this little blog is concerned. WIth the new name implementation, there will also be a slight little makeover. Nothing big. Just the banner (obviously) navigation links, and blog buttons. New business cards have been designed and will be ordered soon, I can't wait to show you those! 
I'm excited for this change. 
I'll be leaving this post up at the top for the next couple of days until September comes. I'll also remind you to change your bookmarks and whatnot. If you're following on typepad, you won't have to do anything.
Amanda ❤

Photo Organization for City Spirit

Hey guys! 

When it comes to certain things, I like to be very organized. There are things that I NEED to know where they're at. Blog matter is one of those things. Here's how I keep blog content organized for CS. 

(Click images to enlarge) 

Hard-Drive
1. I mentioned in my Blogging Essentials post how I keep all my blog content on an external hard drive. 

CS
2. On that hard drive, I also have several other things saved. Miscellaneous items like taxes and other pertinent information. All the pictures that I've taken since 2008, fonts that I've downloaded, and even my old VisCom work. 

Pictures
3. I'm showing my photo organization for the blog and all the photos fall into one of the categorized folders. If a photo isn't part of a particular category and is more on the personal side, I just put them in the 'Images for posts' folder. The folders that are actually being used are the Blogging, Eats,Fashion,Frank & Kit, Influenster reviews, Long Beach, Photography, and Projects folders. 

Folder
4. This is how it typically looks inside a folder. Subfolders for different items that contain more than one photo, and a designated folder for all index photos. 

Do you organize your photos or not? If you do, how do you do it? If not, why not? 

 

Amanda ❤

How To: Optimize Photos for Fast Load Times

Hi there! I'm here to show a simple and quick way to optimize photos for faster load times along with a few tips that I use to reduce image data. I know you're wondering, "What does that have to do with my blog?" When you decide to use images on your blog, size matters. Both pixel and digital size determine how quickly your blog pages load. We've been there before, someone's blog takes too long to load and next thing you know, we're on to the next one. So to keep your images attractive and still have them load quickly, you need to optimize them. 

Optimizing an image for the web simply means you're compressing a digital image's data. When you take a digital picture, a lot of noise is included in the digital file that isn't neccesary for the photo to be viewed. 

One thing I do is make sure I know the dimensions of the content portion of my blog. For instance, if your content box is 500 pixels wide, you want your image to be smaller than that. I edit my photos to fit into my blogs dimensions. Another important thing I do is reduce my photo's resolution. I know this may seem bad but in reality it isn't. The standard resolution for a computer screen is 72 pixels per inch. Your image's resolution doesn't have to be anything higher than that so reducing it from 300 to 72 can help with image size. I keep mine at 100 just as a personal preference. 

Now, on to optimizing. I use Photoshop CS4 but I'm sure the newer version still has the same options. 

Save-for-Web-and-devices

Once you're ready to save your image go to File > Save for Web & Devices. My image is open in this screenshot, it's just that it's a small image so the drop down menu covered it. 

Save-for-web-and-devices-2

This next screen will show up. On the left, the original image before optimizing reads in at 57.4K on the left, and 20.99K on the right. It's the same image with the same color profile. The only thing that's changed is the information within the image, which is now compressed and optimized for the web, which in turn, will now load faster on your blog! YAY! 

I'm not sure how this would work on other programs but here is a list of resources you could use if you don't have Photoshop. 

Amanda ❤

My Blogging Essentials

Blogging-essentials

There are a couple of things that I have that I would consider to be my blogging ESSENTIALS. I would call them my "Top 10 blogging essentials" but there aren't enough items on my list to make it to 10. Aside from my laptop, these are the things that I use ALL the time when I'm planning blogposts. 

Blogging notebook: This  is where I plan all my ideas, schedule all my posts, and keep a list of ideas to blog about. If it has ANYTHING to do with the blog, it goes in here. Working on a new layout? All measurements, check lists of what needs to be done, and colorways go into here. 

Post-It Notes: I use these all the time. If there are things that I'm playing with or trying to figure out, like colorways, dimensions, or anything else that I might be unsure of, I'll use the post it notes. Once I've figured everything out, I'll re-write everything on a new Post-It, and stick it in the notebook. 

Bamboo Tablet: I've had my tablet for some years now. I got it my first semester of Viscom and love it. I use it all the time for it's mouse. I'll use the pen as well, but not as much. Maybe I'll try my hand at the whole, 'Writing on photos' trend that seems to be going around, but it's highly unlikely as it's not my style.

Camera & USB: Obviously the USB is for tranferring photos but there would be no photos if it weren't for my cameras. I use both a Nikon D60 and a Nikon L22 point and shoot and I've used them for about the last four years or so. I would upgrade but for the time being, they both get the job done. 

Water: I always have water on hand. No matter where I go, there's always a bottle of water with me. It's really the only thing I drink now, since I decided to get healthy. No soda, juice or coffee, (although I DO miss coffee like crazy!) 

External Hard drive: I don't save any blog related stuff onto my computer but rather to my External Hard Drive just to save space. The one I currently use is 250 GB but I intend to buy a terabyte sometime in the future. All JPEG, PNG, PDFs, PS, AI, fonts, EVERYTHING pertaining to this place is saved on there. 

Photoshop: Although I own other programs, Photoshop is the program that I use the most, hands down for everything. 

So that's pretty much everything I use on a regular basis for CS. Also, please excuse my desk. It's messy but tends to show what I'm working on. 

XO Panda

Amanda ❤

Typepad: Typelist Tip

Have you ever wanted to create a typelist in Typepad and wish that you didn't have to input a title because you didn't want it to be visible on your blog? No fret. Here's a quick and simple way to create a typelist with without having it's title appear in your sidebars.  Typelist-tip

Once you've decided what sort of typelist you want to create, in the name field, Insert <!--yourtitlehere-->, changing yourtitlehere, of course. The characters on either side of the title will ensure that the title will not appear to readers while still being visible to you to help you organize each list. This trick works with any typelist. 

Go ahead! Give it a try! 

Amanda ❤