Start With Design
Let’s face it, we can all say “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” until we’re blue in the face, but your first impression is always going to be visual-and thus you are still going to judge a blog by what’s going on with it’s appearance and design.
DIY or Hiring Someone?
The first thing you’ll want to decide is whether you have the skills to design your layout yourself, or the money to hire someone to do it for you. Sometimes it’s easier (although more costly) to just turn it over to someone who has the time and skills to dedicate to creating it for you-but often times funds are an issue and if your blog is just a small hobby you may not want to pay too much. There are lots of designers out there, and costs can vary depending on what you’d like and how much they value their time. As an in-between option, you can often find pre-made templates that install easily for less than a custom install.
Either way, you’re going to want to know some of the following basics for designing it or for telling the designer.
The Layout Basics
Before getting started putting together your actual design, you’ll want to figure out a few of your basics. Here are some questions to ask yourself before getting started, and once you have the answers you can move forward from there with creating the perfect look and feel for your blog:
- What layout do you want? 1 sidebar or 2? Left or right sidebar? One on each side? One sidebar or two? A lot of people prefer just one for a nice clean simplistic look.
- Where do you want your header? Most often it’s at the top, but you may opt for a sidebar header instead (like my design above) to shake things up a little.
- Do you want a background color or just white? A stark white background with some colorful elements on top provides a nice clean look, while a mild colored background may make it feel more warm and inviting or homey. It’s really up to you.
- What is your color scheme? Picking just a few colors that go really well together is key. You don’t want to be crazy with 10 different random colors-but you don’t want to be too boring either..
- What fonts will you use? Generally they say you pick one fancy font (cursive, unique, etc.) and one simple font. That way it gives you a nice readable balance between the two in your design. You can find lots of font options at dafont.com, just make sure you check out license agreements if you plan to use your blog for any profit-some are really inexpensive to purchase and others require more cost.
Your Personalized Look
Once you’ve figured out your basics and have that ready to go, you’ll want a more personalized look by creating a blog header and some buttons that match. Your header is going to be the thing that gives people their first impression of what your blog is about. If you’ll look at the example above you’ll see that the Health NOT to Health NUT banner not only tells you the title of the blog, but shows that it’s probably fitness related. You may wish to just use words, but sometimes a little icon can portray a lot more as well. Using the same design to create personalized buttons will allow people to share your buttons on their blog as well as give you something to use for advertising if you decide to advertise your blog.
You may also want to consider a Blog Intro Graphic for your design. This is generally an image of you that welcomes people to your blog, tells a small amount of information about you, or does both! These are a great way to instantly show off the type of person the blogger is and give people a good idea about the person behind the blog!
You can use Photoshop (or The Gimp which is free) to create headers, info graphics, and buttons; or a simple online option is PicMonkey. Here is a great tutorial for creating Headers and Navbars using PicMonkey.
- Fonts. Your blog post font should not be a specialty font. Yes, blogger and other services offer these curly fonts but don’t use them. They’re too hard to read-it’s terrible on the eyes, just don’t do it. Use something normal and easy to read, and keep it above 10pt so that people aren’t squinting.
- Colors. The background of your posts and your font colors should not conflict. Stick with white/light background with a dark font, or a black/dark background with light font. Contrast is good. I wont even bother reading something that is hard to see… Like pink text on a red background…
- Pictures. Pictures should be large and clear (try to avoid grainy/blurry when possible) and should all be the same width. This presents a more professional appearance and provides a smooth and pleasurable viewing for your readers.
- Break up the text. There is nothing more annoying than one large block of text that spans pages… This is the biggest thing that will cause your readers to skim instead of read. Break it down into proper paragraphs with good spacing, and use photos whenever possible to break up the text.
Those are just a few simple tips for your blog design, and some examples of designs I’ve done that tend to fit with these tips. Check out a lot more blogging tips in my New Blogger Series.