When you're a new blogger, one of the first challenges you'll face is deciding how you want your blog to look. If you're like me, you probably have no clue about coding and will pick one of the pre-designed templates offered for your blog platform. You'll probably add a few gadgets, put in some links, and if you're photo-savvy, add in a custom header and a pic or two in your sidebar.
That's what I did anyway. Here's a snapshot of Rambling Renovators, circa early 2010:
Sad, isn't it? It seems so barren not to mention the text was too small, the photos too small, and my homemade banner was looking a little, well, homemade. If you're curious what your blog looked like back in the day, check out this site.
At some point though, you'll probably want a more custom look for your blog that better reflects you and your content. We all do it - judge a blog by its cover - so having an attractive and effective design is critical to attracting and retaining readers. Here's a few principles I find that are consistent amongst my favourite designed blogs:
- Keep it simple. Make it easy for your readers to find things like a Search bar to go through your past posts, or a Contact page.
- Visuals matter. Unless your blog is a writing blog, try to have an image in every single post. Even better, use your own original photography that won't be seen on any other blog. Here's some tips I learned about taking photos for my blog from the Style At Home crew.
- White is right. Use a lot of white space. Use large fonts that are easy to read. Differentiate between headings, text, quotes etc. by using different fonts or font colours.
- Be familiar. The majority of blogs will have the same basic foundation - blog header followed by a post and additional info in a sidebar. Readers like to know where things are. Don't be so unique with your blog design that you confuse people.
- Forget the bells and whistles. Readers like blogs that load quickly and are beautiful in appearance. That means don't use heavy graphics or too much Flash or video. My biggest pet peeve: music. I'd rather have the choice to listen to music or not, rather than have it blare automatically when I visit a site (especially if I'm doing it at work or in a quiet coffeeshop, ha!)
- Well directed. Well designed blogs are like a map - they direct you around the space. Important links are generally placed 'above the fold'. Do you want people to read a weekly series that you run? Put a button in the sidebar. Want to highlight your most popular posts? Have links in an easy to find spot.
Do you have anything to add to the list? What features do you like in a blog? What are some of your favourite blog designs?
In case you're looking for inspiration, here's some blogs that I think are really well designed: