Eye On Design: Does Your Blog Need A Make-Over?
By: Taylor Davies

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“No matter how great your blog looks, if it’s hard to navigate, you’ve defeated your own purpose. Great design is a good marriage of form and function.”

We think Jess Graves of The Love List hits the nail on the head with that statement. There’s no denying that when a new reader lands on your blog, the first thing they’re going to take in is your design. They may not directly judge it, but your header, your ease of navigation and the formatting of your posts is of paramount importance to them.

If you’re not getting it from us, it’s certain that just about anyone will tell you to “keep it simple” when it comes your blog’s aesthetic. Simple can be a loaded word though, and it certainly doesn’t mean plain. So what does it mean, and how can you apply it to your blog?

Graphic and web designer Breanna Rose, who has designed for sites like Verily Magazine, it can be a lover and Kenzie Poo, among others says, “I’m drawn to organized and clean design. That doesn’t necessarily mean there has to be white space everywhere – no way. It just means that whatever the aesthetic may be, it’s done in a tasteful way!”

She adds, “I think design on blogs is most successful when it’s not overdone. Photoshop is such a great tool, but it doesn’t mean you need to slap design elements on everything. Keep it simple and be consistent has always been my motto!” The consistency she’s talking about starts with small changes you can make without a complete make-over.

Same-width photos on a blog can make SUCH a huge difference in how your content is displayed. When images are piled up at several different widths, it can be hard on the eyes and turn away readers,” Breanna says.

So you’re ready for a change. Now what?

We’ve watched many of our favorite blogs undergo a design overhaul lately, including Stripes + Sequins, Court + Hudson, Style Bubble and yes, The Love List. (Style Bubble is a perfect example of design that’s smart and functional but full of personality.)

“I did my redesign myself,” says Jess. “It wasn’t difficult because I already have a very defined aesthetic, so it was really just a more grown-up version of my pre-existing brand to reflect my own growth. I have a graphic design background though, so for those who don’t, I’d definitely recommend hiring a professional designer.”

Hiring a designer doesn’t necessarily mean spending a pretty penny for a prettier site. There are plenty of freelancers and up-and-coming graphic and web designers with low rates who want to build their portfolio. Try running some online searches or look at the design credits on some of your favorite blogs for a starting point.

If you do hire a designer, Jess recommends having a firm grasp on what you want going into the project, so your brand and your ideas don’t get lost. “That’s not to say there’s no room to evolve,” she adds, “but the better the art direction you give your designer, the happier with the result you’ll be.”

Start by looking at your favorite blogs and magazines. Take note of the design elements you like (yes, actually write them down), and how you might twist and adapt them for your personality and taste. Maybe even draw a sketch or two!

As independent bloggers we’re naturally self-starters, so there’s no reason you can’t take the design of your blog into your hands. There are innumerable tutorials available online for just about any customizations you could want to make, whether you’re on Blogger, WordPress, Typepad or something else.

Kira of Her New Leaf, has a blog that focuses on DIY, crafting, blogging – as well as a special section called “Primp My Blog.” (How cute is that?) Here you’ll find her own guide and tools for all kinds of aspects of blog design from social and “Pin It” buttons to themes, favicons, fonts and even spring cleaning tips. (Also note that her blog is by no means all black-and-white, and has colorful flourishes everywhere, but is so easy to navigate!)

She notes that beyond the aesthetic appeal of your blog, there are some technical aspects to consider as well. “Knowing how your blog functions in different browsers and on different screen resolutions is essential!” says Kira. “Just because it looks good on your screen doesn’t mean it will work everywhere.” She also added that many readers will access your blog through mobile, so it’s key to make sure your site is optimized for mobile viewing.

Branding & Details

For Jess, establishing (or maintaining) your brand identity is a top priority. “Define your brand and stick to it as soon as you can! The more comfortable you get in your brand identity, the easier it will be to know what feels like you and what doesn’t — and your readers will be able to see that. The more defined your aesthetic, the more honed-in you are on what makes you you, that’s when a great brand emerges.

Breanna’s key to design success is putting a lot of thought into the little things. “Think about each and every detail you’re putting out there,” she says. “Think about why you have it and if you need it. The quote “Keep things as simple as possible, but not simpler” by Einstein says it all! Good design will help your blog on so many levels. Are you proud of your blog? If not, think about how design can change things.”

 

image credit: Zack Zhang for Harper’s Bazaar

 

 

Comments

  1. This article couldn’t have been more timely as I’m just about to give my blog a makeover… It’s reassuring that I don’t necessarily have to get a graphic designer to do it, plus you’ve provided some great links. So thank you!

    Catherine :)

  2. Miloveda says:

    I really enjoyed this and i loved that you guys said to keep it simple the design..

  3. Melanie says:

    As a graphic designer (and illustrator) I can’t stress the importance of good design enough. There are so many times a sites design makes me want to press my back button. Because of my art/design training, I’m really sensitive to “good” and “bad” design (I quote because “art is subjective”).

    I recently redid my blog and the design came rather naturally as I went along. I have basically been planning since March, made several mockups, and it looks nothing like my original sketch, which is okay. I’d say for people considering their own design, some important elements to really think about that could hold a lot of character include the header (obviously, or so I hope), the background (or lack thereof), post dividers, sidebar headers, social media icons, and the overall color scheme. A limited palette is very aesthetically pleasing :)

    Thanks for posting on this! I’ve been thinking about adding a blog design guide to my own blog for others to learn from. Good design is basically my life, and I’d love for others to understand it thoroughly, too!

  4. Gabbie says:

    As a web/graphic/blog designer .I cant stress it enough to bloggers that you need to brand and find what your blogs design is about. If you are into simple lines and shapes then use that. Blog design isnt $$$$ you just need to find a designer that can cater to your needs and wont kill your bank account but as a FYI not all designers are blog designers . Find one that is a blog designer .

  5. I think it’s so much fun to do redesigns. Everything I’ve altered on my blog took so much time but it’s all worth it in the end.

    And I also think repetition with HTML and graphic design helps you perfect the method. You may not necessarily end up with a product you love on the first time but you’ll definitely learn something new every time.

    Castle Fashion

  6. StyleDestino says:

    A very insightful article. Informative, to-the-point and useful.

  7. Audrey says:

    I sometimes get discouraged to read certain blogs whose content is good but the design could use some work. I’m also working on redesigning my blog, trying to make it more me and easy enough for my readers to know what I write about. Thanks for the tips!

  8. Rita says:

    The tip on mobile awareness is excellent. I find this essential but most bloggers and fashion sites don’t keep this in mind. Make it easy for your reader to access you on their tables and other mobile devices. WordPress has a feature on mobile and it has made a huge difference for allowing my blog to be read on ipads or mobile phones without wasting my reader’s data credits too much! Many spend their mornings on the train commuting and that is an excellent opportunity to check their favourite blogs so, I agree, be tech aware! :)

  9. Great post!
    Very helpful.

  10. Very interesting article!

    I just redesigned my blog and I hope I have achieved a good marriage between form and function!

    Having pictures all the same size makes such a huge difference… I am changing some of my earlier posts too!!!

    xxx
    Nina
    http://trendsurvivor.com/

  11. Maria V says:

    I wouldn’t reccomend to use a designer unless you can check their previous work and some kind of references. Up-and-coming are maybe cheaper but there is no guarantee they’ll create something good. I’m saying that from a personal sad experience. The guy was reccomended by someone but he didn’t have anything to show… He basically was testing his studies on my site. 3 months it took him to install template!!! Moreover when I tried to end our agreement (as it became outrageous), he sneaked from the back end and took my site down. I had a lawer and police involved to bring the site back. So seriously people, if you’re going to employ someone without experience – think twice!

  12. I find myself becoming pretty indecisive with the design I want for my blog. I must have created five different logos and can’t choose which to stick with. :)

    ❥ The GUILTY HYENA . COM

  13. Sarah says:

    I’m looking for an inexpensive blog designer, does anyone on this forum have any experience with someone good?

  14. MizzJ says:

    Speaking of layout, I’d like to point out a small bug in IFB actually that I’ve been seeing for awhile. If a user’s comment is longer than 1 paragraph, the Reply button gets overlaid by the comment text in Chrome. Not sure if it’s my screen size, which is 11″, but might be worth fixing when you guys find a spare moment? :)

  15. kimmie says:

    I’m so lucky that I’m friends with a good web developer and he’s handling my redesign. There are a few things I’m going to learn for myself (Primp My Blog is a GREAT source) but I’ thankful that someone else is able to handle the biggest part of it. It’s already streamlined but I’m ready to do away with all of the extra widgets for something that’s a little more cohesive in style. Can’t wait til it’s done!

  16. I am super excited to share this new workshop that I will be offering. I often hear people feeling discouraged because they want their blog to look better than it does. They want to add fun graphics & just really give it some personality. I noticed that some blogs really lack the brand of who the blog belongs to. Don’t you wish you knew how to do THAT!?

    I am going to be offering 2-day workshops teaching design for blogging & we are calling it FLOCK. Yup! It’s going to be Adobe Illustrator focused & will touch on Adobe Photoshop as well for some retouching tips & for creating fun animated GIFs (or photos that move!).

    If you are interested in attending the first workshop to be held in Long Beach, California you can purchase your ticket by emailing birdsofafeatherla@gmail.com. -xx

  17. I redesigning my blog from time to time since I’m not yet that satisfied with how it looks. However, based on what my readers tell me, they said they love it that way.

    Can you visit my blog? I wanna hear your side on my blog’s design. It would really be a big help.

    Thank you! :)

  18. STEPH says:

    I do really cheap blog designs here:) http://bonjourbellexo.blogspot.co.uk/p/shop.html x

  19. Cristina says:

    Great article! Design really is important – some people won’t ever get to the content, if your design is unappealing or confusing.

    I’m a web designer and I love doing blog make-overs. Nothing better than a happy blog owner with a brand new design that they can be proud of.

    I offer very affordable blog design, if anyone is interested – check out http://cristina.dk/en :)

  20. This is a really good post to remind people that the look/feel of the blog is just as important as the content as it might put people off. If you’re stuck, ask a friend who’s not into fashion blogs to give their honest opinion of how easy the site is to navigate and rate it on “looks”. They will be more critical than a friend who supports what you’re doing and sometimes on your own blog it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees!

  21. Emily Ulrich says:

    I’ve been in the process of redesigning my blog, but Blogger seems to be working against my attempts at HTML with recurring bug reports. I don’t know whether I should pursue HTML on my own or hire someone… that being said, I’m not even sure where to begin looking for that sort of help.

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