Updated August 15, 2017
If you adhere to the tips below, you’ll be well on your way to a great blog design.
I would like to preface this by saying that for every item listed here, you’ll find a successful website that does exactly the opposite. I would say those are exceptions to the rules.
1. Make sure your site is mobile responsive
As more and more people access the internet via their handheld devices, it’s important that your site shows up well, regardless of gadget. This handy tool will tell you whether or not your site is mobile-friendly. Just enter your URL.
2. Do make your blog’s purpose immediately apparent
Visitors should be able to tell within 3 seconds what your blog is about. Use a bio box, tagline or something similar to communicate it. Would visitors be able to describe to others what you do?
3. Use lots of whitespace
Whitespace allows your site to breathe and is less overwhelming.
4. Don’t clutter your sidebars with all sorts of gadgets and widgets
Only keep things that have a meaningful purpose. Besides, all those fancy plugins can slow your site down.
5. Do keep your header height minimal
Don’t make your header image so tall visitors have to scroll down excessively to see your content.
6. Do make navigation clear and obvious
You don’t want a visitor to land on your site, read one page, not know where to go next and therefore leave. You want them to stick around a while!
7. Don’t have auto-play music, videos or ads on your blog
Many an unsuspecting blog reader has come upon a site that scares the eebie jeebies out of them (or worse, their sleeping infant) when the auto-play music or video starts blaring.
These days, this happens most frequently with ads, so if you use display advertising in your monetization efforts, make sure you know what your readers will experience. Is it worth it?
Bonus tip: Did you know most browsers allow you to mute the sound in an open browser tab? For example, I use Google Chrome to get around the web. If I happen upon a webpage with an auto-play video, I right-click on the tab in my browser and choose “Mute Tab” from the dropdown. I can then carry on reading without the sound.
8. Do put a contact link, button or page on your blog
Do make it clearly visible. Blogging is part of social media and is meant to be engaging.
9. Do look at your blog from a reader’s point of view
Does your site make sense to a new visitor? If you’re not sure, have a trusted friend look at it for you.
10. Don’t use light text on a dark background
This is extremely difficult to read and is hard on the eyes.
- Print Friendly – A tool that gives your readers the ability to print out your posts easily. You can add a Print Friendly button to your site.
- HTML & CSS tutorials – Get a crash course in CSS or HTML.
So much design can be done on your own. For those of you who have good design sense, this shouldn’t be difficult. For those of us with little design talent, it can be learned. I am completely self taught. There are so many free tutorials and free or very reasonably-prices resources online. Canva and PicMonkey are good places to start for designing graphics. For site design, I recommend you pay a little bit for a Genesis theme. Read why here.
Sure, there is a learning curve, and it takes longer, but I do think it’s worth the experience.
If you are working within a small budget (or no budget as I was for years), DIY is the way to go. However, if you have a healthy budget or you don’t have the time to learn on your own, you might want to hire a designer.
Designers I have worked with personally
- Joy from Five J’s Design – Joy is a whiz at making your blog work. Her knowledge about the back end of blogs is impressive. Her design queue is typically full, but she is usually open to projects that are not full blog designs. UPDATE: Joy is not longer taking clients for full blog designs. However, she may be available for minor tweaks, graphics or book cover design.
- Sarah from Sarah Teichert Creative – Sarah is an old friend and has created a lot of my graphics, including my book cover (referral link). She’s amazing.
- Ted from Contemplate Design – Ted designed one of the version of my old site and is also responsible for the designs of Ann Voskamp, Lisa-Jo Baker and Don’t Mom Alone.
Designers via a service
If you use a 3rd party service here my tips:
- Take the time to look through lots of profiles of various freelancers. Be sure to look at their portfolios to get an idea of their style.
- Start a relationship with that person by giving them a small project at first. Clearly state the objectives and the end date. Note their responsiveness in communication, eye for detail, follow through and of course, the final product. Hire them for additional projects before hiring them ongoing.
Designers I have not worked with personally, but come recommended from others
- Genesis Developers (referral link) – A good place to start if you use Genesis.
- Erin from Design by Insight – I really like Erin’s designs which are clean and classy.
- Emily White Designs
Other ways to find designers
- Minted (referral link) – I’m pretty much in love with most of the designers here and if you click through to their profiles, many of them do freelance work.
- Dribbble – I could browse through this website for hours and not get bored. The talent in this world is stunning.
- Word of Mouth – By far, the best way to find a designer is by word of mouth. Don’t forget to ask on Twitter, Facebook or even your own blog for suggestions.