As a designer, I’m obviously biased towards getting a professionally done blog design. However, I also know that is not always possible – specially when you’re a brand new blogger or a blogger that doesn’t monetize. I’m always being asked if I have to design your own blog and I do! Boy, do I have tips. This is barely scratching the surface but these 6 tips will help you get started! Quick note: This post contains affiliate links.
The very first thing you have to do is gather inspiration! Check out some of your favorite blogs and take notes of what you love, like, dislike, and hate. Then hop over onto Pinterest and create a “Blog Design” board and fill it up to the brim with inspiration.
My advice to clients on this is to first PIN ALL THE THINGS. Then go through with a fine tooth comb and delete all of those pins that suddenly no longer resonate with you. As you clean up your board, you’ll start to see a pattern among the pins left – lots of pink, a specific patter, a kind of layout. The next step is to delete all the pins that don’t really fit that pattern.
A word of warning: The most important thing as you gather inspiration is to gather it from a variety of sources. Don’t look at just one designer’s portfolio or at one blog. Looks at dozens of them and then when you’re in the thick of designing – don’t look at them! The last thing you want is for your blog to end up being an exact replica of someone’s else blog.
CHOOSE A SOLID BASE THEME
The theme be the basis of your entire blog design and as you set off to DIY for your blog design choosing a good base theme is key.
Some things you might want to take into consideration when buying a theme –
- Mobile-Responsive: Mobile Responsiveness is a must from a user experience point of view (ain’t nobody got time for non-mobile responsive sites) and for SEO since it is now a ranking consideration.
- Built-In Customization: how flexible is the theme? Are you only able to set up as the demo or is there flexibility? Look at widget areas available, alternative set-up screenshots, color options or ability to use WP’s customizer. Can you easily upload a header image and change fonts? You really want to be able to make it your own and not just be another cookie-cutter blog.
- Support: I cannot stress this enough, there needs to be good support along with your theme. Look around the seller’s website – do they have a support ticket system? Does there seem to be a guide on installing and using the theme’s features? Is there a support forum? The last thing you want is end up with a theme, a thousand questions, and zero ways to reach out to the theme’s developer.
Further Reading: How to choose the perfect WordPress Theme
USE A WORDMARK LOGO OR BUY A PREMADE
Unless you’re a designer or creatively inclined, stick to wordmark logos. A wordmark logo is a typography based logo, meaning there’s no extra symbols or fanciness – just a killer font that looks awesome. The great thing about a wordmark logo is that half the time you won’t need a graphic software like Photoshop, Illustrator, or even Canva. You can just pick a font from a source like Google Fonts, apply it to the theme, type your name, and you’re good to go.
If this all just sounds really boring or complicated to you, the alternative would be to buy a premade logo. The good news here is that there is pretty limitless possibilities thanks to market places such as Etsy and Creative Market!
WHITE SPACE IS YOUR BFF
Trust me on this one – white space is your best friend when designing for yourself (and always really). One of the biggest mistakes people make when designing their own blogs is not to value white space. They want to fill every last pixel with color, pattern, watercolor, borders, you name it. But doing that is the quickest way to look DIY.
Include ample spacing between elements. Have at least 40px between your content and sidebar, add padding and margins where you can. Make your line-height at least 1.5. Be ruthless in your design decisions, ask yourself – what value does this add to my readers? If the answer is “none” or “it just look pretty”, seriously consider getting rid of it.
Create a consistent color palette
Colors set the tone for your entire blog so choose them carefully. The #1 rule of thumb when designing for yourself is to limit your palette to no more than 3. Anymore than that and it can get messy – FAST. Choose a main color, an accent color, and a neutral color to balance it all. Some other tips to choosing colors
- Choose colors you won’t get tired of: Before settling on a color palette, sit on your choice for a few days. The last thing you want is to choose a palette, get into designing, and then realize you’re over the colors you picked.
- Look at your niche: Depending on your niche certain color combos might be more used than others. It’s tempting to think that by choosing similar colors, you’ll be better off. Don’t blend in – stand out! Mix it up and use different colors. For example, blush pink, black and gold might be super hot in your niche right now but in order to stand out, go the other way and choose yellow, mint, and grey instead.
- Create a mood board: Look at your inspiration board on Pinterest, chances are you’ll start seeing certain colors repeating or jumping out at you more than others. Pull out those pictures and use Photoshop, Illustrator, or a similar program to make a mood board, drawing colors from the pictures.
In the end it all boils down to this: how easily can your readers use your blog? For a moment take your heart out of the equation and think like an user!
- Navigation: is your navigation clear and easy to use? Look at your menu, first of all, is it easy to find? Make sure it isn’t crowded. Consider grouping like-links together and creating some drop downs. The point of a navigation is to get readers from one point to another, really think about the actions you want you readers to take once on your blog and list those links in an order that makes sense.
- Can your readers easily find the content they want? Getting readers on your blog is hard enough, make sure they stay on it! Make search bars and categories easy to find. Speaking of categories, limit those to your top 4-6. Too many categories and it’ll freeze your readers. Instead give them clear options and highlight your top topics.
- Readability: You work really hard on your content – make sure people can actually read it. Use large fonts (font size 14 pixels minimum!), stick to a sans-serif or serif font for your text. Avoid hand-written fonts, especially for your main content. Make sure there’s good contrast between your text and the background – a dark font on a light background is best.
- Avoid Distractions: Is there anything distracting and obtrusive? Things like pop ups, auto play videos/music, flashing ads do nothing more than to get in the way of readers reading your content. Again, be ruthless. If there’s something distracting or not really “working”, take it out.
Last but not least, my number one advise when you design your own blog – just launch. It will never ever be perfect. There will always be a pixel that could be looking better somewhere. Sometimes you just have to go for it and launch!
IMAGE SOURCE: Kaboom Pics