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the mommyhood memos: 10 easy-peasy design tips for beautifying your blog

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

10 easy-peasy design tips for beautifying your blog

How would you like your blog to be submitted to an episode of What Not to Wear?? Read on for some simple tips to ensure your blog stays current and beautiful!

1. Keep your header eye-catching, focused, and reasonably sized. 
Make sure that your design your header in a way that represents what your blog is about, is pleasing to the eye, and is large enough to draw people in, but not so large that it takes up two-thirds of the screen (or the entire screen!) when someone clicks to your sight. At a glance (and without scrolling) they should be able to see your entire header plus the beginning of your first post and anything you deem important from your sidebar. The exception to this might be photography blogs... but in saying that, keep in mind that it's nice for visitors to get a first glimpse of something fresh each time they come. Even if you have a fairly basic layout, a lovely header can go a long way. (If you're stuck visit some of the blogs that you think are most visually appealing and jot down the things that you see and like. Once you do this with several of your favorite blogs, you'll see a pattern emerge as to what you do and don't like. Then, take those ideas and incorporate them into your own. DON'T copy, but DO use the ideas as inspiration!)

2. Create a tag line and use it wisely. 
Once you come up with your tag line (a short description of your site's mission or content or a catch phrase that you'd like to be known by) display it prominently within your header, while still making sure that it doesn't overpower your blog title. This makes it easy for first time readers to know what they can expect to find on your blog. As you're writing it consider the type of audience you're hoping to draw in and the tone you want to set. For example: use humor, a play on words, an instruction, a description, a cliche (but only if it's a clever fit!), or part of a well-known quote. A Sorta Fairytale has a nice, simple tag line: "faith, family, photography" and leaves no doubt in your mind what you'll find on Mandy's blog.

3. Remember that less really is more. 
Although it's tempting to add every cute button and badge and graphic and widget that you come across, the more you load on your blog, the more distracting it becomes. (Not to mention the harder it can be for it to load in your readers' browsers.) Determine what it important to you and cull the rest. (I find I have to do this constantly - every few months or so - or else my side bars grow and grow and soon become extremely cluttered.)

4. Black on white, not white on black. 
Like it or not, light font colors on dark backgrounds are hard to read. You might adore your deep purple background with yellow font, but most of your readers won't. Unless you want to deter people from staying long, stick with the basics - black font on a white or light background - and then use your favorite colors for accents elsewhere. Go ahead and use patterns or photos in your background if you want to, just make sure that you use a solid color behind your posts and important sidebar content. Amy Sullivan's blog is a very cool example of how to use a photograph that blends into a solid background for her site content. This kind of design may be a little advanced for most of us DIYers, but it's a beautiful example nonetheless.

5. Use standard fonts and sizes. 
Your header is where to "wow" people with your awesome artistic skills... so don't try to do your "wow-ing" by getting all fancy with the font in your posts. Choose a basic font that all browsers (and eyes!) will be able to read for your main text (such as Arial, Veranda, Helvetica, Times, Tehoma, Trebuchet, etc.) and then a complimenting one for your post titles. (You can get a little bit more creative with the post titles, but don't go overboard. Make sure it's still very readable.) Try to never use more than two or three different fonts on your blog. More than three varying fonts will start to make things distracting and harder to read. Use one for your posts, one for your post titles, and one for your (sub)headers. If you choose to use the same font for both post and post title (for example) than make sure that the sizes vary and change the post title to another color so that it will stand out. (Also, stay consistent from post to post. Don't constantly change things up with regards to font choices unless you're going for an extremely disheveled look!)

6. Use color. 
In order to mix things up and keep the eyes moving around your page, try choosing 1-3 accent colors that work well together and use them for post titles, sub-header titles, and dividing lines. Make sure they are complimenting one another but not overpowering your page. For example, choose one main accent color and then a secondary accent color (and possibly a third) that is used more sparingly. (Obviously these need to tie in with your blog header as well.) If you're not going for a ultra simple look and would prefer to use lots of color, you can pull it off without looking like Rainbow Brite has decorated your place. A fantastic example of using lots of color well is Kludgy Mom. She has five colors in her header, and yet only three main ones pulled out for accent - blue for the background, orange for the post titles and sub-headers, and green splashed in here and there to tie it all together.

7. Sit still and keep quiet. 
When someone visits your blog only to find glittery dancing graphics and/or automatically playing music, they will often find it annoying and/or distracting from the reason they are there - to read your stories or tips and check out your photos. If you want to put music on your blog, then do it... just let your readers decide if they want to hit "play" or not - don't put it on auto-play. This is very 5+ years ago and became outdated when Myspace gave way to Facebook. (You can disagree with me if you want, but I'm sticking to my guns on this one!) There is nothing worse than rocking out to your favorite itunes playlist as you blog-hop only to be bombarded with someone else's music on top of your own! (And remember, not all of your readers will be sitting in their jammies on the couch. You may have product reps, publishers, PR professionals, etc. checking out your blog.)

8. Use photos and place them well. 
A really good piece of writing with a really good photo becomes a really, really good post! Use the photo to draw people into your writing, or use photos to break up your writing if it's getting long or in order keep your post readable. I love it when blogs use their own photos - it provides another to glimpse into people's lives and I really enjoy that added dimension, even when they are not "professional" quality. Don't worry if you feel like your photos aren't as good as you'd like; the most important thing is that the photo adds to the post visually and thematically. If you're still getting the hang of using your camera or if you feel that personal photos reveal too much information about you or your family, then try using stock photos (just make sure that you're considering copyright issues when selecting them).  If you don't have a photo, use some sort of an image with color in it like a logo or even just your own blog button. Anything is better than nothing. (Well, almost anything!) For an example of stock photos used gloriously, check out Confessions of a Dr. Mom:

9. Personalize with a photo of yourself. 
People love to have a face with the name, so if you're comfortable with sharing your identity, then include a photo of yourself somewhere near the top of your side bar. Include with it a short bio or make it a link to another page or post with more about you. If you write anonymously, then consider using a cartoon avatar or something similar to represent you, or get creative and use a photo that shows a part of you without revealing your entire face/identity.

10. Put some effort into your footer. 
You'd be surprised how many people actually look at the top of your blog, skim around some content, and then scroll down to the footer. Don't overload it but do consider including your copyright information, related websites/blogs/links, a place to contact you or offer suggestions, or anything else you find appropriate (disclaimers, etc.). Melissa's new site Momcomm has a great example of a really stunning footer that includes a lot without going overboard. In fact, her's is similar to mine, but much, much better!

Dear friends, I wanted to cap this post at 10 suggestions... but surely you have more to input! What are things that you think help to beautify a blog and/or what are things that you think make a blog a candidate for What Not to Wear? Did you learn anything new in my easy-peasy tips? Any beautiful-looking blogs you can point us to for inspiration??

still learning ways to keep making my blog more beautiful,

Are you pregnant? Link up with the Bloggin' Babes and Babies of 2011.
Share your creativity and Easter inspiration by submitting your Easter card to our Easter card linky (closing April 21).

Bloggy bits is a series of very simple tips geared toward newbie bloggers to help you get started. Although I am by no means a techie or a design expert, I often find myself getting emails from beginner bloggers asking for help and advice, and I'm happy to help where I can. (My own blog is still very much a work in progress and I always have long lists of things that I'm hoping to do to improve it.) I thought this series would be a good way to spread the bloggy love and pass on what I know. I hope you will find these simple tips useful in making your blog design just a little more fabulous. 

Future posts in this series:
10 Things your blog can't live without
How to get more interaction from the bloggers you love
Deleting the "Blogger" header for a cleaner look
Finding your writing voice
Branding your blog: What they heck does that mean anyway?
How to get more comments
10 Ways to write your heart out
How to make your post more reader-friendly
Why guest posting is important

*This series will continue throughout the year and will be intermixed among my regular parenting-focused posts. If you have a suggestion for a Bloggy Bits post that you'd like to see included in this series, I'd love to hear it! Please leave it in the comments and I'll see what I can do. If it's not something I feel I can post on with authority, I will consider inviting a guest blogger to share on the subject.

adriel booker | the mommyhood memos | 2011
do not reproduce without written permission

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At April 13, 2011 at 12:11 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another awesome post!

At April 13, 2011 at 1:15 AM , Blogger Mandy said...

I seriously love this. These are GREAT tips. I will most certainly be passing these on! And thanks SO much for the shout out!! :)

At April 13, 2011 at 1:28 AM , Blogger Gigi said...

Great tips and choices! I owe everything my blog is to my designer! :) Thank you fo rthe shout out!

At April 13, 2011 at 3:35 AM , Blogger Jessica said...

I think all of these tips are really great advice for new bloggers. It is also important to see how your blog looks in different browsers.

At April 13, 2011 at 3:50 AM , Blogger Courtney K. said...

Love these!! Such important and GREAT information! I didn't even think about the footer thing...but after seeing the one you showed off here, I'll have to do some work on mine!! :)

At April 13, 2011 at 3:50 AM , Blogger A Little R&R said...

Wow - I love this. I totally revamped my blog after reading this post! I am so much happier with it. I can't wait to read the next posts. I am always looking for ways to make my blog more appealing. By the way, are you still having problems replying to my comments?

At April 13, 2011 at 4:42 AM , Blogger The Twin Spin said...

Excellent tips to refer to as I build my new site on WP. I LOVE Momcomm's footer and made a mental note the other day to use it as an example of how to put my own together. Looking forward to the rest of the series!

At April 14, 2011 at 1:00 AM , Anonymous Jill@JunkyVagabond said...

Thank you for the excellent tips! Heading over to my blog now to put them in action...

At April 14, 2011 at 5:10 AM , Anonymous Emily - Family and Life in Las Vegas said...

Great tips!! I don't like Dark background blogs much either!

At April 14, 2011 at 10:12 AM , Blogger Amy Sullivan said...

Oh, I like your tips! I don't even have a footer, but now I know I want one.

Thanks for featuring my blog, too sweet! So sad that it's been down due to some Photobucket maintenance these last couple days. . . grrr.


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