What your blog looks like is less important than how it works. Many bloggers forget this, and spent hours fretting over making it look just right, when the fact is that all your readers really care about is whether or not they can read the thing. Well, that IS the whole point, after all, isn’t it?
1. Keep it clean
People have lots and lots of different preferences for how they like blogs to look. One thing most people seem to agree on, however, is that they like the layout to be clean, uncluttered, and easy to navigate.
It’s really, really tempting to cram your template and sidebar with every widget known to the internet. Twitter! Instagram! Facebook! Blog buttons! Animated gifts! Pictures of cats! The kitchen sink!
While it’s nice to have a great-looking blog, however, readers come for the content, not for the awesome font you used in the header, or the images in your sidebar. There’s nothing wrong with a site with “character”, but it’s better to try and do that without adding too much clutter.
For instance, the fashion is for very minimal designs, with lots of white space. You don’t have to make your blog look like that if you don’t want to , but regardless of the look and feel you end up going for, it’s a good idea to cut the clutter, and only include those elements you think will actually be useful to your readers.
2. Keep it clear
When you’re designing your site, the most important thing of all is that you make it easy for people to read and navigate it – and that means ALL people, including those who are visually impaired. Text and background colours are of the utmost importance here, and regardless of your personal taste, darkcoloured text on a light-coloured background is by far the easiest to read.
Light-coloured text on a dark background, on the other hand, can be almost impossible: if I come across a blog which uses white text on black, for instance, I’ll instantly hit the “back” button, because that can actually trigger a migraine for me – something about those scrolling white lines completely messes with my brain.
Font size and style is also important here, and while the existence of Google Fonts makes it tempting to use some fancy, flowing script for your post text, that’s only a good idea if you don’t want people to actually read what you write. Those fonts look pretty in headers and as titles, but for your actual posts, it’s better to stick to something clear and easy to read: fonts like Ariel, Helvetica and Times New Roman might seem “boring”, but are popular for a reason.
Similarly, make sure your text is large enough to be readable, and dark enough to be seen. For some reason, I keep coming across blogs (particularly fashion blogs) with teenytiny writing, in a pale shade of grey. It makes my eyes hurt, so can you imagine how someone with a visual impairment would feel trying to read it?
3. Keep it consistent
This is possibly one of those “goes-without-saying” things, but keeping your design consistent across all of the pages of your site will give it a more cohesive, professional feel. Choose the colours you want to use for your text, logo, headings, etc, and then use them consistently. I also recommend making sure all of your photos are the same width as each other, and as the text below/above them. You’ll rarely find a successful blog – particularly a fashion or beauty blog – which uses tiny images, so don’t be afraid to make your images big enough to be seen. On that note, though…
4. Keep it quick
How quickly your blog loads is just as important as how it looks. The problem is that many of the design elements which help make a site visually distinctive, can also really slow it down. Huge images, lots of widgets, tons of pointless clutter – all of those things will make your blog slow to load, and it doesn’t matter HOW good it looks if people don’t hang around to wait to see it (and trust me, they won’t….).
5. Keep it compatible
This tip is perhaps one of the most important, and it’s about making sure your blog is compatible with different browsers and mobile devices. A lot of people make the mistake of testing their design only on the browser/monitor or device they use personally, forgetting that different people use different browsers, differently sized monitors, different resolutions, etc. An increasing number of visitors will also be viewing your blog on their phone or tablet (I do almost all of my blog reading on my phone, these days…), so it’s really important to make sure they can actually SEE it.
This all sounds complicated, and can BE complicated if you’re the one coding the site from scratch. Luckily, most of us don’t have to do that: most bloggers simply buy a readymade theme and many of those themes are designed to be compatible with different browsers, and fully responsive, so they can be viewed on different screens or devices.
When you’re looking for a theme, always, always go for a responsive one. Responsive themes change size so that no matter the size of the screen you’re viewing the blog on, it will still display properly.
6. Give it some character
So you have your clean, clear, compatible theme – the only thing remaining is to give it some character, to make it stand out from all of the OTHER clean white blogs out there.
There are lots of ways to add identity to a blog theme, but I’d say the most important one is to get yourself a decent logo/banner, and make consistent use of colors and fonts throughout the site. You might also want to consider using these same “branding” elements on your social media, too, to make your brand even more memorable.
Conclusion – Key elements of your blog
Logo – Getting a visitor’s attention on the Internet is a science in itself, and clean, crisp logos can hold a visitor’s interest long enough to get him or her to read some of your blog. Typically, a logo appears near the top of each blog page (but doesn’t have to). Many logos include an illustrated element and a special font treatment of the blog name.
Header – The header of any blog contains a few elements. The first element should be, of course, the name of your blog. The title should explain what your blog talks about or who you are as the main writer. You can also throw into the header some form of navigation that can help your visitors find their way around and provide them with quick links to special areas that you want highlighted on your site. On many blogs, the logo also appears in the header. As the name suggests, headers appear at the top of blog pages.
Sidebar(s) – Sidebars usually become a major focus for a blog site. Sidebars are columns to the right or left (or both) of the main content area, and they contain elements such as navigational links, special graphics that point to social networking sites, lists of blogs that you read (blogrolls), archive links, or anything that you want to share with your visitors outside the context of a blog post. Sidebars usually appear on every page of your blog and look consistent from page to page.
Footer – Footers live at the bottom of each blog page, and sometimes they do nothing more than feature a copyright message. More advanced bloggers have expanded the use of footers to include a significant series of links to content within their sites. These links might lead to comments on the blog, recent posts, or posts that you particularly want to highlight. The footer can feature parts of your blog that you want visitors to find easily.