I am not a blog designer, but I could certainly play one on TV.
If you’ve ever worked in marketing or a field that requires visual creativity, you’ll know that there are two distinct skillsets when it comes to design. The first is being able create good design. That’s a hard job. You have to have some ingrained creativity. I will readily admit that’s not me. I can work with a design: modify it, tweak it, scale it. But I can’t create it. I have a lot of respect for people that can.
The second skillset is being able to recognize good design. Sometimes that means it follows the rules of what “experts” say good design is. Sometimes, it simply means it’s aesthetically pleasing. True, beauty is in the eye of the beholder but sometimes the beholder has bad taste.
I’ve been in marketing, and now blogging, long enough to have a sense of where blog design can go wrong. Very, very wrong. And as much as I’d like to show you the worst of the worst, let’s save that humiliation for someone else. Instead, I’m going to give you a few key areas of your blog that you really and truly need to go back and assess. It may be your baby. You may love your design. But it may be time to evolve.
Here are a few things to check out, along with a few examples I came across while writing this:
Color is so important for a lot of reasons. It sets the immediate tone of your blog. Bright and bold, soft and subdued, black and white. They all have their purpose.
Writing about being the mom of five girls? I might expect your site to be overrun with pink and polka dots, much like your life is. Writing about simply being a mom? You don’t need to inundate us with pink. Pick a color that reflects you and how you want people to feel when they visit your blog and then create a complimentary palette from there.
Also, please tone down the rainbow effect. Keep your color palette to 3 or maybe 4 colors and carry them throughout.
Need a good example of color? Check out the landing page for Buried with Children. There are 3 main colors used in the blog design and they serve as a beautiful backdrop for her photos and graphics.
This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. Have you ever watched those design shows where someone’s house is getting a makeover? One of the first mistakes I notice the homeowners make is with scale. They have a huge white wall and hang a large painting on it. Well, a large painting isn’t so large on a huge wall. Usually the designers fill the space with color and an oversized piece of art.
Same idea with blog headers. They don’t have to be huge but they do need to be done to scale. Here’s a great example of what I mean from The Half-Hearted Housewife.
She chose an adorable and meaningful photo poking fun at her messy take on life. Had she made the photo a small square in the header, it wouldn’t have had nearly the impact. The size, the cropping, and the positioning make me visually happy.
Let’s talk type. I love playing around with fonts. But please, people. Limit yourself to 2 or 3. Enjoy some contrast between them and be consistent in your use of them. Use a serif alongside a sans serif. Use block along with script. Make it visually appealing but not eye-crossing.
One of my favorite font examples is found on Adventuroo. She uses a custom font in the header and carries the same font on some of the accent pieces in the sidebar. She uses standard sans serif fonts for her titles and text.
Another font rule to follow? Don’t make your fonts too small and don’t be afraid to space it out a bit. It makes for better readability.
Finally, we get to how your site is laid out. Sure, you like to be different. You like to stand out. But there are some web norms that are the norms for a reason.
People expect a navigation bar on a site. It gives them guidance. It tells them where to go.
People generally look at a site from left to right. Make your most important content on the right.
People want to be able to find your content, front and center.
True story. I’ve visited a blog before where I could not tell where the content was. I know you think I’m joking but there were so many widgets and graphics and column sizing issues that I couldn’t tell where to begin reading. And I’ve seen that on several blogs.
It’s acceptable to be seeking ad revenue through advertising. But keep it unobtrusive and make it secondary to what brought people there in the first place. Avoid the NASCAR look. In fact, go for the Bentley look.
Appropriately enough, Privilege follows the rules of style and the layout is clean, simple, and there is absolutely no question where the content is. You also won’t be overrun with ads moving all over the page.
How are you feeling about your blog? Is it time for a refresh or for some tweaking? If you’re not sure, it might be time to get some professional help (and no, I don’t mean the psychiatric kind). And I’ve got a recommendation for you.
I wholeheartedly endorse the eBook, DIY Blog Critique from Melissa at Momcomm. In fact, I’ve read it cover to cover and I’m amazed at how much information is packed in there. It’s a nice do-it-yourself guide to checking some of the things I’ve covered here and about a million things more.
In addition to Momcomm, Melissa is actually the brains behind Adventuroo. In addition to being a friend, we frequently exchange ideas and stories about blogging and social media. With her background in marketing and design and the launch of her eBook, I thought she would be perfect to write a great follow up post to this one. Check back on Thursday for Melissa’s guest post, always chock full of good information.