Guess what?! It is time for a little recap. We have gotten an unbelievable amount of tweets and emails to us about people who made changes after this last brunch to their Blog Design. Feel free to share what you do below. For those of you that missed all the action and tips we put together a condensed version of the brunch for all of you.
Q1. How do you kick off your blog’s design? What are steps you take to make sure your design is heading in the right direction?
Pinkisfunny: I usually head over to blog directories & get some inspiration from similar blogs before I kick-off my blog’s design.
HitchDesign: Begin by defining your brand. Don’t build or spend money on a design without a direction
MyersMaison: Your blog is a brand. Determine your target audience, and the image that you want to portray first.
ParkerEtc: Take notes on what you like about sites layouts,fonts,visuals & function.Use as a brainstorm base/skeleton for your design
Urdirtylaundry: kick off blog design with a clean basic template + a color palette
jgambacurta: For me, consistency in fonts, image width, and clear, crisp text/images are key for blog design.
JoelleDuff: Before I start a new design, I make a list of all the requirements and a list of other blog designs I love
FlourishCafe: Make sure you have a clear idea of your blog’s branding FIRST - everything about your design should reflect that
katelynbrooke88: Identifying the overall feel you’re looking for is key. Find blogs you love and critique what you do or don’t like about them.
_stylings: I think about what I’m going to be posting and try to make sure that the space that I create suits my content
MsKristiina: It doesn’t matter if it’s pretty and clean if it’s not easy to move around
iShonuff: NOTES! Do it. Save inspiring websites. Write down what draws you there. Make it simple let your posts do all of the talking.
TheCuisinerd: Knowing your voice, your audience and your brand is the first step before designing your blog
Amandagenther: I ask my clients to do research before and we also go through a Q&A process to help them clarify their vision before I start
Hmulholland: I also try to wireframe the blog out to make sure I’m not missing key components
nouvellemag: Know what you want! Know your aesthetic, what draws your eye, then translate it into something that will attract others
elisabirdblog: I play around & make probably 30+ headers. It’s a process that weeds out gross designs & sends direction to rest of elements
lalalovelythngs: Make a list of sites that you are most attracted to and ask yourself, why + what you are drawn to / inspired by?
Brittany_TYD: Make sure it speaks to your “brand” - writing style, niche, personality. Also, easy for visitors to read & interact w/ you.
Amandagenther: write down what you love about other blogs. The more you see, the better you’ll understand what you like/dislike
humblegourmet: I searched other blog designs for inspiration, then just went with my gut, what I think is cute and will develop the brand.
mspinkandblue: i also make a profile of my reader (age, job, hobbies etc)
HitchDesign: Build inspiration boards and define a style.
krissy_: Dress your blog how you’d dress yourself. You’ll be happier long term if you follow your heart not trends.
Urdirtylaundry: knowing some basic HTML to customize your blog template helps w/ your blog design too when you’re getting started.
poppylindsay: I think of the direction that I want my blog to go in, not what other people want
floralandfrayed: After defining your brand, build something that matches your unique, individual personality.
Myparadissi: Content has to be eye-catching and user friendly- www is a vast world to loose time on
Littleonelove: Try to remain consistent. constantly changing design makes readers feel like they’re in a different place each visit.
KateLainey: definitely think that rethinking and reworking your design in key…working towards improvement!
ArtfulDesperado: define ur personality and style. If u don’t know either u’ll be all over the place. Your personality will be ur “brand”
bowtieandbustle: inspiration boards are key. take the time to make sure the board really reflects where you want your brand to go.
Mclarkedesign: All your design decisions should reference the overall aesthetics and image you are aiming to project with your blog
HitchDesign: Your content is what changes everyday so keep your blog design simple and too the point. Always reinforcing your brand
Beccatollefsen: If you are unsure on where to start with your design then go minimalist so your content will shine
Hellosukio: Since web/graphic design is expensive, I use designs I can maintain w/ my skill set. May be too plain for some but works for me!
becca_atwood: Create a brand dec with attributes, where you fit into industry, look & feel concepts- know who you are before starting design
ArtfulDesperado: plan ahead. Am I making a profit out of this? (ad space) am I collaborating with ppl? (spotlights) social m. accounts, etc
Myparadissi: Season changes totally affect my design style! I opted for color this spring!!
Q2. What are the most important elements of design for a blog? (What keeps you from hitting the back button?)
ParkerEtc: Your header is number one. Its your 1st impression to your readers about your brand.Have a well designed,professional & authentic logo
Rebeccajoybeach: Simplicity! Easy to navigate. No obnoxious text or background colors.
__stylings: That it reflects you
MsKristiina: That it loads quickly and there aren’t too many junky ads.
Amandagenther: legible text, nice pictures (I hate fuzzy photos), clean layout… nobody likes walking into a mess!
MyersMaison: An attractive header, a nice color scheme and customizations (side bar icons, favicon, etc.).
krissy_: I’m all about simplicity. Like madam Chanel once said, remove the last thing you add. Keeps things uncluttered+readable.
jgambacurta: Easy to navigate, colors that are easy to read, crisp photos. A nice header helps too!
nouvellemag: A clean, simple design is key. But the little details (colors, fonts, etc.) that make a blog unique are essential.
iShonuff: The MOST important is user-friendly. It must be easy to cruise the site, find what you are looking for and interact
katelynbrooke88: Proportion sometimes gets overlooked in blog design. It’s difficult to quantify, but it can make or break a design.
e_wadd: Number one is FONTS! If the text font is bad or unreadable I am out of there.
humblegourmet: I feel like someone who has a sense of their own taste level, what looks good to them, that gets reflected in their design.
Littleonelove: consistency in image width, not much clutter and clean graphics.
bowtieandbustle: i like blogs that are clean and streamlined. if i can’t easily navigate the blog i won’t stay long
Myparadissi: Clean and easy to navigate blog
Hmulholland: Simplicity. If a blog design is overly complicated and I can’t find the content, I’m out.
Beccatollefsen: Give people a good way to navigate around your site so they can find the posts they like
lalalovelythngs: Overall cohesive CLEAN look, no matter what your style is. Nothing makes me leave a blog faster than busy clutter everywhere.
Hellosukio: I hate visiting blogs w/ distracting content ie junk ads, links, etc. Blogs must find a balance & not detract from content.
Urdirtylaundry: great large & unique photos keeps me coming back to a blog
BayParkDream: A simple design, pretty colors, attractive & fun header, and an easy to navigate site
KateLainey: content that isn’t superficial…needs to be original and personable. I want to read a blog that inspires not copies.
RSavor: Post titles must be clear & relevant. If there is an archive, it needs to draw reader’s attention. Design can’t be too busy.
__stylings: Searchable. I like to be able to look for things and find them.
clussster_blog: Consistency. When a blog reflects the blogger’s lifestyle with its design I stay longer. I get curious about the posts.
inspiredtoshare: simple, clean, and impactful. image quality, font choices, color palettes, functionality is key!
mspinkandblue: I will click back if there are pop-up, too many ads or (most importantly) LOAD TIME! If its longer than a few secs, im out.
Hmulholland: It’s nice to have different categories and “sidebar tidbits” but it can be overwhelming for the first viewer of a blog
OfAnselm: Simplicity, to me, shows a lot of confidence. And I like confident blogs
HitchDesign: Think of your user with your interface. Think like a user when you work on your design
BayParkDream: I have a tendency to immediately leave a blog that automatically starts playing music when I enter the blog.
Amandagenther: short bio at top or indication about the blog so readers know what they are looking at
Rebeccajoybeach: Easy-to-find social media buttons (twitter, email, facebook, etc.)
Punkyandthecity: Maybe it’s just me, but I have a hard time reading/enjoying blogs that have bright colors on black backgrounds? Not a fan!
Myparadissi: I really like when the header serves as the ‘home’ button, it’s easier this way!
Dbsweet: important elements for me are buttons for home, archived post and search. I like to easy navagation when I’m looking at a blog.
TheCuisinerd: Important! Clear branding with header, logo, color pallet - think of it as your welcome mat and first impression
ArtfulDesperado: don’t COPY some1’s style. It’s ok 2 b inspired by it, but u have 2 use ur own ideas. U don’t wanna b known as the “spin off”
ElembeeEtc: Also, not necessarily design related, but if it’s difficult to leave a comment, I probably won’t continue reading.
ParkerEtc: If there’s too many flashing sponsor ads at different sizes & they clutter & distract, I will leave the site immediately.
elisabirdblog: Search bar/some sort of search. Nothing like finding a diy on Pinterest & someone pinned blog feed instead of the post
holajasmine: Usually I (or a friend) can’t find something. This gets me thinking how I can make it easier for them, & therefore clients.
poppylindsay: I think it is really important not to have music and all pictures are the same size/width. It just makes it that much cleaner.
cubicle57blog: right now I know that doing a pop-up for your email subscription is pretty popular like a squeeze, but I really really hate it.
MsKristiina: People on blogger lose a lot of my comments by not having a name/url option.
Q3. The sidebar debate: What should go where? And what key elements should be included in the design of a sidebar.
@holajasmine :: I used to say a mini bio, but now I say a photo is crucial. Media can convey so much of your personality, when done right.
@_stylings :: Organization with categories, tags, etc so things are easy to find.
@jgambacurta :: Links to pages (about, contact, etc.) should be first along with search + social media. Ads and sponsors right after.
@Thee_AoF :: Navigation, non-obtrusive ads, social media widgets. It can have a lot of usage but can be tricky 2 not make it look messy.
@Brittany_TYD :: If there isn’t an “about me” in the sidebar (near the top!), I feel like I’m wasting time searching for the blog’s purpose.
@ParkerEtc :: Your ‘RSS Subscribe’ feature is KEY and should be at the top/front + center of the sidebar.
@krissy_ :: Also think about “first read”. People read left to right. Locate your sidebar/content accordingly.
@FlourishCafe :: Your preferred form of subscription should be REALLY high on your sidebar. For me, it’s email subscription.
@clussster_blog :: About, contact info, social media, search and then everything else.
@HitchDesign :: Keep your side bar to the right it makes it so the first thing google reads is your content.
@amandagenther :: Bio near the top along with social media, most popular features and categories… whatever makes sense for your readers.
@Jgambacurta :: Don’t let details detract from content or stop you from producing posts. Readers are there to read and visualize.
@HitchDesign :: Use the sidebar to push into other areas of your site. This helps with SEO and pageviews.
@shefoundstyle :: When I read a blog I want to “get to know” the writer as best I can. If the personal isn’t there, I’m not interested.
@OfAnselm :: As far as key elements: look for that balance between giving people options w/o overwhelming them. Obsolete? Throw it out.
@ArtfulDesperado :: Set a list of priorities and showcase accordingly. Don’t give extreme importance to ads if you first need readers.
@TheCuisinerd :: Oh sidebar, I think of you as a very delicate bracelet. Understated but packing the necessary info bling.
@KatieLinendoll :: I just added social media modules for every post instead of just one generic one on the sidebar.
Q4:: Hiring a Designer: When should you take the plunge? And how do you make sure you’re getting what you paid for/want?
@mspinkandblue :: I say when u know specifically what u want & u can’t do it urself. I don’t like jumping in w/a designer & having them guess.
@MyMarrakesh :: Think it’s useful to hire a designer who has experience with your platform. I didn’t do that & it was a mistake.
@TheCuisinerd :: Taking the dip to hire a designer? Think of header and logo as first stage of professional branding.
@MyersMaison :: Research research research before contacting a designer. It will make your lives easier and the process smoother.
@Amandagenther :: When you know what you want. There is no use hiring a designer when you’re first starting out, because you don’t know yet.
@iShonuff :: After your site is successful or has grown into a passion you can’t ignore, consider dishing out the cash for a professional.
@elisabirdblog :: Know what you’re looking for. Redesign? Sponsors? Layouts? Get comfy w/ ur blog & your voice. Makes the plunge much easier.
@linzlovesyou :: When you’re ready to invest in blog as a biz, not just a hobby (hire a designer)- and feedback/communication is key!
@Littleonelove :: When the design you want to achieve can’t be done through a template-someone who understands html and your vision is key.
@Jgambacurta :: Also, I tinkered with layout/config on my own. Logo/header is my first/only outsourcing.
@Hellosukio :: My warning: If someone else designs, know how to tweak as needed. Can get costly if u must pay for every small change.
@Poppylindsay :: My tip is to find a design student. Often they won’t charge because they are looking for experience! Worked out great for me!
@Lalalovelythngs :: If you want it to look professional than hire a professional. Make sure you have a contract.
@_stylings :: Depending on your finances, you can always buy bits at a time–header, logo, etc.
@floralandfrayed :: View the designer’s portfolio- see what their work is like and if it will match your taste and style.
@OfAnselm :: A carefully-picked designer who can illuminate your style & personality is definitely worth the investment.
@HitchDesign :: A designer helps you build something to go to the next level. Find someone that believes in your brand like you!
@ArtfulDesperado :: Don’t let the template dictate who you are.
@hmulholland :: A good designer/developer will help work with you step by step to work towards your vision. Don’t be afraid to communicate.
@ohdes :: If you hire a professional designer, make sure to get a contract and timeline in writing
@TheCuisinerd :: Color outside of the template lines! It’s liberating, it’s also your visual voice we’re talking about here.
@ParkerEtc :: Pay attention to fellow brunchers who are designers, check out their work and see if it fits your style/seek suggestions.
@HitchDesign:: A good designer will make you think deeper about your brand and design.
@ohdes :: Also pay attention for a ‘kill fee’ in a designer’s contract in case you end up hating them or their work! Be informed!
Q5: Where can you learn Photoshop tricks? And how can you take small steps to improve your sites design (without breaking the bank)?
Linzlovesyou: I’m liking magazine more lately since I tend to direct people to specific blog posts url’s when they get published. …
krissy_A tip for PS beginners is to start simple. It’s easy to get distracted by nifty features. Restraint = timeless.
ParkerEtc: When my husband isn’t around for nerdy tech advice, I turn to the trusty Google and YouTube tutorials - DIY style!
FlourishCafe: Simple is good, and less can be more. Start with a minimalist feel, and slowly add branding elements as you grow
Lindseywolff: you can read books+tutorials all day but the best way to learn the ins-and-outs of photoshop is use it everyday
gambacurta: Small steps—pick 2-3 key fonts to stick with, know your aesthetic, and use brushes/effects carefully.
bowtieandbustle: take the plunge with a designer/revamp when ur blog no longer inspires YOU or reflects your actual content or desired direction.
mspinkandblue: I took a class last semester(community college)-it was around $100 but it was 12 weeks of intense learning ,best $ Ive spent
ElembeeEtc: I think the easiest way to improve your site design is make all your photos the same width.
ParkerEtc: Seek out a designer friend. Write specific ?’s you have that pertain to your site & set up a tutorial session with them
chocoaeggie: design tips: check out key commonalities among blogs of similar genre to yours to get an idea of what works & what doesn’t
ArtfulDesperado: use your FB page to get feedback from friends and readers. Do little mockups and share them! See how many likes you get
Chevronsarah: if you’re competent in PS but not html, hire a coder hourly to implement small changes. there are inexpensive ones out there!
mspinkandblue: or ask someone not familiar with ur blog: what do you like about this or that? does my content appeal to you? is it easy to nav?
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