Top 10 Things to Consider When Designing Your Blog

I’m taking a mini-vacation this weekend so I’m going to keep this kind of short, but I wanted to do a follow up post to Wednesday’s Blog Redesign Exercise.

In that post, I shared 3 different blog designs iterations that a fellow blogger, Vik Tantry, had done for a design overhaul he’s doing for his blog. The SPI community didn’t hesitate to share their opinions (yay for comments!) and I’m sure Vik and everyone else following along has learned a lot about what works, and what doesn’t.

Here are my top 10 takeaways from reading the comments. These are things to consider when designing or redesigning your own blog in the future:

  1. Many people discount just how important design is. They say, “if the content is there, people will come to read it”. Not always true. A lot of commenters said that if they stumbled onto 1 or 2 of the designs they would have left immediately. Design matters folks!
  2. Sometimes less is more. If something is too busy, it takes away from the overall effect of a design. I had this problem with Smart Passive Income in a previous blog redesign. It was a three column design and it just had too much going on.
  3. Fonts play a big role. To be more specific – cheesy fonts in the header can give off the worst first impression, and we all know how important first impressions are on the Internet.
  4. Colors give off different vibes. Here’s a good article that examines the colors of business and what they mean to an audience.
  5. A picture of the blog author on the homepage, above the fold, is an easy way to help a design become personalized and unique. Also, readers like to know who is ‘speaking’ to them, and a face is far more memorable than anything else.
  6. “Obvious designing” – or in other words, including imagery that is too literal, can sometimes have a negative effect. For example, Vik’s site is about money, and many people didn’t like the idea of actual dollar bills being spread across the header. This works sometimes, but not all of the time.
  7. It surprised me that not one commenter mentioned the general layout of the designs, as each of the designs featured a standard two-column design. Is this the standard layout that people have finally settled into being “the norm”? If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to try something different. Maybe not. Just a thought.
  8. Figure out what you want your readers to do, and make that a primary focal point on your page. For example, if you really want people to subscribe to your newsletter, create a nice looking graphic that stands out from the rest of the page. On my blog, I tried to do this by not only having a high-quality graphic next to my opt-in form, but I had the graphic also poke out of the edge a little.
  9. A logo can be a great way to immediately define your brand and stand out from the crowd. A brandable logo was missing in all three designs, and I really think (especially for design #2), it could give the design some punch.
  10. And most importantly, understand that you cannot please everybody. Everyone has their own opinions about what they like and no matter how much time you spend on your design or how many suggestions from others you incorporate, there will always be people who think something can be done better. Take the suggestions that you like and implement those. Then, just pull the trigger and go with it. The worst thing you can do is keep tweaking a design or just sitting on it wondering if it’s “the one”.

Thanks again to Vik for letting us comment and learn from his redesign process.

Enjoy your weekend everyone. Cheers!

  • http://buildingleanmusclemass.net Lean Muscle Matt

    These are great points Pat.

    I’m really mulling over point 2, as I have a three column design currently.

    I’m also especially pleased to see that you’ve included “You can’t please everybody” in big BOLD letters. :) I think that GAP learned this!

    The design for your blog is part of your style, your voice, which may not appeal to everyone. That’s no big deal. Some may dislike your content, others your style, but as long as you’re speaking to your audience and they’re listening, who cares. If you’re not, then you better get tweaking.

    I’m looking forward to your GIMP/Photoshop projects.

    Cheers,

    -Matt

  • http://www.youngprepro.com Onibalusi Bamidele

    Hi Pat,

    This is awesome and killer!

    I implemented some of the above into my new design (thanks to your wonderful designers at Blazersix) and over 50% of the emails I have been getting since using it is about my design from people asking me who designed it.

    Thanks so much for the awesome post!

    BTW: I will really appreciate if you can take a look at my design and give me your awesome opinion.

    • http://www.youngprepro.com Onibalusi Bamidele

      BTW I also want to add that my feed subscribers have increased by almost 50% daily since using it.

  • http://www.danielroachblog.com Daniel Roach

    I think #9, a logo, is something that really could help Vik’s designs. That taking the place of cheesy fonts and money in the header would’ve let you evoke the same feelings (money, freedom, etc.), without looking like stock photography. Jeremy’s Superman logo over at Shoemoney.com is a great example.

  • http://www.virtualbusinesslifestyle.com Chris C. Ducker

    Some very cool points here, Pat.

    And I still remember our Skype conversation just before Christmas, when I was going over the re-design of Virtual Business Lifestyle with you. Some of your comments made perfect sense to me, and changes were indeed made.

    I think the most important thing though, regardless of what widgets, plugins and colors your using, is that the focus still remain on the two most important aspects of blogging:

    1. Your content.
    2. Your visitors.

    I think that if you focus on these two points, above and beyond everything else, a lot of the rest will fall into place naturally – at least it did for me on my recent re-design, anyway!

    Enjoy the MV with the fam, bud.

    C

  • http://www.theinfopreneur.net TheInfoPreneur

    Pat,

    First, enjoy your mini-vacation. I love doing this with my family once every month or two. It’s a good break and refreshner.

    I liked the blog review example from the other day. I also like the link you provided for the colors of business. It had a good little summary and provided just the right amount of info to take it all in.

    Have a great weekend.
    Brandon

  • http://increasingworkplaceproductivity.net Bojan

    @Pat – did you use any plugins for opt in form? I want to make some improvements to my own opt in, so any ideas on that might help. Some useful blog post on getting more subscribers would also be cool.

  • http://paramedicsalaryonline.com Manspaugh

    Number 1 is right on Pat! That’s why I hate writing for Buzzle, EZine, and many of the other article directories. They’re so ugly!

    But I do love InfoBarrel and HubPages! They possess beautiful designs! Design matters!

  • http://www.smallbusinessunleashed.com Chris Green

    Point 7 is a very very important one to make.

    It seems that we have got into a rut of blog style layouts. Big header at the top, 2 column style.

    Maybe there is an element of safety in this style?

    Maybe we are due a change?

  • http://www.wealthyaffiliaterevolution.com Mark | Wealthy Affiliate Revolution

    I agree, design does matter. If fonts are too small, a page is too busy, you are immediately greeted with a pop-up, I am out! Content is definitely important but it really needs to be easy on the eyes.

  • http://www.commonsensemarketing.net Sarah Russell

    Thanks for sharing, Pat – very helpful tips, since I’m planning a redesign somewhere in the next 4-6 months.

    Of all the info you share, I think that #8 is one of the most important pieces of advice you’ve got up there. You can mess around with color schemes, layouts, etc all day, but if your visitors don’t immediately perceive what they’re supposed to do (based on your 1-2 most desired actions), the site isn’t going to be successful.

    (Which, of course, is something I probably need to work on with my own blog, but that’s beside the point! :) )

  • http://www.mindmarketing.net Michael

    It might not be a bad idea to consider demographic either. It wouldn’t make much sense to have an extremely contemporary blog design if you were trying to appeal to business professionals.

    I think your point about colors makes sense. It’s funny to note that a lot of people were taking note to Vik’s obvious use of the color green in one design because of it’s connection to money.
    The “Colors of Business” article states that green generally means “Natural. Healthy. Plentiful. To create a calming effect or growth image choose green. Go green go” when used in North American business marketing.

    Just something that caught my attention. Enjoy your breakation Pat.

  • http://buylikebuffett.com Mark

    I agree with the you can’t please everyone comment. One person will like a blog that is simplistic whereas another will prefer a blog that is busier. You will find yourself constantly changing your theme to please every reader. Good points btw.

  • http://www.internetentrepreneurconnection.com Hector Avellaneda

    Pat

    Great observations. Thanks for the resources on business colors. I’ve been working in ideas for my new design and referencing the business colors article reinforced my beliefs in my choice of color.

    Have a great mini vacation!

  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog/top-gifting-posts-learn-about-our-home-based-opportunity/ Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Pat,

    Powerful post all around.

    10 is money. It killed me early in my career and I still struggle at times with being clear on what I do – gifting – because it is a lighting rod in the online world. The more clear I get and the less I care about pleasing others I tend to attract the perfect people for my growth.

    Be open to taking advice. Feel free to act on some of it. But never follow the advice of everybody who crosses your path for fear of displeasing them. It’s a common pitfall for newbies and even seasoned blogging veterans. You see blog designs changing every day and it’s because the blogger follows the advice of each person who offers an opinion and this is many folks.

    Thanks for sharing #5 – including a pic makes all the difference in the world. I neglected this for a while but have since put a smiling pic of my mug above the fold. As mentioned we like to know who we’re talking to when conversing. The best way to do this as a blogger is to include a smiling picture. If you can’t see someone it becomes tougher to trust them, or to believe that they are the person writing the posts.

    I am all about 2. A quick visit to my blog confirms this ;)

    Thanks for sharing your insight with us Pat. Enjoy your weekend.

    RB

  • http://www.wasimismail.com/profile wasim ismail

    I like point no 10, so true, you cant get everyone happy, at the end of the day everyone has the right to their own opinion, if you focus on clean and user friendly design, that serves its purpose, you cant go wrong.

    • http://www.smallbusinessunleashed.com Chris Green

      Yeah, this is the killer. Especially when you don’t have a clearly targeted audience, you can spend days and sometimes weeks trying to come up with something that everyone likes.

    • http://profitduck.com Simon Duck

      Very true. You have to go for the majority, trying to please everyone is a never ending game.

  • http://www.whysoblu.com Gerard Iribe

    Great post Pat.

    Our site has the color design scheme down cold. It’s in the title, too. When folks go to the site they know what we focus on.

  • http://www.megabizflakes.com Samuel

    Nice one Pat, I’m planning to re-design my blog. This post helps a lot. How do you designed your opt-in form? Thanks so much bro.

  • http://www.foursides.ca James M

    Site design is one of the main reasons I switched from Squarespace to WordPress. Squarespace is nice for blog design, but WordPress has a lot more better themes to choose from. I think two pane designs are becoming the norm because people want the focus to be on the content, not on tag clouds or advertising. Anything more than two columns of posts within the main pane is too much for me, too.

    Less is more, as saying the goes.

  • http://unlockthedoor.net Stuart

    Ah man, I REALLY need to take another look at my blog and think about the design. I can’t help but get the impression that I’m losing out somehow…

  • http://www.joyceoladipo.com Joyce Oladipo

    I love to keep my blog crisp and simple. I would love to redesign my blog too because my present blog was created by me. Apart from the generous list you’ve listed above I would also like to add these few points too. We also need to consider these when designing out blog.

    Blog Header: Your blog header is where you give your blog a name and introduce it to the reader. It would be nice to have a short blurb showing the purpose of your blog. I also like to have my subscription box at the header too.

    Blog Post: To make our post evergreen, I love posting post with no date. So I would remove the dating functionality from my design.

    Subscription Box: I love the idea of having a subscription box at the bottom of every post.

    Video Box: Having a box in the side showcasing my videos is pretty cool too, that’s another side of my business I would love to promote.

    Enjoy your time off

  • http://gibsongoff-theenligthenedtraveler.com Gibson Goff

    I have to agree with No. 10. There is a lot of help out there, and a lot og great help. The choice however, still remains yours. There are strategic ways to use a seemingly unedited piece of text, or a misplaced widget to your advantage.

    Followers of the Johnny Carson Show knew Johnny as an impeccable dresser. Yet sometimes, he would come out and his tie was crooked. Ed McMahon later related that it was on purpose! The material wasn’t that strong for the monologue, so to help keep you focused, Johnny would mess up his tie. Like moths drawn to a flame, we would focus on Johnny and not fade off because we weren’t laughing like usual.

    When you see a suggestion that rings true for your blog or website, you’ll know it.

  • http://www.dubai-information-site.com Sunil from The Extra Money Blog

    great summary.

    i agree with these points, particularly the one on focal point. my subscribership has taken off soon after i started offering a free report on my blog above the fold, with a yellow highlighted area and red text to attract attention.

    what do you all think about having audio or video automatically play upon landing on the page? effective or annoying?

  • http://www.mashspargeboil.com Neil

    I recently decided to put a profile picture up on my homepage and my subscribers shot up. I think it gives your readers some form of connection to you that means they will stick around.

  • http://lifeandmyfinances.com LifeAndMyFinances

    I recently moved my website to WordPress and was happy with the design at first, but I now realize that I need to spend more time on it. It’s 100 times better than what it used to be though! :)

  • http://reptilianwisdom.com/ reptilianwisdom

    Good points Pat. I recommend split testing before switching to new designs. When my blog was on wordpress.com it was getting loads of comments but little traffic. It used one of the very basic WordPress themes. I moved it to my own domain, and changed the design, added social media plugins etc, but after I switched to Disqus/facebook social connect system, I no longer receive comments. I got maybe 2 comments in months. However, the time people spent on site (especially the people who come from search engines) has drastically increased. The number of clicks on my Amazon links is not bad, either. People click on my social media links, other blogs, web 2.0 properties, but no one is commenting anymore.

    I recommend everyone head to fiverr.com and get a decent logo/banner designed for just $5. If you have no graphics skills and limited budget, you can get surprisingly good quality graphics/banners from fiverr providers.

    As for wordpress themes, I highly recommend suffusion theme, or the poor man’s Thesis as I call it. It’s a great theme, very customizable and versatile. You can bend it to any which shape you want.

  • http://www.bookmarkinghub.com SocialBookmarkingHub

    Completely agree with points 3,4 & 5. Its always hard to find a simplest form of expression that can stand out in a group. Like for example, adding a personal touch to the blog always makes it stand out in public.

  • learner

    why in your blog you don’t have the following things:
    1-stripe ad (a text ad appearing on the top of the blog)
    2-the 468×60 ad (appears on the top of every page)

    this both can make you more money right, why you not having this in your blog? can you explain me pat? i am following you recently, i even ask my friends to check out you, but i don’t understand why you don’t have both ad’s which common in everyone page. can you explain me pat please

  • Pingback: Mike’s Blog » Blog Archive » Science & Business of Colors

  • http://www.brandonhansen.com Brandon Hansen

    Pat,

    Point #4 is a big one for me. I have always been fascinated with the use of colors and the emotional impact they have on an audience. I have toyed with different color schemes on some of my sites and find it interesting that a simple change can have a big impact on the “feeling” of the site.

    Thanks for making me think today…

    Brandon

  • http://pennyonthefloor.com mike

    I’m with Brandon above. Thank you for the link to the color explanations.. I’ve always wondered about this.

    I’ve just recently launched my blog, and now I am already second guessing my design. I purchased an existing template but then have made several changes to try to make it my own. i might be better off paying a few bucks and getting a nice header graphic made for my site though. also wondering if I have too much going on, seeing that my front page has 3 columns. any feedback would be helpful.

    just found your blog and I am adding it to my rss list..

  • http://www.the-dried-herb-company.co.uk Ben

    “Is this the standard layout that people have finally settled into being “the norm”? If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to try something different. Maybe not. Just a thought.”

    Go on Pat, you know you want to.

    Great post fella. I generally find less is more (don’t look at my current site design, I’m getting that sorted). Designing a site to put emphasison the main content on each page is good, and also neutral colours is good for building trust and loyalty.

    Ben.

  • http://gakkuliahgakkiamat.com hmcahyo | Tips wawancara kerja

    Well, Pat, this post is really useful for me.. as a newbie in this area… thank for making this awesome post…

  • http://www.hilyamedia.com Tantan

    Nice tips Pat, I would try some of the tips that I haven’t implemented yet :)
    Btw, I always refer to these points when designing my blogs: easy navigation, simple & clean, and eye-catching design for some focal points such as optin form.

  • http://www.thegloballifestyle.com The Global Lifestyle

    Excellent advice as usual Pat,

    You gave me some very good advice some months ago and after making the changes, my sites are starting to convert very well.

  • http://www.logallot.com Sonia

    Very good point. I can’t count how many blogs I come across and wonder what they hell they were thinking. It took me 3 tries before I finally felt comfortable with the design I have now. It works and it doesn’t scare off my readers. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Why not do it right!

  • http://www.todayhaspower.com Rob

    My traffic tripled after redesign. The problem wasn’t just with looks, it also was difficult to navigate. Now, it’s time to start redesign on my other sites:)

  • http://financiallyeliteblog.com Dwight Anthony

    Pat, in point #8 above. Who did you get to design your ebook graphic for your optin? It really is a great way to stand out.

    Dwight Anthony
    Financially Elite Blog dot Com

    • Pat

      Hey Dwight – actually I did it myself. The cover was designed in Photoshop, and the cover was created using cover action pro. Cheers!

      • http://financiallyeliteblog.com Dwight Anthony

        Man, that’s awesome Pat. Did you ever do a post on how you did that one? If not, maybe consider it, this is quality work there.

        Dwight Anthony
        Financially Elite Blog

  • http://politmuz.com Mircea Prodan

    I have a site two years old. It is a site with articles 100% original content. I post almost daily, sometimes two or three times a day. And yet, no success. I even bought a Genesis theme but in vain. I write about politics, movies, rock music. Trying to attract readers by all means. But nothing. Now, I have a friend who opened a blog “Blogger” about six months ago. Already gathered over 150 friends Google has traffic and comments. Hard copy articles on the website writes about conspiracy theory or how to knot the tie, put tons of photos, and more, has a total design rules out any SEO. Yet successful. I think a blog’s success is based solely and only on luck and nothing else ..

  • http://7Payouts.com Jeremiah Say

    Design is important (perhaps vital) in my opinion.

    I doubt I would stay at SPI if it’s template designs looks like “SH**!” (or mediocre).

    Colour theme also plays a very crucial role. I definitely wouldn’t want to hurt my eye reading good content (yellow fonts with white background – which I’ve seen).

  • http://www.technoloverz.com sonesh

    all point are great..thnx..