Either you are new to blogging, or you have some experience in blogging. You always want to improve the design to make the blog look better than before.
This detailed post is going to teach you how to get the best-looking blog. The topics covered are useful for both WordPress and non-WordPress themes. However, I am going to use WordPress themes to show you how to do it.
Now let’s get to work and make your blog unique and design it to show your personality.
The WOW FACTOR – Themes
You know people often judge a book by its cover. It’s true in most cases, the first impression of anything is what sticks in people mind for a long time.
And nowadays even search engines value this factor to rank a blog higher. They think only a good looking blog could help users to have a better experience. A blog with good user experience is considered to be a better source than the one which does not.
WordPress default look is functional but not that great. It is a base bone engine that does nothing but show your content. To make it fully functional and look great.
You need to install a theme.
Free theme vs. Premium theme.
There are so many themes available in the market, it could be overwhelming to find the right theme. There are 2 extremes in this market a free theme and expensive premium theme. Often times it is difficult to differentiate between a well displayed free theme vs. similar looking premium theme.
Here are the tips to find the perfect theme for your blog.
- Features – One thing you will immediately notice is the features, most of the popular premium themes comes with a large set of features. You might not use all of them right of the bat.
However, you will eventually need more than you thought you need. Usually, they also keep adding more features as they see the demand in the market.
- Support – Next big thing is support, technology landscape is constantly evolving. Every day things are changing and the stuff worked today might not work the next day. Therefore, you need a solid support to help keep up with these updates.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, we also need the theme to be updated with latest features often. You don’t want to be left behind while your competition is attracting more reader with their gorgeous design.
- Well–Structured – This is not visible from the outside. However if you dig deeper into the theme, you can see how the theme is structured. The layouts and plugins work really well if the theme is well structured. Otherwise, it is going to be a nightmare if you want to add some good widget or plugin in your blog.
This also contributes to the performance of your theme, thus improving the user experience in your site.
- SEO – A well structure theme is also going to have SEO benefits. It is easy for the search engine crawlers to navigate your site and index them.
The premium themes also support the html tags that are required for SEO.
Instead, of you trying to figure out the right plugins and tags, they come with already embedded ones. This helps you to jump start your blogging without worrying about all these.
- Ads – Many free theme will come with embedded links, usually these links are encrypted and added to the footer of your theme. You like it or not the ads are there, this means that all your pages are linking to a non-relevant source. A big no from search engine perspective.
Some themes even have ads displayed on your site. It could be small or probably unnoticed, but they are there and could impact the performance of your site and send revenue to the theme owner.
- Look and feel – Although sometimes the free theme and paid ones look very close in terms of design. There is a huge difference in the details. The font, color pattern, the layouts, features all are well put together and they compliment each other. Many themes look great in the demo, however when we try to do the same, it never comes out at the same quality.
Free themes are built focusing on the display for people to download, whereas the premium ones are great and produce the same quality result even with your content.
Here are some of the favorite themes that are used by many bloggers.
- The Genesis Framework– Another popular theme among bloggers, it offers a robust framework for every theme. The foundation helps you to customize the look and feel based on your preference. However, you probably would stick with the default themes. They are gorgeous themselves. Browse their collection to find the right theme that suits you and you can use it readily.
- The Thesis Theme– Popular theme among many top bloggers. They are feature rich and you might find all the features you want. They have great reviews about their themes. It offers a ton of options to customize the look and feel. And they many skins to readily use as well, so you can literally create your own theme out this theme.
- StudioPress Themes – These the makers of the Genesis theme and they do have a theme for food bloggers called Foodie Theme. They offer many features tailored for food bloggers.
- Elegant Themes– They provide a collection of theme with every purchase so you can have options even after purchasing the themes.
- Avada – I personally like this theme, and I believe they are great for business type websites rather than blogs. They are also the number 1 selling theme in ThemeForest for WordPress. The theme is simple, bright and has many features with the integration to many popular plugins.
Even with all these ready made themes and plugins, it could be sometimes difficult to put together a blog which screams “wow.” Often times we end up spending way too much time to figure out a detail or get something right. Design not only takes creativity, but it also requires technical experience.
If you are not a designer and you if you don’t like the default theme layout, then get someone to help with a custom theme. Or update your existing theme to match your preference.
The cost of hiring someone could be easily justified when you see the result. People and search engine react well for a good design that boosts user experience.
This also helps you build your own brand which looks only like you and no one else.
Tips for designing a gorgeous blog
The first thing you might have to do is add a logo. It’s easier to create a logo than you think.
Here are few options to create a logo.
- Look for a logo design websites – Sites like Designmantic or logomakr offer free logo designs. They have tons of pre-built designs to choose from.
Although they are an excellent option to get a logo quickly, often times they are not unique and great looking. And you have a fewer options to customize the logo based on your preference.Alternatively, there are few premium ones where you can design and pay for it online. These are better than the free ones as they provide more options for customization. However, it doesn’t compare to the custom design logo quality.
For starters, these are great options as you don’t have to break your bank and waste a ton of time designing that perfect logo.
- DIY – If you don’t mind playing around the design software then you can easily create a logo quickly. Just write your name and chose the color pattern you are planning to use for your blog. And convert the text into a vector. This works great for starters as well.
- Hire a designer – Another option is to hire a designer, go to https://www.fiverr.com/categories/graphics-design/creative-logo-design and choose the one with good rating and order a logo. Usually, they are good and you can get your custom logo for a lot less.
Alternatively, you can use 99designs.com for your logo, this is a great site for professional looking logos. You can order a logo and many designers would bid on it and you can pick the one you liked and pay only for that logo. It’s a bit pricey compared to other options (still not as expensive as hiring a designer) however you will end up getting an amazing logo that you like.
When buying a logo make sure you also get the vector file and logo itself is in png format. This format is a transparent image format that could be placed on top of any pages.
Relevant and High-Quality Images
People respond to visuals better than words. Images are powerful to communicate your messages quickly. Good images also help to improve your site’s look.
You know the first impression is the best impression and that sticks with your readers for a long time. It is important to have high-quality images in your site to impress your readers as soon as they land in your site.
The images should also be relevant to your business or blog. It should communicate the message to your audience about the services or product you offer. The more the relevant they are, the better it sticks with your customer.
Any images that are not high in quality are poor images. Never look cheap in front of your audience. This goes a long way in building your brand and people trusting you.
The second type of bad images is inappropriate images. Like I said earlier the images has to be closely related to the business else people will get confused and worse they will bounce off.
Good, high-quality images cost you a little bit of money. Ranging anywhere from $1 to $7 depending on your requirement and the quality of the image.
Here are some of the resources to help find you photos.
These are some great sites which offer a broad range of stock photos. They are affordable and good in quality.
Pro Tip: Go subscribe to the newsletter in these sites and many of them will send out free images on an occasional basis.
- Unsplash – Good one. They even send out the images in email regularly.
- Flickr Creative Commons— Check for the conditions before using the pictures, usually you may have to credit the author for using the photo.
- Wikipedia Commons— The photos are generally free. However, the quality might not be great most of the time.
Social Media and photo sites
Sites like Pinterest, Instagram and many other photos sharing sites. Make sure you let the owner of the site know before using it.
Many of us don’t realize the importance of the font. Fonts make up the sentences and those are what people see to read the content. Having a great font will boost the users engagement, they will be encouraged to read your content.
Bad fonts are disastrous they could significantly harm your blog.
Fortunately, good fonts are easy to find and most of the time they are the standard ones that we use every day. When choosing the right font don’t get creative, a sophisticated cursive writing font might sound good and could look gorgeous but when put together it might look like a mixed art.
Here are some of the guidelines to choose the font:
- Keep it simple: Use the plain font, Helvetica, Arial or Georgia are used in most place, so just stick with it. People are already familiar and they will not find it hard to read it.
- Stick with the theme: Sometimes your themes comes with a well-chosen font combination. If they have already done the research and you like the way it appears in the demo theme then why to change it.
- Font Size: Even if you pick the best font in the world if the size is too small then it’s useless. Select the right size for you blog content, and various headings.
- Consistency: Define the font and it sizes for the entire theme, not for each page, the entire blog should look and feel the same. If you are copying your content from a different editor, make sure it does not have a different font setup. Some editors will style the content inline and might change the font settings.If you saw great font on some website and you, don’t know what that font is. Then use this tool to identify that font so you can use it in yours as well. http://www.myfonts.com/WhatTheFont/
In case you are up for getting your own custom fonts, then these resources would probably help.
Web Font Solutions
- Google Fonts— Free and most likely you will find a great one. I won’t look any further but in case if you are interested. Check the other options.
- Typekit— Premium Fonts.
- Fontdeck— Premium Font.
- exljbris Font Foundry— Good collection of free fonts.
- veer.com— Good collection of fonts.
- dafont.com— A big collection of free fonts.
Even a small variation in the color could create a lot of impact on the design. Unless you are well versed in the colors theory and understand the color combinations, I would not recommend you to play around with it too much.
While picking the theme, make sure the color patterns are good for you. It takes much effort to get a good professional color themes for your website.
There are so many studies around how to use colors and how it impacts users to take a certain actions.
This one post one talks about the different colors and the meaning of each for general readers.
At the same time, you should also build a color pattern for your business. The pattern to use for the brand building.
Here is how you do it.
- Pick 2 or 3 color combinations: Choose 2 colors of your choice, pick something that works best with each other.
Alternatively, you can also use to play around with the color combinations
Once you decided the color combinations, fix 2 to 3 base colors and that would be your brand colors.
- Neutral backgrounds: Just because you picked a bold color for your brand, you don’t have to start using it everywhere in your blog. The colors need to be subtle even if they are bright colors.Always use dull or white colors for your background, remember the purpose of the background is to help read your content. The human brain works better when there is no distraction in the background.
- Logos and headers: The color pattern you choose should be highlighted in the places where you talk about your brand and company. The logo is the best place to use the colors. Use the color in newsletters, letterheads and even as a pattern for your navigation bars.
- Consistency: Once you pick up the color, use it consistently everywhere you talk about your blog. Never use a different color even if they look great on that occasion. Using the same color pattern consistently will go a long way to building your brand on the web.
Links, buttons, and highlights: Another opportunity for using the colors is all the small elements in the blog. Links, buttons, and heading highlights are the places that user would interact with your blog. Use colors in those place, so it sticks with your users.
Pictures say a thousand words, and videos mean a thousand pictures. Videos are the most powerful medium to communicate your message. Adding video brings few benefits to your blog.
Clearly communicated your message: Rather than writing a 1000 words document to tell your viewers about your blog, create a short video to explain about your blog and its benefits.
Videos does not directly help improve your SEO. However, it keeps your users around for a longer time in the blog, those metrics might help improve your site rankings.
Adding a video to your blog makes your blog look more professional, and enhances user experience.
It is not a bad idea to create a video and post in your blog wherever it’s applicable.
You video doesn’t have to be super professional or thousands of $ production. It could be just a video from your mobile phone featuring you talking about your blog.
Simple design looks better than a cluttered look. Best designed blog is fully functional and the navigation flows naturally.
Many people think great design is displaying artistic work on the site, true if you are running an art related website. Unfortunately, the reality is, having a simple layout with no much distractions is the design that pleases most of your readers.
They come to your blog to get some information and your design should allow them to get to that quickly. Help they self-guide to consume the content without disturbances.
At the same time, the site also should look professional, clean and look great. It leaves a positive impression on your readers.
Choosing a great design is not that difficult, you don’t have to hire a super expensive designer to come up with the good layout. This is where you need to spend some time while deciding a theme for your blog.
Follow these steps to identify your best-designed theme.
- Love at first sight: As soon as you land the preview of the theme, did you say wow. You should fall in love with the theme, at first glance, if you don’t, then that theme is not for you. Don’t try to think that your readers would love it or you should get the theme because someone recommends it. If you don’t like the theme, then the chances are your readers won’t like it either.
- Ready to ship: Visualize the demo content with your content, and do you see that you need to modify the theme. If the answer is yes, then that’s not your theme. At the same if you think at least 80% of the theme would work without any modification, then you can still consider the theme. Keep in mind, its hard to find a theme that fits your exact requirement, even if you find one the chances are they won’t keep up with your demands in future.
- Navigation: A good site will not have more than 2 layers of navigation. The important links are visible at the parent level itself. Visualize the structure of your site and how the content will flow and make sure the design captures that. It should be visible to you, and any new visitor should be able to understand and follow the navigations.
- Monetization support: You know one day you will start monetizing your blog. You might be thinking of using display ads to monetize your blog. In that case, check if your blog design supports that. There should be placeholders for you to place your ads.
In case you want to sell your own products, then make sure if the theme is extensible and support the e-commerce applications. How much ever you plan, you can never predict the future of your blog, but at least, you should have a clear understanding of your near term goals and make sure the design and theme support that
- Links and other external references: In many themes you will find a small link in the bottom of the page, which says powered by the company built the theme. It might look negligible, but those little links create some impact to your blog.
It could take away some traffic from your blog to the developers website. Moreover, it could also pass on your link juice to the other site, impacting your websites search rankings.
Mobile is everything, you will see more traffic will come from mobile devices. So make sure your design and theme is fully responsive and adjusts the size based on the devices. When it comes to mobile, the best design is not just shrinking the size of the page and images but changing the layout to work better on the small screen. Check and make sure the elements overflow, button and text are still visible and legible to read.
To check the responsiveness use this tool by google and make sure the theme passes this test.
It will immediately let you know if the site is mobile friendly.
Now time to validate the blog Pagespeed test to see if the setup is right and if there are any improvements needed.
Then go back and fix those items if you can. Don’t get caught up in getting to 100%, often the effort it takes to fix those might not be worth. Do whatever you can and if the numbers are bad reach out to the theme developer and ask him to help you.
Look and feel is one of the most critical aspect of a blog. It helps increase your user experience, one of the factor Google uses to rank your blog higher. So make sure you get the design right. Show your personality and build your brand.