Starting a Blog: Design Tips
So you’re starting a blog. You’ve set up your hosting, installed WordPress, and are now going through the countless WordPress themes available today. How to know which one to pick? Which design will work best? The tips below will help you choose the best look for you.
One of the most popular magazine templates
Form Follows Function
Themes come in many styles, yet they’re more or less designed to serve a function. For example, one theme may be designed to be an e-commerce site, while another might be intended to be used for multimedia. Whatever the purpose, form will follow function. It’s likely you already have an idea what your blog will be used for, and if so, that will shorten considerably the design choices you’ll need to make. The most common types of blogs are:
- Personal blogs (one-column, two-column, or even three-columns)
- Business websites (looks like a conventional website, not a blog)
- Magazine/Newspaper (think CNN, Reuters, The New York Times, etc.)
- Photography, Multimedia and Portfolio blogs
- E-commerce sites
- Landing pages
All of these have both free and premium options, but if you’re at all intending to monetize your site, you’ll want to give the premium themes a look (esp. for business and magazine-style templates). You can find free themes here.
A business template
Design for the Mobile Age
Once upon a time mobile phones were not so ubiquitous and accordingly, WordPress themes weren’t designed for them. There are still plenty of those themes floating around, so make sure that whatever theme you choose is responsive. That means that it will adjust to any screen type and will look equally good on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone.
A simple, clean, two-column design
Keep the Viewer On Target
Once you’ve chosen your theme, the fun part begins. It’s now time to customize your blog to look exactly the way you want it, ideally setting your site apart from others. This is easier with some themes than others, but all of them allow you to do some level of customization. Your primary intent should be to keep your viewers interested and engaged. Here are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Don’t go crazy with colors and fonts. While colors and fonts can be fun to play with, too many of them (or using the wrong ones) can make your blog a nightmare to read. For colors, it’s best to stick to 2-3 contrasting colors, with a dark color on a light background being the easiest to read. Ideally, your blog would have a main primary color, a shade of gray, and a color for your call-to-action. For fonts, it’s best to stick to 3: a heading, subheading and body copy font. Most premium themes come with nice-looking fonts already installed. If you have a free template and you’d like to change the font, this post from wpbeginner.com will walk you through the process.
- White space is your friend. White space is the area that surrounds your text and graphics. It helps the viewer’s eye to follow the page. A generous helping of white space around each of your elements will make your blog seem both neat and clean, at the same time making it easier for the reader to follow. Crammed text and/or too many graphics will often overwhelm viewers. Well-used white space will avoid that effect.
- Have simple, easy-to-follow navigation. This goes without saying, but you might be surprised at how many blog sites ignore this, making copious pull down menus filled with even more pull down menus. The thing is, if your blog is tricky or difficult to navigate, people won’t stay. Use clear headers and sub-headers, and makes sure the links at the top, bottom, and side bar(s) are both relevant and easy to follow.
- Avoid Clutter. As mentioned before, cluttering up your blog can make it difficult to read and less visually appealing. It’s also important to make sure your sidebars don’t get filled up with too many elements, making it hard for the viewer to find the essentials. Organize your widgets and banners to only those that you need, while making sure that the important ones are easy to see (i.e. the search bar, subscription form, social media links, contact information, etc.).
A three-column design that looks spacious because of the intelligent use of white space
Create Unique Content
Your content is how you add value and keep your viewers coming back for more. The more unique, compelling, and original your content, the more successful your blog will be. Here are a couple of pointers:
- Make sure you take out all of the stock photos that come with your theme and replace them with high quality photos of your own. These can be your own photos or different photos from a stock photo site—just make sure that they add value to the written content and/or purpose of your blog. If you’re using your own photos, don’t simply snap a couple of unplanned shots from your smartphone and load them into your theme or photo gallery. Think carefully about what photos will really make your blog shine and set them up accordingly. The professional photographs will have been through an editing program like Adobe Lightroom or Luminar.
- Write quality content. Choose a topic that genuinely interests you and then do your research. From there you can use an outline, automatic writing, or any other method that will get the first draft on the table. From there, review and edit your post, making sure it’s scannable (has bullet points, headers, and sub-headers) and that you’ve caught any spelling or grammar mistakes. Once that’s done you’re ready to post.
Don’t be surprised if the overall design of your blog site takes some time to set up—especially once you enter the customization phase. But having a good, clean, and compelling design will be well-worth the trouble, especially if it keeps viewers returning to your site.