Hello everyone and welcome to the Design Your Own (lovely) Blog – Blog Tour! This post is #13 in a series of 14 posts from 14 incredible female bloggers about a tip, tutorial, etc. to help women improve their blogs, mainly through design.
Today I am replacing Sarah Moore on the original line-up because Sarah is unfortunately having some website issues, so let’s take a moment to send her some good luck and vibes her way, shall we?
Ahhhh ok. I hope that works! If you want to learn more about the blog tour and see the full line-up, click here.
As many of you know I have a monthly Dear Marianne advice column that runs every first Friday of the month. I learn a ton from these posts as you hopefully do too. So today I’m going to talk about some common design mistakes I see bloggers making and how to avoid them. So let’s dig right in!
1. Not Using the Grid
When elements on your blog page are not aligned to a grid, the lack of cohesiveness can make your design appear haphazard and random. This causes mental discord for your visitors.
Websites are two-dimensional and when designed well, are designed on a grid.
Look at your blog as if it were laid out on imaginary grid paper and try to align your elements to it. Elements in one column should aim to be the same width and aligned along the same vertical axes. Likewise, elements that are laid out in a row should aim to be the same height when possible and top aligned to the same horizontal axis.
Lining things up vertically gives your blog a clean look. When something sticks out of the grid, it draws attention to itself. This is good if you want that element to stand out (like my circular dates above) or bad if you don’t because it’s distracting. So unless you want an element to stand out, try tucking it back in where it belongs.
- Look at your post columns. Are the headings and paragraphs vertically aligned? Are you images the same widths as your paragraphs or at least the same width to the rest of your images?
- Look at your sidebar. Are all items aligned to the grid or are some elements left aligned, while others are right aligned and others centered? Are the widths all over the board or does it feel symmetrical?
- If you have elements of varying widths in your sidebar, try tying them together by placing a lightly colored box (or bordered box) of the same width behind each section. See if any of the elements can be resized to fit better together.
- Drag the handy 960 Gridder tool to your browser toolbar to take a look at the grid overlaid on your own blog.
2. Having a Cluttered Up Sidebar
Your sidebar is valuable real estate so take it seriously. Each item in your sidebar should serve a specific purpose and support at least one of the 1-2 main goals of your blog.
Think about what you’d like people to do when they arrive at your blog. Do you want them to buy a product or service? Subscribe to a newsletter? Get to know you better? Or take some other action?
If you’ve got items that don’t support these goals, then it’s probably best to remove them.
Not sure what to keep and what to remove? This handy sidebar decluttering guide should help.
3. Not having a proper author photo/bio
What’s the number one piece of advice I give on my monthly Dear Marianne advice column? Not having a proper author bio and photo near the top of your sidebar.
Why is this important? Because identity is extremely important in blogging. People want to know first of all that you’re a real person they can connect to and second they want to know why you are qualified to teach them what they have come to learn from you.
- Take a look at my showcase of pretty sidebar photos and mini-bios as well as Angie’s own showcase for inspiration, then create your own.
- Check out Angie Makes’ tutorial on making your own adorable sidebar image using PicMonkey.
- Don’t make your mini bio all about you, it should start with how your blog will benefit your readers.
- Since the About page is one of the most highly trafficked pages on a blog, don’t forget to include a “Read more” link to your full About page.
- Create an actual About Me page to link to as opposed to the useless Blogger profile page.
4. Obnoxious Backgrounds
Background patterns and photos can be fun and give your blog personality but nothing screams amateur like a blog with an obnoxious background. Here’s what I mean by obnoxious:
- Patterns that don’t tile correctly. They repeat but the seams don’t blend together and therefore looks jarring.
- Patterns or photos that get cut off. These patterns either stop suddenly at a certain point of scroll or are not wide enough for wide screen monitors.
- Patterns that are too busy or loud. A good background should be subtle, adding to the whole design rather than taking all the attention. The focus should be on your content, not the background.
- If your background doesn’t tile correctly, find one that seamlessly tiles. There are far too many beautiful seamless patterns that are free or affordable to settle for something that wasn’t meant to be a blog background.
- If using a photo, be sure to select one that is at least 1600 pixels wide so that it doesn’t get cut off at the sides on a large screen monitor.
5. Not Using a Favicon
Favicons are used to help visually identify a website in your bookmarks. It’s also that tiny little icon you see next to your site or page name in the browser tabs.
Why is it necessary to have one? Because it helps those who use multiple tabs to quickly identify and switch back and forth between your tab and other sites. Plus it’s a detail that adds a final touch to your blog’s branding and design.
Follow my tutorial on how to create these cute little favicons.
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Continue Reading the DYOB Blog Tour!
Be sure to check out yesterday’s post by Kristie Hill on Making Your Blog Content Pop with Blockquotes and Content Boxes.
And then Kate Brooke wraps up the tour tomorrow, so be sure to stop by and support her!
Are you guilty of any of these common mistakes? Got any other favorites you’d like to share? Let’s discuss in the comments below!
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