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5 Common Design Mistakes Bloggers Make (with Fixes)

5 Common Design Mistakes Bloggers Make and How to Fix Them

5 Common Design Mistakes Bloggers Make and How to Fix Them

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.

Join the Blog Tour! - Blog design tips, tutorials and mistakes to avoid when beautifying your blog on a budget DIY style!

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.

Use the grid to align your elements within columns.

Keep blog elements aligned within your blog’s layout using a grid.

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.

Fix it:

  • 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.

Fix it:

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.

Fix it:

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.

Patterns that are too loud are obnoxious and distracting

Fix it:

  • 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.

does your blog have a favicon? if not, you may be committing one of these 5 common blog design mistakes.

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.

Fix it:

Follow my tutorial on how to create these cute little favicons.

Want More Blog Design Tips Like These?

How about 45 more?
Then order my book, Blog Beautiful: 50 Tips + Tricks to Make Your Blog Glow! Each of the 50 tips includes tutorials and suggestions to fix each issue.

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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!

Chime In!

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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  • Skye says:

    Thank you so much for these helpful tips! Yes I’m guilty about Nr. 3. I do have an about page but I guess it’s not so obvious to find and I don’t have a bio in the Sidebar at all. I do have to overcome my shyness and change this. πŸ™‚
    My to do list is growing and keeps me busy but I really love this blog tour so much. Tons of valuable content I’m very impressed and want to thanks again all of the contributors for this!

    • Marianne says:

      Oh Skye, I have seen your little profile photo in Fizzle and it’s a great picture! Don’t be shy, there’s no reason to be!

      I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying the blog tour and that it’s been so useful to you. And welcome to blogging, where the To Do list never gets smaller, but bigger, haha! πŸ˜‰

  • Angie says:

    Oh how I loathe the obnoxious backgrounds!!!

  • My current website pet peeve is way too many ads. Pop outs, pop overs and slide ups. If you are using all at the same time and in multiples of each, in my opinion, you will drive away viewers. I don’t like to x all of them just to read your post. Are they actually creating affiliate sales?

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Elaine, I agree! I don’t like having the close all these things either, especially ads that popup. I thought those went the way of the dodo years ago!

  • Oops! I’m guilty of #1 and #5. I just changed my theme though so I haven’t had a chance yet to re-size my sidebar elements. I’ll do it soon. And I’ve been putting off the favicon forever now! Thanks for the nudge!!!!

    • Marianne says:

      Sandra, you’re not too far off the grid so it’s not so bad. But don’t use that as an excuse to forget about it πŸ˜‰ But it’s not as far off as some blogs I’ve seen. I like your new theme and the images up top!

  • Julie says:


  • Guilty of #3, that one was so hard to make. And I am not sure if any version would be appropriate and good enough.

    Love this Blog tour, although I found out about it just now, I can`t wait to read more on the topic.
    Thank you all for the great advice.

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Ines, it may be difficult with your theme since you don’t have a dedicated sidebar. You might consider switching to a layout or theme with a sidebar especially if you plan to start an email list or monetize at some point. So glad you found the tour, welcome!!

  • Gratiana says:

    I do not like the text in the middle of the narrow side and two empty dark stripes, eh
    Thank You Marianne

  • Andrea says:

    LOL so hard at #4. Honestly, I don’t know why people still do this. A throwback to the MySpace era, perhaps? But yes, these are really great points that you’ve mentioned here. I would say responsiveness should also be a top factor because mobile seems t be the norm these days. And SEO, too, because it’s nowhere near dead yet, but can be easily had though.

    • Marianne says:

      Andrea, so true! Responsiveness is definitely a top priority and it’s covered in my book πŸ™‚
      Glad you enjoyed #4, it’s one of my pet peeves!

  • Christine says:

    These are great tips! Thanks for sharing!

  • Hi Marianne. I’m loving all your tips on blogging. I have set up my own site recently about design and have used a few of your tutorials already. I will be making my first blog post this week..wish me luck!

    • Marianne says:

      That’s fantastic Zara, congratulations! I actually love your blog, you did a really nice job. My only concern is that while I love the color, the light green may be hard to read for some people. Colors appear differently on different monitors so it may be too light for some. I had that issue with my blog when I first launched in it’s original colors and so had to adjust them a bit.

      • Thanks Marianne. Yes I agree with you about the color on my site. I sadly need to change it. That’s right after I work out how to activate my comments. I had them and now I don’t!

        • Marianne says:

          Oh no! Did you check the settings under Settings > Discussion? See if there is anything checked or unchecked that shouldn’t be. If that doesn’t help, try doing a search on Google, chances are someone else has had the issue and there are answers in the WP forums. Good luck!

  • Not having a favicon or know what one is is a very common thing I see among my clients. Usually they don’t even notice when I add one to their mock blog pre-install and then ask about it later haha. Another issue that I didn’t see listed here is using a million and one fonts or hard to read fonts. I like to tell my clients to pick three and stick with it and that two should be clear and easy to read while the third should be used as an accent only!

    Great post! Thank you for sharing!

    – Elle Ay Esse

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Elle, thanks for your comments, the favicon is very often forgotten! I do talk about the use of fonts in the book, I just couldn’t include all 50 tips in this post! I’m glad you liked the post though, coming from a designer it means a lot πŸ™‚

  • Ms Wynn Zhou says:

    Thank you for sharing this information

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