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Dear Marianne // 03 Blog Design Feedback

Dear Marianne: a monthly Blog Design advice column from Come and ask me anything about your blog's design every first Friday of the month!

Dear Marianne: a monthly Blog Design advice column from Come and ask me anything about your blog's design every first Friday of the month!

“What is my blog missing?”

“What do you think of my colors?”

“Do you like my logo?”

You’ve got questions about your blog’s design and I’ve got answers. Got a specific question or just want me to take a cursory look and let you know what I think?

Hey you’re in luck!
Because today is the First Friday of the month which means it’s time for the “Dear Marianne” Blog Advice column.

I’ll reply to each comment with one quick tip. Questions that require longer answers may be saved for a future post. So for maximum impact, try and think of a specific question you’d like to ask.

The advice column is open all day today only so if you miss the window, you’ll have to wait til next month, so don’t delay! You’ll want to sign up for my email list to get monthly reminders.

Ok, It’s Your Turn Now!

If you’ve got one specific question you’d like to ask me, leave a comment below.

If you just want me to take a look at your blog and give you a quick piece of advice about your design, leave a comment below. (You might consider checking the box “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” so you know when I’ve answered your question).

Don’t forget to leave your URL!

The wonderful thing about public advice is that everyone can learn something from each others’ blogs so be sure to share this as the more questions we get, the more you’ll learn!

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  • Hi! I’m back with my new blog design. I’d appreciate any tips or feedback you have to share. Thanks!

    • Marianne says:

      Oh Whitney I LOVE it so much!! What a fantastic job you did!!! I seriously could not find ONE thing I would change, seriously. I think it is absolutely beautiful and you didn’t miss a single detail!

    • Oh my gosh – your website is beautiful Whitney? Did you do that yourself? I’ve been trying to teach myself blogging from square one and I only recently found a child theme that makes all my stuff look ok. But your site looks beyond beyond! Did you use a developer?

  • Margo says:

    Such a great idea! Can’t wait to see how it goes!

  • erlene says:

    Thanks for doing this. I’m trying to create photo galleries on my page that link to the projects, but I’m having a difficult time finding the right plugin. I’ve tried Catablog, which is not working any longer, Responsive Photo Gallery, and many more. Nothing seems to work correctly with the new WP 4.0 updates. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Erlene! It’s hard to find the right gallery plugin! I want one that is filterable by categories and opens a new page, not an overlay. Sounds like you want the latter as well.

      I found one that seems to work ok so far. It’s called OTW Portfolio. I haven’t fully implemented it yet and put that project no hold for now, but it seems to be the best I could find for now.

      Check it out and let me know what you think.

  • Elia says:

    First of all, thanks for doing this, it’s really good help (first time I post something, but questions from other people have been useful too).
    I have a question, but I don’t know if it really fits the category of blog design. I would like to write my blog in two languages, but not in the same post, I would like somthing like: for english and for spanish. Is there a way to do that with blogger?
    Thank you again ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Skye says:

    Thanks for this opportunity! I just created a blog and connected with Bloglovin. Unfortunattelly the photos don’t show up. I do have a selfhosted WP site and settings are made that the whole post will be shown. It must have to do with the RSS Feed but I have no clue what I have to do that the Pictures show up in RSS Feed. I’m new with WP and don’t know CSS or HTML. So if you have any solution please be specific where and what exactly I would have to do.
    Bloglovin can’t help me in this matter.

    Hope you can help me out. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Skye! That IS strange. I am not really sure what would be causing that. Perhaps try adding a featured image to your posts if you haven’t already?

      If that’s not it, it could be a plugin that is interfering. Try disabling your plugins and see if they appear. You may have to wait a few hours for caching unfortunately.

      Then if that does work, try re-enabling your plugins one by one til you’ve found the culprit that makes the disappear.

      Also, have you searched the WordPress support forums?

      • Skye says:

        Hi Marianne

        Thanks a lot for your kind answer and that you are following me on Bloglovin!
        I do have featured Images and I was searching in the Forums. I found out that a plugin helps showing the Images in the RSS Feed ( I did install this plugin and on IE I can see my full post with Images. But on Firefox the Images don’t Show up and it didn’t handled the issue with Bloglovin. I did created a test post with an Image included and this I can see. I deleated the post and it still Shows up on Bloglovin. :'(
        I will now write also to WordPress Support and Bloglovin. I guess no Images no followers on Bloglovin so I hope I can solve it.
        Thanks again, I’m very happy I found you and appreciate what you are doing here very much! <3

        • Skye says:

          Update: Images are now showing up in Bloglovin but with very bad Quality and without the blogpost text. :S
          Not ideal at all but a little improvement.

          • Marianne says:

            That really is strange Skye! I am boggled. You shouldn’t have to add a plugin though for your images to show up. I wonder still if it isn’t an issue with a different plugin. Sometimes, plugins cause strange problems on our sites.

            Do let me know if you ever figure out what’s going on.

  • Marianne – I’d love to get your input into my blog – but do you also tell us HOW to implement your input? If not, I’m out of luck! ๐Ÿ™‚ LOL

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Donna! I love Pretty Darn Cute themes! The only thing I’d have to say is to increase the size of your author pic in the sidebar. I know it’s pulling from Gravatar but there is a way to increase it’s size. Funny thing, I did increase the size of the Gravatars in my comments based on Lindsay’s advice!

      The sad thing is, I honestly cannot remember what her advice was! Since you purchased one of her themes, if you contact her, I know she’ll be more than happy to provide you with the link she gave me way back when.

      I hope that helps!

    • Marianne says:

      Oh and one more thing… your post images aren’t showing up. The urls are getting set up wrong somehow, it is throwing

      in front of the actual image urls. I am not sure what could be causing that, but that might be another question for Lindsay.

      I would also suggest to use bigger images, they are kind of small and images are what grabs people’s attention.

  • Faigie says:

    I have been told that my blog is too busy looking. I think it is because of my busy header that an artist friend created for me. I also have a paper background that matches the torn paper in the header. I am going to rehaul my design to appeal to more parents as opposed to only teachers. Do you have any suggestions as to what I should do with my header & if I should leave my background white. I see lots of professional blogs have white & I wanted something different but maybe I need to stick with that cleaner look? For the header I was going to change it to white with look on top with one sentence on the right and maybe a long strip of color under the palette & maybe move my social icons up to the header? What are your thoughts? Thanks so much.

    • Faigie says:

      I meant with logo on top (not look)

      • Marianne says:

        Hi Faigie. I’d have to agree, it does look very busy. I am not a fan of the beige paper as it looks old, like an old map and I don’t think that fits in with your topic. Everything feels very heavy and kind of masculine.

        I would definitely change the header, i like all your own suggestions on that one. Just be sure that the background color of the header (if you choose not to go with white) matches the background of the blog itself so it blends better. That’s what makes solid colors easier to work with than patterns or textures, unless you know what you’re doing graphically.

        Another suggestion would be to either remove the heavy dark red borders you are using or turn them into very thing one pixel borders. And maybe square off the corners or tighten the curves to something like 3 or 4px.

        • Faigie says:

          Thanks Marianne . So if my header background is white then my background should be white…but, .if I decide not to go with white what would you suggest given that my logos words are grey and red and there is a colorful palette in the look

          • Marianne says:

            Hi Faigie, try looking at other templates to see if you can find something that pleases you and that you think would go with your current logo.

            I think that white would work well and then use splashes of color throughout like in your headings, sidebar and images.

  • Jaclyn says:

    What is your recommendation for the comment section? Some colleagues say I should have it connect to the viewers facebook so when they comment it shows on their page in order for people to see my blog more. I personally think that it would shy people away from commenting. Thoughts?

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Jaclyn, great question!

      I hate Facebook comments! I don’t like using them because I don’t like my comments being broadcast everywhere and identified with my personal profile. If i wish to remain anonymous when I leave a comment, then I feel I should have that right.

      Also, don’t forget that not everyone is on Facebook. Yes, most of us are, but there are those are not. They won’t be able to comment.

      hat said, I have seen blogs though that use both an internal comment system AND Facebook comments. Perhaps trying that might give you the best of both worlds and people the choice!

  • Rochelle says:

    I feel like my blog is a bit of a mess right now. I tried to start redesigning it a few months back, but then stopped because of pregnancy and now I’m not sure where to pick back up at. I like my colors, but I feel like there’s too much going on in my header. I need a real logo and I have one in mind, but I don’t know how to take something I’ve drawn and make it into an image. I should probably shorten my header, huh? Any small tip on the direction I should take my blog would be helpful. I am sure I could use hours upon hours of help. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Rochelle! You know, I think it looks pretty good so far, really! I do like the colors too.
      I agree with you on the large logo image: it’s taking up too much space and the image resolution is not clear. I’d say remove it altogether. It’s also pushing all your content down too far so it makes it difficult to know what the blog is about without scrolling.

      The logo at the top is too small to read. But you probably already knew that ๐Ÿ˜‰

      In terms of getting your logo created into an image, try checking out some designers and illustrators and seeing how much they would charge to digitize it for you. It might not be too much, you never know.

      I like your about widget and I LOVE your photo! Its adorable!

      If you have the ability to change column widths, you might consider making your sidebar wider to accommodate the G+ widget and shorten the width of the content column. Your footer is a little crowded too, so play with the size of your widgets and see if you can make them smaller to fit. Or change to a 3 column footer if you can.

  • Claire says:

    Hi, this is the first time I’m participating in Dear Marianne, so I’d just like some general feedback on how it looks.

    Thanks for doing this, one on one feedback is so helpful!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Claire, glad you are participating this month! ๐Ÿ™‚ So two things I would change:

      1. can you redo the logo so that it’s more horizontal? I like the image, it’s really cute. Perhaps aligning the name of your blog to the right of it all in one line, instead of on top, would make it feel more balanced.

      2. The other thing I’m not crazy about: the header and date fonts. It feels a little childish. I like the handwritten script in your mini bio though. Speaking of the date, is there a way to make it smaller and move it below the title? If you can’t move it, at least making it quite a bit smaller so it doesn’t stand out as much would be better.

      Hope that helps!

  • Shareba says:

    Hey Marianne,

    Thanks for giving us this opportunity!

    I had someone add little creative elements to my sidebar, but I think they are actually slowing my site down… is there any way to tell? My load speed isn’t great and I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong.

    Also, would love any feedback on my blog overall if you’ve got the time ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Shareba, you’re welcome!
      Hmmm… i’m not that versed in load speed (i should be but i’d rather design!) ๐Ÿ˜‰ so i can’t really say.
      Did you notice it slow down significantly right after you added them? I’d almost think all the ads could be the culprit.

      Perhaps try removing everything from your sidebar, then see if it speeds up the site. If it does, add each widget back one at a time and test the speed and see if you can find the real culprit.

      I’d also love to see your mini bio above that first ad!! (but i understand if it’s a high performing ad).

  • Roopini says:

    Hi Marianne,
    I would love to know how to add pictures in feed burner mails. I tried using Flickr for it and failed ๐Ÿ™ Feed burner mails are working fine right now, except that they contain only text and not any pictures from the post.
    Thank you,
    Let’s Make It Lovely

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Roopini, unfortunately I don’t know Feedburner that well so I can’t answer that question.

      I set up my feed over a year ago and haven’t spent much time in Feedburner since, but my images are working, but my images are hosted through my WordPress site.

      Have you tried Googling ‘images not showing up in Feedburner’?

  • Jenni Gate says:

    Hi Marianne,

    Thanks so much for doing this. I do have some specific questions, but I think I’ll save those for next month. For now, just a general peek and tell if I’m on the right path.



    • Marianne says:

      Jenni, you could have totally asked today!!

      Anyway.. the only thing that stands out to me is that there is no mini bio at the top of the sidebar explaining to me why I should stay and visit. I’d love to see something that tells the visitor benefits of sticking around and also a photo of you. It’s important for people to know the person behind the blog, trust me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Toyin Alli says:

    Dear Marianne,

    I am struggling with my blog design. There are 2 styles that I LOVE, minimalistic/clean and bright and colorful!!! The problem is that they are conflicting. My first inspiration is I love the way she has featured posts at the top! My other inspiration is I love how clean the white and gray looks. Right now I have bright colors but I think I should switch to white and gray with a pop of color. What do you think?

    Btw, my layout is not how I want it! I hate that it is not centered.



    • Marianne says:

      Hi Toyin, I agree with your idea of going to white and gray with a pop of color. Then you can have the best of both worlds.

      Btw, i do not like the first link. It’s way too busy and my eyes have no idea what to focus on first. And having the content blocks floating on top of the background like that is a little jarring to me.

      So i’d say go with something like the 2nd link and pick one or two of your favorite colors to pop in here and there. For example: how cute is this blog?

  • Hi Marianne! First, I love your website and find it very helpful!! I’ve been blogging on faith topics for a a couple years. Last year I did a re-design and updated the look of my blog. I created a “static front page” with links instead of having the blog posts be the home page. What do you think? Also…do you know of a plug-in (or some code?!?) that I can add that will remove the date on posts that are older than 30 days? Most of the posts are still applicable even if they are old. Thanks for your help once more!

  • Oops… not sure if I included the url of my blog. Here it is this time! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Sharon! I like the separate home page. It gives newcomers a good idea of what your blog is about and what they should look at.

      Unfortunately I don’t know of any plugins that would remove dates of posts after a certain amount of time. I did a quick search but didn’t find anything, but I’m sure you’ve already done that too.

      Sorry I wasn’t able to help with that one!

      • Thank you for visiting my blog and giving me your thoughts about the home page, Marianne! Thanks also for searching around for a “date removal” plug-in. We need an IT person to write something!! ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Marianne says:

          You could always suggest it to Kim Doyal ( She always seems to be working on plugins! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Thanks for giving us this awesome opportunity, Marianne! I plan to teach myself how to migrate my current blog to a in the near future and would like any suggestions you have for selecting a WP theme. The one I currently have just struck my fancy and I figure I should put more thought and effort into selecting a new one.
    Thank you!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Laura, you bet!

      So there are so many factors when it comes to choosing a theme and it’s not just the looks. You want to think about what type of functionality you want it to have. Like, what do you want your blog to accomplish? Do you want to sell anything? You might want an ecommerce theme.

      Do you want to showcase photos? Then you might look into portfolio themes. Etc…

      You can also search for themes in specific industries. I am sure there are plenty of themes made just for interior design.

      Another thing to look out for is if the theme offers support as you may need help with certain features. Theme Forest has a lot of beautiful themes but many themes designers there (not all) are notorious for poorly coded themes and then not offering support. Just some things to think about.

      • Great advice, Marianne! Thanks ever so much. Your blog is SO helpful and I truly appreciate all the work you put into it for us!

        • Marianne says:

          Thanks Laura! I really do enjoy answering people’s questions so I guess I get something out of it too! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • What a great opportunity, Marianne! I just re-designed my blog. Would love for you to take a look and share your impressions or specific improvement you would suggest. Thanks so much!

  • I am very new to blogging and I love all your great advice. I started my blog from a WP theme and did a few updates but it still looks so “newy” like the amateur that I am. What advice could you give me to give my site some punch and personality !!!! Thanks so much -you are so great to share your knowledge so freely !!!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Rebecca!
      While the image at the top is cute, it’s also very large, requiring lots of scrolling to get to the content. Could you make it smaller and add to the sidebar somewhere?

      Also, consider moving your email sign up to the sidebar. And one more thing: add a mini bio near the top of the sidebar with your photo and explanation of why new visitors should stick around.

  • Hey! x

    I am a sixteen year old, amateur blogger and so I am not very experienced on the aspects of blogging. Through the help of various advice websites and a few amazing blogger friends, I have reached the stage that I am at right now. I seldom doubt my blog design and wonder if it’s clean, convenient and suitable for the theme of my blog. It would be lovely if you could drop by my blog and let me know what I can improve on and how exactly my blog design could be enhanced and perfected. Given that I’ve just started blogging and am just sixteen, getting an expensive custom design isn’t something I’m very sure about yet, given that we have no custom blog designers in India and all of those in the US or any other countries are pretty expensive! Please do let me no, it would be of great help!

    Thanks a lot x

    • Faigie says:

      Radhika, Marianne only answers these posts on Fridays

      • Marianne says:

        Thanks Faigie! Since it’s one question, I don’t mind answering it this time ๐Ÿ™‚

        Radhika, here are my initial thoughts on your blog: at first I thought it was a cupcake site because of the large image front and center. Then I saw your blog name and tagline and realized it was not so much about cupcakes. I know it’s a cute image, but you may consider removing it to avoid confusion. It’s also quite large and forces the reader to scroll down to see anything else.

        Consider finding an image with confetti or glitter (or even polka dots) that you could use at the top of your blog instead. That would match your blog name better and take less space. I’m thinking something like this: but maybe overlaying your blog name/logo over it. Look for an image like this that you can download and play around with (or Photoshop if you have it).

        The next thing I would suggest (which I’ve been saying a lot this weekend!) is to add a mini bio below your sidebar image that explains to a new reader why they would benefit from reading your blog.

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