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Dear Marianne // 06 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!

“Can you take a look at my blog and tell me what you think?”

“What do you think of my fonts?”

“Do you think my logo is too big?”

Everyone has questions about their blog’s design so here’s the place to ask! Whether you’ve got a specific question or you just want some honest feedback, this monthly column is for YOU!

Today is the First Friday of the month which means it’s time for the “Dear Marianne” Blog Advice column!

Here are the “rules” πŸ˜‰

  • Leave your question in the comments today. Comments are open for a full 24 hours (12am – 12am Mountain/USA time). I’ll post replies throughout the weekend.
  • 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. πŸ˜‰ Or mark it in your calendar.
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The next Dear Marianne will be January 2, 2015! See you all again next year!!

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  • What tips/feedback do you have for my overall design? I just did some slight tweaks recently and I’m still learning about coding in genesis! Thank you πŸ™‚

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Amber! I like the changes you’ve been making and your header too! The only thing I would say is to probably remove the hearts dividers between posts and leave them to your sidebar. It’s a little too much having them in both columns. Other than that, looking good!

  • Claire says:

    So a few weeks ago, in a blogging forum someone had this to say about my blog (

    “The green and purple are a little kiddish looking. While it is something clean, the huge contrast and colorfulness, mostly because of the green lines you have separating your content from the widgets, do come off a little youthful. As for what Tim said – I agree. Some of the comic/handwriting things do come of a bit much, especially when so prominently placed on your side bar.

    Also, the fact that you don’t have an actual About Me page prominently displayed near your header, but rely on people to click on an about me section on the sidebar (where it’s not necessarily clear that you’re clicking to go to another page, vs just a bigger version of a photo) is a bit of a giveaway that it’s a blogspot blog. Then to get back to your blog, you have to click on your header, which is not something people who go to blog sites but don’t have their own blog would necessary pick up on. ”

    Since then I have added in a navigation bar (I didn’t have one at all, and I don’t see how that indicates it was on blogger).

    So lay it on me, Marianne, does having colors make my blog look childish? is a travel blog looking youthful actually a bad thing? is it obvious it’s a blogger blog? Should I ditch the handwritten font?

    Sorry for the long post with lots of questions, but I had asked someone else if they thought my blog was suffering from “my-first-blog syndrome” (like the livejournal I had when I was 13), and her response really blew me away and shook my confidence.

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Claire! I can see what she meant by the colors being a little kiddish looking. I really like the new header a lot, but I’m afraid that the rest of the design elements don’t match very well anymore. I think it’s because the header looks more sophisticated and yes the fonts and colors in the rest of the design are slightly kiddish I guess.

      I think that woman has a point about not wanting your blog to look kiddish. The blogs that do are usually written by kids or they’re written by moms ABOUT kid stuff. So the kiddish look might kind of throw your audience off. Try looking for some new colors using Adobe Kuler that strike your fancy.

      The only other thing I would change is the font in your titles and sidebar (below the about you). You already have a “handwritten” font in your sidebar (the script in your about section) so having another one is almost too much. Either use the same script you’re already using in your About section or go for a nice sans-serif to replace the casual handwritten font you’ve got.

      I do like the addition of the top nav bar. And you can always add a “read more” link at the end of your bio blurb. That would make it more obvious that there’s more to read about you.

      I don’t necessarily think that clicking on your sidebar about to more info on an about page has anything to do with being a Blogger blog, so I have no idea what she’s talking about there. That’s exactly what I do and what I recommend and I’m on WordPress.

    • Marianne says:

      Oh and don’t let what she said shake your confidence! Blogging and designing is a LEARNING process! Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re asking the right questions! πŸ™‚

  • Hi, Marianne. I’m looking for some honest feedback on my site. I’ve got a new logo that should be complete in the next 10 days that I plan to incorporate into the header (yay, no more polka dots on my name!), but overall the site doesn’t feel “good” yet. I just switched my color scheme from soft pinks, to a bolder use of color that utilizes the color of my new logo much better. Maybe that’s what doesn’t feel good to me? Anyway, do you have in thoughts on this? I thank you in advance for any advice you can offer me!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Laura! I already told you I love the new theme! I like the bold colors too (even though I told you at first I like the lighter ones) because your blog is about color and so it should be bold. I think you might want to go back to the bolder colors in the header, even though it has the black dots. Maybe try it again with your new logo when you get it.

      I think it looks great though. The only thing that’s throwing me off is the featured image with the lightbulb. Try to keep your featured images consistent, in that they’re all horizontal images so they fit well in that grid on the home page.

      That’s all I’d say though. Great job!

  • Hello! What a great service to offer through this lovely blog! πŸ™‚
    I designed my blog just a couple of weeks ago and would love any input you might have. Thanks so much!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Misty! I think that you’re getting there, just a little more work πŸ˜‰ You have a few different styles going on, as well as colors, that they are not blending quite right together. Let me explain. The header has a Laura Ashley/country type feel with the flowers, but the quatrefoil background just doesn’t seem to match the style because it’s more modern. Try finding something softer and more romantic for a background. Or just go for a solid light color, one taken from the flowers should work well.

      You might also want to see if you can change the blue color in your blog name to a blue from the flowers. Right now, it’s a brighter blue and you want more of a cornflower or country blue. The two different pinks (in your tagline and titles) are clashing a little bit too.

      And one other critique if I may: a few too many fonts.

      I hope I wasn’t too mean!! I really like where it’s going, just a few more tweaks and you’re almost there!

  • Bev Bean says:

    My blog is still in baby stages, but I’m hoping that I’m headed in the right direction!

    A couple of points I’d love your input on:
    – Where is the best place to purchase a domain name, and is that essential to a blog’s success / professional look?
    – Any tips on how to make my blog feel cozy and cohesive? Right now I feel like things are splattered on the page.
    -Any further tips from you?!

    Thanks for you ongoing help!!

    Much love.


    • Marianne says:

      Hi Bev!
      You’re on the right track!
      So it doesn’t matter too much where you buy a domain. Last I checked had pretty good pricing on theirs so try them first. It might help to shop around a bit though.

      I think it would really help to make your post column narrower so that it’s the same width as your images. That will shorten your line lengths too, which makes it easier to read. I’d also increase your font size as it’s pretty tiny right now.

      One more thing: your sidebar headings (What I’m Reading, What I’m Watching etc.) should stand out more too. Larger font and perhaps a different color? Play around a bit with some variations and see what strikes your fancy. And come back next month for more feedback on your changes if you’d like!

  • Liz Schneider says:

    Hi Marianne,
    I am struggling a bit with colors on this site I am creating so of course it affect the look from the banner image all the way down to the footer. The client (who is also my biz mentor and friend) wants the deep, rich colors of the Burren flowers in Ireland. Mystery and magic are key to her brand. Celtic spirituality is one of the tools of transformation she uses.

    This is my test site:

    We chose this theme to customize, based on her liking the layout of another site. There is just something about designing all in such deep colors that is overwhelming to me, feels a bit like a SHOUT rather than subtle whispering. Can you recommend a way to use her colors (the green and magenta, gold as an accent) in a way that fits the feel she wants (perhaps using spot graphical elements rather than solid color), or how to shift the color palette to meet her needs. Her audience is women in 40-60’s age group. Thank yo!!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Liz!
      Wow that’s a tough one! My first thought is that the header is ok. I don’t mind the heavy colors in the header, but they should be relegated to the header only. That dark green should not extend below the header and navbar. Either use a white background or that very light green from down below for .site-inner. It’s just way to dark to have behind the content areas on the sub pages too.

      The rest of the backgrounds should be lighter colors and you can just sprinkle the dark green and purple throughout the rest of the layout in your headings and/or link colors.

      As for the purple in the footer, I think that making it lighter would help too. Play around with different tints and shades til you find one that seems to work for you. The colors don’t have to be the exact colors from the header images. Try this site to find tints and shades of the purple in the header:

      The footer is definitely too dark especially with the white of those Facebook widgets. If you can’t override the CSS in the widgets to match the background color, I’d try for a much lighter background color. I’m also not a fan of the way the purple and yellow go together. That yellow looks ok on a green background, but on the purple, it looks cheesy.

      I hope that helps Liz! I know it’s hard to look at a job objectively that you’ve been staring at for too long πŸ˜‰

      I hope that helps!

  • Jodi says:

    I’d love any tips for making my blog look better? I like the design … but I don’t LOVE the design. You know what I mean? I’d love to hear what you think! (Good or bad … I can take it!) πŸ™‚

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Jodi!
      Your design is not bad, but it’s a little bit boring. What about dressing up your header with a couple of nautical/sailor style icons/graphics? A search for “free nautical graphics” on Pinterest should turn up some good ideas. There are lots of ways you could incorporate them, such as sprinkling tiny icons all over your header sorta like confetti, or using 2 slightly larger ones on either side of the blog name/logo.

      Look at other headers for some inspiration. Here’s a place to start:

      I’d also try and find another image of yourself that is closer to the width of your sidebar. It’s a tad awkward that it’s so much narrower than the surrounding box.

      Oh and one other thing: I’m not sure I like the bordered, shaded boxes around your post titles. Try removing the border and background and bumping up the font size a bit and see what you think.

  • Cindy says:

    I would love whatever advice you can give me! I recently switched from Athualpa to Reverie so I can still tweak whatever I want but I feel like my design kind of sucks right now πŸ™

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Cindy!
      I’d say to take a look at your colors again. I think you might want to play off your blog name a little and use a little raspberry color throughout the site. Right now I only see it in your hat. Then you’ve got green, blue and purple going on. Then the black is a little bit harsh with those colors. Try choosing raspberry with one other color and maybe a medium gray.

      Reading this may help as well: Ultimate Guide to Choosing Colors for your Blog or Website

  • Jackie says:

    Hi Marianne!
    Thank you so much for your generosity with this post. I would love your thoughts on the images that go along with my blog posts. I am curious if you think they are working or not. My hope is to have images that are personal, branded and social media friendly. I wonder if the consistency of the same type of image in each post works, or if I should go a different route. Whatever thoughts come up for you, I would love to hear πŸ™‚ Thanks tons!
    Much love,

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Jackie, lovely site!
      My first thought was that your images on the home page post excerpts are too small. I’d love to see them larger. I also think that the color overall on the site is a little monotone. Perhaps using a contrasting color (from the green everywhere else) in your images might give the overall look a little more “punch.” Let me know how that works!

  • Jenny says:

    Hi Marianne!
    I’m a new blogger and would love any kind of feedback on my site. I’m currently somewhat dissatisfied with my blog, particularly with my header/logo and layout. I also (kind of) have a color scheme that I loved at first, but now I’m not so sure about.
    Thanks so much for your generosity with this! Your thoughts and feedback will be greatly appreciated πŸ™‚

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Jenny, I actually like the colors you’ve chosen, they go very well together. And I think you did a great job on the header! What I’d like to see though is more of those colors brought down into the site and sidebar. I like the darker gray you are using for the text, but not the black in the sidebar. Try incorporating your header colors into the social icons and also into the sidebar headings, which could also be a little larger to make more of a differentiation between widgets.
      Great start so far!

  • Keri says:

    Just updated my site but willing to make any changes. I would love any and all feedback for my site. I have thick skin so you won’t offend me LOL. I’ve been following the tips that you had the guest post bloggers do recently too. Thanks for this!!!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Keri! So glad you enjoyed the blog tour!

      So first thing I’d say is, make your header image a tad narrower because the side edges are currently covering up the drop shadows behind it.

      The only other thing I’d say is to incorporate another color into the mix. There are two shades of orange but I feel it needs one other color. Blue would be nice if you like blue, or you can use Adobe Kuler to find other options. I’m not a fan of the black ribbon below your photo though. It’s a bit harsh because the rest of the site has a softer feel to it.

      Nice job so far though!

  • Shugunna says:

    I would love for you to look at my blog site to give me some feedback. I’ve only been doing this for a short time but i really need some help. google adsense just sent me an email saying my verbage was profane and that they wouldn’t let me use their advertisement. I really don’t know what they are talking about so if you could give me some feed back on the “Get Design Feedback Friday” I would really appreciate it.

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Shugunna, thanks for joining!
      So I’m not a Google or SEO expert but the only thing that comes to mind is perhaps the word “sexy.” Maybe they don’t like that for some reason, like they associate it with porn or something?

      The only thing I’d say about your design is that I’d like to see larger images in your posts. Or you could try combing several together into a collage. PicMonkey is great for this!

  • Beks says:

    I feel like my blog is missing something. I’ve pretty much designed it myself, using Blogger’s backgrounds, but something still feels off to me. If there is anything that sticks out to you that seems not right, what would that be? Be blunt. πŸ™‚

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Beks!
      So a couple of things:

      Yes the different patterns and shades of gray in the header image and blog background are clashing. I’d say to use a pattern in one but a solid color in the other. So if you choose solid color in the header, just use white and center the logo in that.

      Also you have two different script fonts (the nav and titles). Choose one and just use that. Use my Font Combinations Guide to help.

      Too many colors. I see red, pink, purple, 2 different blues and green. That’s a lot! Stick to two main colors plus one more that’s used sparingly for accents. Just stick to a dark gray for the body copy.

      The posts themselves could use a little formatting. Try left or right aligning the images so that the text flows around them instead of getting thrown below them. And break up your paragraphs to 2-3 sentences a piece and make sure there is at least one row’s worth of margin below each paragraph.

      Hope these tips help!

  • julie says:

    Hi Marianne,

    Thanks for being so generous with your ideas and time!!

    I’ve been running my blog for a while, and have recently rebranded into offering visual design advice for small creative business (branding, products and visual marketing etc).I am planning to include an ‘About Me” in the sidebar soon (from one of your suggestions in an earlier post, thanks!), but apart from that is there anything else that you think I would benefit from?

    Cheers, Julie

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Julie!
      Haha, I’m glad you saw my suggestion for adding your About Me because I was going to say that before I read your whole comment! πŸ˜‰

      Other than that, I think the only thing I would change is to add a bit more space between your nav bar items. They’re a little too close and you have plenty of room there.

      Oh and a tagline would be helpful too because it’s not immediately clear what you offer.

      That’s not too much, you’re pretty good to go!

  • Christy says:

    Wow! what at cool thing for you to do! I am super nervous though. To mask my nervousness, I usually talk a lot. But I won’t. There are a couple of things that I don’t like that I am sort of locked in to with the Blogger platform. I am planning on moving to WordPress after the holidays and hopefully I will be in better control of certain design elements.

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