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Dear Marianne // 09 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 design missing?”

“Should I try _____?”


It’s time for the monthly Q+A on DYOB, my FAVORITE post of the month!! I can’t wait to see your questions!

Let’s Get This Party Started!

Here are the “rules” ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Leave your question in the comments today. Comments are open for a full 24 hours (12am – 12am Mountain/USA time). I’ll come back and 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Or mark it in your calendar.
  • Share this with friends! The more that participate with questions, the more we learn from each other! Here’s an easy Tweetable below:

The eBook That’s Really a Course!

Blog-Beautiful-50-tips-make-blog-glow-smWant some extra help on your blog design? Then you’ll definitely want my newest eBook, Blog Beautiful: 50 Tips + Tricks to Make Your Blog Glow now available for instant download!

Ok now over to you!

Leave a comment below with your URL in the URL field so I can go check out your blog.

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  • Eva says:

    Hello there again! It’s always nice to visit your lovely blog! ๐Ÿ™‚ I was wondering, what’s the first impression someone gets from my blog… Are the colours and design easy on the eyes? Because i did it all by myself and i’m not an expert, i’m just passioned enough with blogging to try new things to make it look more pro. But i don’t know if i managed to do so, could you please tell me?
    Thank you in advantage! Have a lovely weekend! A big hug from Greece!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Eva, the colors are fine and yes they are easy on the eyes. The only thing I don’t like is all the different borders going around each element on the page. I would either get rid of most of them altogether or just use one style, preferably a thinner border (1pixel) vs the thick ones.

      I would highly recommend reading my Blog Beautiful eBook as it can walk you through some ways to think about and look at your design.

  • Mad says:

    Hi, please can I get some general feedback on my blog design? I’m just using a basic Blogger template with a few tweaks. Thank you!

    • Sharon says:

      Hey Mad!

      I visited your site and your creations are so cute! I shared on g+ and liked your fb page. Blog is very colorful too. The feeling I get when I look at your blog is fun and unique designs.

    • Marianne says:

      Agreed with Sharon, your designs are very cute!

      So my only comment would be to perhaps add a background “stripe” behind your page navigation. It would help it to stand out a bit more and also give a little separation between the header and the rest of the page.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Trina says:

    Please can you try my site on Safari – it gives a messg which says Site can not be verified Certificate invalid, do you wish to continue – then it quickly goes to blue host c panel and then page not found on my site. It works ok on Crome…
    Shall I contact blue host in the first instance or do I have a problem.

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Trina, that’s strange, i was able to see it in Safari with no problems. Btw, it’s been ages since I’ve seen your blog and it’s adorable! You’ve done a great job and I love the colors! But that should be no surprise considering your designs are so cute too!

      • Trina says:

        Hi Marianne
        Thanks so much for checking and for helping me and everyone, you’re doing a great job.
        I just need a big stick to get me posting my first post, feel like a lemming..
        Thanks again

  • Lisa says:

    Marianne, I am loving your design tips and hoping to carve out some time to start implementing changes on my blog this weekend! But in the meantime, as someone who is not a visual person naturally, it’d be awesome to hear what big changes I might want to make to make my newish blog more aesthetically pleasing. I am pretty sure I need to fix my colors up & add more graphic elements (and pictures – canva is going to be my new bff) but every time I sit down to start thinking about changing something, I just get overwhelmed. (I’m also a full time teacher, working part time for a big famous museum, and oh yeah, I have a toddler!)

    What should I focus on for now vs. what might be able to wait until I have more time to work on it?

    This is an amazing feature on your blog, thank you for offering it to us!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Lisa (jersey girl!)

      Oh i so know what you mean about getting overwhelmed. I work FT with a toddler at home too, but I don’t work PT too, unless you count this blog! You go girl!

      Anyway… I like your blog, but I’d say to start with your colors and fonts. I like the Josefin Sans in the sidebar, but using the bold Cantora for your blog content is too heavy. It’s fine for your headings, but I’d just use Josefin for the post content.

      The colors aren’t bad, but they’re not very exciting either. I think the ebook will help you pick out some colors appropriate for your audience.

      Have you gotten my free ebook yet? Start there and that should help you to narrow your focus to fixing just those two things.

      Then next month, we can work on the next thing!

  • Skye says:

    Dear Marianne
    Could you please check my side again? You already gave me once a feedback and now I do have some more post. Dose it looks still strange on mobile device?
    Updates for this themes are free for one year and then I would have to pay again. That’s why I thought maybe to change the theme then.
    What do you think about this theme?
    Do you have another suggestion for a theme?
    If I change the theme how difficult is that and what happens to my content which is already on the site?
    Thank you for taking the time and this amazing offering! I’m very grateful for your help! <3

    • Marianne says:

      Hello Skye!
      The blog does look better now with some content in it, although I’ll admit, I’m still not too crazy about the theme, so I wouldn’t mind seeing you try a new one. I like Senna, but it looks like no blog posts on the home page? If you’re ok with that, then go for it.

      In terms of recommending a theme, it’s really tough to do that because everyone wants their blog to do different things. My recommendation would be to make a list of what features you want and don’t want, then start looking around at premium themes to see what themes offer those features. You don’t want to just choose a theme on looks alone, it has to have all the features you want too.

      My recommendation would be to not start with Theme Forest because the support can be spotty on many of those themes, but to go with a good theme house that offers good support. Try Elegant themes, WooThemes or even check out the theme ads in my sidebar/home page to start. That will start to give you a good sense of what’s out there and what you want.

      good luck!

  • Julie says:

    Hi Marianne. Thanks so much for your blog and your willingness to help others!! My blog is a work is progress. I’m just wondering what jumps out at you as the next thing I should concentrate on changing or adding. Thanks!

    • Sharon says:

      Good morning Julie,

      I love your blog, it is so pretty and you are a very talented photographer! I just became a first-time grandmother this past February (2015) and am so very excited about it. Your photos of “Delaney” are adorable. I reside in Georgia with my family now, but originally am from Michigan and worked as a registered nurse at Butterworth Hospital (Spectrum) in Grand Rapids. Such a small world, but I love how the internet let’s us connect ๐Ÿ˜‰ I have followed you on Pinterest and Liked your FB page.

      • Julie says:

        It IS a small world. My babies were all born at Spectrum-Blodgett. We’ve had a couple of rough winters so I think Georgia was a good choice! Thank you for the compliments. I looked at your blog, as well (and liked your page). I love the jewelry you design. It’s so unique. Thanks for connecting!

      • Marianne says:

        Sharon, congratulations on recently becoming a grandmother!!!

    • Marianne says:

      Julie, I have to agree with Sharon that your blog is beautiful. Honestly? I wouldn’t change a thing! And ditto on the photography, simply gorgeous!

  • Sharon says:

    Good morning Marianne!

    I’m pretty new to your site, but I’m really loving it! Your tips and book have been very helpful to me. I would love it if you had a few minutes to take a look-see at my blog for a quick, overall critique. I value your experience and expertise and greatly appreciate any advice you may have for me. I am a jewelry designer and have an Etsy site, but I am hoping to tell my creative journey, share new designs and helpful tutorials on my blog. I design simple, minimalist jewelry, does my blog reflect that aesthetic? I have recently started it up again and would like to get more serious about it this time around.

    Thanks for your time,

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Sharon, you do have very pretty jewelry, I am excited for this new journey on your blog and so glad you found me ๐Ÿ™‚

      I don’t see too much I’d change right now, I like the aqua and black you’re using in the header, but perhaps it’s a little too dark/heavy in the bigger blocks (the black that is). Try changing the nav background and block around your photo to a dark gray, like #333333 perhaps.

      Also, add a short bio below your photo that tells people why they should stick around and read your blog.

  • I have a wide audience – from teachers and parents to people who book me to speak for lots of money. I’m trying hard to strike a professional yet approachable balance on my site. I love any suggestions you have for how I could do that better.

    I very much appreciate all you share and how much I have learned from you already!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Lisa, good to see you here again! I think your blog looks just fine for your audiences. It looks professional. The only thing I’d say is to pick a color palette of 2-3 colors (including your blue) and try to stick with those in your post images. I see a few images with hot pink in them and for some reason, they don’t seem to work with that blue for me.

      The other thing you might consider since you are essentially selling yourself as a guru, is to have a larger and professionally taken image of yourself. Something similar to what Marie Forleo does on her blog in the header:

  • Gina says:

    I’m trying to kick up the “professional ” look and the “stay and look around” feel. I was thinking it might look better with an all whiter background and more color to my header. Not sure other than adding more content as to what u can do to get people to stay around. Any advice ?

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Gina, welcome back!

      I have to say, the colors don’t bother me at all, I rather like what you’ve done with them. The thing that does bother me, however is that the elements on the home page, don’t stick to a grid. Your blog pages look great! But on the homepage, where the left sidebar (with your pic/bio) is much taller than the slider, it looks a bit awkward.

      Is it possible to remove the “Opening our homes and hearts to others” above your image, allowing that block to move up even with the top of the slider? Then you might cut down the text so that the left column fits the height of the slider.

      Likewise, the “top posts and pages” images are of varying heights and widths which doesn’t make them fit well into that section. Perhaps stacking the posts instead of tiling them across may help?

  • Gina says:

    Hi Marianne, thanks so much for this opportunity!

    I am a mixed media mosaic artist and my work has lots of color….all different colors, all the time. When it comes for determining colors for headlines, content, sidebars, highlighted areas, should I keep things super neutral so my photos take center stage, or is it OK to have a web palette?

    Part of me wonders if I shouldn’t keep everything very black, white, taupe, charcoal and let the artwork bring the color in? But I do need a color for things like links, and headlines, right? And truly….black and white and neutral feels so boring to me as a palette….my personality is as loud and colorful as my artwork, so should my blog design/palette match that exuberance, or should it fade into the background?

    Thanks for any input or suggestions!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Gina, long time no see! I like what you’ve done so far and yes I agree that you should keep your blog palette on the neutral side because that will definitely help your art stand out more. I don’ think it looks boring at all because you’re looking at the overall picture, which includes the images of your art.

      And yes of course, you can use two colors for your headlines and links, although only use one color for all links and don’t use that color for any headlines or other text. You can use that color in buttons however.

      Also, add color to the white Shop button in the top right. At first I thought it was a search bar, not a button.

      Looking good so far though!

  • Wow…what a kind and generous offer! Thanks so much for sharing your expertise. I would love some feedback on your first impressions of my site. I am trying to go for a minimalist look (business distracts the eye in my opinion) yet still be warm and inviting. Any tips on how to achieve that would me most appreciated!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Anne and welcome! I personally think you’ve nailed it. It’s minimalistic yet the colors are warm and inviting. I honestly wouldn’t change a thing!

  • Claire says:

    Is there a way to prioritize which images default for preview image for things like link ups and social media posts? I just shared my latest post to a facebook group, and the default preview image was all the way back from Christmas! I was on my tablet and it didn’t show which image it chose until I posted it! I’ve noticed facebook often goes with an image from my side bar over one in my actual post (like my “about me” image), but g+ always uses the first one from my post as a default.

  • Jessie says:

    Hi There!

    I adore your blog and am really looking to upgrade my DIY website with some of the wonderful tips and tutorials that you have on here. I’d love it if you would take a look at my site and let me know if you have any feedback on design.

    Thank you so much!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Jessie, thank you! I think overall your blog looks great! Good use of color and fonts. The only thing I’d change is that huge section of text that starts with “Hello!”

      I think breaking it up with more spaces between paragraphs and inserting some images here and there would make it easier on the eyes and less intimidating to read.

  • Hi Marianne!

    I’ve got a new website in the works. I’m not sure how I should have the homepage as far as the posts and packages. What do you think is most appealing to have on the bottom – the recent blog posts on the right side and the most popular service packages on the left side? Should I have all recent blog posts set on the home page? Any advise would be great!


    • Marianne says:

      Hi Lillian, looking really good so far! I personally would get rid of the big social media buttons below the hero image. I think its placement now puts way too much emphasis on it and it’s much more important to emphasize your services and posts. Could you put your services in the yellow section and then blog posts below? I don’t like the idea of putting them side by side because visually, they’re not separated enough to see that they’re too different things.

      Also, on your single pages, I don’t know if you’re aware that the title at the top of the page gets hidden behind your header when it’s on a wider screen.

  • Katie says:

    Hi Marianne! Thank you so much for this kind offer. My landing page is currently a work in progress, but I love your feedback on my blog. I’m hoping to put a useful footer in this weekend, but I would love to hear what other feedback you may have.

    Thanks! Katie

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Katie, welcome! I think it looks really beautiful so far and I love your images! Agreed, to putting in a footer (there’s a section on footers in my eBook, Blog Beautiful, hint, hint) ๐Ÿ˜‰

      The only other thing I’d change is the hot pink text on the navy blue for your sidebar headings. It’s a little bit hard to read as there’s not enough contrast. I’d try the gold color from your palette instead.

  • Hi Marianne,

    Loved your posts on Mailchimp customisation, but I really want to create an opt-in form where the name, e-mail and subscribe fields are all on the same level horizontally rather than a vertical design.

    Any advice how to do this?

    Thanks. Chris

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Chris, thanks!
      So…. I’ve been trying to do a tutorial on adding a horizontal opt in form below the header but because every theme is so different, I really haven’t found a one-size fits all tutorial to do for that unfortunately.

      However, if you’ve already figured out how to place an opt in there, then you want to float the form elements so that they appear beside each other.

      This gets a little complicated and I don’t know how much you know CSS, but you’ll want to add a class to each div that surrounds a section you want to align side by side. For example, there’s a < div > around each form field and the button. If you put a class called something like “floatL” on each div and then define

      floatY { float: left; }

      that should force all the elements to sit side by side. You’ll have to remove the “clear” class on the button div though as that forces it to wrap to a new line.

      Hope that helps!

  • Julie says:

    Hi Marianne! I left my URL a few months back and really appreciated your comments. I took them to the drawing board and ended up giving my whole blog a facelift! I’m currently using a template I bought from Etsy and really like the look of it, but all of a sudden the color palette feels off to me. I’m wondering if I should either change the coral to match my header colors or change my header to include the coral. Thanks for any feedback!

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