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Dear Marianne // 14 Blog Design Feedback

Dear Marianne. Monthly Open Office Hours for Free Blog Design Feedback and Advice. Come and ask me anything about your blog's design every first Friday of the month!

Dear Marianne. Monthly Open Office Hours for Free Blog Design Feedback and Advice. Come and ask me anything about your blog's design every first Friday of the month!

“I’d love to get your opinion…”

“Is my blog engaging enough?”

“How do I…?”

Sometimes you just need a second opinion. If you’re looking for blog design feedback or advice, this is the place.

Today is my monthly version of Open Office Hours! I love this First Friday post because I get to learn what you’re struggling with. So ask me whatever your heart desires below today (as long as it’s about blog design)!

Here are the “rules” πŸ˜‰

  • Leave your question in the comments below. 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 only open today so if you miss it, you’ll have to wait until next month! You’ll want to sign up for my email list to get monthly reminders.
  • If you’d like to respond to my reply or get clarification after comments are closed, please Tweet me or talk to me on Facebook.
  • Share this with friends! The more that participate with questions, the more we learn from each other! Here’s an easy Tweetable for you to use:

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It’s Your Turn!

Leave a comment below with your URL in the URL field so I can go check out your blog. (If you leave your URL in the comment area, it may get flagged as spam).

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  • Silvia says:

    Hi Marianne! I’ve been debating lately whether my blog design may be starting to look a little outdated… I really want to keep a design with a featured posts slider displaying a bunch of posts, since my blog is a travel blog and people might want to pick and choose posts based on destinations instead of reading everything. But now I’m thinking instead of displaying excerpts on my homepage I should switch to a blog format and just display my most recent post. Most travel blogs seem to go for a more magazine-like layout, but I’m wondering if that makes it less engaging? And what do you think of my current design – is it dated/ugly?

    Thanks a billion, you’re the best!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Silvia, welcome back! I kind of like the featured posts at the top just because it gives newcomers some visual interest and some really nice images could really draw people in. So for that reason, I would make sure that all the featured posts have a really striking, eye-catching image with the post title on it. On first glance, I have no idea what the Norway image is all about and I think that having a photograph would look nicer as well so it would match the imagery in your other featured post images. Titles on the images (you can easily do this in Canva or PicMonkey) would let people know at a glance what the images are of and further entice them to click.

      If you didn’t want to change your theme just now, I think that just a few minor tweaks would update the look a bit. Try either removing or changing the color of the dark border around the featured images is too dark and too wide. Something light would brighten things up, maybe that light green?

      Try a new or updated color palette. You’d be surprised at how much a fresh color palette will spruce up a design.

  • RiΓ«tte says:

    Hi Marianne, thank you so much for the opportunity to ask for some advice.

    Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed to even ask, but I’ve been trying for months to figure out how to get my blog/site to represent me as well as my business. So really, I don’t think I’m asking anything specific, just maybe for advice as to where to start.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read my comment.

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Riette! Please don’t be embarrassed, discovering your own branding is a super hard thing to do! I would start out by creating a secret Pinterest board and when you see designs, color palettes and websites/blogs that really strike your eye, add them to the board. Do this for at least a month before looking at the board. Then open it up after you’ve added a bunch of stuff and see if you can see a scheme or two that jumps out at you.

      If you find that there is, you’ll then want to evaluate whether or not that style would also resonate with your target audience. Hope that gives you a place to start!

  • LisaLDN says:

    This is such a clever idea! I can’t really think of any specific questions at the moment, so I think I’ll just check back here to see what others have asked and the answers they’ve given!

    Feel free to give a little general feedback on my blog though πŸ™‚

    Lisa πŸ™‚

    • Marianne says:

      Thanks Lisa, it’s great to learn from others!

      I do have one comment about your own blog. When I clicked over, I was confused as to what your site’s name was or what it was about. There is a rather large ad in the spot where a header usually goes and so for a moment I thought your blog’s name was Trivago (that’s the ad that showed for me).

      When I looked around for a site name and/or tagline, i didn’t see one, so it’s difficult to know what your blog is about without, scrolling, clicking around and digging. Most people won’t do that, they will just click away.

      It’ll also help you to have a quick bio below your photograph that tells people what they will get from reading your blog.

      Here are a few resources for you:

  • Hi Marianne, I would love your feedback on my blog. I’m using the genesis theme and a child theme that I customized to match all the branding I did. Thanks for showing off your branding stuff btw it helped me wrap mine up. Anyway, my blog just launched this past Monday!! πŸ™‚ I’m so excited but I want to make sure my blog is going to attract people like I want it to. It’s new so I don’t have a ton of followers or posts yet but I’d love your feedback and advice. Thank you so much!!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Anna, first of all congrats on your blog launch! I think you’ve done a really great job so kudos! I really love the header, colors and font choices. As you know I love the beach so it really speaks to me. πŸ™‚ I do have a couple of suggestions for tweaks you could do to do finish it off:

      The beige links in the navbar would stand out better in white. Right now they’re a bit hard to read. Likewise with your copyright in the footer.

      In your featured posts on the home page, see if it’s possible to remove the “alignleft” class on the < a > tags around the images. This will force the titles to wrap below the image instead of appear next to it.

      One other thing: and i know this will be harder to change since it’s in your blog name, but I wanted to point it out. The word “collections” to me says clothing. At first I thought your blog was for your own clothing line. Just wanted to let you know as it may be something to think about.

  • Jenn says:

    I have re-lauched my blog after a make-over.
    I would appreciate a fresh pair of eyes to look at it as a whole. What kind of impression does it give? Easy to navigate?
    Thank you πŸ™‚

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Jenn!
      It must be redesign season! I like what you’ve done, I am just not sure on the About me page as the home page. On one hand it tells you exactly what the blog is about, but on the other, I was a little bit confused when I realized the sections below the first part were not blog posts. Not every blog shows the latest posts on the home page but I think that having some of your posts there would help people understand what type of content you’re offering. Just something to think about πŸ™‚

      I would also add a tagline to your header. Here’s a resource to get you started:

      • Jenn says:

        Hi Marianne,
        Thank you for the feedback. You are right, a tagline is definitely missing. I will use the worksheet you recommended to work on a catchy tagline and let you know what I came up with!

  • Marissa says:

    Hi Marrianne!!

    I’m struggling with the images on my blog.

    I feel like my title images stand out on Pinterest, but idk if they are readable on my site or are branded enough?

    Can you suggest another idea for a title image?

    Thanks so much!!


    • Marianne says:

      Hi Marissa! I think they are definitely branded enough, but you’re right, it’s a bit hard to read the text including your URL at the bottom. Try placing a transparent white block behind the text to help it stand out. You’ll also want to add some margins between the text and the edge of the image.

  • Hi, friend! First of all, LOVE the new blog redesign. But then, I loved the old look too, because I love your colors and your style. As you may remember, I purchased your book, and you were the inspiration for me to build my new blog from the ground up. I followed Bree at The Blog Stylist because of you, and signed up for her free beginner course and she talked me through how to build the blog (and that was WONDERFUL, I LOVE her too)! I’ve just connected with so many great people as a result of your blog because you are giving like that and it’s helped me so so much. I just want you to know how MUCH I appreciate your approach.
    My question is this. Ever since my blog has been up and running, it shuts down regularly every day. I’m talking anywhere from 8-22 times per day. I’ll be working and all of a sudden, a blank, white space – I cannot access and neither can anyone else.
    This has been going on for 3 months. Yesterday, as was rocking through a post, it went down and I lost EVERYTHING on the post.
    I’ve called Bluehost three times – they say everything’s fine on their end.
    I’ve chatted online with them twice – they told me the problem was in two different areas. Fixed those – nothing.
    I called them again – the last time they just went ahead and said I needed to get a web developer to look at it that they couldn’t help me at all.
    I’m at a loss at this point. I just need to know what you would advise – where should I turn for help? Since I’ve built this blog from the ground up, I like having my hand in everything and I want to have a hands on approach to this as well.
    I seriously don’t think it’s a plug in. I’ve undone almost all of them except for the basic ones my theme came with (Yeah, I guess that means I didn’t really build it from the ground up but hey, I did need help with that one).
    I seriously don’t think it’s the theme either.
    It seemed to start happening before I even installed the theme and right after I set up with Bluehost.
    Have you ever heard of anything like this happening?
    HELP! Just point me in the right direction and I will be happy to go there!
    Thanks so much, Marianne. You’re the best.

    • Marianne says:

      Hey Ruthie!
      I am so sorry you are experiencing this! That is very odd. I would be curious to know what the 2 issues were that they pointed out at first, which you took care of. Just to know what’s been done so far. And as far as the plugins, did you disable all of them at once? I would do that for a day and see if the blog shuts down on you. Then if it doesn’t, re-enable one plugin per day. It sounds like it might be conflicting plugins. And what theme are you using currently?

      If you want to send me a message, we can do some back and forth. Or actually, have you posted it to the FB group yet? If you do, tag me in it and at least we can all try and help you because we do have some developers there in the group and maybe someone there has experienced this before too.

      Thank you so much for all the kind words! I really appreciate having you in the community!

  • Pam says:

    I would love some feedback on the layout and function of my site – it’s overwhelming to decide which area to work on or update first, so I keep telling myself that right now the important thing is to just keep putting out solid content and the rest will fall into place. I would like to add an image on the menu and had some professional pictures taken, but not sure what plugin to use (WordPress, self-hosted, bluehost). The next thing I am thinking about doing is adding another page where visitors can access my professional info. for freelance writing services. And I have a free printable (nice layout) of my Back to School Serenity Prayer and not sure how to integrate that. Thank you in advance! Have a wonderful Friday, Pam

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Pam! I actually really like the look of your site. It’s very clean and laid out well. You want to add an image to the menu or above the menu? I would highly suggest just getting a simple logo template that you can customize with your blog’s name. You can find them at, Etsy or Something horizontal and minimal would fit best. I actually really like that watercolor “p” you have in your hero image.

      The only thing I would add right away to your blog’s design is a photo and bio near the top of the sidebar. Here’s a post to get you started:

      Hope that answered your questions. If not, feel free to post in the FB group or hit me up on Twitter @marianney

  • Hi Marianne, I am using the plugin, Parallax Gravity, and created a landing page using it, but I would like to make that newly created landing page my Home Page. How do I accomplish this? Thank you

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Kristine! I love Parallax Gravity! Unfortunately I don’t think you can use one as your home page. I went to Settings > Reading but in my own site, it doesn’t give me the option to select a Parallax page as the static home page. You might consider getting a plugin like Page Composer, Beaver Builder or Thrive Content Builder. This works on top of your current theme and allows you to compose page layouts with drag and drop functionality. I think that may be the only way to do a landing page layout for a regular page in your dashboard. Wish I was more help!

  • Hi Marianne! I feel like this post came at just the right time. You ask what we’ve been struggling with?? Grab yourself some Java…this may take a while :/.

    For starters, I asked you a couple of months ago about adding a tag line, but the header is a little busy and I’m not sure how to fix it. I’m interested in changing the name of my blog (I’ve purchased a new domain name), but have no idea how to implement the change. I ‘hired’ a company via Elance to help, but communication is poor. I’m getting frustrated, and I don’t think it will work out and I’ll have to go back to square one.

    My coding experience is practically zero, so I paid for an online course in CSS thinking it would help me make basic changes, but it’s making my head explode! I’m a creative, not a techy, and although I’m willing to stretch myself, I don’t think my coding skills will ever be what they need to be to do this on my own.

    I would like a blog design that reflects my personality but I can’t spend tons to get it. It seems like all the ‘help’ groups I belong to assume knowledge of code, even though they’re labeled as ‘beginner’. Learning code is literally like learning a new language for me. If I couldn’t master Spanish in high school, I’m not likely to master code more than 40 years later. Kwim? Where/whom do I turn to for help??

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Doreen, yes I remember when you asked me about adding a tagline. I think you are asking me two things here yes? I hope I understand them right, if not, please feel free to hit me up in the FB group or on Twitter @marianney.

      Ok so Q1: sounds like you want to change out your whole header with a new image, new name, tagline, right? You mentioned you’re pretty creative, could you create a new header with your new name in PicMonkey or Canva? You’d just need to create an image that is exactly 1150px wide and somewhere around 295px height (the height doesn’t matter, but I recommend staying at less than 300px). Then you just need to replace the image you have now with the new one in your theme settings or theme options. If i am understanding your question correctly, you don’t need to know code to solve that problem.

      Q2: Code is not for everyone and it sounds like you gave it a go and it’s just not working for you. Instead of wasting time trying to learn how to tweak your theme, why not find a theme that you really like ‘as is’ and use that? There are lots of beautiful themes out there that really don’t cost much. Start with or Etsy. You can find themes for as little as $15. There are even decent free one I post on the FB page from time to time.

      Hope that helps Doreen, let me know!

  • Lara says:

    Hi Maryanne!
    Thanks for having this open question forum. I was wondering if you had any suggestions on plugins for a wordpress portfolio site. I have tried a few but they all seem limited and features are ok. I of course googled galleries and portfolios which comes up with lists of 8 to 100 top recommendations but none of them have seemed great so far (granted I am trying out the freebie versions, – which is why they are limited.) Any suggestions on a great plug in to showcase art? provide a slider option and is quick and easy to use?
    Thanks so much!

  • Claire says:

    Yay! You’re back!
    So the other day I realized that my font is a bit on the small side. Not tiny, but my posts are often image heavy and I felt like the little text I had was getting overshadowed by the images and should be a bit bigger. So I changed the CSS and found that the bigger font means the blurbs under the thumbnails start to overlap each other. I changed it back, and then a few days later I found it happening in my archives:

    In my browser I see the title ‘Castillo de Gibralfaro’ on top of the description for the post above it. Is there a way I can change the spacing between the previews/thumbnails? I’m hoping it’s simple, but I’m not sure which terms to search for. I’d also like the make the thumbnail images a bit taller since my photos end up squashed – I think that might be in the same place..

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Claire!

      Try adding this to your CSS:
      .post {
      margin-bottom: 30px; (or whatever margin you feel works best)

      The thumbnail size you should be able to change in Settings > Media.

  • Vernette says:

    Hi Marianne,

    I am in the process of updating the look of my blog and focusing content in a clearer direction: I want to write more about living your best life: what’s possible and how to achieve it. So far I’ve updated the blog theme and header. I would really appreciate your expert eye on the “new look” – is it fresh, clean and puts my content on display in the right way and not too cliche?

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Vernette! I love the header! It’s just perfect for the name so don’t change that πŸ™‚
      As far as the rest, I think that yeah, it looks fresh and clean. I really don’t see anything I would change except for one small thing: the disclaimer at the bottom. I think a smaller font would do it justice. Oh and there is also a missing image in the sidebar above your IG feed.

      Other than that, nice job!

  • Hi Marianne!!

    I hope you had a wonderful vacation! It looked awesome from your IG feed πŸ™‚ I was looking for some advice on my About Me page, I want to update it and revamp it to make it a killer About Me page and I just feel it’s not ME yet. Any advice would be awesome πŸ™‚

    Thanks Marianne!

    Lauren Baxter | Lovely Decor

  • Debi says:

    Marianne –

    Thank you for giving all of this opportunity to work with you. I am currently in the process of updating my website. I am happy with several things on my site and have started to wonder if it is just me being critical or if someone else e=sees them too. I won’t tell you the things that bother me in case you see something very different but I would like to get and unbiased opinion of how things look.

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Debi, thanks for joining in! I think it looks good. The only thing I would change is adding more separation to the menu from the breadcrumb below it. Here’s a suggestion. I am hoping you know how to edit your CSS. If not, read this first:

      Here’s what I would suggest adding to your custom style sheet:

      ul#top-menu {
      border-bottom: 1px solid #ebebeb;
      clear: both;
      float: none;
      padding: 15px 0 30px;

      You might also consider removing the slider. Other than that, I think it looks good!

  • Liv Faye says:

    Hi Marianne, thanks for doing this!

    I updated my landing page a bit, and I would love if you could give me your opinion about it. What do you think about the layout? What’s the overall impression you get on it? I will appreciate any advice πŸ™‚

    Best regards,


    • Marianne says:

      Hi Liv! I think the landing page is great! It’s to the point and easy to read. I even subscribed! πŸ™‚

  • Anis says:

    Hi Marianne πŸ™‚ Thanks for such golden opportunity . I had re-brand my blog and bought genesis framework and darling theme from Restored 316 . I had change the whole style to suit my brand . What do you think? Is it okay ? I hope i can get your feedback . It is an honor to get feedback from you . I just want to know how my blog would be like as first impression . Btw how you make your search , archive and categories like that? Thank you πŸ™‚

    • Marianne says:

      Hello Anis! I absolutely love it! The only thing that I would say stuck out at me is that as pretty as your logo is, it’s not immediately obvious that the last letter is a ‘d’. I had some trouble trying to tell what letter it was before reading the text below it. But that’s my only criticism, I think you did a fantastic job with the design.

      The search/archives/categories area in my sidebar is actually 3 separate widgets that I modified individually with CSS to look like they are all in one box. The expanding/collapsing functionality is from a custom plugin I had Ashley from build for me. I highly recommend her services, she was very quick with the turnaround and it worked like a charm first try!

  • Laura says:

    Hello Marianne:

    I just finished setting up my blog and donΒ΄t know how to get traffic . Besides, I donΒ΄t like the look… I would like your advide on how to move from where I am now.

    Thank you!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Laura, thanks for participating. To get traffic to your blog is not a quick and easy answer. It takes a lot of time to build an audience and you do that by first identifying who your target market is. Then by sharing really good, original content and networking on social media. Share your posts on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, etc. but also be sure to share other people’s stuff too. You want to carefully curate what you share and make sure that it’s information that your target audience would want to know. Sharing other people’s content also gets you on their radar and they may begin interacting with you. Another good place to network is in Facebook groups, but be sure you are helping and sharing more than you are promoting your own stuff or you may come across as self-serving.

      As far as the look of the blog, I think it looks great actually. It’s simple and easy to read. I think that perhaps more explanation towards the top would help people to understand right away what your blog is about. A good tagline helps as does a sidebar bio/intro.

      Good luck!

  • Anka says:

    Hi Marianne,
    I so enjoyed all of your great information here! I just like to know what we fonts are for and how to use them.
    Thank you and enjoy your weekend!

  • Eva says:

    Hello Marianne!
    I’ve been strangling for days to add under my posts (without excluding blogger comments) the facebook comment box so that my facebook visitors comment without having to change acount. But it seems that i don’t have a clue how to do it, even though i red all articles in the world written about it! πŸ˜› Can you help me please?
    All my best wishes from Greece!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Eva,
      I wish I could help you but I have never used the Facebook comments so I unfortunately do not know how to use it. I did a search for ‘facebook comments blogger’ and got a lot of results. I assume you’ve probably done that already, but just in case thought I’d mention it. Good luck and sorry I’m no help here!

Comments are closed.