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Dear Marianne // 16 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’m having trouble with…”

“I changed my header, what do you think?”

“Do you think I should…?”

Thanks to everyone for participating! Comments are now closed for November. The next Dear Marianne is December 4th, 2015. If youโ€™d like to participate, mark your calendar and be sure to check your email for the newsletter with the new password.

Not subscribed? Then youโ€™ll want to subscribe now to get access to future Dear Marianne comments! You can easily do that at the bottom of this post!

Free Blog Design Feedback!

Sometimes you just need a second pair of eyes. Need some personalized blog design feedback or advice? You’re in luck!

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

Ok so here are the “rules” to participate ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • 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.
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  • Cyntra says:

    Hey Marianne,

    I would be really interested in knowing what you think about the look and feel of my blog? Do you understand what the blog is about? Does it reach out to you?
    Would you feel like you would want to spend some time on the page?

    Would love to know your thoughts



    • Marianne says:

      Hi Cyntra,

      I would love to see a small bio below your sidebar photo that explains the benefits of your blog to people. What makes yours different from other blogs of similar topics? An about page would also be helpful since that’s usually the most visited page on a blog.

      Try this post:

      Also I am not sure what Tawny Kitchen means so perhaps a more descriptive name for that category would help?

  • Lisa says:

    Hi Marianne,

    I’ve relaunched my blog recently so there’s not as much content there to review. I suffer from a bit of perfectionism-itis…working on that. Basically would like to know if I’m on the right track – if the look and content align with the brand’s intent – chic living with kids.

    Thanks so much!

  • Ruth says:

    Does my page look cohesive? Also, when I have a featured image, it appears twice at the top of each post. How can I fix this while still having a featured post??

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Ruth! Yes it does look cohesive, I like the photos you’re using in your posts. You could do one of two things:

      1. don’t include a separate image in your posts and just use the featured image or

      2. go into your custom style sheet and add the following:

      .single-post .entry-thumbnail {display: none;}

      If you’re not sure how to edit you custom style sheet, read this post:

  • Ashima says:

    Hi Marianne, I’d like to know does my blog look appealing in terms of layout, content, header image and other images . How can I make it better from a travel blog perspective… Also, I designed it keeping in my that I wanted a clean look! Not sure if I have achieved it- I’ll look up to you for guidance – thanks!

  • Chrys says:


    My website is in french so you might not understand it all..But I would love to have your feedback on the overall look and about the blog section (I changed my blog post graphics recently in my posts. The featured image is different). I’m not sure if I need to change the featured image to match the first image in post and in my homepage I’m not sure if it leads to somewhere really. Plus, I think there is a lack of description about my activity here.. On the right to the slide it basically says : take e to the blog, work with me, go to portfolio.

    Thanks !!

    • Marianne says:

      Chrys, I seriously LOVE the design and those colors, ooh! And lucky for you, I speak and read French albeit a bit roughly these days since I haven’t spoken it regularly since I was a child.

      I don’t think you need to change the featured images. They all compliment each other very well and I don’t see a disconnect between them. They look beautiful by the way, you’re a talented designer.

      What I get from your home page is that you are a website designer that I can go look at your portfolio and learn about your services and of course read your blog, like you said. If your posts are geared towards more than just potential clients, then yes you might want to add some more information to your homepage, such as what types of information you offer and who you target. But otherwise, I think it’s fine as is. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Liz says:

    Hi Marianne!
    I am in the process of redesigning my web/blog site and have changed the theme 3 different times. I am now using pro photo because most of what I post is pictures of cakes. I own a boutique bakery. Do you have any advice for an indecisive perfectionist? I want a clean & cohesive branded site that makes people want to come to my shop & eat cake!

    Thank you so much for your time!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Liz,
      Thanks for joining in! So the site still needs some work: The first thing I noticed is that there is no logo or site name at the top. Also, there are too many fonts going on. Choose one script and use it as an accent, not a main font. I would also stick with a non-script font for your menu because you want it to be very easy to read. Here’s a helpful guide to pairing fonts:

      You said you wanted to make people want to come to your shop and eat cake, so i would strongly suggest getting a professional photographer for your cake photos because I think your photos are what’s going to really entice people to come in. The ones you have right now are a little dark and don’t show off your cakes in a really great way, even though the cakes are definitely gorgeous!

      There seem to be some layout issues especially on the non-home pages. I looked at ProPhoto and there are some really great layouts that seem to come free with it: Are you using any of these as a base? I would start with one of these and just tweak the colors for now. I really think that one of the top 3 there would work really well for your business. They are classy and simple.

      Then if you wanted to customize it from there, I highly recommend getting my book, Blog Beautiful as it will help you with figuring out how to do so step by step.

      Hope that wasn’t too harsh Liz. I just want your blog to be absolutely beautiful and I know you can get there!

  • Debby says:

    Hi Marianne
    Thank you for your generosity in offering tips and feedback. I sell patterns for women to make insulated snow skirts. I’m wondering if I’m making the best use of my video? Should it be positioned differently or elsewhere on my blog? And how can I make my product images the same size? Again,thank you!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Debby, so interesting! I never heard of snow skirts before, but what a cute idea!

      So about the video. I would move it down the page a bit. What you really want up top is photos of the skirts. Either use a slider or you can make a horizontal collage of several photos that run across the page. Since that is what you are selling that is what should be front and center and drawing people in.

      Then once you’ve piqued their interest with these cool photos, they’ll scroll down to learn more and most likely watch the video. So you can put that just below the photos and right align some descriptive sales text next to it.

      As for the images, I am guessing that your images are not all cropped to the same size which is why they are not appearing the same. Make sure that all your product images are the same height and width and see if that doesn’t fix it.

  • Alex says:

    Hi Marianne,

    We recently re-designed our blog and would love some feedback on the look & feel of it. It’s a very simplistic design but we have a lot of colour going in in the content so didn’t want to make the design too busy.

    Thanks & looking forward to the feedback! x

    Alex | Pink Elephant Blog.

  • Stacy says:

    Hi Marianne! This is amazing, thanks so much for offering this great chance for feedback! I just launched my blog so there is really no content yet, but I’d love to know what you think about the layout and design, and also what features you think I might be missing. It’s been overwhelming as I’ve been designing it myself and learning css along the way. I’m wondering if there are certain elements or widgets that could make the site better?
    Thanks so much…looking forward to it…I’ve already used quite a few of your tutorials!
    Best, Stacy

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Stacy, nice job so far and good for you for learning CSS! It’s so fun once you get more familiar with it!

      I think the blog is beautiful so far but have a few thoughts for you to consider:

      It wasn’t immediately apparent to me what your blog is about from the home page. I thought it was a cooking blog. As gorgeous as that flour and egg image is, I feel that a product photo would make more sense here.

      Unfortunately your sidebar mini bio wasn’t immediately apparent to me either. I only figured out what you were doing by reading your about page and that’s when it clicked for me. So I would say that’s the main thing for you to work on.

      And I know the site is in progress, but don’t neglect your footer. Definitely use that space to add more info like an opt-in form, copyright info and/or links.

  • nialya says:

    Hi Marianne! Thank you very much for extending your expertise to us that lack! I have a blog as part of my business, so I wanted to see if you had any suggestions as far as navigation. Are the post titles clear, is the layout functional or do you find it overwhelming, does the content reflect what I do as a business (I am a professional/personal organizer), would you hire me based on my blog alone?

    Again, thank you for your site and all you do!



    • Marianne says:

      Hi Nialya! I like to look at the blogs before reading the questions so I can get a first impression as a first time visitor and not knowing anything about the site. So that said, when I first looked through it, I thought it was an organization/lifestyle blog. It was not immediately apparent that you offered services for this.

      I will say however that I think the design is nice and it’s cohesive throughout ,so good job on that.

      When I went back, I then noticed the gray bar at the top with the Start Here button. If possible, I would move that below the header image. I would also make the header image a bit shorter so that you can move the menu below it instead of on top of it as it’s currently a little hard to read.

      Another thing I would do is rethink your tagline. It should tell me right away what you offer as service.

      Two more things I would do: add image thumbnails to your blog excerpts page to spice up the posts list and draw more attention to them. And not use the yellowish filter on your images. When I think of organization, I want to see bright white and lots of open space. The retro filter makes the photos look a little dingy and take away from them. You’ve got a great, beautiful homework space for your kids and I’d love to see it in its full color glory! And larger too if you can.

      I hope that helps and is not too critical!

  • Jennifer says:

    Would love some suggestions on taking it to the next level. I’m using a Divi theme and I want to keep it simple but inviting. I blog to midlife/baby boomers

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Jennifer! I think it’s good and simple like you said I just think it needs a little more personality. I would do that by:

      1. adding a larger photo of yourself to the sidebar. I’d love to see one of you laughing. That would make your blog definitely more inviting. Check this out:

      2. adding image thumbnails to your home page post excerpts.

      Also the tagline in your header is very tiny. Could you increase the size of both the logo and tagline?

  • Tania says:

    Hey Marianne- I’m using Squarespace for my blog now. So I’d like feedback about the overall look and feel of my wedding blog, including naviagtion. Also for my sidebar, can you offer suggestions as to where to place items? Should I move some things around or delete anything from my sidebar?? Thanks so much!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Tania, good to see you again! So first of all, yes beautiful! Great job on the new design it’s classy! However, the huge slider took forever to load. I thought for a while that perhaps you hadn’t added photos to it yet. I think it took almost a minute to load and then all of a sudden it was there. So that’s something to look into.

      As for the sidebar, we all have different needs and goals so it’s difficult for me to tell you exactly, but that’s why I wrote this post on sidebar organization complete with a worksheet to help you figure out what’s best for your sidebar.

      I will say that your sidebar is currently very long so you should definitely reevaluate some of the items you have there. Thanks btw for including my ebook ad! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • I just redesigned our about & work with us pages but I feel like they aren’t engaging enough. Any suggestions?

    • Marianne says:

      Hey Holly! I like your new about page. I think maybe you could spend a little more time at the beginning talking about how your blog helps others. Maybe get a little bit more specific at what makes your blog unique in helping solve problems. But honestly it’s pretty good already. This post might help too:

      Your Work with Us page was hard to find. I didn’t immediately see it in the drop down. One thing I learned recently about my own blog is that the drop downs should have little arrows to indicate there is more.

      Oh one other thing: is there a reason you don’t have a contact page?

      Hope those help!

  • Jennifer says:

    Thank you so much for offering to take a peak. I’ve been working on this site for a long time but it hasn’t been easy while also building products- all natural, gluten free, nontoxic, organic color cosmetics. I’d love to know your thoughts?


    • Marianne says:

      Jennifer, I think it looks very professional, nice job! The only thing I noticed is that the word Organic isn’t a bit more prominent. On first glance I didn’t notice it in the pink strip in the upper right, I only noticed it after I scrolled down to read a bit and then scrolled back up. I think that’s a huge, dare I say it, buzz-word for you to capitalize on.

      Thanks for participating!

  • Tammy says:

    Hey Marianne and thanks so much for offering this ๐Ÿ™‚

    I re-launched my blog back in August with a new ‘free’ theme and an actual Logo.

    I have so many things I want to change about it but all in good time.

    I guess the one thing I would ask is this, what is one thing on my blog that you feel I could change or add that could make the most impact in terms of visual appeal?

    Love the new site design by the way ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Tammy!
      Gosh I feel terrible, I always thought your name was Mirika!

      Anyway… one thing that would make the most impact.. I would love to see you move your logo to the top left white area (you could reverse your logo so it’s green on white) and then use the large “hero” space where your logo is now for a beautiful photograph that represents balance to you. I think that a nice big photo there would draw people in more than a large logo would.

  • Channing says:

    I’m having trouble with my or blog name design and was wondering about your thoughts on it because I love yours. I want mine to be unique and eye catching instead of just black letters. How did you come up with the design for yours and what would your advice be on mine? Thanks in advance! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Channing! Gosh thank you, I’m glad you like it! I did my original logo so long ago now I’ll have to remember lol. So.. i basically knew that my site name was kind of long so I wanted something with condensed (narrower) letters. I started playing around with different fonts in Photoshop (you could easily do this with Pixlr, PicMonkey or BeFunky) until I found a few that I liked, then just kept playing with them to see what I liked best.

      I think that perhaps the brushed font you’re using doesn’t work that well in all-caps. Try going to lowercase letters with any handwritten or brush type font. Brush fonts are really popular right now so maybe if this one doesn’t work for you, you could find a different one that you like better. Design Cuts is always having amazing deals on great fonts or just look for one on Creative Market.

      If you want to add a little interest, play with adding a hand drawn or brushed illustrative element somewhere, like a little heart or flower or something you feel that represents you and your brand. Just keep playing with it til you find something that speaks to you.

  • Brittany says:


    So I’ve been blogging for a couple of months and I feel like I sort of have the hang of it. I’m getting replies from companies that I want to try out, and I’m getting invited to events. It’s so fun and I love it. I recently almost got to 100 views in a day which I thought was a good thing, yet I only have 3 subscribers. What am I doing wrong?

    I’m starting to question my content and wondering if its relatable or not, or if I’m just writing horribly and no one wants to know more about Lazuli and myself. I really like my blog design, but is it not consistent enough? I just don’t know what to think anymore.

    Thanks so much, I appreciate the feedback ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Brittany, that’s great that you feel like you’re falling into a groove with it. First of all ,go easy on yourself, it’s only a few months old so you need to give it time to grow and develop.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the design, but when I went to your blog, I didn’t get any clear indication of what it’s about. There is no tagline and your sidebar bio is pretty vague and doesn’t tell me what I would get out of reading it.

      I’m not sure there is a focus with your content either. You have some local posts, so are you targeting a more local market? I think you need to get clear on who you are trying to reach and what their needs are. The beginning section of my book, Blog Beautiful, goes into helping you figure that out with worksheets so you may consider starting there.

      Check these posts out too:

  • Sumaiyah says:

    I was wondering what you thought of my
    Blog – the look and feel of it, and how good are my pictures???? And just some overall advice

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Sumaiyah, I love your name, so pretty!

      Ok, so like I just wrote to Brittany above, I don’t see a strong focus to your blog. To me Global Net Geeks sounds like it is a tech blog, but the content says otherwise, so right away there is a disconnect. The home page doesn’t really tell me what the blog is about other than a beauty review and outfit of the day, but then when I click to the blog I see recipes and some book reviews.

      I think there needs to be more of a focus on who your audience is and what problems you’re going to solve for them. It’s fine to have a lifestyle blog, but how will you stand out from the others? That’s something you will need to determine.

      I would also recommend getting a logo that helps identify your brand. You could start with a template from but I would definitely determine who your target audience is first. The beginning of my book, Blog Beautiful does just that. Then you can work on a tagline and bio that speaks to that audience:

      I’m not an expert on photos, but I think that some better lighting would help a lot and larger photos would too! ๐Ÿ™‚

      I hope that’s not too harsh!

  • Sumaiyah says:


    I was wondering what you thought of our blog? – is it easy to understand? Are the pictures any good, how can I improve!!

    Thanks xx

  • Katie says:

    I’m struggling with the balance between consistent branding and creating unique images, primarily as it applies to the slider on my home page. I feel the first several posts run together because of the title images, but I don’t have great photographs to use for them.

    Also, after putting together my website, I tried using a consistent look with my Etsy product mockups but I’m not liking them now that I see them all together. They feel too busy. How can I blend the two, especially since my website pulls my Etsy listings?

    Thank you!

  • Hello,
    I am in the process of re-writing my categories, deciding if I should keep a ‘photo gallery’ and recently started ‘inspirational/spiritual thoughts’. Really need advice on the site positive or negative.
    Primarily a “Travel site” so don’t know if the ‘thoughts’ should be added. It did draw viewers to my site in another blog I had designed.
    What to do? Help..
    Mary Ann Olson

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Mary Ann! Btw, have I ever told you that my maiden name was Marianne Linde-Olsson by chance? Weird huh?

      Anyway… I think you need to get clear on who your target market is and would they appreciate the thoughts? My initial thoughts are that it’s unrelated to travel so they should probably go somewhere else, like a personal blog or on your FB or Instagram profile.

      As for the gallery, yes keep that. When I think of travel blogs, I think big beautiful photos so galleries are always a good thing to have. That said, I think you should also have larger images in your blog posts. Photos are what draw people’s attention when it comes to travel and yours are so small!

      I would also consider going with this theme instead of the one you have now: or another theme that shows off photos.

      Now lots of photos can slow your page speed down so take a look at this post here for tips to manage that:

  • Hi Marianne,
    Thank you for SO generously offering your time and expertise. With a lot of help from the resources I found on the internet, including yours, I was able to design my own site. It’s brand new, and I would LOVE to get your feed back on the overall design and feel of the site.

    Here are some specific questions I have:
    1) What words or feelings come to mind when you visit my site?
    2) Should I keep the slider images at the top of the site, or if I should get rid of it?
    3) I’m also curious to know what the plugin is that you use to show the more stories, in the bottom right corner of your website?

    I also have a couple of questions regarding YOUR website:
    1) What would YOU do to improve the design of the site?
    2)And what plugin do you use to allow people to just check a box to “Subscribe to monthly newsletter” underneath the comments?

    • Marianne says:

      Hello Ann,
      Well I think you’ve done an excellent job on your design! I mean really it looks fabulous! It’s very warm and inviting.

      I’m torn on sliders to be honest. I like how they can give people a quick glance at latest content, but I think that they are largely ignored because people would rather scroll than wait for the slides to change.

      Unfortunately. I am not using a plugin for the slide in, it was built into my theme, Simple Mag. However, I think that this plugin would do the same thing:

      What would I do to improve MY site? The thing that bothers me the most right now are my post images and featured images so I’m planning to get those redesigned and changed out as soon as I can find the time!

      The subscribe plugin I use is MailChimp Comment Optin ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Diamond says:

    Hi Marianne! This is so awesome that you’re doing this:) My blog is currently on Squarespace but I plan to move it to WordPress sometime soon. The branding will probably stay the same with a few tweaks. Also, because I am a web designer, figuring out what to blog about has been tough because I don’t want to give the usual business advice and marketing tips like most other designers. I think I want to take it in a different direction of inspiration and encouragement but I wanted to see what you thought as well.

    Thank you!

    • Marianne says:

      Hello Diamond!
      I’m curious why you want to move from SS to WP? Not saying you shouldn’t, just wondering what your reasons are. ๐Ÿ™‚

      As for your blog content, I think you need to figure out who your target market is. Blogs are usually used for 3 purposes: to journal thoughts (a personal journal type blog), curate favorites just for fun or to support and promote your business.

      If you want to attract design clients via your blog, I guess you’ll need to see who are the types of people that are reading your content. Do they have blogs or websites as well? And do they need a designer? if not, the you might want to have a separate blog for your thoughts, one that you target towards that market. And then you’ll want to figure out the type of content your audience wants by discovering their pain points and/or wants. Maybe you just share design inspiration and trends. Or maybe you share tutorials and tips. Again, you’ll have to figure out who your market is and how you can help them through your business.

      Hope that helps steer you in the right direction!

  • Marianne – this is such a great idea, and I’m glad you’re getting so many responses and questions!
    I have two questions:
    First, I just reworked my About page and would like to know if the design is too blocky (text, image, text, image).
    Second, does my opt-in image and copy (on the side-bar and bottom of the About page) make you interested or make you say, “pass”?


    • Marianne says:

      Hi Anthea, so glad you like this and am happy to help!

      So the about page is NOT too blocky. I think it’s just fine the way it is. People love to see photos of the person behind the scenes and get to know them more.

      The opt-in copy is actually great! I noticed it right away and it totally drew me in, even thought I have NO interest in homeschooling haha! I like the one on the about page, but the one in the sidebar looks a little busy and competes with the photos beside it. I would just choose a bright solid color to place behind the white to help it stand out from the images.

  • Jeannie says:


    You are amazing for donating your time to this cause. Your website is such a valuable resource.Thank you so much!

    As a brand new blogger, I’m not sure if I even qualify to post on this discussion! But I’ll give it a go and just keep learning as much as I can!

    I am using Weebly for my travel blog (which I now regret after reading your post on choosing a platform!). I’m not sure what I can do for organizing or asthetics with Weebly but if there is anything you could suggest that would be great! I’m a very type A person so its driving me crazy that its just one big written feed.

    I’d also like to learn how to switch to another/more flexible platform but I have no idea how to approach that!

    Any tips would be greatly appreciated, thank you so much! Looking forward to these as my blog continues to grow ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Jeannie! I saw your comment on the platform post, so sorry to hear you regret your decision! Fortunately you can switch to WP when you’re ready. Here’s how to do that:

      In terms of your blog, I think it looks really good. It’s simple with a beautiful hero image. I like your sidebar bio. I guess the only two things I would do personally would be to widen the sidebar a bit more. I prefer them to be around 300px wide. That would give your photos a bit more prominence.

      The other thing would be to add a “read more” link to the bottom of your sidebar bio that links to your About page.

      Other than that, looking good Jeannie! I loved your northern lights post, I pinned it! I’ll have to come that way someday to check them out as that’s definitely on my bucket list too.

  • Thank you, Marianne!
    1. I am working on fixing the sizing of my header with a blog friend. It doesn’t center correctly. So you might notice it–but I have it covered.

    2. I”ve been getting a lot more traffic in the last few weeks, but apparently visitors don’t stay very long. Can you give me tips to make people linger and actually subscribe?

    Thank ypu!
    Maura Alia Badji
    The Moxie Bee

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Maura!
      I think that the main thing that might be turning people away is the Sumo welcome mat. It keeps reappearing each time i go to a new page. There must be a setting to only have it show up once? If not, it might be best to get rid of it.

      I also noticed that you have music auto-playing on your latest post. People usually click away when this happens because either they are reading at work or perhaps their volume is up too high and it suddenly starts playing out of nowhere. I would turn that off for sure as it’s usually a big pet peeve for a lot of readers.

      I would start with those 2 changes and see if it doesn’t help people stay a bit longer. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Oh, I forgot to ask my questions. Maybe next time!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Tanya, no worries! I know you didn’t get to ask specific questions, but I took a quick look again and wanted to make one suggestion: can you increase the size of your featured images thumbnails on the home page so that your images appear larger like they do on individual posts? I think that would help attract people to the posts more.

      You should be able to do this by changing the size in Settings > Media.

  • Pia says:

    I missed my chance. but I am positive that I will learn a lot from the comments and your responses.
    Thank you for the opportunity.

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Pia, sorry you missed the window to ask a specific question, but I’m happy to take a quick look and let you know some initial thoughts. I viewed your site on a very large monitor and the content is spread out too wide. It needs to be reined in to a maximum width.

      In your custom style sheet, add this line towards the bottom:

      .et_pb_row, .main-content .container {
      max-width: 1200px;

      Not sure how to edit your style sheet (CSS)? Read this:

      If you see any issues with this, let me know and I can help you trouble shoot.

  • Marianne says:

    Thanks to everyone for participating! Comments are now closed for November. The next Dear Marianne is December 4th, 2015. If you’d like to participate, mark your calendar and be sure to check your email for the newsletter with the new password.

    Not subscribed? Then you’ll want to subscribe now to get access to future Dear Marianne comments! You can do that easily with the form in the footer below!

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