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Less is More When it Comes to Blog Design – Lisa Butler

Meet the Blog Designer, Lisa Butler of Elembee
Meet the Blog Designer, Lisa Butler of Elembee
Meet the Blog Designer, Lisa Butler of Elembee

Meet the Blog Designer, Lisa Butler of Elembee

I don’t quite recall how I discovered last year but when I did, I subscribed right away.

Not only does Lisa provide an abundance of WordPress tips and tricks, but her design skills are top notch!

Today she talks to us about her methods, her current pet peeves, and how less is more.

This post is the first of the Meet the Blog Designer series. If you’re curious about what the series will bring, just click that link. πŸ˜‰

About You

Tell us a little bit about yourself: How did you get started in web/blog design? How long have you been doing it for?

Hi DYOB readers! I’m Lisa Butler, the web designer behind My fascination with code began in high school, and I eventually took over web maintenance for the first company I worked for out of college.

After that, I decided to start my blog, and I spent the next year redesigning it constantly. As my readership grew, people took notice of my design work, so I started offering web design!

Do you have your own business or do you freelance on the side while working full time?

I started out freelancing on the side, and now I run my own web design business! I left my full-time job 2 years ago (April 1 β€” no joke!).

What blogging platforms do you prefer to work with?

Self-hosted WordPress, all the way. I cannot recommend it enough. It’s what I started my own blog on, and the possibilities are truly endless. I mean, my website used to be just a blog, and now it’s the home of my business!

What type of clients do you look for? Do you specialize in a certain market? Any particular reason why?

I love working with bloggers, particularly bloggers who have hit that point where they know their voice and are ready for a website that matches, and creative entrepreneurs like myself who have launched a business from their blog. By that point, people usually have specific needs, goals, and problems to solve, and I love finding creative ways to put all the pieces together.

You recently redesigned your own blog. Would you mind sharing with us your process: How you came upon the final decision for your design, what factors you took into consideration, etc?

The look and feel hasn’t really changed much from the last design β€” my primary goal was to simplify and enhance the functionality and experience of my site. The biggest change to my blog was shifting the focus to my writing rather than the graphics.

When I first started blogging, graphics were super important to me β€” I was still experimenting and trying to find my design style, and I wrote very little. These days, my posts are all about the writing, and the graphic is really just there for people who prefer to save things to Pinterest.

So now on my blog, you’ll see short excerpts for each post, the related posts also now have excerpts instead of thumbnails, and the sidebar has been simplified with easy to navigate categories and popular posts.

Your Thoughts on Design and Redesigns

What is your favorite part about redesigning a blog or website?

I love hearing the story behind the website. Design is so much more than making things pretty β€” it’s about the story you’re trying to share as well. I always start the design process with a questionnaire so I can understand where my client is coming from and what they hope to accomplish.

What do you feel is the most important thing to keep in mind when redesigning a blog?

It’s important to always have a goal in mind and know your priorities. There are so many ways you can design your blog, but you have to make sure they fit what you want to accomplish. Just because a certain style or functionality is popular in blog design doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

What is your method for selecting a color palette?

I always ask my clients to tell me how they want their readers to feel when they visit their site and use that as a guide. I usually stick to 2-3 colors β€” more than that can be overwhelming.

I like to use one color as a base throughout the site and another one or two colors as an accent to draw attention. I also like to use tints, or lighter shades of the same color, to provide contrast without expanding the color palette too much. is a great resource for choosing tints.

What is your method for selecting a font palette?

Like with the color palette, I tend to stick to 2-3 fonts β€” one for body copy, one for titles and accents, and one for navigation. Remember that you can also use various weights and styles within the same font family to add contrast but still maintain consistency!
[Such a great tip! – Marianne]

What advice do you have for a blogger who wants to do a few small touches to their blog’s design to spruce it up?

Less is more. The main focus should be on your content, not your blog design elements. Take a step back from your site, and see what can be cleaned up.

I once read that when you design something, you should try reducing it by 20% and see how that looks. We often make things bigger or more complex than they have to be to make a statement.

What are your favorite trends in blog design at the moment?

I love that more minimalistic designs are gaining popularity. I feel like there is a lot less clutter than there was when I first started blogging.

What blog design trends do you wish would go away?

Post slideshows. I get that they increase pageviews, but from a reader standpoint, they just aren’t very user-friendly. I’m not interested in watching the page reload 20 times to see one photo each time.
[Oh gosh, I couldn’t agree more! – Marianne]

What is your biggest pet peeve about the design of some blogs?

Popups of any kind. They have really been gaining popularity lately, and I personally find them very annoying, as I suspect most people do.

Is there anything you feel people spend too much time on (in terms of design) that is really not that important?

Honestly, I think a lot of people worry too much about their design when they first start blogging. There are a ton of really affordable, and even free, blog templates you can use that will still make a good impression, so you can focus on creating good content.

Often, so many things change in the first 6 months of blogging that it’s not unusual to have completely different goals when you first started β€” and then you’ll want to change your design again anyway.

Wrappin’ It Up

Do you have anything else you’d like to tell us about design?

Sometimes the fun of design is in the mess. If you’re really not happy with your design and can’t pinpoint why, just play around for a while! Sometimes you have to try a number of ideas before one really sticks.

Write down your goals and how you want readers to feel when they visit your site, and keep that handy as you work on your design. Try different combinations, then take a break and revisit with fresh eyes.

Do you have anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?

If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly adding to a list of things you want to do for your website, but they always get pushed aside so you can actually publish posts. That’s why I started sharing weekly emails with quick action tips for improving your blog β€” to give you (and me!) a little push to get things done. You can sign up for my free emails here:

Lisa, thank you so much for your time and insights! I’m sure people will find your email tips worth subscribing to, I know I have!

Speak Up!

Got questions for Lisa? The comment section below is the perfect place to ask!

And as always, please share this with your network if you found it useful.

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  • Thanks so much for this post! You introduced me to a new Blogger – I immediately checked out her site and am now a subscriber and follower! Great advice!

  • Thanks so much for inviting me to participate!

  • Love this! Lisa is one of my favorite bloggers and designers!

  • Jenni Gate says:

    Great post! I am also signing up to follow

    I’m still working on the overall design of my blog. I’ve tried a few different themes and have developed a couple that I like, but am open to trying others. I agree that I hate pop-ups and windows that pop up forcing someone to sign up or figure out how to get rid of the pop-up. I know the top bloggers say to do it, but I don’t think I will ever annoy my audience that way. I also hate the slide-show thing.

    Thanks for so many great tips!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Jenni! I’m looking forward to seeing how your blog evolves. You will have to keep my updated as you make changes.

      I agree with you both on the popups. I don’t understand why all the big guys say they work, I don’t know anyone that actually says they like them. I rarely use them to sign up myself.

      As for sliders, I was torn on those for a long time, but now I just see that they are also quite useless and annoying.

      • Jenni Gate says:

        Thanks, Marianne, for checking out my blog. I am learning so much, and have to tell you, I’ve been learning a lot from your posts. I don’t always trust that I have a good eye for design, so your tips and book have been really helpful. I hope you will check back as the blog progresses. Thank you! πŸ™‚

  • Allyssa says:

    Great interview! Lisa is always teaching me new things. She’s definitely one of my favorite bloggers!

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