Wednesday 24 April 2013

Is Your Blog Design Working For You?

   It's true that content is what truly matters on a blog, and that you should decide if it's worth your time by more than your first impression, or by the number of followers they have. But at the same time, design does count for part of it. Pretty much everyone is more inclined to linger on a pretty (though tastes vary) page than a vaguely constructed one, and the design chosen can say a lot about the blogger, too. For example, handwriting fonts and bookish images will generally give the image of a well-read book-lover, and probably a well-written and thoughtful blog. Washi tapes, pencil lines and paint splotches give the impression of a creative individual, and probably a crafty blog. Colours and patterns that are currently in fashion suggest the blogger is up to date on current trends, blog frequently and change their blog frequently, and makes them appear very active, and probably blogs a lot of style tips - design, make-up, fashion and so on.

   I'll start this series of posts off simply, and ask you: what is it that keeps you on a blog, aside from content, and what is it that turns you away from them? First impressions do count.
   A lot of beginners' mistakes are very common. Blogger, as other blogging platforms do, supply you with free backgrounds, fonts and so on you can use on your blog. The problem with this, however, is that other people are using the same designs you are. Some fonts are more popular than others, as are backgrounds. When I started out, I chose a green, leafy background, and a swirly curly font, which I made green, to match the background. I soon grew out of that, realising it didn't do much for me, and I also just generally didn't like it, but since then I've seen several blogs which all shared exactly the same design as me.
   The most important parts of a blog's design (aside from colour, cohesion and so on) are the fonts, backgrounds and headers. Once you've got those three down, everything else comes a lot easier.

   First of all, I suggest you focus on a background. You can download them for free from some websites, you can make your own, or, for a small fee, buy a pack of designs from one of many different designers. I've used Moo & Puppy in the past, and their designs are stylish, big, and come in a fantastic range of colours - and, since Etsy recently enabled an immediate download ability, whenever you purchase digital items (from sellers who have enabled it), you don't have to wait for them to email them to you! Being in the UK, myself, I've had to wait hours in the past, and it can get quite excrutiating when you know all that needs to be sent is an email.

   Making your header takes a bit of work. For this you could simply download a pleasant font and a few brushes, provided that they are all from sources that allow you to use them on blogs, and play about with them. There are also many online shops with lovely clipart. Pugly Pixel has, in my opinion, the best range from across the web, but Pink Pueblo has a lovely and large selection on Etsy, too.
   Chances are, you'll change your header more than your blog design, in the beginning. It took me so very long to get to the point where I was finally happy with it - a year, in fact! I ended up drawing my design by hand with ink, scanning it in, and adding a few ink splats and grungy brushes and using a pretty font. It doesn't need to be complicated.

   Fonts are another issue. Sure, curly ones look cute and fun, but they're hard to read. Stick to something simple. There are tutorials online that show you how to add a custom font into your blog, if you're not happy with anything your blogging platform offers - but after a few months with a custom font, I got tired of it, removed it, went back to a blogger font with the intent to change it "soon" and just never did. I believe this is the tutorial I used.

   Once you've got this down, you'll also have figured out your colour scheme. At this point you can move out into things like the "about me" section and the social media icons. If you're stuck on a colour scheme, however, looking at other websites for inspiration (note: inspiration, not copying - let your blog be your own) or at marketplaces that sell social media icons, you can get an idea for yourself. My current layout (as of 23/04/13) was inspired by the very social media icons you see there. My colour scheme was similar to it, in the sense that I was already using coral and grey, but it added in a lovely greyish cream which, I feel, gives the colour scheme a lot more depth, for such a light and subtle colour.

   There will be more posts on this topic coming soon, looking at different aspects in more detail. The easiest option, of course, is to just pay someone else to design it for you, but I doubt you'd ever get as strong a feel for your own blog. This blog is fully mine. The only thing that isn't is the background and social media icons. I made the rest. And through this, tweaking little bits and pieces, I've gradually learnt a little about HTML - at least, to recognise certain things - and I feel like I have a lot more control over my design. If someone else had done it for me, I'd be worried to change anything in case I broke it, since I wouldn't know how it was put together. You do not need to be a HTML or a Photoshop wizard. I did all this with very limited HTML knowledge, and with GIMP instead of Photoshop. It's hardly the best design in the world, but I am very happy with it, actually.

   So keep your eyes open, and keep them on the Blogging Tips page, too! All new blogging tips posts will be archived there, as the name suggests, and categorised for easy manouvering. I hope that this and the rest help!


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