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Blogging is an investment of both your money and your time. Whether you are setting up more of an author site with a blog, or a blog in and of itself, you want to have the blog design basics down to keep people reading, scrolling, clicking, and STAYING. You want engagement and return visits.
Even though many of us might prefer to just focus on the writing (can I get an Amen?), without having the basic blog design elements in place, people will be turned off. We can’t please everyone, but we can avoid the big pitfalls and work to make our blog a place where people come and STAY.
In this episode I’m talking with Elaine Griffin about Blog Design Basics YOU need to know. (Originally recorded in 2015!) In this episode we talk about why you might hire a designer or what you can do on your own if you choose not to hire a designer. Elaine also discusses how to pick and work with a designer, what her pet peeves are in terms of design and why you DON’T want to use a plugin to be mobile-friendly.
Listen to Episode 57 – Blog Design Basics
You can find more about Elaine’s services on her site or follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook.
Blog Design Basics with Elaine Griffin
When You Need a Designer vs Design DIY
- Designers help you establish your visual brand.
- You may be able to use plugins to do a lot, but those can slow your site speed if you use too many!
- Designers know about back-end technical things you may not.
- Designers provide an expertise about aesthetics & functionality that you might not have.
- You might break something. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever broken your site!!)
- You need a good mobile responsive theme (most of the Genesis themes are).
- New iPhones sometimes need a coded work-around.
- Use Responsinator to check how your site looks on different devices.
- Headers can be an issue. Designers can code them down, but larger headers can be a large problem!
- Sometimes ads visible in the truncated view of posts also cause problems.
What You Get When You Pay a Designer
- design expertise
- header sizing
- where things should visually be located on your blog like ads & content
- technical and back-end knowledge
- best plugins
- where you might need special coding
- support for emergencies
- your TIME
- professional look
Elaine’s Personal Pet Peeves
- too much navigation (she suggested two nav bars, neither one too crowded)
- huge header
- grab a button widget (no one is grabbing your button!)
- too many badges
Tips If You Can’t Afford a Designer
- Don’t be afraid of white space.
- Be simple and clean.
- Use Google Fonts (free for commercial use) rather than just what fonts come with a theme.
- Have big, beautiful images. (Use stock photos if you aren’t a great photographer.)
- Make sure your header isn’t too big.
- Have an About section in the sidebar with your email. (Brands don’t like contact forms.)
- Mobile Friendly!
Elaine’s Favorite Plugins
- Simple Social Icons
- Shortcodes Ultimate
- Studio Tiny MCE
- Visual Editor
- Gensis eNews Extended
- Featured Widget Amplified
Important Mobile Friendly Tip: DO NOT use a plugin to make your site mobile friendly. Even if the Google test says your site is mobile friendly when using a plugin, Google has actual defined mobile-friendly as an actual responsive sizing-down and coding. Your plugin is not really doing that, so while it technically IS responsive and may show up as fine on the Google test, you may actually NOT be mobile-friendly and lose search traffic. Use a theme rather than a plugin!
Tips for Working with a Designer
- Find someone whose designs you like, but make sure your personalities seem like a good fit.
- Have some vision for what you want. If you don’t, be prepared to accept the designer’s vision.
- Don’t approve something and then later decide to change it.
- Ask if the designer can show you test sites in WordPress rather than just a view in photoshop.
Is blog design an area where you want to invest your money or your time? You will absolutely have to invest one or the other to have a professional site.
I’ve learned a lot about CSS and blog design hacks over the years, but often I spend way too much time trying to figure things out. That time equals money! Especially if I break something in the code (it happens almost every time) and then have to call someone to fix it.
Have you worked with a designer? What are your tips for getting the most bang for your buck?
Are you doing design DIY? What made you choose that route and where did you learn the tools you used?