Starting a blog: choosing your design

A man working at a computer.

This is part three of my series for new bloggers. So far, I’ve covered what to consider before starting as well as getting everything in place. It’s now time to talk about choosing your design.

The appearance of your blog is a very personal choice – it needs to reflect who you are and what your blog is about after all. That said, people decide whether to stay or go incredibly quickly online so you need something that will grab their attention.

Depending on the setup you’ve chosen, you should have a number of free templates or themes to choose from. You can buy premium themes to use with WordPress too. Installing and customising templates and themes is pretty intuitive and the process varies depending on platform, so I’m going to focus on what to keep in mind instead.

What are your ‘must haves’?

There are so many design features available so it’s a good idea to think about which ones you want. For example, will you have an image or text at the top of your blog? Do you want to include pages? How about sidebars?

Take a look at blogs and websites that you like and think about which of the design elements on them would work for you. It may help to sketch your ideal layout on paper; then you have something to compare with the options available to you.

If you decide to include an image or logo at the top of your page, you may want to check out Canva. It has lots of free templates that you can use to create and download your own bespoke imagery.

Think above the fold

One thing to definitely be aware of is keeping all the important content ‘above the fold’. Think about what appears when your page is loaded. Anything that you need to scroll down to see is below said fold.

So, for instance, it’s important to me that the list of my pages, the ‘about me’ section to the right and links to my social media accounts are above the fold.

Keep it simple

Designs that are too busy are likely to put people off so go for something that doesn’t use too many colours. If you have different fonts available to you, be consistent with how you use them.

It’s fine to use one font for the main text and another for headings – as long as they go well together, of course – but don’t chop and change from one post to the next. Similarly, choose fonts that are nice and clear, avoiding the temptation to choose those that look like handwriting.

Is it accessible and responsive?

When choosing your background and font colours, think about accessibility. Will everyone be able to read them? For example, some people will struggle to read a light font that appears on a dark background.

Also, think about how it will look on a phone or tablet. Most design options are mobile responsive or optimised now, but make sure your choice is.

Don’t worry about experimenting

Most of what I’ve learned about the appearance of my blog has been via trial and error and there’s nothing wrong with that as an approach. Even for me, seven years in! Don’t worry about making mistakes as they can be fixed easily.

Last year, I tried out a new theme. I liked the look of it but my bounce rate – people deciding to leave immediately – suddenly became higher than I was comfortable with. I returned to my old theme, made a few tweaks to make it look new and everything was fine again.

That’s it for what to consider when choosing your design. Next week I’ll take a look at writing posts.

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