As my web design business has grown, I guess I’ve got design on the brain. Lately, I notice a million nitpicky things that bother me when I’m browsing online, and sometimes I REALLY want to contact the website owners personally to tell them how to fix the problems. For some reason, though, people tend to take things like that badly, so I’ll just share with you guys instead. (And don’t be paranoid – I’m not talking about you! Unless your blog is hideously ugly, that is.)
5 EASY WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR BLOG’S DESIGN
1. Pick a decent theme.
Believe it or not, you don’t have to use the default theme that came installed on your blog! When I see a WordPress blog using the plain Twenty Eleven theme, I just die inside. There’s a better way!
There are TONS of free themes available online, and they’re usually really simple to install. (For those on free WordPress.com blogs, your choices are unfortunately very limited.) And while there are some really cool-looking themes, if they aren’t easy to customize, you’re still going to end up with a cookie cutter site. (See my pimping of the Weaver theme for one that is ridiculously easy to customize without coding.) So make sure you look at the ease of making changes and not just how the base theme looks.
2. Don’t use MS Paint to make a header.
It’s entirely possible to make a decent header yourself, but MS Paint is not the way to do it. If you aren’t good with that kind of thing, enlist a friend or pay someone to make you a header. (Hell, I’ll do it for a discounted rate if MS Paint is your only alternative!) If you don’t know anyone or don’t want to spend money, use a plain text header before you make one that looks terrible. Trust me.
3. Choose great colors.
If you aren’t sure how your color scheme looks, find 5 of your most brutally honest friends and ask them. Or, again, you can ask me and I will totally tell you the truth. There’s an awesome site called Kuler (warning if you’re on a mobile device – it still uses Flash) that helps you choose coordinating colors if you’re simply not good at that kind of thing.
The main rules you should keep in mind about colors:
* Neon is never a good idea. EVER.
* Just because two colors are basically the same doesn’t mean they go together. For example, there are a million shades of red. If your header uses one color and your links use another, it can be painful to look at.
* Don’t make your blog hard to read. White text on dark backgrounds isn’t terrible, but in general, a white background and plain black text assures that everyone can see your posts.
4. Use images and headings in your posts. And make paragraphs fairly short.
No one likes to stare at a giant wall of text. Use pictures, headings, and bold/italic letters to emphasize certain parts of your posts (just don’t get carried away!). Anything that breaks up your writing into smaller chunks is a good idea and keeps people from getting bored.
As for paragraphs, keep in mind that online writing is different from a term paper or a novel. The internet has shortened all of our attention spans – if your paragraphs go on forever, people may decide their eyes can’t handle any more.
5. When in doubt, ask for help.
Some people (especially guys, it seems) are just lost when it comes to design. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for their opinions and/or assistance to make your blog look better! Of course the design isn’t the most important thing – content IS king, after all – but a terrible design will send readers away screaming.
What do you think? Have you seen any other examples of cringeworthy design mistakes? Where do you go for help with design-related issues?