Improving blog design in a smart way

There are numerous ways to choose blog design - based on goals, looks, functions or maybe budget. But there is only one way to improve blog design. That is to make it fit your purposes better and manage to skip ruining it in the process .

Starting point

Unless you’ve started on huge budget and custom design (and who does?) you are usually at one of two starting positions. Those are:

  • generic design looking like a blog;
  • bright impressive design that may not look like blog at all.

Common experience

I am going to need some illustrations so pardon my terrible drawing skills. Generic blog design would be something like this.



It has all common elements at common places. It is pretty good at serving content but as time passes you may realize it’s simply not on par with blogs around.

Flashy looks

Eye-candy at its best. Some designs put impressive looks before anything else.



And again after some time you may notice that stiff, colorful and slow loading looks may not be best frame for your content.

Two important things

Improving design can become constant process. It may be hard to grasp changes you need on first attempt. Your core purposes may also change and initially good design elements may expire their usefulness. There are two important concepts you should adopt to reduce risk of ruining instead of building:

  • modular design;
  • consistent looks.

Evade inspired on the fly editing

Without splitting page into modular parts and working on them one at a time you risk:

  • breaking semantic markup;
  • producing invalid and hard to edit code;
  • creating bottlenecks that slow down page load.

So first step is doing changes in parts. But it’s not enough because sticking to this rule only you may easily end up with something like this:



Aim for awesome and consistent image

By creating some rules you can make consistent:

  • fonts;
  • colors;
  • borders;
  • backgrounds.

and it becomes much easier to control everything and change parts with maximum speed and least trouble.



Combining modular approach with clear guidelines to overall looks you are going to slowly move from the starting point to highly effective and personalized look that will exactly fit your blog.

Good luck to everyone who find customizing their blogs as interesting as I do and if you are as bad as me… Rule three – hire real designer when situation calls for that. :)

This post was written for Blog Design group writing project/contest held by nice people from Blog Design Studio and sponsored by equally nice Daily Blog Tips and Blogging Tips blogs so I don’t even feel like ignoring contest for required links to sponsors because I am reader and subscriber to all of these.

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  • Farrhad #

    Great post :) Will help when i start designing my theme :)
  • Rarst #

    @Farrhad Thanks. :) You are doing goob job with improving your current theme, I like home page changes you did since participating in Reader Blog Critique.
  • Blog for Beginners #

    Good luck with the group writing project, Rarst. Let's see if we could make it into the top 3. See you there. Yan PS: Nice graphic too by the way..
  • Rarst #

    @Yan I don't have my hopes high. As you know my design skills suck. Placing my hopes on someone in jury liking crappy smlieys humor. :) Good luck to both of us, anyway.
  • Farrhad #

    @Rarst, am planning to get a unique blog design done. Anyone you would recommend (around 400$) Thanks!
  • Rarst #

    @Farrhad Hmmm... I can think of some people but don't have price ranges so you'll have to inquire yourself. http://blogdesignstudio.com/ - they are holding this group writing. Click through their recent works, quality is awesome. Not cheap I suspect. :) http://qbkl.net/ - Alex of Blogsessive (as I understand). He is working on my new logo (I am most impressed with his work) and Blogsessive theme makes a lot of people drool. Not sure if he takes custom theme orders at moment and what is his price range. http://freshneverfrozendesign.com/ - Brad of Bradblogging. Currently works on custom design update for me (won it in contest), no impressions to share yet. Designs are bright, clean and fresh. :) Markets prices as "affordable". btw I am taking sleepy excuse - if I forgot someone feel free to kick me.
  • Farrhad #

    Thanks dude :)
  • tj @ smartblogtips #

    i liked the creative aspect of this post. nice and informative. regards thinkjayant
  • Rarst #

    @thinkjayant Thanks. :) Despite my limited drawing skills I thought that few images are going to convey idea better in this case. I'll read your entry to group writing later today, looks extensive and worth attention.
  • Ryan #

    Thats a great post. The basics are something a lot of people including myself overlook. It seems like bloggers are an awful like musicians, never satisfied with the final product. I cant count the times I have tried to make over a song of mine. Now I am doing it with my blog! Good luck with the contest. Entering this group contest was one of the best things I've done. I am learning so muc from everyone and filling up my google reader with some excellent blogs!
  • Rarst #

    @Ryan Thanks. :) I am tweaking my blog all the time and at first was rolling back or changing lots of stuff because it seemed nice on it's own but wasn't fitting rest of blog. One of the most usual mistakes of this kind I did is using "popular" RSS icons like man with paper. It is smart and cool but on light background it's blending and small details make it hard to notice and process. Now I am much more thorough with consistent styling and such. Good luck you all of us. :)
  • Ben Tremblay #

    Why does posts about blogging always generate more comments? ;) Good work with that one. You know I am getting ready for frogstr 2.0 and I am looking for the perfect balance between look and cleanliness. I think it is impossible as there are no perfect design, but you know... You have been very consistent with your design and I admire that, good work!
  • Rarst #

    @Ben Well, a lot of comments on group writings are from other contributors and such posts draw more traffic easily so it's only natural. 2.0? I thought you are at 3.75 or something already. :) Looking for free theme or going to be buying one? Yep, I put more thought lately into my design for it to be consistent. Still I am crappy designer and probably at my limit so some major changes are going to be custom-made by real designer in the future.
  • Ben Tremblay #

    haha yeah for most people it's 2.0, for you I agree with 3.75 :) I am going to buy. I have started the design in photoshop without the theme but it'll be soon time to buy it and get things done!
  • Smartblogtips wins Group Writing Contest | Smart Blog Tips #

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