“How do I design my blog?” is one of the most frequently asked questions from new bloggers. Design of your blog is very important as the more unique looking your site is, the more memorable it will be for your visitors and more of them will stick to it, subscribe to it, return back and share it with their friends in social media. Let’s have a quick look at some of the important design elements you will have to consider during the design process.
Having a great header design is important as that is the first thing people see when entering your site. Always make sure to take your time to create a great looking header. Hire a freelance designer in case you don’t have the skills needed. On top of having great header, thinking of usability is another key thing to consider on your way to a great looking blog. You have to consider the font you are using, the size of the font, the colours, how you present the sidebar and much more. Your visitors should enjoy not only the aesthetics of your site but also the ease of use and user-friendliness.
An increasing number of visitors browse the web from their tablets and mobile devices so have a design that looks great on smaller screens or touch based screens is another important consideration. First thing first though. Let us take a look at how you start your own blog.
First step in designing your blog
First step is to pick a right blogging platform that allows a wide range of design possibilities. WordPress is my platform of choice in terms of that. Using WordPress you have plenty of options for design templates for your blog as there are over 1,500 free design templates on WordPress. There are also many premium options like the one I am using on my blog. Wordpress makes the process of finding a design less stressful as it is easy to test different designs and find one that fits you best.
Starting a blog on WordPress is pretty simple. You select a domain name that you want to use, you get it hosted and then it is a straight forwards process to get your blog online. I recommend Bluehost as your host as it takes 5 minutes to have your blog up and running there, no prior experience required. Watch my video instructions below.
Now that you have your WordPress up and running, let’s take a look at the different customisation opportunities.
Free themes are a good place to start for any blogger so I recommend that you go into your new WordPress admin, go into “Appearance” and click “Themes”. Then click “Install Themes” where you can look through many themes and test them. Try for example and browse through “Featured” or through “Newest” or “Recently Updated”. Or use the tag filter to find some other themes. Simply click on Preview to see how the theme looks. Choose something that you like and activate it to put the new design live on your blog.
Things to consider when choosing a design
The ability to customise your design with a simple and easy interface varies a lot from one WordPress theme to another. Some have drag-and-drop, user friendly interface, some can only be edited and customised manually. If you don’t have a coding or design background it is best to pick a template that allows customisation without the need of coding skills. Or simply pick a theme that you really love as it is and have no need to customise.
Some of the things to think about when choosing a design for your site:
- Header image is a very important part of every blog. It brands your site and is the thing the visitors see first. Consider how the header of the design looks like and consider how easy it is too change the header into something that you have created for your blog.
- Sidebar options are important. Would you like to have one sidebar or maybe two sidebars or maybe none? Would you like sidebars on the left or on the right or on both sides of the content? These choices will influence the readability of your blog so make sure the theme you choose has the options that you need.
- The look of the front page is very important to think about. Does your theme support teasers for example? Do you have a magazine style front page option? A prominent subscribe position?
- What fonts and font sizes would you like on your blog? How easy it it to change the font colour? Does your theme give you these options?
- Search engines are important when building traffic to your site. Your design’s code has to be clean and search engine friendly for traffic to start coming through.
- More and more people are visiting you from mobiles and tablets, it is important to consider how your design looks on these devices. See my detailed post on responsive design.
- Support is important as Internet and WordPress itself are continuously changing and your theme needs upgrades and latest bug fixes to continue serving you and your visitors.
Take a look at your favourite blogs
Simple way to find a design is to go to your favourite blogs and see what design they use. When you browse blogs you love it is pretty simple to see what design they use. In many cases there will be a template name or link in the footer of the blog, or you can right click in your browser and click “View Source”.
If you take a closer look at all the coding you will see lines of code with /wp-content/themes/something/ in them and the folder after /themes/ will be the name of the theme. For example /wp-content/themes/thesis_184/ will be there in case they are using Thesis Theme 1.84. When you have the name either search for it in Google or in your WordPress admin to learn more and to test it out on your own blog.
Most downloaded WordPress designs
Using one of the free designs that many other bloggers use is not always the preferable way to go as you will not be able to stand out from the crowd that easily. In any case this top 10 list will at least give you an idea of possibilities in the WordPress community. Here is a list of the most popular WordPress themes ever:
- Atahualpa - Fixed or flexible width layout, 0-4 sidebars, custom widget areas, import/export styles, color pickers, over 200 options.
- LightWord - Two or three columns, Adsense support, fixed-width, widget-ready and threaded comments.
- iNove - Widget supported and doesn’t require any plugin.
- Suffusion - Theme with a power-packed set of options.
- Mystique - Extensive customization.
- Thematic - 13 widget-ready areas, drop-down menus, grid-based layout samples, plugin integration, shortcodes and more.
- Pixel - 2-3 column layout, dropdown categories menu, multiple widget-ready placement and Feedburner email form integrated.
- Platform - A drag-and-drop theme-design framework.
- Twenty Ten - Make it yours with a custom menu, header image, and background.
- Constructor - Many layouts, configured colors, custom fonts and a slideshow.
All the themes above are free, but there are also many premium options. I personally use a premium theme on my blog. Premium themes are more flexible and customizable for people who have no design skills and allow you to create a professional and unique looking blog without needing to code or use Photoshop.
They allow you to change columns, sidebars, fonts, font sizes, colours, header and many other design elements without needing to know CSS or coding. With a premium theme you have the full control of the look of your blog. Premium themes are constantly developed and have the full support. When there is a WordPress upgrade the theme is compatible and is functioning correctly. This is not always the case with the free themes.
Activate the design you like and start
Whatever you do just don’t spend too much time thinking about your theme. No matter how beautiful your site is, it will never grow without you spending time on creating great content and attracting visitors. So do pick a design and start blogging!