How Not to Design Your Blog

You’ve heard everybody say it: content is king. And yes, you do need to have great content, as well as SEO and a social media presence to have a blog that people come back to day after day. But the first impression a new blog visitor gets comes from what a blog looks like. And if your blog doesn’t look good or is confusing to navigate, your audience won’t stay and continue reading.

A well-dressed blog can maximize your assets and show off your personal style. This makes viewers want to get to know you better, and you’ll enjoy stronger readership and higher success in achieving your blogging goals as a result. Plus, the confidence and self-esteem you gain from knowing your blog looks good makes you more likely to keep up with writing posts and taking the time to promote them.

How Not To Design Your Blog

That said, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on a theme or hire a designer to have a stylish blog. I’ve put together three simple style rules you can follow that will keep your do-it-yourself  blog from looking homemade.

The Rules:

Rule #1: Know your blog type and play up your assets.

When a new visitor comes to your site it should be obvious to them what type of blog they’re about to read. For instance, a blog about food should use food pictures and earthy, foody colors. A humorous blog should have a funny title, tagline or graphics and look full of energy.

When Pigs Fly Humor Blog Header Design

Give your readers a focal point to keep their first impression from being too chaotic. When choosing your focal point, ask yourself what the first thing is that you want readers to notice when they click on your site. Do you want them to see your logo, your profile, the topics you regularly post about or a recent post or excerpt? Make that the biggest and most eye-catching section or graphic on your blog. Then choose coordinating graphics and colors that have the same attitude, mood or tone, but keep them small.

Rule #2: Choose patterns that aren’t distracting.

Patterns are great and they add the kind of detail that makes your blog special. But ask yourself: Would you wear a cocktail dress made from your background pattern (this goes for Twitter, too)? No? Well then why is your blog wearing a full-length ballgown of it? A distracting background can cause a reader to lose focus and miss out on the content you want them to read.

Bad and Good Use of Large Pattern for Blog Design

Photo Credit: Dress – vzmoda35, Clutch – a03designs (Both from Etsy)

Choose a background with a small print. Or if you find a large or bold print that you LOVE, use it sparingly like an accessory—on your header and footer, a fat stripe across the middle, or in one of your sidebar widgets. Or pick one with only a subtle contrast in the colors, like light blue on medium blue. Mixing patterns is fun but make sure you color-coordinate your mixed prints, or stick to one dominant print with additional small prints.

Also, try not to have type running over any background that has a dominant print to it. Again, if people can’t read it, they will leave.

Rule #3: Keep accessories simple.

Widgets are designed to enhance your blog post content, not obscure it. Keep your widgets simple and only use a few to keep them from becoming visually overwhelming. Be conscientious about what you really need. Are you really using that calendar widget that came with your theme? If you must have a lot, try putting them in a tabbed widget so they aren’t all visible at the same time.

Too Many Distracting Accessories

Blog badges and awards are fun to display but often come in many different sizes and design styles. If you start accumulating a lot it can make your sidebar look unkempt, saying “I’m a crazy badge lady” instead of “I’m an award-winning blogger.” Instead, keep a few of your most recent or most important badges in a two-column ad widget on your sidebar and create a separate blog page to highlight the rest.

{If you liked this post, then be sure to check out Part 1, Fundamental Questions to Answer Before You Get Started, and Part 3, How to Be Successful with a Blog Designer, of our blog design mini-series.}


  1. Great advice!
    Miss Wisabus recently posted..Snowed In…Again

  2. This is great! I love way you put it into perspective with the cocktail dress thing. So true! If you wouldn’t swathe yourself in it, why do it to your blog?
    Angie @ On the rocks and straight up recently posted..Will you accept this rose Hell- no

  3. This is very helpful design info. Thanks for the tips.

  4. Thank you for this advice! My blog has been undergoing an identity crisis. I need all the help I can get!
    Mrs.Mayhem recently posted..Wordless Wednesday Just Because It Made Me Smile

  5. Great tips! I really want to win her giveaway!
    Jenny recently posted..WIWW and We Did It Wednesday

  6. Great insight and advice! I know what *doesn’t* work as a result of visiting so many hundreds of blogs over time, but it’s tough when it comes down to trying to figure out that “It” factor that *does* work.
    Mrs. Jen B recently posted..My Top Ten Kitchen Essentials

  7. I cannot wait to visit this site. I’ve been working on finding ideas to update my blog’s look and could use all the help I can get.
    karen@strictlysimplestyle recently posted..Simple Valentines Day Sweets for Your Sweeties

  8. I think the thing that hit me the most about these tips is the “let your readers know what to expect” – just based on the header. That’s brilliant!!!!
    Mommy Boots recently posted..CHD Awareness Week – Cora’s Mom

  9. Great tips! Thanks for the advice… :)
    Mariposa recently posted..25 Ways to Connect with Your Spouse

  10. I hope I win the contest! My blog is breaking all the rules! I guess the one thing I did right, is not writing over the background image!
    Just Us recently posted..Call it what you wanna call it

  11. This was great advice!

  12. you’re right, when you you get to blog, the design should tell you what it’s about. it’s so hard to relay what you WANT to relay with your blog design and then make that happen. By the time you’ve tweaked it, added plug-ins, etc. it’s hard to be objective anymore. I have a new appreciation for graphic designers that’s for sure.

    Thanks for the great post
    Beth recently posted..7 Tips for Brainstorming Thoughtful Gift Ideas

  13. This is simply perfect – now off to reevaluate my little piece of the blog world!

  14. Good advice. My university spent an incredible amount of money to change the signposts all over campus–”To reduce visual clutter.” At the time it made me mad, but I am reminded of that phrase daily. I love a clean, comfortable blog design.
    Maggie S. recently posted..Durn It- Ree

  15. Thanks for all the helpful tips :)
    Marci recently posted..Exuviance Rejuvenating Treatment Masque

  16. Great post! Definitely feel like I need to go and spruce up the blog but now it’ll be a lot easier!
    Randa recently posted..About Christmas Pigs

  17. Makes me wish I could get good training to do web design…every blog deserves it’s own unique and beautiful face.
    PatriciaD recently posted..Photoshop Tutorial – Photo in the Heart

  18. thanks for the tips. blog layout is so important to building and maintaining readership. there are so many choices that it’s easy to go crazy with the design elements. do like Coco Chanel and remove one thing!
    Teresha@ Marlie and Me recently posted..Things Im Loving This Thursday

  19. But what if you don’t know what to do??
    Alexandra recently posted..Yeah- Im a Freak

  20. Love the design tips–the SITS graphics look great! My blog is a plain old WordPress template, so I’d love a bloggy makeover! :)
    Wombat Central recently posted..Random Act Wednesday – A Valentine for You!

  21. Excellent advice! I’ll definitely be chewing on this for a bit.

    Did ya miss me? My kids did something weird to my computer so I’ve not been around all week. But I’m back now! (I totally don’t think anyone missed me, lol)
    Rebekah C recently posted..Please Watch Your Language- A Plea for Compassion

  22. It’s hard to evaluate one’s own blog. I usually am a copy cat and emulate the blogs I like to spend time at.
    Kim @ Cheap Chic Home recently posted..Be Still My Krispie Heart

  23. GREAT advice! Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom!

  24. I know that there are many blogs I click away from because they are too busy or disorganized. I hope everyone reads this and looks at their own blog through this lens.

    Great tips!
    misssrobin recently posted..Thanks for the Sting

  25. By the way, it goes without saying that I love the SITS design in the portfolio, but I also love the one for Social Girl media – so clever!
    Bianca recently posted..i am not…

  26. Great advise. Thanks for sharing.
    Simone recently posted..Decorating Valentine’s Day Vignette

  27. Thanks for this Giveaway – totally awesome! I’m a new blogger & my site totally needs some help. I’d love to win this prize, your work is fabulous!
    Nicky recently posted..Bottling It Up

  28. I set a goal to declutter my blog sidebars once a month… but sometimes it’s harder to do than I think
    Heather- Acting Balanced Mom recently posted..Book Review and Giveaway – Crossing Borders

  29. Love these tips! I have actually had a blog make-over in mind the past couple weeks and this is just what I needed to remind me of what I should consider! Thanks for helping us make our sites better!
    Bianca recently posted..i am not…

  30. All fabulous ideas! I like “neatness” on my blogs as well, and tend to visit a blog more if it has a pleasant, organized look to it.
    Tree recently posted..WOW! 80 Off Restaurantcom Certificates!

  31. Great advice! I think the biggest problem I have is with the first rule, I’m not sure you would know what my blog is about just by looking at it. Heck, I’m not sure what its about sometimes! I picked the name because it somehow became my “handle” years ago and thus any small internet presence I have would be connected to this name. But it might lead people to think my blog is about food. =/
    Tasha recently posted..Why shaving and pain medication dont mix

  32. Love these rules!
    Cole recently posted..Tuesdays At The Table – Salsa Verde Pork Stew

  33. I REALLY need a new blog design. Or any blog design! I’m tired of looking so unprofessional. Not that I AM professional, I’m just tired of looking that way :( I don’t know the first thing about designing a blog so I’m pretty sure I can’t do it myself.
    Jenn @ Coolest Family on the Block recently posted..31DBBB Day 2- Write a List Post

  34. Heading right over to nominate myself!
    Donna recently posted..SuperBowl Sunday Night

  35. Great advice! Thank you!
    Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect recently posted..Planning a Chinese New Year &amp Superbowl Party

  36. Great post!
    Nicky recently posted..Bottling It Up

  37. Great tips! Thanks for the info on the widgets! really helpful!
    April recently posted..Giveaways Galore @ Night Owl Crafting &amp A Little Quiet Around Here

  38. Love the pics. “Blog Victim” — to funny!
    Lynne Miller recently posted..Blogger Freebies Week!

  39. Great post! I think I’m on the right track overall based on this which is comforting. Although, I would totally enter the contest if I can use the win in a year or so when I might need an update!
    Nicole@MTDLBlog recently posted..Bloggy Idol Interview- Mama Kat

  40. I’ll take all the love I can get.

    I’ve got a pre-made template and it feels like I’m a cyber-imposter lurking and waiting for someone to click…

    Kinda like J-Lo waiting for tonight.

    That was bad.

    Sorry – I’m getting more coffee now.

    Cristina recently posted..Thanks- but no thanks Maybe

  41. Great post…and thanks for the advice.
    Jackie recently posted..Chocolate Orange Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

  42. I love how you compare your three rules to the rules of fashion; I think that’s something everybody can relate to, and it makes so much sense!

  43. This is a great article! The advice is fantastic!
    Jamee@A New Kind of Normal recently posted..Flowerz in Her Hair – Review &amp GIVEAWAY!

  44. Thank you for all of the blog advice :)
    Tammy @ Not just paper and glue recently posted..Glittered Backgrounds Made Easy!

  45. Okay I absolutely loved this post. Everything made mucho sense and although I am still navigating my way through my “never to be seen by others just trying it out secretly” WordPress blog, I will definitely take these reminders to heart and use them practically in every way shape and form. Thank you kind lady.

    My best, Lynn
    Lynn recently posted..The Cost of Healthy Living

  46. “Would you wear your background?” That’s awesome! That really sums up why I’m working on redesigning my blog…the background and colors are nice, but they’re just not quite me.

    By the way, I am in LOVE with the new SITS website! I can’t get over how cute and functional it is!
    Emily recently posted..National Marriage Week

  47. I kick myself everyday for not going into web and graphic design. I love the graphics on this post.

    I would love to have a blog makeover. Great advice!
    Kallay recently posted..It’s Postpartum Cardiomyopathy

  48. Renee did an amazing job for me. Don’t you just love my When Pigs Fly header? It really gives my blog a more distinct and edgier feel. Anyone winning this is so lucky. And, if you don’t. Seriously consider hiring this woman. She’s fabulous!
    When Pigs Fly recently posted..As Seen on TV

  49. I liked this post very much. Great, great advice.
    Jen recently posted..Moral of the Story- Always Lock the Door

  50. I think you hit the nail on the head.. to many accesories.. that was my first problem..
    great advice.

  51. Thanks for the info!!


  1. [...] you liked this post, then be sure to check out Part 2, How NOT to design your blog, and Part 3, How to Be Successful with a Blog Designer, of our blog design mini-series.}   [...]

  2. [...] in February I wrote a guest post for SITS on How NOT to Design your blog. In coordination with the SITS post, I had contest for a Blog Mini Makeover on my blog. [...]

  3. [...] actually remembered to check SITS blog the other day, only to come across a post on how not to design your blog. The author talks about how it needs to be obvious what kind of blog one has – I don’t [...]

  4. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by JOYS, Tiffany Romero, Dawn, Yo Media, Studio Bold, LLC and others. Studio Bold, LLC said: I wrote a guest post about blog design today at @SITSGirls called "How Not To Design Your Blog". [...]

  5. [...] Additional Entries (separate comments, please): • Comment on my post on SITS to learn How Not to Design when making changes to your blog. • Follow @StudioBold on Twitter. • Like Studio Bold Graphic [...]

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