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. Avoid making these mistakes in your blog design.

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.

Be sure to check out the other posts in our blog design mini-series:

Part 3: How to Be Successful with a Blog Designer
When Do You Stop Blogging About Your Kids?


  1. says

    I try to make my blog appear a little better every day. I have tried out almost every theme in WordPress. I’m sticking with the one that I have now. I really want Genesis Framework. I have seen so many pages with amazing layouts that were made with it, like yours!

  2. rajee says

    Great tips. Can you please let us know how to design or change color with ease instead of searching html codes that will take more time to look for color codes, border style etc.

  3. says

    Thank you for the tips! I’m looking at my own blog and thinking of getting a makeover, and it’s frustrating to see how disorganised it is now!

  4. says

    These are great tips. I find it hard to read blogs that are super busy (either with badges or a distracting design), in part because I really appreciate good design as much as good writing, and also because I’m fairly easily distracted!

  5. says

    I love the choose patterns that aren’t distracting. So often people pick things that are so beautiful on their own, but when overloaded it drives me insane!

  6. says

    Thanks for the advice!… I’ve been going back and forth on re-designing my blog, but am not sure where to go with it. I think you couldn’t be more right about taking a more simple approach.


  7. says

    Great advice!

    I have found that when a blog has too much clutter be it ads, sponsors, awards, badges, etc it turns me off. I have no interest in sifting through all of that to read your content.

    My 2nd blog, The Coffee Pot Chronicles, launched a little over a week ago at the time of this comment and so far, it is a little uh, bland. I like the simplicity of the WordPress Thesis theme and prefer a much calmer, simpler blog than one with a lot of clutter. I still have a lot to learn as a blogger and these things do help.

    Thanks for the advice! They are definitely useful.

  8. says

    Great tips! I love how my blog looks. It’s so me. But what if what is “me” isn’t drawing people in? How do you go about keeping true to yourself (design-wise) and keeping more readers?

  9. says

    I am loving these blog design posts!!! I just recently taught myself HTML and CSS to create a new blog design for myself. I love having complete control of my blog and hope to learn more about blog design.


  10. says

    I am loving these blog design posts!!! I just recently taught myself HTML and CSS to create a new blog design for myself. I love having complete control of my blog and hope to learn more about blog design.


  11. says

    I tried to pare down my widgets to the bare minimum, but a lot of the “flashier” blogs I visit have lots of buttons and widgets down the side. Makes it seem fancier, but I don’t like the clutter! So what’s enough, and how much is too much?

  12. says

    Great advice! I an in the middle of a redesign myself from a cookie cutter wordpress theme to a designed by me theme. I’m taking my time and hopefully it’ll be worth it!

  13. says

    YES I NEED this makeover! My blog really needs a boost of something new and awesome! I ended up using a blogger one I liked but it’s not very ME. Please help!

  14. says

    I appreciate the tips! I know how I want my blog to look…I just don’t know how to get it there. It is a frustrating block on my creativity. So, I keep writing, but know the blog does not live up to its potential.

  15. says

    Great post! If you are looking to go pro with your blog, you really should invest in a great design or start learning. Awesome giveaway!!!!

  16. says

    Love the advice! Sadley I find myself changing my blog all the time for more than one of the reasons mentioned above! I can’t seem to find or have the knowledge on how to design the right page! This post will definitely be a start though!