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. 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!
    Marie recently posted..Signed Up For NaBloPoMo

  2. Those have got to be some of the best tips I have ever read. I have seen some designs that made it impossible to continue reading.
    Angela Kinder recently posted..Skintactix Clear Skin Challenge

  3. This was really good advise, thank you. :)
    Marie Cole recently posted..Fashion Has an Interior Motive

  4. Thanks for the tips. I need to hear them over and over again!
    Sandra recently posted..These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

  5. thank you so much for the tips, I have been trying to figure out how to organize my blog buttons on the right side of my blog. So that they are side by side, do you have any tips on this you would mind sharing thank you
    lisa simmons recently posted..Ive Returned from Trip

  6. Thanks so much Renee for all the great tips! I’m going to have to spend some time evaluating my blog now :)
    Dacia recently posted..PTR week 6- Baseball T-shirts

  7. 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.

  8. Great tips!
    Natalie recently posted..Sweet Home Chicago

  9. Very interesting and helpful. Thanks!

  10. 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!
    Liyana recently posted..Anna and The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

  11. More great advice!

  12. hope I’ve not missed this ;)
    christy, recently posted..New ♥it gift guide

  13. Great tips! Thanks!
    jeanne @ inspiring ideas recently posted..Playroom Magnetic Chalkboard Tutorial

  14. Oh my goodness I could use a blog makeover since I just had to restart on WordPress and I hate starting from scratch!!! What a great giveaway!
    InspiredDreamer recently posted..When Life Hands You a Bowl Of Cherries…

  15. I’m heading over to my blog dashboard now to make a few tweaks after reading this.
    Lindsay recently posted..Give a day or two

  16. GREAT tips! I think I could learn to do coding myself before I can find a designer I can afford! LOL
    Alana Morales recently posted..Mamavation Monday – Forgive Me Sistas- for I have sinned…

  17. 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!

  18. Heather Evans says:

    Great tips! Thanks for the help!

  19. Wouldn’t it be awesome to win a design! I could use it. I don’t even know where to start!!
    Linda recently posted..The Newleywed Bed

  20. My blog could definitely use a bit of a polish. Thanks for the tips!
    Cook Clean Craft recently posted..Sneak Preview- Car and Train Bookends

  21. 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!
    Mothers’ Hideaway recently posted..Come Closer- Dear Lover

  22. Those are seom great tips! Now I think I’ll head on over and enter the makeover contest!

  23. 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.

    Jenna recently posted..Recipe- Napolitana Pasta with Rocket

  24. Such great tips…something we all need to be mindful of.
    Tammy recently posted..Valentine Fun Day Three Novica 30 Giveaway CLOSED

  25. 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.
    Kim at Coffee Pot Chronicles recently posted..Self-Promotion- How much is too much

  26. I would love a blog makeover!

  27. Great tips! I like my blog, but I am sure it could be a whole lot better.
    Brenna @ Almost All The Truth recently posted..Saying goodbye to a pet…

  28. 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?
    Trianna recently posted..Gleek Out!

  29. Love the tips and your design! Thanks!
    Heather recently posted..Cynthia Robinsons The Dog Park Club

  30. Great tips! I’m always searching for a happy medium — I prefer the simple look so as not to distract from the content :)
    Everyday Mama recently posted..Food crafting

  31. 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.

    Karen At Home recently posted..LifeA Big Slice of Crazy

  32. 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.

    Karen At Home recently posted..LifeA Big Slice of Crazy

  33. Helpful stuff and like how you used the fashion world to help make your point.

  34. This was so helpful. Thanks for the tips!
    Shana recently posted..Open Letter Thursday…

  35. All great tips!!! Thanks for sharing:-)

  36. 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?
    Rachel recently posted..Trying to Come in Last

  37. 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!
    Just Like June recently posted..Everyday Baking- Easy Cheesy Foccacia Brad

  38. Good post… I’m in the middle redoing my blog and splitting it out so it makes more sense to readers.
    Caren Freeman recently posted..DreamDinnerscom – Save Time- Money- and Eat Healthy

  39. 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!

  40. 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.

  41. Great tips and what a fun read!
    Ashley recently posted..Day 10- Are we there yet

  42. Great tips & a great giveaway!
    hotpants™ recently posted..Christina Aguileras National Flub

  43. 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!!!!
    Mimi recently posted..Sara Ramirez- Latinas Cover Girl for March

  44. Awesome. I am so grateful for all the advice.
    Alie recently posted..Artist Spot Light- Cat Palmer

  45. Can I say how uber cool this is?!! :>:>
    Karen @ Time Crafted recently posted..Highly Prized- The Sketchbook Challenge meets Inspiration Everywhere

  46. totally entering!
    Alexandria recently posted..If I break the rules

  47. Great tips! I’ve read similar tips before and followed them when creating my blog.
    Kimmie recently posted..Stormy Weather

  48. Great advice and tips! I’m always “remodeling” my blog.
    Grandma Nina recently posted..A Little Exercise Does Wonders

  49. 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!

  50. These are great tips!
    Joy recently posted..Dress-Up Diva &amp The Dog


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