Blog DesignBlog Tips

How Not to Design Your Blog

By Feb 10, 2011October 28th, 2014166 Comments

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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:

About Renee

AKA - Bold Mom. Graphic and Web Designer, Wife and Momtrepreneur. Eats, sleeps and breathes design. Loves helping bloggers look their best! Studio Bold | Bold Mom | Twitter | Facebook


  • Great advice, as always. I do get too distracted when there are too many visual clutter items on blogs. Keeping it clean and simple lets the reader focus on the content and the “important” areas of the blog.

  • Kara says:

    These are fabulous tips! I’m always looking for ways to make small improvements on my blog. 🙂

  • This is excellent advice. I do not like cluttered blogs and I especially hate light writing on a dark background. There was one blog I came across where the bckground colour was red with yellow writing! Although the content was good I just COULD NOT bear to read it after a few minutes!

  • Love these examples and love this series.
    Now, please tell who I need to makeout with, whose toilet I need to clean or how many dirty diapers I need to change to win this?
    Pretty Please!!!!

    BTW, You all know how BEAUTIFUL Tiffany is, right?

  • Beth says:

    Hi! Remember me? I was super active during last summer’s BBB month and loved my involvement with SITS and BlogFrog … making friends and finding wonderful new blogs to read and follow. Somehow life (and work) got in the way and distracted me for a while but now I am BACK! Looking forward to jumping back in and discovering all the changes that have occurred between then and now!

  • Bethany says:

    Absolutely loving the design series! This is stuff EVERYONE needs to know!

  • Some great ideas! Since I designed and did my own blog (and that is not really my forte) I am always looking for ways to improve it.
    Thanks for the insight!

  • Review Mom says:

    This is a great article- very helpful. There is absolutely nothing worst than visiting a blog where the background is screaming at you in outrageous patterns. I think I’m going to take your advice and work on my sidebar {widgets} because I AM that crazy badge lady!

  • Stacey says:

    Great advice! I’ve been changing up some things on my blog and it’s always good to see that I’ve done a few things right! Still needs some help, but definitely headed in the right direction!

  • Jean says:

    I couldn’t agree more with all of these points. The focal point being just that, a focal point but not distracting from the content, the writing, is so important. And I also love a clean, neat blog without lots of color or things shouting at me. I also agree about the background. I recently deleted my background by accident (I unfortunately do have to pay people to do these things for me since I am technologically challenged) and actually fell in love with having no background, just plain white. Who knew?

  • Great thoughts! I try to keep the sidebar clutter down for sure, but sometimes I feel like my main page is plain compared to others. That’s when I remind myself to focus on content and remember your #1!

    I recently sat down to do some redesign and ended up (after about 4 frustrating days) liking things pretty much the way I had them. I posted a few screenshots for my reader and they agreed that they liked what I had originally best. It was an interesting exercise, but I laugh at myself for going back to my comfort zone after, literally, hours of working on something new.

  • Rene W. says:

    Great points! I’m in the middle of a re-design & it’s so hard choosing all of these elements…

  • Katie says:

    Aside from a lot of “stuff” all over the page, another thing that is a big turn off are tons of ads. I understand the concept, but when there are more ads than actual content, it just doesn’t seem worth it….

  • Bekah says:

    You are sooo right about the prints. Sometimes the prints used as backgrounds on blogs overrun the actual typeface of the blog and it becomes impossible to read! Or maybe my eyes are too old?

    Either way, if I can get something other than a lonely tree for my blog that would be fantabulous!

  • Amy v. says:

    I am trying to work on my blog right now, So I will keep all of these ideas in mind. Thank you SO MUCH!

  • Lucky Dame says:

    Very helpful tips. I sometimes think I need to de-clutter my side tables on my blog. For instance, I have a TAG cloud but I’m not sure if anyone really uses that.

  • Victoria says:

    Hey all,

    Very good basic blogging tips. I like to use generic templates and then customize them to my liking. Minimalist templates work very well for this.

    Happy Thursday ladies,


  • Kelly says:

    Great Advice!!

  • Jenny says:

    Great tips 😀 Off to check out your giveaway.

  • Heather says:

    Great post and good advice! I definately leave a blog that has way too much going on. Flashy stuff, too small to read, slideshows or just a massive amount of little follower heads to load. I like to keep my page simple and let my post do all the talking.

  • Nicole says:

    Great stuff. Makes me want to re-analyze my blog now lol

  • Melissa says:

    I can’t even begin to tell you how many times i have added , deleted, then added again different backgrounds, headers, blinkie, badges, yadda yadda. Pathetic really. I think I have spent more hours redesigning then eating and sleeping put together. And yet, it still looks blah-sigh- Its basically a blank slate with ideas in my head and not on my blog! 🙂 Please Help!..and no my middle name is not PS, Paint, Word, or anything of the like, but I sure can boot my way through Picnik 🙂

  • Madison says:

    I was just thinking my badges were getting out of control. Moving them to a separate page is a good idea.

  • Mimi says:

    My blog is in the process of becoming something new, combining my giveaway blog and my other blog that used to be exclusive to book reviews. Now it’s a conglomerate of eveything it seems. I need to figure out what it will be now and go from there.

  • Shauna says:

    Great points in this article. I would love to win this, but in the meantime, I’m going to try to implement these tips right now. While I love certain aspects of my blog, it’s just not coming together as cleanly as I’d like it – I love the new SITS blog and the When Pigs Fly blog.

  • fojoy says:

    I could really use the help – blog is blah-boring

  • Julia says:

    Great tips thanks!

  • Missy says:

    I really loved this post, and will keep all of these things in mind!

  • In real life? I’m a bit of a crazy pattern and color woman. I think this is my antidote to having worn NOTHING but black for most of my 20s and early 30s (I live in New York City, ya know). So it’s hard for me to keep that in check. My current “design” is still a work in progress & I definitely need some help, so I’m going over to enter your give-away right now!

  • Such great advice! Thanks for the post!

  • Bonny S. says:

    Great advice! Love the article.

  • Chelsea says:

    Great points! My header is in need of some serious help…man, I need more hours in the day.

  • Wyletter says:

    Well said. Great advice, especially Rule 1, “Know your blog type and play up your assets.” Thanks.

  • Really enjoyed your simplicity tips. Some designs make me go cross-eyed! My grandmother always said, less is more.

  • Tara says:

    Going over to check her out! Can’t wait to get a giveaway working for the blog!

  • Maria-Isabel says:

    These are great tips… especially the one about all the widgets and badges!! I cant stand to go to a blog that is so cluttered I can hardly even find the post im trying to read! I like a clean organized blog!
    What I do is keep a page for all my features and awards, that way people can click on the page link and see where I have been featured and for what project, they can see my awards.. but its a choice to go look at them. They do not clutter up or dominate my blog! 🙂
    Ive been working really hard at redecorating my blog, I created my own background, header/banner, and lables.. but now Im worried my background print is too large! To me is still seems pretty calm, its not a crazy wild print. SO I hope its still pleasing to the eye. My header is something that I keep changing, cause Im never for sure if its just exactly right.
    If anyone is willing to check out my blog and leave me some tips or your thoughts on its appearance I would greatly appreciate it! 🙂
    Agape Love Designs

  • Will take the advice and compare my site. Thanks!

  • Astrid says:

    Good advice, but I’m afraid I can’t follow it. I’m cluesless about CSS, am blind so can’t pick pictures (and besides, what picture would you choose for a mental health/disability rights blog?), and chose my theme because of accessibility with my screen reader.

    • Renee says:

      Astrid, Your blog is clean and simple and the picture is beautiful. No need to worry.

  • Fenny says:

    Would luv a logo, header, button and whatever else will come with it…. but am from beautiful Netherlands and therfore do not qualify….. *snif*
    Yet, cuz I luv the post etc. I did twitter the message 🙂

  • Lady Jennie says:

    Oh I’m so tempted for another blog design, but it’s more to become more techie than to change the look. I really appreciated these tips and I’m off to go check my twitter background.

  • Eeks! I have a bold pattern on my website as the background. But I LOVE the colors and the polka dots. I would definitely want to keep it, but it needs to be scaled down and used as an accent. And, for that my friends, I would need a professional!

  • Sonia Barton says:

    Wonderful advice, I must find the time to apply it.

  • Mrs. Mootz says:

    Great advice! Heading over to her site now to check out the giveaway 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    You’re absolutely right. I don’t bother to read cluttered pages with crazy backgrounds and loads of badges. I love the idea of having a cute but stil streamlined blog.

  • Sarah says:

    I LOVE the decluttering ideas. You’re totally right… when I click to blogs with all kinds of junk all over the opening page, I don’t even bother to read it and I definitely don’t come back.
    You’re BRILLIANT!

  • You have some really really good points – I especially like the one to make an element larger if that’s what you want the focus to be. I’m going to go peruse my own blog to try to incorporate that!

  • Julie says:

    Great advice – definitely things I’m keeping in mind as I try to figure out where to start with either a new design (or just updates). Thanks!