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I really love blogging – but more than blogging, I love pretty blogs! I don’t care what people tell you, looks do matter. I am ALWAYS looking for ways to improve blog design – and use this list OVER and OVER again to constantly be improving.

I know it sounds snobby and superficial, but if your blog is hard to navigate, full of ads, and not very organized, I leave. Your blog design is your first impression to the world – so I believe that it really matters what your design looks like.  On the flip side, if you have a pretty blog with a beautiful theme, I will probably return to it several times a day just to look at how pretty it is.  No joke.

I think we should all challenge ourselves just to look at our blog designs. I mean, actually look at them.  Pretend like you are a newbie who just stumbled across the page for the first time.  What do you see?  A clear message?  A simple “hello”?  Or a thousand colors that make your eyes spin?

So, here are my 50 (new and unique) ways to improve your blog design right now.  Believe me, these are way too fun.  Have fun!

BlogTip: Looking for ways to update your blog design that just take a few minutes? Check out my free checklist here and get 50 EASY ways to update and improve your blog right now!
 

And a Bonus…My Favorite Blog Resources

Looking for a new host, theme or newsletter provider? I have tried DOZENS of companies – and review all my favorites in my Blog Resource Page here. Here is a quick run-down of the companies I love:

Genesis Framework and Themes:  I love the Genesis themes because they are strong, and completely updated and reliable, and have the best support. Start here if you are looking for a good theme.

BluChic Themes:  For this site I opted for Bluchic Themes and LOVE them! I have the Victoria Theme, and their support and Boss Lady themes are rocking my world.

BigScoots Hosting: I have used 4 different hosts – and have also been a blog developer who worked with more than 10 different hosts. Hands down, my favorite is BigScoots.

MomTip: I am going to sound like every blogger and YouTuber when I say – you need these AirPods! They are genius – and allow me to listen to a meeting, walk upstairs to get my daughter’s snack, and not skip a beat. Also the re-chargeable case makes them a mom’s best friend. Also - they are cheaper on Amazon than at Apple!
 

ConvertKit: Looking for a robust and easy-to-understand email marketing system? I have tried a few – and no other email marketing system works as well as ConvertKit.


Improve your Blog Design

Plugins/Widgets/Gadgets

The easiest fixes can be made with plugins/gadgets and widgets.  And, because most of them affect your sidebar, now is the perfect time to update and change your sidebar.  Here are some easy fixes:

  1. If you use WordPress, update all your plugins every day.  Like now.
  2. Remove the Meta Tag widget/gadget and the Blogger Navbar.  They do nothing.
  3. Remove generic Blogger “About Me” gadget.
  4. Make your Categories or Archives on the sidebar SIMPLE (make them a dropdown or a simple list, not a list of 73 things).
  5. Move the search bar to bottom.  If people want it, they will find it.  (Oh, but make sure you have a search bar!)
  6. Remove your affiliate and group buttons to separate page and just link on sidebar.
  7. Consider removing Google Friend Connect.  This is not used anymore.
  8. Only have ONE Bloglovin button (not two or three).
  9. Show off your favorite posts (or most popular posts).  Those are vital to your blog.
  10. Move your “sign up for emails” widget to the top.
  11. Consider removing or simplifying footer widgets.  Don’t let your footer collect your long, unimportant, list-like widgets.
  12. Remove or change generic text that comes with plugins, email list boxes, or contact forms.
  13. You know that plugin that makes your blog take TWO MINUTES to load?  Delete it.  (Test your plugins’ speed with the awesome Plugin Performance Profiler Plugin.  I TOTALLY recommend it.)

Add Social Sharing Options

All too often, I want to save/share/pin a blog’s image – and can’t!  That blog just lost my business.  Here are some ways you can amp up your social footprint.

  1. Add a social sharing widget.  I love Shareaholic, but there are tons of options.  Make them easy for people to find at the end of every post.
  2. Add a print button.  Here’s a great one for Blogger or WordPress.
  3. Add a hover pin-it button. (UPDATE: I like this plugin now!)
  4. Add an email option.
  5. Right now I am using Genesis Simple Share Plugin and love it!

Ads

I am getting into sticky territory here.  I know we make money off of our ads.  But, here’s the thing.  If an ad is not making money, remove it.  Your blog real estate is precious, and if an ad is not making you money, it needs to go.  Here are some other ad changes you can make:

  1. Move your ads around to find better locations.
  2. Consider removing obnoxious ads (pop-ups – or the ones instead of the header).  I know they make you money – but they also turn away readers.  Like me.
  3. Work with an ad agency (I recommend adthrive.com if you qualify!) so they can customize your ad layout for your site.
  4. Adopt an “I only accept pretty sponsor spot ads” policy.  It might sound snobby – but makes for a pretty blog.

Streamline Your Reader’s Experience

If you offer ten thousand messages to your readers, they drown each other out.  Pretend you are a first-time reader and create a simple message that leads your reader from one page to the next.  Here are easy ways to accomplish that:

  1. Remove all audio and video players that play automatically with sound.
  2. Create and advertise only one call to action.  (ie. “Follow for a free e-book”)
  3. Create a “Start Here” page and link it in the menu or sidebar.
  4. Remove above-the-fold ads that show other people.  You don’t want the reader to think the old lady at the top of your sidebar is you.
  5. Simplify your menu.  If you have a thousand links, it is hard to know what the blog’s forte and focus is.
  6. Only have one set of follow buttons with all your follow buttons together.
  7. Maximize (and update) your “about” and “contact” pages. These need to be the hub of your blog.
  8. Get rid of broken feeds, the Captcha function, and anything else that stops the reader from reading more.
  9. Do you type in all italics?  Please change it.  It looks like you are perpetually whispering.
  10. Remove dud images from old posts.  (Why not go ahead and replace images with pin-able graphics!)
  11. Add “the fine print” with your terms, policies, copywrite info and affiliate link info.  See mine here and in the footer.

Fix the Big Stuff

Every blog has “big stuff” (colors, fonts, spacing) that can go awry.  I know the following list might involve hiring a blog designer to fix things, but please consider doing it.  You can have the best content in the world, but if your font is illegible, it doesn’t matter.  Here are the top fixes most blogs need:

  1. Make your font darker.
  2. Make your body text left-oriented (or justified).  Center-orientation is the worst.
  3. Space your widgets evenly to have an easy-to-read sidebar.
  4. Remove any extra spacing after your header.
  5. Change up the font and format of your post titles.
  6. Change up the format of your headers (inside your posts).
  7. Make the body of your blog wider.
  8. Have only one menu – and maybe make it only one level.  (Don’t have ANY menu links that are duds.  Be intentional with your menu.)
  9. Change up your fonts to make them appealing.
  10. Remove the meta text that says “Ginny posted this 4:00 am”.
  11. Does your background show seams when the pattern repeats?  Dislike.  Find a seamless pattern.
  12. ADD WHITE SPACE.  If your body background is a dark color, your reader’s eyes will get tired and move to another blog.
  13. Simplify to only 2-3 colors on your blog.
  14. Change your comment system.  Either customize the colors and fonts for the system, or download a plugin like Disqus for better commenting.
  15. Consolidate your categories and tags!  Use the Term Management Tools plugin to merge all your current categories into just a few large categories.  (I love this plugin!)
  16. Add an opt-in bar for a blog newsletter.
  17. Do you like patterns?  Choose ONE.  Too many patterns = scary.
  18. Make sure your images don’t extend over into your sidebar – ask your designer to set the width of your images.

PHEW!  You made it to the end!  Let us know what design tweaks you make!

BlogTip: I have used 4 different hosts – and have also been a blog developer who worked with more than 10 different hosts. Hands down, my favorite is BigScoots. Their support is outstanding. Their plans are incredibly reasonable and FAST. I can’t recommend them enough. Definitely check them out before you look for competitive dedication server hosting plans with other companies. When I recently moved over to their host (for 1/3 of what my previous host charged), they sent me a report showing that my site increased by 67%. That’s insane – and incredibly good support.
 

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