How to create better blog designs

Barin Cristian Doru

Nowadays, it’s no secret that blogs are a way of life. You read them every day, so when you decide to make the jump and actually create one for yourself, whether for your personal life or a business, you’re probably familiar with the sharing format.

With so many customization options to choose from, you could go crazy trying to make your blog design stand out from the rest. So to make your life easier, here is a list of best practices which you can implement today to create a great blog design from the get-go.

1. Focus on content

Blogs provide an amazing opportunity for designers to showcase their understanding of user experience. The content must be the absolute star, and that means your design shouldn’t hinder the content in any way. Use the platform to support your work.

Medium

Keep it simple, Skippy.

Medium is a great example of stripping down all the clutter and letting the content shine. Although this may not apply to every single type of blog, it sure is a great place to start.

2. Speaking of which… ditch the crowded sidebars and the complicated menus

Sidebars have a place in blogs. They should aid your user in searching specific content, and maybe even help monetize your work. The key is to make sure that you keep your sidebar under control — don’t find yourself with 15 widgets for stuff nobody wants to look at. Remove anything that doesn’t make sense or doesn’t add immediate value for your users, such as:

  • Huge archives that show every month of the year since 2005
  • Tag clouds, long link exchange lists, latest visitor information
  • Pop-ups, unless they’re used for deals that add value to your site
  • Ads, unless they’re actually making you a profit and fit the content of your blog
  • Music player widgets, unless you’re a music blog
  • Inverted color schemes (black background, white text) or patterns that demand too much attention

Of course, this list should be taken with a grain of salt. For example, I’ve seen a few superb blog designs that feature an inverted color scheme. But since it’s so easy to get these features wrong, it’s better steer clear from them than to use them wrong.

Additionally, While you may have lots of categories or interest points on your blog, you should know nobody wants to drill through 12 menu items with additional dropdowns in each one. If that’s the case and you can’t get rid of them, maybe it’s time you reassess your blogging objective. Keep in mind the basics: your users should be able to get to the homepage fast, search for content, and get to 1-2 pages of major importance like ‘About Me’ or ‘Portfolio’. The less, the better.

3. Maintain consistency

It’s well worth the effort to maintain a theme with your blog. This means you should constantly use the same colors, font formatting, thumbnail image size, excerpt preview, and other details throughout your blog. Your readers will become accustomed to your particular style and they will surely appreciate it.

designmodo

Designmodo knows how to keep it consistent.

Designmodo shows us remarkable consistency. When you break their design into pieces you won’t see any heroes. Instead you will get simple elements laid out consistently and that makes all the difference. A good example is the post preview limited to 5 and a half lines and the same size for all the thumbnails.

4. Use a simple color scheme

Color choice is key for a blog design.

Nathan Barry

A simple tan pattern and a light blue makes for a perfect color scheme. Remember: unless you’re creating a blog for kids, you’ve got to stay classy and simple.

I have a couple of rules that I like to design by. First, and there are people out there who will disagree with me on this, but I personally recommend you stay away from a pure white background. If you want to be as neutral as possible, use a very light grey to separate your content by adding a bit of contrast.

Second, don’t use more than 3 colors at any point. You may feature a few nuances of grey, but for buttons, links, headlines and other design elements you should keep your palette to a minimum. Third, make sure you always revert to the principle: if the user should click it, then it should have a bright color. If not, then keep it a in the black/white spectrum.

5. Use modern typography

If you want to change a single element to completely revamp your blog design, then focus on your typography.

The Next Web

TheNextWeb rocks a variety of cool fonts without going overboard.

Choosing the right font family is crucial — and the fewer typefaces you can include on one page, the better. Look for one that features multiple styles to suit all your needs: links, quotes, headlines, body, etc. It should be able to be translated into several weights, including: semi-bold, italic, normal, bold, and extra bold.

If you can’t manage to get the complete package in one font, only then look for another complementary one. But keep in mind you should never use more than two typefaces on your blog (though multiple weights is fine).

6. Use a generous amount of line-height

Line-height, or ‘leading,’ refers to the distance between 2 lines of text. The bigger the distance, the easier it is to read. As a general rule, if you’re using a font at 12 pixels for your content, then you should set your leading at 24 pixels or more.

Leading

Default line-height versus adjusted line-height. Which one would you rather read?

7. Break your content up

There’s nothing worse than facing a big wall of text. No matter how good the content may be, unstructured content makes your users run away and never come back. Remember: people usually have a quick glance at what they’re about to read before they actually read it.

quote-and-list

Well-designed simple elements make all the difference.

In addition to paragraph blocks, take a few minutes and show some love to the simple elements like lists and quotes. Since you’ll most likely be using them throughout your blog’s life, it’s well worth the effort. These small details add up.

What do you focus on in your blog design?

The author

Barin Cristian Doru
Barin Cristian Doru

Barin Cristian Doru aka 'thislooksgreat' is an experienced web designer and proud member of the 99designs community: http://99designs.com/people/thislooksgreat Besides creating awesome website designs, he is also an entrepreneur, an Android App Developer and a content creator. His work ranges from freebie PSD files to small tips & tricks in Photoshop, all the way to a premium 16 hour long course on how to succeed on 99designs.

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