A few days ago I found out that Blog design Studio was hosting a Contest about Blog Design. Apart from the prizes one could win I thought the subject itself did worth a blog post. To be honest I thought it had to be developed within more than one blog post. But with all the other participants we can succeed in making a global summary for all blog designers.
Oh, and I did not tell you about the prizes themselves! The winner will get a free custom WordPress theme, and there are some amazing prizes by Daily Blog Tips and Blogging Tips as well. So what are you waiting for? Altogether we can create a great resource for blog designers!
Here on this blog, I will cover different aspects of blog redesign, from scratch until a perfectly running blog. Do not hesitate to add your comments whenever you feel it is necessary, they will provide an update on my post.
Let’s split the redesign in 10 steps, from the first redesign thought until the feedback you get from your readers.
1. Why should you redesign?
As you start thinking of a new outfit for your blog you may wonder why would you need a redesign. As a matter of fact you should really be asking yourself this simple question, simply because a redesign is an important step in your blog’s life, and it can have important consequences on your readership.
Basically, a new design should either bring some changes to your blog, either correct mistakes you made with your previous design. If you are trying to reach a new audience then yes, a redesign can help. If you did not update your blog for a few years then yes, adapt your blog to the actual tools at your service can be useful.
All in all your redesign should bring some benefits to your blogs. If not then reconsider the redesign, it may not be such a great idea…
2. What do you want to show with your blog?
The first question that comes to my mind when we are talking about blog design is: "which kind of blog are we talking about?" Indeed in the last years blogging has changed and we can now find many different blogs: photoblogs, twitter-blogs (see tumblr), social bookmarking blogs, personal blogs, magazine blogs, … Well, you got it.
If we are talking about redesign, you should definitely find out what is it that you want to show to your readers? Will it be very personal with long articles, or rather a photoblog where the only text would be the picture title? Of course design will be totally different for these two cases. The color scheme has to be different, the page structure as well… And you may want to add less important things to share with your readers: links, tweets, other blogs, pictures, videos, …
If you plan on advertising on your blog you should also plan it now and decide what kind of ads you would like to display, the size of the importance it has for you.
3. How will you share your content with your readers?
As we have seen above, you have defined what you wanted to show on your blog. However you will have to consider the expectations of your readers as well. Indeed by examining what your readers were checking on your previous design you can get to know what they like, and consequently what they will expect to stay on the next design. If you find out most of them click on your social networking profiles you may reconsider your primary objectivesand decide to make it become more important on you blog.
Then again, your readers probably got used to your blog. If you were using a precise blogging software you should probably think twice before changing it. There are a lot of them all over Internet, and you may look around, some of them can propose lots of interesting opportunities specific to your goals. Personally I use WordPress. Do not hesitate to have a look at this Blog software comparison chart if you need help choosing!
4. 3 things to check before to start Photoshop
Well we are doing great so far, you have defined your goals, the tools you will use according to your readers’ expectations, it is now time for real design! But wait a bit before to start Photoshop or any other designing software you are using! There are a few important steps not to forget:
- Find out a good color scheme for your blog, fitting with your readers’ expectations. The following links will help you to do so: Contrast and Meaning, Code Couleur (in French), Brand colors – Colorize Your Brand – How Color Builds Your Brand
Look at what the others are doing! That may be the most important. Look at your competitors and neighbors, they are your inspiration: Webcreme and WeloveWP are two spaces where you can find inspiration.
Drawing a good layout design on paper. Illustrator and Photoshop are great tools but it is sometimes much easier to put down your ideas on paper. You will see immediately what is good and what is not, and you will be able to get a precise idea of what you want in your head.
And last but not least, reconsider yourself before to start doing everything on your own. You may have time, HTML/CSS knowledge and a few books in case of, you may not be good enough for a well designed blog. If you want to gather more opinions about this topic, Jeff Croft wrote a very good article about that, that got lots of interesting reactions: Tools do not a designer make.
5. Designing a good layout
Well I could help you find thousands of Photoshop tutorials helping you building your own layout by yourself but I think Google is a common friend, there are so many tutorials you will be able to find by yourself! If you have any interesting resource however, please let me know!
Yet, I wanted otpoint you to another design "issue", choosing your font! Have a look at one of our latest articles, you may be interested!
6. Coding your blog from your .psd file
As I said above I chose to use WordPress for my blog and I have to say I am happy with it. This step will be different depending on the choice you made. Here below I selected a few important links to help you build your own blog template from your .psd file:
- Building Custom WordPress Theme
You can of course choose to base your template on a Framework like Hybrid Framework WordPress theme. That is another possibility to adapt your idea to this blogging software.
7. Add the tools you need
One of the great things about WordPress (and other blogging softwares) is that you can build almost everything from the software core. By adding plugins and extensions you can fit your website to your needs. We were speaking about social networking in the lines above. That is when Sociablecomes in! This great plugin will allow you to finish each of your posts by a Social links line.
Of course it is just one plugin among hundreds. I invite you to read this post for further information about some mandatory pluginsfor your WordPress blog!
8. Communicate about your redesign
We have talked about the advantage of redesigning in the beginning of this article: one of them was the buzz: people discover your new design, talk about it around them, and you get more and more visitors.
That is of course if you communicate about it! Imagine some of your readers are not even coming to your website anymore. They are fine with their RSS feed reader and can read all your posts easily. To let them know about the changes, write a post about it and invite them to come have a look. That is the first step you need. You could even describe your redesign through a tutorial!
Then the second step would be to spread the word on a much wider range. CSS galleries will help you in that if you respect a few rules in order to get published. Read carefully the posts below to get to know more about CSS galleries:
9. Ask for feedback
You may have worked on this design for days, but there will always be small issues left. Ask your readers to give you feedback about that and help you finish your redesign smoothly! They are your best testers!
10. Monitor and stay open for changes
Within a few weeks you can quickly discover what your readers like, what are the tools they use and what they do not use at all. It may be useless for your readers, they may not find it through all your content. In any case you can make a few more changes to put this part of your content in the front, or simply delete it from your website if nobody used it.
That is also how your design should grow up time by time and that is how you will keep it updated until the next redesign! Until then, do not hesitate to come back here time by time to check for other articles about WordPress for WP lovers! You can also subscribe to my RSS feed!