Before choosing your WordPress theme, let’s stop a minute and think about good blog design. This blogging 101 guide, blog design tips for beginners will help you get your design right from the word go.
Newbie bloggers waste a ton of time making changes to the design of their blog. Why? Because they focus on the look of their homepage rather than the best theme to grow their blog. Avoid a lot of heartache, and read on to learn the elements of good blog design…
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The Key Elements Of Good Blog Design.
#1 Your Blog Needs To Be Fast
For a fast loading blog, you need good hosting, a lightweight theme and you need to know a few things such as optimizing your images so they load quickly. (Find out more in my post SEO For Bloggers.)
Why is fast hosting important? Because no-one wants to wait around for a slow website to load. Take more than 3 seconds to load and your viewers will be clicking that back button. Plus it’s not just viewers who hate slow websites, Google hates them too and will penalize your site ranking.
Website performance is increasingly becoming a factor for getting your blog ranked on Google. Ignore it at your peril. Find out more about choosing hosting in my post:
✅ As a beginner blogger, you need a good hosting provider that makes it really easy to start your first blog. That’s why I recommend Bluehost.
#2 Pick A Responsive Theme
What does responsive mean? It means your blog will display on any device. The theme will adjust its layout based on the screen size and resolution.
Why is this so important? People will view your blog on different-sized devices – desktops, tablets, and mainly on their phones. Your phone has taken over as the most-used device to access the internet.
Mobile phones are so pervasive in everyday life we don’t even call them mobiles anymore – it’s just your phone. Their use has transformed good blog design.
It’s hard to imagine these days there are any themes, even free ones, which are not fully responsive. Check just to be sure… take a look at the mobile version of the theme and make sure it’s quick to load and easy to navigate.
#3 Easy Navigation Is Essential
Easy navigation isn’t about adding lots of menus to your site. You’ll notice this blog just has one at the top and if you’re on your phone you’ll be looking at the mobile version.
I’ve built links elsewhere on my blog – in the sidebar and footer widgets but simplicity is best when you’re designing for a phone.
Good blog designers will think about how customers flow through the site. Rather than leaving this flow to the whim of the visitor, you can use your navigation to guide visitors to the important pages.
I always start with a piece of paper and sketch out how I want my blog to look. It helps to look at other sites in your niche to understand what you like and what you want to avoid.
Just keep it simple.
#4 Your Colour Scheme
Unless you’re a designer with a terrific understand of how colours work, you need to show some restraint when it comes to choosing your blog colours.
Consistency is key. Pick two
Adobe Color CC is a fun tool to use to select your two colours. Just be warned! It’s a real time sink! You can also explore popular themes for ideas. (Just click on the EXPLORE tab in the header menu).
Adopting consistent colours,is the quickest way to correct the look of any blog design. If you’ve ever looked at a blog and thought, “there’s something not quite right here”, check the colours.
Colour consistency is an easy fix and makes such a difference.
#5 You Need A Blog Focus
Ever been on a blog where you have no idea what it’s really about? Yes I know – all the time. That’s the problem with so many blogs and the reason many fail to make money.
Like it or not, we’re in a time starved World. People are bombarded with information and will make a decision to stay or leave your site in seconds.
To keep visitors on your site, they need to know very quickly what’s in it for them. This is where a clear blog focus fits in.
It’s a bit like giving a lecture. You start with an introduction. “Tell them what you’re going to tell them”. This way you won’t lose potential customers just because they don’t know what your blog is about.
Tell them, and then they might just stick around…
#6 Make Your Fonts Easy To Read
This is one of my biggest blog design tips. Graphic designers consistently forget to check the readability of fonts. At least that’s my opinion. Whenever I’ve used an external designer I’ve always had a battle about readability.
With my favorite theme, you have complete control over the style and size of your fonts. Whichever theme you pick, just make sure fonts are easy to read. The font size should be at least 18px. The chrome extension WhatFont is a quick way to check the fonts used on any blog.
#7 Choose High Quality Images
There are some bloggers that spend huge amounts of time taking and editing their own photos. For blogging, using your own images has the huge advantage of uniqueness, especially when you’re promoting posts on social media.
Not everyone is good at taking photos, (although it’s a lot easier with today’s phones and in-built editors) and it’s not always worth your time.
Instead, you can access FREE images from Unsplash. It’s a brilliant resource of royalty-free images that you can use for just about any commercial purpose. You can’t resell the images (as if you would), but that’s about the only restriction.
Free images can mean everybody’s using the same ones. Dig around to find something more unique. You can also sign up for an image library such as Shutterstock. I do find I get more shares on social media using paid images. You can even give Shutterstock a try for free.
#8 Don’t Crowd Your Home Page
A Cup of Jo is one of my favorite blogs. It’s a blog that’s been around for years and can write about anything and everything just because it has such a huge following. Just don’t think you can follow their approach to blogging as a brand new blogger.
What I really like about this blog is its simplicity. Despite a huge following – the Cup of Jo writing team clocks up 150,000 organic visitors a month from Google – it’s clearly a basic blog design. It works!
The navigation is clear and the homepage just lists the latest blog posts. It’s easy to find the topics you’re interested in and there’s good use of white space.
Why do you need white space? To stop the homepage looking over crowded. In good blog design, less is more. Definitely.
The Cup of Jo homepage has lots of interest, with editor’s picks, information about the founder, and calls to action (CTA’s) such as email signup, and social media links.
The big takeaway? Keep your homepage clutter-free and simple…
Blog Design Tips – Choosing A Theme
Before you pick your theme, take a look at other themes in your chosen niche and get a good idea of the style and look that you want. Take a note of how other bloggers are capturing signups from their homepage and how they’ve laid out their navigation.
A word of advice here… Don’t run before you can walk. What do I mean? Some of the blogs you’re looking at will have been established for years. It’s possible they have a custom design by a graphic designer.
You need to be realistic. You want a blog that looks good, is easy to navigate, has clear Calls To Action… but it doesn’t have to win the Best Blog Design of the year. Your aim is to make money and your blog design just needs to be good enough.
So bear that in mind and take a look at my tips for themes:
Suggested FREE Themes
The theme I use on this blog is a paid version of my top suggested FREE theme. I used to think it was better to spend money on a paid theme until I found this one.
So much has changed over the last few years when it comes to choosing a theme for your blog. More and more people are viewing blogs on their phones. Right now the main criteria for good blog design are page loading speed, ease of navigation, and readability on a small screen.
No one cares about a fancy homepage design. Why? Because no-ones looking at your homepage on a desktop. For my lifestyle blog, 80% of viewers are reading my posts on their phones. It’s way more important to make sure your content flows easily on a small screen.
There’s a huge selection of free themes to choose from in the Themes section of your WordPress site.
From Appearance > Themes >Add New in your WordPress dashboard, you can access the huge library of free themes. You can check the details of each theme by hovering over the theme with your mouse, and clicking “Details & Preview”. Once you’ve found a theme that meets your requirements, click “Install” then “activate”.
I suggest looking for a theme with some support, one that’s popular and frequently updated.
Here are my top suggestions for FREE themes:
GeneratePress Free Theme
GeneratePress is the theme I use on this blog. I was blown away by the differences it made to my site speed when I installed this theme. With GeneratePress I get some incredible results when I check my site in PageSpeed Insights, the Google tool for checking your blog performance.
I have the extra features of the Premium version at just $59/year but the free version is perfectly adequate for a new blog. You can add the extra features if or when you need them later on. Install your free theme here.
If you’re serious about growing your blog quickly, I strongly recommend using GeneratePress. I wasted far too much time using more complex themes. Simplicity is best. You can make your blog look terrific just by using good images.
Twenty Twenty is the WordPress theme launched in November 2019. It’s based on the Chaplain theme and fully uses the block features of the Gutenberg editor. The advantage to using a recent WordPress theme is it will always work well with the latest WordPress updates. It’s a fast, lightweight theme designed for simplicity.
Astra Free Theme
If you want something more stylized, the Astra WordPress theme is the most popular theme of all-time with over one million downloads! It’s lightweight and easy to use.
Get started with the FREE version or sign up for Pro and access brilliant additional features at an affordable price. It’s a great easy-to-use theme for beginners.
Conclusion – Good Blog Design
Everything about good blog design has changed with the widespread use of mobile phones. Page speed, ease of use, and flow through your blog are now far more important than how your homepage looks.
Minimal use of color, plenty of white space, clear fonts, and good image use are the main elements of good blog design in 2021. Take my advice, instead of wasting time worrying about the look of your blog, keep it simple. Start off with the best FREE theme – used by all the pros – GeneratePress.