By Diane Gilleland We bloggers are so lucky – no matter what blogging platform we’re using, we have thousands of design templates to choose from. Not only that, an increasing number of them are customizable. Still, it’s easy to get bogged down in all those visual options. What kind of header should we use? How many columns? What color should our links be? Should we have a background or not? So let’s simplify the whole blog-design discussion. Here are four small details to look for when you’re evaluating a blog template – or, adding your own customizations. These little concepts can make any blog more beautiful.
White Space (or, Blank Space) As craft bloggers, we’re writing for a very visually-oriented audience. Our blogs will naturally contain lots of images, sidebar graphics and other assorted eye candy. This is great, but too much eye candy can really clutter a blog and overwhelm readers. Instead, try to give every visual element on your blog a cushion of white space. This helps your reader’s eye move more easily from one spot to the next. A Little Hut, above, is a beautiful example of this idea – see how every element is surrounded by white space? (If your blog uses a background color, then your “white space” would be “background color space” instead.) Keep in mind that this white space idea also applies to the text on your blog. Long, unbroken blocks of text are very daunting on a computer screen, and may cause your readers to simply move on to the next blog. Make your blog more reader-friendly by breaking your writing up into shorter paragraphs and leaving a little space between them. Lining Things Up Flip through any professionally-designed magazine or book, and you’re likely to see a lot of alignment. That’s because a layout is more harmonious when the edges of various elements line up with one another. The Sometimes Crafter is a nice example of this idea. See how the sidebar buttons are all the same width? See how the edges of the photos line up with the edges of the text? And see how the edges of the header are aligned with the edges of the two columns? All this alignment adds up to a very professional look. Where can you apply some alignment to your blog? Visual Hierarchy This is just a fancy term for “What does the eye see first? What does it see second? And third?” One mistake bloggers make is focusing on each element of a blog in isolation – let’s get that Etsy mini! Let’s make a stunning header! Let’s make all the headlines bright green! It’s actually more important to remember that all the elements of your blog have to work together, and share the stage in a logical way. Take a look at twirling betty, above. The header is engaging and simple, and its colors contrast nicely with the background blue. Your eye goes to the header first, and then it can travel to the first blog post photo, and from there to the sidebar. Here’s a slightly different take on this idea – elsie marley. In this case, it’s the blog post photos that draw your eye first. Then, you can see the simple header and sidebars. What is the most prominent visual element on your blog? And where does your eye travel from there? Here’s a good test: find a few friends who don’t regularly read your blog. Have them look at your homepage, and get some first-impression answers to those two questions. Color Consistency Every blog template has a specific color scheme, usually involving a mix of background colors and type colors. When you choose a header for your blog, make sure its colors coordinate well with the template. And this is a little more challenging, but also watch the overall colors in the photos you use on your blog. Wendolonia is a very nice example of this idea. There’s a strong color presence in those background stripes, but the colors in her photographs coordinate beautifully with them. If you choose a blog template with a strong color presence, keep in mind that you’ll have to coordinate photography, header and sidebar button choices with it over time. If you’d rather have a little more color flexibility, try a simpler, no-color template. What is your blog’s color profile? How well do all the elements coordinate? Give it a Shot Try applying these tiny design principles to your blog, and see the big difference! About the Author: Diane Gilleland produces CraftyPod, a blog and bi-weekly podcast about making stuff. Her first book, Kanzashi In Bloom is currently out in bookstores.