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6 Steps to a Prettier Blog (sans designer)

by Marian Schembari on August 19, 2010

I’m not a designer. Not even close. In fact, I hemmed and hawed for ages about a blog’s attractiveness even mattering. I’ve decided though that design does matter as there’s really nothing worse than a poorly laid out or cheesy site – especially from someone who might want to make a living from said site.

The problem is, good designers are expensive and most of us don’t have the time or desire to learn code ourselves. I don’t know the first thing about editing a site or designing logos, but in the year I’ve been blogging I’ve picked up some tips. So have a good look at your site and use this checklist to see if you make some tweaks.

Personalize Your Buttons

RSS buttons via Jamie Varon

Alright, so getting personalized buttons requires a designer, but hunting down cool ones on the web doesn’t. Some good places to start…

… and some more inspiration:

Social media buttons via Sukie Baxter

Social media buttons via Johnny B. Truant

Notice how the best are matchy-matchy? Keep that in mind – consistency is pretty sometimes.

Get a Favicon

Favicons are freaking awesome and I honestly had no idea what they were until recently. Basically they’re those little images specific to sites on the tabs of your browser. Mine is that little orange “M” designed by Shatterbox. Just look how much better your browser looks:

See how each tab has it’s own little logo/design? The blank page means there is no personalized favicon for that particular site. See how they others look more legit?

I also recommend you use that favicon as your default image for commenters. So much better than that generic white/gray outline of a person. Check it:

Add Frames to Your Images

This small tweak can make a big difference in your site’s professionalism. For whatever reason I had never used Picnik until recently but it’s now my obsession. They have great framing options and all you need to do is upload the photo in question, click “Create”, then “Frames”, then simply redownload the photo to your computer. I still can’t get over how freaking easy (and free!) it is. Just to give you a visual, check out how my images looked before and after frames…



Use Images

Hopefully you don’t need this reminder, but images make any post more attractive, readable and less daunting. Sometimes we can’t be bothered with a big chunk of text, but if that same chunk of text is broken up with subheadings (see below) and the occasional image, we’re much more likely to read through it.

Flickr is the most well-known for free images (though I try to use my own pictures as frequently as possible). I use Screenshot Studio to capture bits of my screen as it’s better than just using the “Prnt Scrn” button on my laptop.

Write Subheadings

I don’t care how short or long your post is – USE SUBHEADINGS. Seriously, as blog readers we are notoriously ADD and the second I see a post that’s just some massive chunk of text I don’t even bother reading. We don’t have time, there’s something more interesting open in another tab, our eyes hurt, blah blah blah. Keep your readers interested. Break up the text using subheadings, pull quotes and bolded text. Don’t overdo it, mind you, just give us the interesting pieces so we’re more likely to stay and read the whole post.

Sometimes I even write the subheadings first (like with this post) to organize my thoughts and tackle each section separately. It’s also apparently good for SEO but I know zero about SEO so I won’t even go there.

Regardless, it’s a win-win-win.

Prettify Quotes

There are a number of benefits to highlighting quotes so they really stand out. First of all, if you’re quoting someone (block quote) you want it to be pretty obvious. It also breaks up the text. Finally, some plugins are really pretty and we’re all about pretty, right? Right.

You can also use this method to highlight important points. Like I’ve said, breaking up text is always a good idea – blog readers are notorious skimmers.

If you’re using WordPress, just click the little quote button:

When you hit that button your text will look like this. Much nicer than simply using quotes, right?

I have, however, seen a few blogs with highly designed block quotes. Some examples:

Block quote via Life Without Pants

Block quote via The Launch Coach

When doing my research for this post I found a few resources on how to really prettify your quotes, but all of them require some sort of coding knowledge. That said, for those of you who are a little more advanced (aka “Not Me”) definitely check these out:

And some plugins:

Still Not a Designer

I realize this post is incredibly elementary, but like I said, I’m not a designer and I know most of you aren’t either. A lot of this stuff I didn’t know a year ago – a few months ago – but I kind of felt like everyone else knew and I was just out of the loop.

For those of you who DO have mad design skills, what tips can you give for us code-challenged? I know we’d appreciate your advice!

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