A study in making good choices for your site’s background.
While it might seem superficial, when it comes to building your blog’s brand, growing your audience, and attracting followers, your site’s appearance makes a critical first impression. It’s essential that your site background complements and supports your brand, giving your content the spotlight.
Today we present a short study in backgrounds so that you can see the effect different backgrounds have on how your blog appears to visitors. My dog Gus has a blog and we’ll use it to show some good, bad, and downright nasty options. (Wait, your dog doesn’t have a blog? You can get one for him, or your cat, your rabbit, or your imaginary friend. Having a test blog is a great idea — it allows you to experiment and test things out before you bring them to your main site.)
Go to My Sites → Customize → Colors & Backgrounds to experiment with your site’s background color. Note that changing your blog’s background color does require a Custom Design upgrade. Uploading a background image, however, does not require a Custom Design upgrade.
The dos and don’ts of background color
Gus uses McKinley for his site. It’s a minimal theme that combines a white main content area, a dark masthead, and a light-gray background that emphasizes his content. Check out how the default gray background allows his writing and photos to take center stage:
Check out how this slightly darker gray adds some gravity to the site, but still feels a little lifeless:
A solid, complementary background does a great job enhancing the overall look of the site without overpowering the main content area. The customizer offers you several complementary colors to choose from, but don’t be afraid to use the color picker to choose your own, like we did with this blue — it adds a splash of visual interest without trying to hog the microphone:
Now, let’s see how much havoc we can wreak with Gus’ background and try some wacky colors. This bright purple is a bit of an attention hog:
From light-gray to this neon green is like a whisper to a scream:
Beware of background photos
To experiment with background images, go to Appearance > Customize from within your dashboard, and then choose Colors on the Customizer. You’ll need to scroll down, beyond the Background Patterns to the Background Image area.
Things can go from bad to worse quickly with a hastily chosen background image. Do you notice how your eyes are drawn toward the pizza and away from Gus’ photo?
Even worse, when you can’t even tell what the photo is, but it steals your attention away, anyway.
Background patterns: choose them with care
Background patterns are very tricky. While personal styles may vary, we recommend staying away from any pattern that distracts viewers from your content. For best results, go for minimalist, subtle patterns to lend texture and personality.
This light, somewhat subtle pattern seems to suck the life out of Gus’ content:
Patterns create a sense of movement on a page and without a careful choice, you run the risk of making site visitors dizzy.
Small, minimalist patterns can create depth and texture, enhancing your site’s look, without stealing the show. We recommend Subtle Patterns, which offers nearly 400 free patterns you can download and then upload as your site’s background image. Here’s a nifty sample called wild flowers — doesn’t it look nice?
Design Whoop also offers 20 free subtle patterns you can download and use as your site background image. Now it’s your turn to get busy experimenting with color, background images, and patterns on your site. Experiment away, all!