Good design affects your content and credibility, and visuals play a big role in a reader’s decision to stay…or go. Make sure yours are helping, not hurting.
Your houseguests will be here in two hours. Does that send a mild wave of panic over you, too?
Today, make sure your new branding shines — give your online home a cleaning spree to make sure it’s ready for visitors, and focus on easy modifications that make a quick (and big) impact: themes, fonts, colors, headers, and backgrounds. A lot of you started that yesterday — let’s keep going.
Today’s assignment: experiment with visual changes and see whether you can refine your brand further and add more dimension to your posts.
Bonus points: make a test blog to use as your personal playground for testing changes.
Why do this?
- Because good design affects your blog’s credibility, and can play a big role in a reader’s decision to stay…or go.
- Because your design choices aren’t just about appearances — the colors, fonts, and layouts you choose have a big impact on your words and photos. Good design makes good content even better.
Even if you’re happy with your look, we encourage you to experiment and preview new themes, colors, and fonts. They can drastically alter the feeling of your text and photos, and you may discover that a design tweak is just what you needed to make your posts pop. Pick at least one of these, and give it a try.
(By the way: if you think customizing means spending money, think again. Lots of modifications don’t require an upgrade; you can use a free site with a free theme, make your own header image or custom widgets with free images and fonts, and upload a free background image. If you do purchase Custom Design, more design options become accessible.)
Try on Themes
Tip: When you’re looking at your site, your blog name, top left, includes a dropdown menu. From that menu, your dashboard, the Customizer, and your theme’s support page are a click away.
Every theme can be used for websites, blogs, or both. Choose one that has the structure you’re looking for, and make it your own with images and widgets. Try a theme you hate, too — just to see what it does to your content. You might not use Vertigo for a daycare center or Lens if you don’t have a lot of photos…but you might.
For inspiration, check out this series of posts on how some of our most popular themes have been completely transformed with custom touches. When you’re inspired, head to the Appearance → Themes section of your dashboard and click Preview under a theme to see your blog wearing some new duds. Click Cancel to drop it, and Purchase or Activate to switch to the new theme.
Be a Type Nerd
Fonts say a great deal — they can scream, whisper, or purr. They can be elegant or punchy, playful or stern, modern or ornate. They add color and depth to your words and set a mood.
Whether or not you have Custom Design, you can experiment with fonts in your header image. Try choosing and pairing typefaces, matching them to your brand’s personality, like these sites have:
If you have Custom Design, head to the Customizer to try different fonts for your post and page titles and regular text. (You can preview these even if you don’t have the upgrade, to see what you like.)
Paint the Picture with a Palette
If you have Custom Design, you can also change the colors of your theme beyond the background, or enter custom CSS to go beyond that.
Create a pleasing color palette that matches your brand’s intent. Colors can be warm (reds, yellows, oranges) or cool (blues, greens). Some colors, like purple or gray, can go either way. Colors can also be saturated and bold (a deep crimson, a rich midnight blue) or soft and washed-out (a pale pink, a barely-there yellow). Think about yesterday’s assignment, and figure out which colors complement the brand you’re trying to build.
The need for color also varies with your content. If you’re an artist or photographer, consider a neutral palette to let your work stand out. Longer-form posts need a simpler palette to keep from distracting the eye; shorter posts can handle bolder color.
Brand your Header from the Beginning
What does your header say about you? Is it legible? Can visitors tell what your site is about just from looking?
A great header doesn’t require a graphic design degree and expensive image editing software. You can create a custom header completely free using images you already have and easy-to-use online tools like PicMonkey — here’s how.
Background Wins for Best Supporting Role
Think your background is just that — in the background? Take a look at how different the same site feels just by varying the background color.
Choose a background that doesn’t overwhelm your content, whether a solid color or a small repeating image. You can find free patterns and images perfect for backgrounds at sites like Subtle Patterns, Background Labs, and bgpatterns.
A few background caveats:
- Beware of using photos where the most important part of the image ends up hidden behind your posts — it looks messy, and doesn’t allow the image to communicate anything about your blog.
- If you’re not sure where to start, pull a color or two out of your header or another image on your home page.
- Animated GIFs: just say no.
If you want to try all of this on a test site, so your blog’s appearance isn’t constantly changing, here’s a tutorial to get you started.
Chat more over on The Commons.
Now, go play!
Editor’s note: We know there’s a lot here! We don’t expect you to try all of these, nor do we expect you to finalize every element of your brand, theme, and design in one afternoon. We do want you to start exploring how each element of your theme influences your brand and the perception of your blog, so that by the end of this challenge you’ll be able to make some design choices with confidence.