How to Design a Successful Blog

By Amy Lupold Bair, Susannah Gardner

Blog design is a very personal experience. The blog that you’re starting is a reflection of you and your professional life. The decisions you make about how your blog looks are just as important as the technology that you choose to run your blog and what you choose to put on it.

Because the web is an ever-evolving medium, no solid rules exist that tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your blog. But you can follow guidelines to keep putting your best foot forward.

If you’re blogging for business reasons, either on behalf of a company or to promote yourself, make sure that both the writing and design demonstrate the proper tone. Seek advice from bloggers like you and find out from friends and family members who read blogs frequently what design elements they enjoy.

Check out other blogs, especially blogs that reflect the same goals or tone you want to create. What does the design of those blogs say about the blogger and the blog content?

Whether you hire a designer for your blog, use a blog template, or try to make the design yourself, seek ways to make your blog stand out from the rest. If you’re a business, make sure that your logo appears on your blog.

If you’re creating a personal blog, add your own photos. Even if you use a default template, you can often add an identifying graphic or element on the site that differentiates your blog from others.

Don’t be afraid to start small and plan to redesign later. You can grow into your big ideas when you’re sure that you know what you want, so take the time to look at what other blogs are doing while you make your plans.

Let your readers be your guide: If your mom visits your site and says that she can’t read it, find out why. If your friends start talking more about the annoying background color than your latest blog post, you have a problem. Just as you do with your content, keep the design focused on the readers to keep them coming back for more.

The average blog has four very distinct areas in which to place and customize content: logos, headers, sidebars, and footers. In a blog, each of these areas has a specific purpose. As more blogs have come into existence, these areas have developed in specific ways that can help you organize your content.

Here’s some detail about each of these customizable areas:

  • Logos: Getting a visitor’s attention on the Internet is a science in itself, and clean, crisp logos can hold a visitor’s interest long enough to get him or her to read some of your blog. Typically, a logo appears near the top of each blog page (but doesn’t have to). Many logos include an illustrated element and a special font treatment of the blog name.

  • Headers: The header of any blog contains a few elements. The first element should be, of course, the name of your blog. The title should explain what your blog talks about or who you are as the main writer.

    You can also throw into the header some form of navigation that can help your visitors find their way around and provide them with quick links to special areas that you want highlighted on your site. On many blogs, the logo also appears in the header. As the name suggests, headers appear at the top of blog pages.

  • Sidebars: Sidebars usually become a major focus for a blog site. Sidebars are columns to the right or left (or both) of the main content area, and they contain elements such as navigational links, special graphics that point to social networking sites, lists of blogs that you read (blogrolls), archive links, or anything that you want to share with your visitors outside the context of a blog post.

    Sidebars usually appear on every page of your blog and look consistent from page to page.

  • Footers: Footers live at the bottom of each blog page, and sometimes they do nothing more than feature a copyright message. More advanced bloggers have expanded the use of footers to include a significant series of links to content within their sites.

    These links might lead to comments on the blog, recent posts, or posts that you particularly want to highlight. The footer can feature parts of your blog that you want visitors to find easily.