Free Class: Better Your Blog Design
Free Class: Better Your Blog Design
Are you a new blogger who isn't sure what to include in your blog design? Or maybe you are an established blogger who needs an update, but you aren't sure where to start? This is the class for you!
Join The SITS Girls and Stephanie of A Grande Life for a free online class in the SITS Girls Facebook group. During the week of April 25 - 29, we will take you section-by-section through your blog design, from the header to footer, and help you create a design that both fits your brand & serves your readers.
Meet our instructor: Stephanie Glover is the writer, photographer, and designer behind A Grande Life. She has been blogging since 2007.
Day 1: Branding Your Blog
Before we can dive into designing our blogs, we have to ask ourselves some really important questions?
▪ Who do I write for?
▪ Why do I write?
▪ What the heck is my blog about?
Until we answer those three questions, we will never be truly content with our blog's design. Ask me how I know...
I used to change my blog theme's and look every time I got bored. When really, looking back on it, I wasn't bored with the site design. I was bored with my blog! I was trying to write anything and everything in the hopes that everyone would read my site. I had no focus.
And that is a bad way to go out about blogging. We can't please 100% of the people 100% of the time. Instead, we need to answer those three questions up top. We need to know who our audience is, why we are writing for them, and what they want to read.
See how everything goes in hand in hand? Let’s take this a little further and figure out who our audience is and what our blogs are about.
Blog Branding Worksheet
Fill out the blog branding worksheet. If you have a blog buddy, share what you learned with them. Or stop by The SITS Girls Facebook group and share it with us!
Day 2: How To Choose The Right Theme For Your Blog
Choosing a solid theme for your blog is the #1 essential thing you need to do before you can start designing. Your theme will be the backbone of your blog. You need good bones to have a good feel and look to your site.
So what should you look for in a theme?
▪ Mobile Friendly
▪ Built-In Customization
Mobile Friendly vs. Responsive
On average, about 30% of all website visits are now coming from a mobile or tablet advice. When choosing a blog theme, you want to make sure you keep those visitors in mind. Google also wants to make sure you are keeping these visitors in mind. In fact, Google shows mobile friendly website on top in their mobile search results.
A responsive blog is one that changes based on the needs of the users and the device they are view your site on. On mobile, text and images will usually change into a one-column display for easier viewing.
When you finally pick your perfect theme, 9 times out of 10 you will not use it as-is out of the box. You will want to do some customization to it to make sure it reflects your style and brand. You will want to change the colors to match your palette and add your logo as the header. This is where built-in customization is handy.
We all need a little help from time to time when it comes to our site. This is where the downside to free themes comes in. Most premium themes will also come with support from the designer or developer. If you are going the free route, make sure there is good documentation that comes with your theme.
There are many themes on the market that have a ton of bells and whistles. But, at the end of the day, simple is always better. Yesterday, we sat down and really thought through what we wanted our brand and blog to be about. While a blog design is aesthetically pleasing, you don't want that to compete with the reason why your readers are on your site in the first place. Keeping things simple will help your content stand out and resonate with your readers.
Is your head spinning? Don't worry. Use our printable checklist to help guide yourself through picking your perfect theme.
Choosing A Blog Theme
Leave a link to your site in the SITS Girls Facebook group and tell us what you love or hate about your theme.
Day 3: Your Header And Navigation Menu
Now that we know who we are, and we have the perfect theme, it’s time to start customizing our blogs to match our goals.
Most people throw up their logo or header image and call it a day when it comes to their header. But there are so many more things you can use this area for.
Social Media Icons
Most themes give you the option of adding your social media links to your header. This will put them up front and be one of the first things that a visitor sees.
Another thing that you can add to your header area is a search bar. This will make it easy for your reader to find something on your blog.
While you can add more features to your header, remember simplicity is better! You don’t want the area to become too cluttered.
Now onto navigation menus…
This is your chance to tell a new visitor who you are and what you write about. You want your navigation menu make it easy for people to click around and learn more about you. There are some items every blog needs to include in their navigation.
This simply brings your reader back to your home page. The north star of the navigation menu. If they go down a rabbit hole checking out multiple pages of your site, you want to make sure you bring them back home.
2: About Me
Go ahead and put yourself up front and center! This is helpful to PR reps, blogger outreach networks, and if your reader wants to learn more about you. Under this tab, you can also create a dropdown with a Advertise page or Work with Me page.
3: Blog Link
This is helpful if you decided to go with a magazine style theme. Some readers want to read your blog in chronological order.
4, 5, 6: Your Blog Pillars
On day 1, we really looked at our blog and what we wanted to be known for. You should have come up with at least three pillars your blog will revolve around. This may be topics such as Recipes, Crafts, or Home Life.
7: Contact Me
You want to make sure you have an easy for someone to contact you on your site. This page should contain your email address and, if you want, a contact form.
If your theme comes with two navigation menus, make use of them! Your primary navigation menu can house your Home, Blog, and Pillar Links. Your secondary navigation menu can contain all of your business links: about me, work with me, contact, etc.
Navigation Menu Worksheet
Take 10 minutes to clean up your navigation menus. Put order to your menu and make sure it really conveys what your blog is about. Once you are done, drop a link in the SITS Facebook Group so everyone can see!
Day 4: Clean Up Your Sidebars
Your blog sidebar is valuable real estate so you want to make sure you are taking full advantage of this space. It's an area where you can introduce yourself to your readers and promote posts, products, and services. Since your sidebar appears on every page, it can help you build a loyal community.
Before we dive into what should and shouldn’t be on your sidebar, there’s a big decision we need to make.
Left or Right Sidebar?
When making the decision about having a left or right sidebar, you need to decide what you are trying to accomplish with your blog.
When you place your sidebar on the left-hand side, research shows that you will get more email opt-ins, and more people will read your bio and do whatever else you promote through your sidebar. The downside? Fewer people will actually read your content.
Right sidebars are the traditional placement for sidebars. Since we read left to right and if you want your actual content to be read, you should consider placing your sidebar on the right. The downside? Fewer conversions. However, if people are coming to your blog to read, you want to make your content as easy to read as possible.
Once you decide what side to put your sidebar on, it’s time to start filling it up!
What should be on your sidebar?
You should have a bio, social media links, a search box, newsletter opt-in, popular posts, and ads if they are part of your monetization strategy.
What do you need to drop from your sidebar?
Remember you want to put your best foot forward in your sidebar so you may want to ditch these:
▪ Recent Posts
▪ Cloud Tags
▪ Recent Comments
▪ Blog Roll
Let’s start putting these things into action! Take a look at your current sidebar and examine it’s contents. Ask yourself the following questions:
▪ Is it helping me accomplish my goals?
▪ Is it helping my readers?
If you answered no to either of these questions, get rid of it! Stop by the SITS Girls Facebook group to talk about what is and isn't working in your sidebars.
Day 5: Don't Forget Your Footer
Your blog’s footer is one of the most under-utilized areas of your blog design. You may think that visitors don’t take the time to scroll all the way down to the footer but you’d be surprised at how many people actually do.
What is my blog’s goal?
When you know what the goal of your blog is, you can design your blog to help you achieve those goals. Keeping your goals in mind, you can build a footer that will get you to those goals.
Social Media Links
Your footer is another great place to add in your social media links. If you use the Simple Social Icons Plugin, you can just drag it on down to the footer. If you are on blogger, just copy the same code that is in your sidebar to your footer widget.
People need to see things multiple times before they do it! This is why you want to put your newsletter opt-in in your footer. This may be the second or third time they see the opt-in while they are on your site. If you give your visitors a clear direction of what you want them to do, they will do it!
Social Media Feed
If you decide not to put a social media feed in your sidebar, your footer is a great place to put it! If you are a fashion, lifestyle, or DIY blogger, you may want to use your Instagram feed. (Suggest plugin for widget) You can also put your Facebook “Like” Box in the footer as well since it doesn’t take the visitor off your site.
If you don’t have a floating navigation bar or secondary navigation menu, you may want to add some important links to your footer: your About Me, Work with Me, and Contact page. Don’t forget your email address!
Copyright and Privacy & Disclosure Policy
Having a copyright on your blog may seem like something you may not need but it’s really important to have. When you have a copyright on your blog, it can help in preventing someone pleading ignorance. They can’t say that they didn’t know your content was copyrighted if it’s sitting right there in your footer.
Your Privacy and Disclosure Policy tells your readers how you gather their data and how it is used. If you use ads, do sponsored posts, and use affiliate links, you want to have a Disclosure Policy as well. This tells your readers up front about advertising, affiliate links, and cookies.
Yesterday, we talked about removing buttons and badges from your sidebar because they can make it appear cluttered. If you need badges on your homepage, like those that have tracking pixels for networks, place them down in your footer. Keep them all the same size so that they are organized and not taking up a lot of space.
Take 10 minutes to either clean up your footer or design your footer! Remember, you don’t have to put everything down there! Make sure you utilize the area to meet your blog’s goal.
Stop by the SITS Girls Facebook group to show off your completed design.
Stephanie's Better Your Blog Design ebook is the perfect next step for your design with expanded assignments and information on color pallets, WordPress plugins and more. Get your copy here!