Now, I’m in no way, shape or form an expert when it comes to layout design – however at this moment in time I can proudly say that my current layout is all down to my own hard work and Google-ing abilities. In all honesty when it comes to HTML, CSS, widgets etc Google is your best friend. The internet is full of people who know what they’re talking about and have been kind enough to share their knowledge with us less savvy folk. Anyhow, here goes with a few tips and tricks that I’ve picked up over the last few years of Piczo-making and blogging:
HTML & CSS – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
These two acronyms are thrown about a lot when it comes to tweaking your layout, so I figured that the best place to start would be to explain the terms. HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language and is used to describe the document (in this case the blog). This is the basic structure of the page and can be edited in the template section of the Blogger dashboard. CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, on the other hand provide the visual details such as colours, fonts, text alignment etc. The CSS pretty much explains how exactly to display the HTML basis of the layout without making any alterations to the fundamental structure. You can add CSS in the advanced settings of the template designer in Blogger. If I’m making no sense then I personally like this slightly crude illustration as I think it explains it rather well.
(Some useful explanations & tutorials – 1, 2, 3, 4)
FEATURES OF A GOOD LAYOUT (AND WHAT TO AVOID)
There are a few key elements that make a “good” blog design, and even though everyone has differing tastes some things are just aesthetically pleasing in general and are good things to consider when designing your blog.
One of the most important things is that your blog is functional and easy to navigate – why write amazing posts if no one can find them? Have clear headings and ensure that you include obvious (and working) links to your pages. As well as this, it’s handy to include your contact information and links to your social media profiles so that it’s easy for your readers to find you. This could be through the use of social media buttons (handy tutorial here) or widgets which I’ll discuss in the next subsection.
All websites work to a rough grid layout and it’s easier on the eye if the elements of your blog are properly aligned and balanced. It’s important to make sure that things fit where they are supposed too or else it could just look sloppy, so be sure that your images aren’t overflowing on to your sidebar but at the same time they aren’t too small either. This goes for your text content too!
The use of white space makes your blog appear cleaner and tidier from the very first glance. It can be tempting to jam your sidebar and main body full of images, links and text but it’s important not to over clutter your blog. Do you really need to include every blogger network or affiliate programme on your sidebar or could you have a separate page for these? Try to keep your sidebar concise and to the point, you can always have links to extra pages if you have a lot to say.
It’s important to stick to a small colour palette that works well together, too many colours on the one page could be distracting and look messy. It’s best on the whole to avoid too dark a background as it can make it quite difficult to read a lighter font. Make sure that your fonts are legible and try to avoid using too many different font families on the one page so that your content is consistent and flows well.
Last but not least be sure to include things such as your disclaimer and a copyright statement somewhere on the page – just to have your bases covered!
HANDY WIDGETS THAT ARE WORTH CONSIDERING
There are so many widgets out there for all sorts of things that it can be difficult to know where to start. As tempting as it may seem to have a virtual cat for your readers to play with, it’s not totally necessary or all that useful in the long run. Too many widgets could not only clutter up your side bar but also slow down your blog so it’s important not to go overboard. Good widgets to include are things like a related and popular posts feature to encourage your readers to stay a little longer, a blog button that people can use on their blog roll and Bloglovin’ so that your readers can actually follow your blog. If you’re active on platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram you may also want to include some of their widgets to show off your profiles and make it easy for your readers to find you there.
WANT TO HIRE A PROFESSIONAL?
If you don’t fancy doing it yourself there are plenty of people out there who provide beautiful designs for a (usually) small fee. I think that one of the best places to look for custom designs or templates is Etsy but if nothing takes your fancy on there here are a few other designers who create pretty things for your patch of internet: