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Adventures in Blog Layout

Sooner or later, it hits all of us . . . I want to redesign my blog. Since most bloggers start out doing it themselves without the aid of a graphic designer, when this urge strikes it can send you into a tailspin.

Let me start off by saying that I’m not a graphic designer by any stretch. I’m just a chronic DIYer. A while back one of our Crafterminds friends compared blogging to the ‘wild, wild, west’ which reminded me of when I first started doing my own layouts back in the ‘80’s. It was crazy back then because, if you had a Mac, you could quickly layout your own flyer, brochure or newsletter.

Pretty much like blogging is now, right?

Working in desktop publishing, I was fortunate enough to work with great graphic designer whose favorite tool, it seemed, was her red pen. A draft I’d labored over and was frankly quite proud of would soon become something of an abstract drawing with red lines going every which way. But I learned thru trial and error – mostly error – enough to publish my own magazine, Step Parenting Today, in the early ‘90’s.

To me, blogging isn’t all that different than desktop publishing was. Better, in fact – it’s free! At least, Blogger is. The goals are the same – make your content easy to read. While that seems simple enough, because there are so many free tools, templates, backgrounds and widgets available, it’s easy to overdo a blog and clutter it up with cuteness. Just like I did back in the ‘80’s. So how do you design your blog to be stylish and unique, yet still easy to read?

Before you add any bells or whistles, look at your layout. We read from left to right, which means the eye naturally goes to the left side of the page – when you’re reading. However, the upper right area is where the eye goes when your first open a page. Try it – on a website or even a print magazine. There’s a reason why ad space costs more for placement in the upper right section.

Does that mean you should place your blog text on the left and not the right? Not necessarily. Take a look at Thrifty Decor Chick. Her ads are on the left and her text is on the right. By contrast, Centsational Girl has her text on the left and About Me on the upper right. It’s worth noting that Thrifty Decor Chick is on Blogger, lest you think only WordPress blogs are super-duper.

Here’s a great layout idea – on The Lettered Cottage’s home page About Us is on the left and Recent Posts are on the right. But click on one of Layla’s posts and the layout reverses, with the text on the left and About Us and ads on the right. Clever, huh?

Speaking of ads, it’s important to realize that their graphics and possible animation become part of your blog design too. If you haven’t monetized yet, you’ll want to look closely at where you’ll place ads. But that’s another post 😉

Take another look at your favorite blogs’ layouts. While you’re at it, check out some magazines too and observe their layouts. Then pull up your own blog. What’s the first thing you see? If you can’t be objective with your own blog (I know I can’t with mine), ask a friend.

Before you make any changes to your blog, remember to save your blog template. Vitally important! You also might want to make a dummy blog on Blogger, one where you can preview your layout, gadgets, and any other changes you want to make to your real blog. A mock-up blog saves oodles of time . . . and frustration!

The main thing is that you have fun! While it may take a while before you get just the right look, be sure to enjoy the journey. After all, it’s your blog!

Colleen Jorgensen blogs at Mural Maker and is a self-taught artist, decorator and writer. For the past 15 years she has painted murals and painted tapestries for homes and businesses in Northern California. Colleen lives with her husband near Sacramento, close to her 3 grown stepsons, her beautiful 3 year old grandson and her 95 lb. bull mastiff.
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14 Responses to “Adventures in Blog Layout”

  1. Layla says:

    Hey thanks for the sweet shout (and the great article!) Colleen!
    Very informative/fun!

  2. J. Hill says:

    Super article! When I did my latest blog makeover, I used the dummy blog stategy. It was crucial since it took me WEEKS to get the whole redesign done since I DIYed it and have no idea what I am doing.

    Do you have any tips on how to fight the urge to redesign every year? 😛

  3. Michelle L. says:

    Wonderful, helpful post! Thanks so much, Colleen!

  4. Great post and lots to think about with the placement of content and ads. My layout is centered with sidebars on both sides. I’ve often thought, is that best?
    If anyone has the exact answer, I’d love to know, lol!

    Thanks!!
    Jenna, SAS Interiors

  5. Katie says:

    Woo great job Colleen!

  6. Great post! I also get the urge to redesign (well, design, really) my blog quite regularly, but then I remember back to the time I tried to change the template (such a small, simple step, non?), and it caused chaos. So now I just leave everything as it is. I don’t poke things with sticks or even breathe loudly near my blog…just in case. 😀

  7. Jennifer says:

    Yay Colleen. It’s so very true, being a cretive blogger often has me wanting to redesign my blog. But I hate HTML like no tomorrow. Hehe.

  8. Thank you All for the support! It’s a bit intimidating to write something for CrafterMinds. You gals made me feel so welcome!

    @ J.Hill – if you’re only getting the makeover bug once a year, I’d say you’re doing really good, lol!

    @ Kitty – too funny! So you understand perfectly why I use Blogger, right? I spent one day pokin’ around WordPress, then quietly shut the computer and said a prayer of thanks for Blogger. :p

    • Even Blogger isn’t completely idiot-proof though. A month or so ago, I started writing a blog post (already quite an achievement for me), then saved it as draft, wandered about on the internet for a while, read something on Crafterminds about truncating posts, switched to the new version of Blogger so I could click truncate, and…..no more post. Not saved, not in cache, just….gone. I sulked for an hour or so after that. 😀

  9. amy says:

    Great article Colleen! I’m ALWAYS thinking about how to re-do my blog. Also, a lot of people think there is a “right” way to layout your blog . . . but really, it’s all in what elements you have. A lot to think about!

  10. Christine says:

    Nice job Colleen! You gave us a lot to consider, and great information. Sometimes it seems like there are too many decisions…it’s nice to have just a few important ones to nail down at one time.

  11. Tabitha says:

    Great article, Colleen!

  12. @Layla – your comment didn’t show up til this a.m.! You’re so welcome – I adore your blog . . . and the layout!

    Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment. It means so much to me!

    @Amy – I totally agree. It’s a matter of finding what design and layout best represents your voice and style. Everyone is different – which is so cool, isn’t it?

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