This is the third instalment of our series How to Start a Blog in 5 Minutes. Check out the rest of the posts here.
The bare bones of blog design is the template (or theme) you choose. You can find in built templates via the back end of your platform or you can download them via sites like Themeforest or Etsy. Squarespace has all of its templates built in, but there are a lot and are all very customisable, so don’t feel like you are missing out.
When you are browsing templates, there are some key points to consider:
– What is your first impression? While there are lots of things that can be changed in a theme, on the whole, the basic structure can’t be. So look for themes that roughly do what you want them to straight out of the box.
– How easy is it to navigate? Are the navigation options easy to read and find?
– How fast does it load? Not everyone operates on super highspeed broadband, so a theme that loads quickly is a good choice to keep all readers coming back. In Blogger, WordPress and Squarespace, there are usually options to view examples of themes in the wild, so do check those out to see how quickly they load.
– Is it mobile-ready? It should be. More and more users are reading content on their mobiles and tablets. You need to pick a theme that is mobile responsive. Blogger and Squarespace’s inbuilt themes are all responsive, but if you are looking at downloading a self-hosted WordPress theme, it may not be.
– Does it do what you want it to? Its a basic question, but we have all been sucked into installing a pretty platform that doesn’t actually function the way we need it to. If you want photo galleries, sidebars, the ability to just have excerpts of posts on the front page, a shop, etc, make sure your theme has them.
– Where are the social media icons? Many templates these days have social media icons built into the template. Check out where they are and if they are customisable.
Once you have a template, you need to start making it your own. While much of this comes down to taste, the bare bones of most blogs will include:
– A Blog Header. Most platforms will have a built in text-based blog header. If you want a photo or logo, you will need to make your own. Its very easy and can be done for free using sites like Picmonkey.
– A Navigation Bar (if you want one). This should be included in your template, but you will need to set up the pages you want to be linked to. Your template should have instructions on how you do that. Most people have “About Me” “Contact” and “Sponsorship” pages from the start.
– A Sidebar: Good practice these days is to have sidebar with an image of yourself and a short About Me (just a couple of lines) at the top of your sidebar. Below that, you can add links to your content, social media, Instagram galleries or sponsors.
Blog design can be the most fun or the most hair-pulling element of starting a blog. There are loads of resourses out there for making a beautiful space all your own. At last year’s Blogtacular, Isa Seminega gave an awesome talk all about it, which you can see here via our virtual conference and she her list of Blog Design Resources.
See you Wednesday for a wee bonus post on making a blog header!