Improve Your Blog Design without Spending a Dime

As a follow up to the popular post Does Blog Design Really Matter?, I’m going to give you some tips on how to make your blog that much better. These aren’t necessarily blog design tips, but overall ways to improve the look of your blog or spice up your blog.
1. Remove your Captcha. Yes, I did just say that. Disable that annoying word verification setting because I don’t have time for it, and neither do your hundreds of potential commenters. If you already spend time on your blog and take it seriously, a few extra minutes to delete spam comments won’t be too hard.
2. Vacuum your Sidebar. Do your sidebars run longer than your posts? That means half the clunk is junk. Dejunk it. Remove those long gone giveaway buttons. Reduce the number of those flash countdown widgets. Not only do they take space and clutter your blog, they also take your blog forever to load! Franky, the majority of us don’t have time for that.
3. Prettify your blog. You can always purchase a blog design that just screams you. But what about those of us who can’t afford it? There are a few websites out there that offer free backgrounds, customizable headers, and more. Search for them. Use them wisely. The perfect use of color goes a long way.
4. Don’t hurt our eyes. Backgrounds that are dark should always have a lighter content area, preferrably a contrasting color. One color that probably shouldn’t be used as a background – neon yellow. You want your readers to come back. Not go blind.
5. Use a pretty font. One of Blogger’s many improvements include a set of distinctive fonts. Use them wisely. Don’t use a curly font for your content, maybe for your post titles, but never content. I’d strongly advise against the use Courier as your content font as well. Its just plain hard to read.
6. Pad it Up. Try to choose a layout that will give you some padding between your sidebars and your content area. If you don’t have any HTML knowledge to go by, try increasing the width of your sidebars or the your overall blog width, that way, your content area shrinks, and your content and sidebar don’t get all touchy.
7. Keep it Simple. Simplicity is where its at. By making your blog look simple, you’ll achieve elegance, richness, and a more professional look. Go to any professional website, they don’t have multi-colored stripes in their background.

ETA: As Juju mentions below: no one likes music that automatically plays when we enter sites. Its annoying and its a sure way to have your visitor shut down their browser and go elsewhere.

If I think of anymore tips that could help spice up your blog, I’ll be sure to add them here.
So do you think you’ll be using any of these? Do you have any you’ll like to add?
Stay tuned, I’ve got more tips coming your way!

Hafsah

Hafsah Faizal is a YA author, designer, and blogger. Her designs have graced the sites of New York Times bestselling authors, bloggers, and more. She resides in Texas, with her family.

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30 Comments

  1. Reply

    Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com

    November 7, 2011

    AMEN! I love simple layouts. Despise captcha and busy sidebars. Another pet peeve: music, pretty fonts that are hard to read, or light colored fonts. Great post.

  2. Reply

    Tess

    November 7, 2011

    this was really fun to read…GREAT TIPS
    tessmw.blogspot.com

  3. Reply

    Jenny

    November 7, 2011

    The word verification thing drives me crazy! Especially on blogs I visit almost every day, it's a pain to go through that each time:) I've only gotten maybe 2 instances of spam since I took mine off, so that hasn't been a problem at all. Awesome tips Hafsah!

  4. Reply

    The Happy Booker

    November 7, 2011

    Music is definitely annoying, most of the time I am listening to my own music as I blog browse and I am much more likely to simply X out of your blog than turn MY music off.
    Also, make sure your follow buttons are somewhere that is easily found. If I have to play hide and seek with a GFC button that is hidden in the footer or at the end of a too busy sidebar, I'm probably just going to skip it altogether.

  5. Reply

    DJL

    November 7, 2011

    I totally agree about the music automatically playing. That is a surefire way to get readers to either not follow your blog at all or avoid reading the actual blog posts. Well done on the suggestions. :)

  6. Reply

    Candace

    November 7, 2011

    WORD VERIFICATION!!!! Why don't people get it?! Everyone everywhere says to get rid of it so why do half the blogs still have it? I have 28 blogs to read this morning and half have had it and I comment on maybe one post on those blogs. The others I've been reading two or more and commenting on them. I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR WORD VERIFICATION!
    Also, I agree about the music. It also crashes my browser. And I hate have to hurry to turn down the volume which won't turn down cause my browser is in the middle of crashing. Very annoying! Thank you for this post!

  7. Reply

    Zoe Crook

    November 7, 2011

    Great tips! They really helped – thank you!

  8. Reply

    Aurora Celeste

    November 7, 2011

    Finding follow buttons is my peeve, too, especially when you're requiring people follow you for a contest but then don't have a follow button readily accessible.

  9. Reply

    JJ iReads

    November 7, 2011

    Great post! Definitely agreeing with the sentiment that music that auto plays is very annoying. I would like to expand on this and say VIDEOS that auto play are very annoying as well (like certain flash videos). Also the use of lots of blinking GIFs

  10. Reply

    Lauren M

    November 7, 2011

    Great tips! My blog isn't nearly as easy to customize as Blogger (thankfully I know a little html, or else it would be seriously ugly!), but I appreciate the advice! I'm definitely not a fan of cluttered or music-spewing sidebars. :)

  11. Reply

    Lucy

    November 7, 2011

    This is great advice. I agree that simplicity is key. I think I'll have another look at editing my sidebar to make it less cluttered in fact. Thanks so much for the tips!

  12. Reply

    Gina @ My Precious

    November 7, 2011

    @Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com

    My sentiments exactly!!

  13. Reply

    Gina @ My Precious

    November 7, 2011

    I am with all of you get rid of the word verification crap. Its too difficult! I just want to leave a comment. Sometimes the thing is too hard to read and it takes twice as long to leave a comment!

  14. Reply

    Rowena

    November 7, 2011

    Great post, I was nodding along to the whole thing. I'm not a fan of the word verification, I'm usually commenting on the fly and when I have to stop and type in the word verification word, sometimes I'm just over it by the time it's done with and I'll only comment on one or two of posts if I'm catching up on my favorite blogs instead of all of them.

  15. Reply

    A Canadian Girl

    November 7, 2011

    I think this is such a helpful post. Music and captcha codes really make it hard to want to leave comments on a blog. Oh, and who puts neon yellow as a background?

  16. Reply

    Asheley (@BookwormAsheley)

    November 8, 2011

    Great post! All of these are my thoughts exactly!

    Thanks!

  17. Reply

    Arianne Cruz

    November 8, 2011

    yey i've done these tips already :D i constantly try to improve my blog, including my tabs/pages :)

  18. Reply

    Julia :)

    November 8, 2011

    Bahahaha “You want your readers to come back. Not go blind.” So true! XD I think its also important to note that its always hard to read blogs that have dark backgrounds with white or yellow text. Now THAT is blinding. And also a great way to strain your eyes and get a headache. :P

  19. Reply

    Melissa (i swim for oceans)

    November 8, 2011

    I've worked hard to use all of these! Mine has been so cluttered in the past, and it was frustrating both for myself and for my readers! I'm satisfied with my layout for now :)

    Great advice!

  20. Reply

    Nina

    November 8, 2011

    One of the things I don't like is when the sidebar(s) take up as much space as the content area or more. The content is what makes a blog, so making sure it gets the spotlight is important!:)

  21. Reply

    Jasmine Rose

    November 8, 2011

    This is a fantastic post. When I started my blog I knew I needed something that people would actually want to look at. I'm guilty of passing over plenty of blogs just because I don't like the look. That's half the experience!
    And yes with the loading! People really need to consider what they're putting on their blog and how it will affect the load time. It drives me nuts when it takes 5 minutes for a page to load and then I find out they have a million flashy widgets.

  22. Reply

    smittenskitten

    November 8, 2011

    Great post! Agree, the dark background keels my eyes.
    Too many third party widgets takes way too much time to load =/

  23. Reply

    Beth S.

    November 8, 2011

    Totally agree with the music comment. I immediately exit out of any blog or website that plays music.

  24. Reply

    Ashley @ Bookaholics Anonymous

    November 9, 2011

    I totally agree with the word verification. I'm guilty of typing a whole comment and hitting post comment and then exiting out of it not even thinking about the word verification part, and then i don't feel like going back so I just go on.

  25. Reply

    Cialina at Muggle-Born.net

    November 11, 2011

    Fantastic tips. These are definitely tips that people need to know if they are going to create their own looks on Blogger. :)

  26. Reply

    perth

    February 8, 2012

    nice tips… website design perth

  27. Reply

    Website design dallas

    March 7, 2012

    I really appreciate the good advice!! I do have a question about #3…if I use some of these “free” services, do I run the risk of having copy-write issues?? Are these generally public domain items? I really do like the look of your blog!! Keep up the great work!!!

  28. Reply

    Web Design Company

    January 22, 2013

    Very convenient and good services. Thanks for sharing the updates here

  29. Reply

    tran chuc

    May 13, 2013

    The website style is great, the articles is really excellent.
    web design dallas

  30. Reply

    Lookboard NY

    May 14, 2013

    Sure! I don't think there are many people prefer to get music from a blog. what happen if we open 3 blog with 3 version of music. That's really crazy! by the way, Lookboard is the design wholesale marketplace that connects talented designers and creative brands to the modern retailer. Explore the very best in modern design, modern furniture, and unique products.

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