This post is the fifth in the series of blogging fears (and how to overcome them).
If you have lunch with writers, you’ll come away feeling insecure about your writing. If you have lunch with SEO experts you’ll want to do more with your SEO and if you have lunch with a designer, you’ll want to put your site in maintenance mode and never look at it again!
There are many design principles for you to consider, if you are blogging for business you’ll have it a fraction easier as your site design will echo your main website and your brand. If you have no idea where to start with your branding I’d like to share two resources with you – Pamela Wilson has a great resource for you over at Big Brand system – http://www.bigbrandsystem.com/free/ and Tea Silvestre’s Purpose, Brand and Joy http://thewordchef.com/landing/youve-got-an-entrepreneurial-dream-i-can-help-you-get-there/ will also help you figure the design and branding aspects out.
If you think that this is too much work, then hire someone in to help you but first look at Tea and Pamela’s content so you can work out what you want to discuss with the designer. Then ask your friends to share their favourite designers with you and start getting a quotes from them. By knowing what you want your brand to convey, you’ll find the right designer very quickly.
If you blog using WordPress you’ll have a tough time making your site look amateur because there are so many great themes and guides to help you. Combine your design and branding knowledge from the resources mentioned above, and you’ll be able to create something special yourself. If you need WordPress help check out Bob WP’s free course here and check out our WordPress training videos as well.
Whilst I’m not a raving fan of free themes for a number of reasons, there are some excellent ones out there starting with the Suffusion theme. Used on 16 million websites, Suffusion is easy to customise and tweak to your taste yet still keeps good design principles.
My friend Graham Hunt uses this on his Entrepreneur Solo blog:
You can check out these free Suffusion tutorials by MBR Solutions, and of course they also use Suffusion on their site.
You can even use the free themes that come with your WordPress installation. Gemma Thompson has a custom header and a plain background over at Social Media Illumination, she’s personalised the standard WordPress theme to fit her brand.
Like many I’m a big Studiopress / Genesis fan. When I first started Birds on the Blog we used the Lifestyle theme. Then we moved to the Serenity Theme, now we are using Genesis with the Dynamik theme. In between we used Gabfire themes for about 8 months, but we keep going back to Studiopress as the designs are so effective for our needs.
We’ll probably stick with Dynamik and just swap out the header etc as we change and grow. Our branding was created using advice from Tea Silvestre, Angela Boothroyd and our graphics were created by Anita Hunt. If you click on Angela and Anita’s links you’ll see that their day jobs are not design, that they’ve learned more than the basics and applied it to their own sites, and then steered me when I wanted some advice , so much so that I also booked onto Tea’s branding course.
If you are a complete design beginner you might prefer to use one of the many Genesis child themes and just add your own logos etc but if you are a bit more daring you can use the Genesis Prose theme. Prose is a blank canvas for you to create with. If you have a bit more skill, then check out Genesis Dynamik.
If you are a bit more technical then you should take a look at Thesis.
Thesis was my favourite WordPress framework for a very, very long time. It’s changed a lot in the last year and it incorporates Rich Text Snippets – these are an important aspect of your content creation; Rich Text Snippets tell search engines what your content is about :
- Businesses and organizations
And I believe it can also be used for video content. The search engines can then serve up the most relevant content to the searcher. Rich Text Snippets also indicate who the author of the post is and in the case of reviews show little stars underneath the content.
So with Thesis not only do you get a great design canvas you get the search advantage that Rich Text Snippets give you.
There is no reason for your site to look amateur, you may not need a designer and you can create something to be proud of very quickly and easily.
Sure there’s a bit of trial and error when it comes to getting your design right, but ultimately its not printed material, you can change it whenever you want.
If you have a great theme or resource, please share it with us in the comments.