The good news is that there are lots of ways we can spruce up our blogs in order to make them more appealing, effective and engaging by taking advantage of plugins, tools and some little tricks of the trade.
It’s amazing what a few cosmetic changes can do for your blog’s performance and your readers’ satisfaction.
Oh, and make sure you read to the end if you’re feeling really brave!
How to make your blog more beautiful
If your blog is hosted on WordPress you’ll probably find this list is a bit more tailored to you.
That being said, I’ve tried to include some other more general tips that apply to any blog, regardless of where it is hosted.
Before we start, do check out my “how to start a blog” guide.
1. Change your font to a deliberate typographical style
I’m always a little bit surprised at how many bloggers use ugly fonts that are difficult to read. After all, the point of a blog is its content and, as such, we should make sure at least that looks good.
While I regularly fluctuate between loving and hating the font here on Blog Tyrant, I do try to listen to feedback and observe trends about the size and style of the text to ensure that it is something readers enjoy and find easy to look at.
Typography is more than just the font – it’s the way you match it to other colors and styles on your site, and how all of those things relate to your brand as a whole.
My friends over at Reliable PSD put together an amazing collection of Google Font pairings that let you look at how certain fonts match with each other to create a different look and vibe.
I highly recommend spending some time scrolling through them and seeing whether your font needs to be change in order to make your content more readable, and to make your brand more memorable. This is a very basic but often overlook part of a beautiful blog.
2. Find or make consistent images and photos
If you’ve been reading Blog Tyrant for a while you’ll know that we’ve been transitioning to a little character that finds himself in certain situations.
While the evolution of that style hasn’t been 100% deliberate, the goal was to move away from the “couch photo” that used to be on the homepage – it was effective as a branding tool but difficult to incorporate into the graphics of each week’s post.
The images that you use on your blog are so important – using the wrong style or type can have bad consequences for readership and, in some cases, even cause you legal issues if you use a photo that you’re not supposed to.
As we talked about in our guide on finding images for your blog a few times, the best thing to do is create your own images or take your own photos because it is original content that is appreciated by Google from an SEO point of view, and readers from an engagement point of view.
It’s important that your images and photos all have a consistent feel to them – it’s not just about having great quality ones. The idea is that it enhances your text, but also helps people to recognize your brand as soon as they see it.
Head over to a site like 99Designs and hold a contest to see if you can find a visual artists or graphic designer that might be able to help you come up with something that you use again and again.
Or, if you’re a D-I-Y kind of a person, consider learning a bit of Photoshop or at least get an app like Word Swag that lets you do something interesting things with text and images.
3. Hire a designer to bring it all together
If you want to take the second point a little bit further, you can hire a designer to help you create a look and brand that brings all of your goals together.
One of my favorite stories about this process was written up by Pat Flynn when he redesigned his already very popular blog – always a nerve-wracking event because you don’t want to ruin anything.
I really love this post because it shows you how much time and care he and his designer put into figuring out what would work. It was clear he didn’t just want a nice design, he wanted something that looked good and also functioned effectively as a marketing tool, hence the heat map image above.
This process would not have been cheap. That being said, the potential money your blog could make by having a more effective design could make the costs worthwhile in no time at all. As always, weigh it up with your accountant (or spouse!) and make a plan.
4. Embed content to make it more interactive
Another simple tip to make your blog more beautiful and effective is to find ways to embed content into your posts as opposed to just taking screen shots or using some other lower quality solution.
For example, Twitter allows you to embed Tweets so as to have it appear in your post but also still function as it would on Twitter in terms of getting likes, retweets, etc.
— Ramsay (@BlogTyrant) May 15, 2017
This is often a good idea because it makes your blog more interactive and engaging, and also is usually optimized by the original site for all different devices.
You’ll find this type of function on Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and many more sites, and often you can change the size and a lot of the settings that you blog uses. You can also use plugins like Code Embed which allows you to put different snippets of code in your WordPress posts.
5. Remove as much stuff as is possible and effective
We talk about this quite a lot, but so many bloggers clog up their sidebars and footers and headers with stuff that doesn’t need to be there and only detracts from the main event – the content.
For example, in this post on building a user friendly blog and this one on not using ads on your blog we talk about how too much clutter can actually prevent people from taking an action. Too much choice can be paralyzing.
This all comes back to your blogging strategy and the goals you have for your blog. There really is no need to have more than one or two things in your sidebar and footer. That is, your blog should really only have a single call to action.
Here on Blog Tyrant I’ve tried to keep it ultra-simple by having one call to action at the bottom of each post and on the homepage. While it’s not the most beautiful design in the world, it seems to work well partly because it is a single offer and the process is very simple to follow and it also helps with load time.
6. Take an honest look at your theme
While this may seem obvious for some, it’s really important that you choose the right theme for your blog.
In fact, if you take a look at the majority of new blogs on the market you’ll notice that they have very out of date templates. This is a real shame because it sets you off on a very bad foot.
So how do you know if your theme is probably not the best choice? Well, to understand better I did something really embarrassing and looked up the Blog Tyrant theme from 2011…
We can see something that is present on a lot of blogs, space that is blank but not deliberately. For example, the image is not as wide as the content, the sidebar has no real function, and there are a multitude of borders around things that serve no real purpose.
You’ll also note the exceedingly small font (make yours at least 16px) and font pairing that doesn’t really match or have anything to do with the branding at the time. It’s all a bit grim.
You’ll also want to look at things like Google’s mobile friendly test and other sites that let you see how your blog looks on mobile devices. Sometimes there’s only so much you can do by yourself, which leads us nicely on to the conclusion of this article.
So, what can we do about it?
Instead of going over all the aspects that can go wrong with a blog’s theme or template, I thought it might be useful to open up the blog comments to a good old community critique session!
If you’re brave, leave a comment below and let us know your concerns about your theme and let’s see if anyone out there (myself included) can give you some helpful feedback. We’ve done this before and it resulted in some really productive conversations.
So, please leave a comment below if you’d like to ask a question or get someone from the community to potentially take a look at your blog’s design and give feedback.
Top image © Daniel Villeneuve.