BC Sweet Blogging Top Ten Tips to Great Blog Design For Girls

Thu 31st, Mar, 2011

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Howdy Beach Cottager’s!

Want Ten Tips to Great Blog Design?

And no you don’t need money to do it…well you’re in the right place…here I share the ten things that I have found along the way that will make your blog look good and keep those readers coming back for more!

1. Get a simple design…so you’ve got the blog set up and you want it to look fantabulous…you spend hours perusing all kind of places…top blog designers with long waiting lists, free sites with all sorts of templates to tempt you, you are not sure what a template is anyway but it all looks good, you find yourself thinking about making a header for your blog when you should be making dinner, you start to dream about blinkies and winkies and all sorts of things that you could have flashing on the side.

Stop right there cowboy.

Look just about anywhere for advice on blog design and look at any of the super blogs and although all of them are very distinctive, most of them are simple...based around a white with a fairly plain header and not much fuss and a limited amount of colours going on.

Yeah but this is a Blog for Girls, I want it to look pretty...yep that’s good too, this is not BBB Boring Business Blogging, we are not Blogging for Targets here, we want ruffles, we want white, we want vintage, we want pretty…yep we sure do but unless you are fairly confident with making a header or you are going to pay someone to do it for you (and even if you are either of these things) in the first place keep it simple, short and sweet.  I think some of the best headers personally are just the name of the blog…I particularly like a vintage typewriter font…just a simple grey on white…but then that’s me all over.

So take a good old look at your blog…what does it say?  Is it bursting out with so much colour, with blinkies all over the show, with ad buttons and affiliate buttons all over even when you don’t get more than 50 cents a week from them?

If so, pare back…all the blogging platforms offer some kinda minimal template that you can easily customize…they have too some that are in the middle with some foofy bits but not too over-the top.

Your readers (or reader it may be at this stage ;-) ) will thank you.


2. Keep the clutter to a minimum & assess that dang sidebar!
OK so you’ve pared it down on the colours..you are the queen of simple chic…now get rid of those things on the side-bar…I have to say I struggle with this...I have my ads set up on my side bar and I need to have links to places people want to go, I also like to have my blogroll of the fave blogs I visit on there too, plus other things like my contact details etc.

This is something I am constantly changing up and I don’t think I’ve got it right yet…sidebars are by nature clutter-gatherers…

…but take a long hard look at yours…how many widgets and chiclets are you holding onto? ...do you need the 57 awards you have received to show that you are a magic blogger with style, do you need that button that tells people that you blog for comments, do you need a flashing button advertising how to lose belly fat in 3 days?

and what is it adding in value to your blog?   Are you on a million and one of those Top Blog Sites…Bloglog, Top Site, Blog Lists…I have seen some people with about 30 or so of this listed on their blog…if you are on these lists consider what they are giving YOU? I was on one for a while…and while it was pretty nice to be up there playing with the big girls near the top of the list when I actually analysed the stats…ahem it seemed that good old topblogsites or whatever it was called was actually providing me with pretty much not a lot.  And who wants to compare stats anyway?  Not me.

So Sidebar Assess…how quickly does you blog load, is it hanging around waiting for your sidebar stuff to load…if those widgets are slowing you down, you potentially risk losing one of those readers you worked so hard to get.

Are the widgets related to what you are blogging about…?  No?  Lose ‘em.  Recently I put a KitchenAid affiliate button on my site…because I am on the never-ending quest to have a KitchenAid one day in this old Australian cottage…it’s sitting there on my sidebar cluttering it up, it’s kinda related but not that much…after a bit of assessment it ain’t doing much for the Beach Cottage KitchenAid Fund…so that button is soon to be blogging history baby.

Ok and here’s the biggest one…is it annoying…you know those blinkies in the corner flashing away…yikes…recently I tried a new ad affiliate button thingy…phew…the ugliest guy was on my sidebar shouting out about how he made a million bucks in a minute…yeah suffice to say he didn’t last long…way too annoying…and ugly…

So bottom line, if your sidebar is a blinking, over-full, flashing, all-singing, all-dancing blogging machine I am thinking you might wanna be changing that up a bit.


3. Put your RSS feed in a prominent place.

Single most important thing apparently according to the blogging gods from above.  Do you even know what an RSS feed is?  Well ahem, it’s taken me a while…

Don’t know?  Don’t wanna know?   Get over it baby.  You need an RSS feed if you want to be a successful blogger, you need it in a prominent place and you need to promote it.

Enough said.

4. Link to the important places on the blog that say you and lead to you
OK, so you are getting a bit of success or you have been blogging for a while and you are mildly popular…you have enough readers to actually make this whole thing worthwhile, you like coming here every day while your little baby is in the land of nod, you enjoy sitting down with a glass of wine in the evenings after a nice long bath while your hubby is out playing soccer…now if that’s the case, you are gonna have people who want to talk to you...they may want to email you directly and ask you what colour paint you used to paint that chair, they may want to know where you bought your boots, they may win one of your giveaways and want to shout from the rooftops to you how happy they are, they may just want to send you something that they think you’ll like


They may be a magazine or another blogger who want to contact you and feature you

So let ‘em know where you are…be safe…include your email address, an addy that you are happy to put on the internet, how you can be contacted on Facebook, your Twitter account (yes you’ll need both of those)


5. What is your site about anyway?…this must be obvious quickly!

Blogging about the beach, Australia and your house and call your blog Luxury Place and have a picture of a Victorian fairy on your header…that’s not going to be too obvious too quickly to someone doing the late night blog surf looking for inspiration.

But here’s a little story about me recently

….I had been recommended to a new blog that a friend said she thought I might like…might like?

sugarbums,  I just can’t get enough of it!…why is that?  well, initially as soon as I hit return on the url my friend had given me  three things happened

There was a plain, well designed site with a whitespace
There was NOT A SINGLE stitch of side-bar clutter
The header told me everything I needed to know…about, faq, etc

In all of two minutes I decided I had a new Blog Crush

…oh my lordy-loo I was gonna be around here often…within ten minutes the buttons on the top had told me exactly what this blog was about…decorating, gardening and the like and it had answered the faq that I already had, like cripes just what camera is this girl getting, where did she get that t-shirt, where on earth do you get skin like that and how the heck can I get my house to look like that…

So get that info up there...if you want people to stay around you need to tell them what you are about and if they are women, which seeing as this is BC Blogging Tips for Girls the vast majority of them will be, they will want more, more and moreand then some.

6. Do not use small or too fancy schmancy fonts & make it easy to read…yeah you may love that fancy font you spent an hour or four searching for and it just says you all over…all lovely and flicky and gorgeous and you would kill to have that font all over your blog, it’s just so well…divine….but* how easy is it to read?  Sticking to the main plain fonts is best.

Make the content fairly easy to scan..hey we are working for girls here who wanna know about your life, we do not always want to blog in lists, we sometimes like long lengthy posts about life and bakers shops and how we tried to persuade our kids to junk with us…but these business tips to make your blog scan-able are still relevant…you may have people scanning the content while at work, on the bus etc…and so huge blocks of text aren’t so easy to read….so break it up with pictures, and highlight the things that you really want them to read…

7. Music...the jury is out on this one for me…everywhere you go on the yawn pro sites they will say don’t do it…I don’t think I have ever seen anyone openly say put music on your blog…but I love it and have found some of my fave blogs play music when I hit their home page...girls like girly soft music…there is one reason I don’t have it…my taste in music is little better than dire…boyzone I love you

8. Do some comparisons…take a look at the top blogs in your niche, though whatever you do don’t rip-off the design of another blog…the header or background or whatever, it’ll make you look stupid... and then the not so popular ones that only have a few readers…you will see some huge differences….yep firstly the biggies will more than certainly have spent money on a designer, but that won’t be the main thing…the main thing will be that it is easy on the eye, it tells you what it’s about, it offers you easy navigation, it is simple, it has good orginal content, it’s voice is distinctive, and all that wraps up to a first impression…one that immediately classifies you…and most of that whether you have whip-bam-thank-you-mam amazing content or not is based on the way your blog looks.

Examine those top-notch blogs and you won’t see many with harsh or even bright colours, and if they have used them they’ll be limited..


9. Feedback. ..get someone you love or at least like a bit to give you feedback on your blog…it doesn’t count if you have played 65 linky parties this week & have people leaving you reciprocal comments on your blog…that is not real feedback…what you need is a real person to have a look..someone who will give you valued feedback…be very careful if this person is your husband…he may say the wrong thing & it will irritate the cr*pola outta you

…take it from me I have asked Mr BC to read through some of my more complicated posts or new things on here and he has walked away with raised eyebrows, shaking his head having finally cemented the notion that indeed he is married to a complete lunatic who spends her days not cleaning his house but talking about Saturdays and Clubs and teenagers, and a 350’s and spends and inordinate amount of time scouring the beaches looking for vintage things…so be careful who you ask ;-)

10. WHITESPACE ….and last but not least…indulge in the power of whitespace…and lose that bright background sweetie…let’s see who’ll be changing ;-)

here are some of the Power Bloggers from Above diggin’ their whitespace to full advantage

the lovely Layla pulls it off with cladding!  http://theletteredcottage.net/

do I need to link to her?   http://thepioneerwoman.com/

or her? http://www.dooce.com/

and Dana rocks it http://www.dana-made-it.com/


and then of course there is Ms Darcy, famous in blog circles for her sleak, designer blog services, she blogs over here at my3boybarians…putting her whitespace into full on use and rocking a simple header…


here she blogs about living with more boys than I do, books, blogging and photography…if you need help in using your camera hop over and stay awhile, mega talented is all I can say…her 31 Days to A Better Photo is great if, like me, you need all the help you can get…here’s what she says she blogs about…..’photo stuff, lots of link parties to share your blog and promote your photos, my inane attempts at humor, screencast tutorials or video blogs made from inside my closet, boy stuff – some of which is gross, funny, unbelievable or a combo of all three, lots and lots of photos, blog and design tips, photoshop talk, random, unimportant stuff that’ll make you wonder why you ever subscribed to begin with.’

and did I mention that not only does she run that blog with one hand, she designs blogs too...and we are about to go on another journey together in a massive BC blog makeover...yikes, I hope you are ready for me Darcy, lol…remember last time?

Darcy’s blog design house Graphically Designing could be what you are looking for once you have got into your Blog Groove, got some readers, decided that yeah you quite like this blogging game and want to invest in it looking hot…

anyway G’day Darcy, Australia Calling…hit us with your knowledge baby

When did you start your blog?

My blog started in July 2005. I never thought I’d still be at nearly 6 years later! I now have 3 blogs. (Boy, that sounds a little crazy!)

How do you find the time to blog with all your other commitments?

I run 2 small business – as a photographer and a graphic designer – as well as teach my own kids. This is a very sincere question. I make sure that blogging has its proper time and place. But I enjoy writing and have met so many wonderful people because of it, that my motivation to keep engaged with it is high. I tend to write drafts when I can and set them to publish. I can’t always get a post done in one sitting – but I am pretty fast typer. Typist? Type person. ;)

What did you do in the early days to get your blog out there?

Originally, I blogged only to let my long-distance family see photos of my kids. I never thought anyone would read it and didn’t intend to write for an audience. The blog caught on slowly and has grown since then, and has also evolved into a place where I help bloggers learn to take better photos of their loved ones. People love tutorials, and because of my 31 Days to a Better Photo series as well as Sweet Shot Tuesday – a chance for bloggers to share their own photos – traffic has increased to more than just my mom. (Hi, Mom.)


What are your best ideas for getting/increasing traffic?

Be interesting or informative. Sounds kinda loaded, huh? I think people keep coming back when they can learn something from you. Everyone has something unique to offer – whether it’s beautiful photos, funny stories, ways to make a beautiful home, or is just a really good writer. Play to your strengths. Never be a copy of someone else, but the very first unique you.

Three tips for great blog design?

1. Don’t underestimate the power of white space.

2. Don’t clutter your sidebar with junk.

3. Use beautiful photos and legible fonts.

How do you interact with your readers and get them involved in your blog?

I ask a lot of questions. I invite readers to email me whenever they want. It’s important to me that I seem approachable and accessible. My readers are a talented group of photographers and writers themselves. It’s been a real joy getting to know as many of them as possible. Weekly, I invite bloggers to share their favorite photo of the week by linking up their blog. This allows them to promote their own space and results in increase of traffic for them. If they make an effort to comment to other participants, they are rewarded with feedback, too. But mostly, I try to visit and comments with as many readers as I can.

thanks so much Darcy…the queen of blog design ;-)

And that’s it from me and the Whitespace in this place in the land of the lucky

next week on Beach Cottage Sweet Blogging Tips I will be answering and addressing all questions/comments left here so far in the series so please if you have a burning question or want me perhaps to feature your blogging story please leave a comment on this post…or email me  abeachcottageblog @ gmail . com   cheers x

find more on Beach Cottage How to Blog here….

and if you are looking for great blog design, go see Darcy here.


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24 Responses to “BC Sweet Blogging Top Ten Tips to Great Blog Design For Girls”

  1. beachcomber says:

    thanks for the advice!!

  2. Thanks! This little “school” is really good and gives a lot of good tips on how to start blogging.

    I’m following all my blogs in RSS and if a blog doesn’t have it, I will not follow.

  3. iola says:

    really nice entry! and i totally agree with having a simplistic design for your blog.
    i find myself always at ease when looking at a white blog instead of a dark/black website!

  4. Very helpful Sarah, and well worth the read even at 11 o’clock at night when I really should be getting some beauty sleep. But thats the joys of blogging isnt it!? I think I will email you real soon, I do have a couple of ?? to throw at you but for now seeing as my head is lolling onto the keyboard I really must get some ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz

  5. Thank goodness I saw Southern Rhoda’s tweet about this post. So helpful and informative! I love the way you write too:) Thanks for all the great tips and Happy Thursday!

  6. Sherry Smyth says:

    Excellent advice and tips here!

  7. Jem says:

    To someone, like me, who doesn’t really know what they’re doing with blogging these ‘Blogging Tips for Girls’ posts have been invaluable, Sarah!! So thank you very much for taking the time :-)

    I’m about to go through the redesign process next month myself and will be keeping your words in mind!

    If you fancy dropping a couple of lines of critique my way please do feel free!

    Jem xXx

  8. hi Sarah- I just so love these posts…
    I feel like I am truly *learning* something ,that inspires me, & makes me want to do a little better each time!

    This one was jam-packed full of do’s & dont’s….there are a few *do’s* i need to get my head around….
    I so agree with all your thoughts on the side bar & fonts people choose….sometimes it’s just all to much to take in…and I’m on to the next blog instead…

    I love that even *fantastic* bloggers like yourself are growing each week….
    I love the new direction yours is taking with *regular* days etc…are you enjoying that consistency as well…you really seem to be!

    I’ll be emailing you I know…but kid pick-up time here so back later…

    Thanks again…always an inspiration and source of endless knowledge!

    melissa x

  9. Dream Mom says:

    Good tips. Simple is good. I just changed my recently but found it hard to find a plain template that I like. My pet peeve are blogs with music; I don’t care how much I might like the music, I find it annoying. I don’t like the snowflakes or whatever it’s called with the falling dandruff as I call it-visually annoying. Black backgrounds are very difficult to read. I also don’t like it when I have to click the “read more” button. It links to a post but then I have to link back to get back “home” or to see something else. It’s a time hog and I don’t have that much time. Just put a few posts on the main page without the links so you don’t have to click on something to read a post. One other tip is to determine what the goal of your blog is going to be. In the beginning, for me, it was all about increasing readership and writing-I loved writing stories. It was exciting to be on CNN and get writing offers. Five years later, my goals are very different; my blog is mainly to just have fun now and I don’t write very often nor do I worry about content like I did in the beginning and that’s o.k. I still enjoy it. Overall, good tips.

  10. Desiree says:

    I am always impressed by the long pieces you can write… at this times I really feel I am not a native english writer .. Sometimes I would like to write a lot but just can;t find the right words ;)
    Very nice piece.. makes me wonder if my side bar is cluttered LOL….
    have a good weekend Sarah!
    PS did you ever get to read my message?


  11. Robyn says:

    As always, excellent advice. Fortunately my blog sidebar has always been simple and after the recent header change and simplified all-white background, seems I’m one step ahead of you. But that’ll probably only last until next week when you have more tips!

    I do have one question for now. It’s not to do with the actual blog itself, but the best way of saving your blog posts so that you can easily find what you are linking to. When bloggers post about things they’ve already spoken about “here and here” (links) do they have those posts saved as links elsewhere or do they open their blogs to find the posts they were mentioned in?

    Looking forward to hearing what tomorrow’s mission is.

  12. Karen says:

    Great blog. I would love you to go into more on RSS feed. I am new to blogging and am not using it. I don’t even know how to set it up! :)
    Thanks for all the great advice.

  13. Ann says:

    Thank you so much for such a useful post to wake up to on a Sunday. (I’m playing blog catch up instead of sleeping in) White, white, white is right and I am off now to cast a critical eye over my sidebar. Perhaps my self made plain old header (still waiting for my graphic designer brother to sort it) is okay!
    I am now your newest follower and have absolutely no idea why I had never followed before…. A x

  14. thanks v much – all good thoughts and well worth having a think about – lovely to share – best le xox

  15. Stacey says:

    And would you know, that as I put down the basics of my blog design, I spent a lot of time here in your lovely beachcottageblog – because I love it so much. I kept asking, “What is about it that I love?” This post nails it!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    (I feel like my blog is always evolving and I’m trying to tweak things here and there! Like my home – a work in progress!)

  16. Lynda says:

    Great points and very helpful advice! Thanks for sharing! xo

    :D Lynda

  17. April says:

    Thanks for this! It was enjoyable and educational. I am relatively new to blogging so your advice comes in handy, especially about simplifying the look. I hope I can keep it spotless and uncluttered. Although, that’s the same thing I say right after I clean the bathroom.

    Love your blog.

  18. Lee says:

    Hi Sarah!

    I have to say you have totally inspired me to take another long look at my blog –> and press reset!!

    I am really enjoying reading your blogging tips, and the best part is its given me a nudge into finding my (own) voice. So I look forward to rehashing everything soon :)

    **Thank you**

  19. Chas says:

    Great post with tons of wonderful tips! Thank you!

  20. Terri says:

    Excellent and well written article, interviews are a nice added touch. The tips had me reevaluate my side bars. Thanks for the tips.

  21. Alice says:

    Hi Sarah- I just discovered your blog, and like you felt about sugarbums blog (which by the way i am about to scoot off to on your recommendation) i now feel about yours! I love your style, pictures, info and I moved here to Australia 1 year ago from UK too (Scotland) so it’s nice reading about your experiences… Anyway your girls guide to blogging is great- i just started a blog 2 months ago, it’s great fun- we’ll see how it goes! http://www.goldiedesign.blogspot.com if you’ve ever time to take a peek :)

    Alice xx

  22. Alice says:

    Ah, now i look like a tube…you were referring to US as ‘sugarbums’? super. well the rest of my comment still applies…just not the part where i got wholly confused…i’m blonde by the way, this could be an excuse.

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