10 Tips for a Blog Design Makeover

Last updated: July 21, 2009 by Yan

Are you contented with your site design?

Is it making a positive first impression?

Are you using your site to brand yourself?

Do you think your site deserves a good makeover?

Whether you are a social blogger or you are in for a long haul, it holds true that your blog design speaks a lot about who you are as a blogger and what you are passionate about. It’s an extension of you.  Your writing skill aside, it’s your most powerful branding tool.

The blogosphere is too competitive where everyone is competing for visitors’ attention. It’s critical that you set yourself apart from the crowd. All other things being equal, a crappy design is your ultimate passport to blogging failure.

10 Tips Before You Get Your Blog Re-designed!

Below is my first attempt to share with you my own perspective of what you should consider before you get your blog redesigned. These are the top 10 personal tips from a non-designer point of view.

It may not be the ultimate guideline but it’s enough for any beginners to begin with.

1. Clear Objective

Every piece of great design comes with a clear objective. What are you trying to achieve? Whom are you targeting? Are you re-branding yourself?

Your objectives serve a guideline throughout the design process. It’s the soul of your design and it’s the beginning of everything beautiful and wonderful.

2. KISS – Keep It Sweet & Simple

design tips

Design simplicity should the key goal without the unnecessary complexity. It should be widget-less, uncluttered and not visually chaotic.

On the subject of simplicity, the use of color is part of the discussion too. Your choice of colors should be one that are complimentary and visually pleasing to the eyes. Nothing is more amateurish than to see a rainbow of colors in a design.

3. First Impression Counts

I’m not a designer but I do have an eye for details and a penchant for all things beautiful. I appreciate good design. Design that leaves a good first impression. One notable example of good contents with superb design is Bloggessive by Alex Cristache. It has the best of both contents and right packaging if you ask me.

OK, probably I’m biased! He is one of the judges for this group writing project but I challenge you to prove me otherwise.

4. It ain’t Heavy, It’s my Images

“People hates to wait”. A slow loading site is a turn off to your visitors. It turns away potential prospects and ultimately from buying your products, thus losing the sales.

I admit this is one area I have little control over. Fact is my blog loads pretty slow due to its excessive use of background images. It’s part of the design I couldn’t do much about it.

5. Good Call-to-Action = Good Conversion Rate

A good call-to-action design ensures a good conversion rate. Whether you are persuading your visitors to subscribe, join your mailing list and click your affiliate links, use a visual cue that anyone can easily understand.

In this regard, an RSS button that sticks out and is visible at first glance will capture your visitors’ attention and increase the likelihood of them clicking to subscribe.

6. Use of Typography

Does font-style makes any difference? Is letter-spacing improves readability? Yes, it certainly does.


Unconvinced? How about these 25+ Sites that use Typography as the Only Design Element? You’ll surprised that ‘typography‘ alone can truly give a design a well-deserved “WOW” factor.

7. Cross Browser Compatibility

This is an old school tip that has stood the test of time. I don’t know much your browsing preference, I’ve dumped IE since the birth of Firefox and why 50% of users are still on IE is still beyond me.

IE is truly “a pain in the ass” for most designers and due to its false popularity, we can’t ignore the importance of compatibility of our design structure across all major browsers, IE in particular. What looks good on Safari could be a mess on IE.

8. Get Your Readers’ Feedback

You don’t own your blog, your readers do. That said, it’s a logical thing to get feedback from your readers. What is their aesthetic preference? What do they like or dislike about your site?

Keep in mind that no one design can please everyone, the key is find the right balance between what you want (see #1) and what’s in the best interest of your target audience.

9. Know Your Budget

If you are working with limited budget, be prepared of trade-offs. Every designer lives by the same rule of thumb, that is “Good Thing No Cheap, Cheap Thing No Good!” So ask yourself, “How much am I willing to invest on my blog?

10. Be Yourself

Be yourself, everyone else is taken. Your personality is the only thing unique about you. If blue isn’t your kind of thing, don’t choose one because John Chow is using blue. Got the idea?

In A Nutshell

Design does matter. User-focused design matters more. If you want to take your blog to the next level, think design. If you don’t have the expertise to do so, hire a designer.

This post is a contest entry of Blog Design Contest, hosted by Blog Design Studio and the winner will get a free custom wordpress theme. There are some amazing prizes by Daily Blog Tips and Blogging Tips as well.

* Image Source: Apple

83 Responses to “10 Tips for a Blog Design Makeover”

    • Yan

      You are one lucky guy who always got free premium theme but sometimes too many choices may not always be a good thing. So am I expecting yet another makeover from you, Hussein?

  1. Awesome. Yeah, I’ve been considering a revamp of our blog strictly to introduce a stronger brand presence as well as opening up more ad space options so I can start to implement oio pub in the near future.

    You made a great point with typography, and I recall that post you linked to. It’s definitely something that is highly overlooked in the blogging world – and I’ve seen so many sites that have great designs, but poor font choice, and it really makes a huge impact on the user experience.

    Elijah´s lastest post..All Sales Pages Suck Ass

    • Yan

      I’ve seen so many sites that have great designs, but poor font choice..

      Couldn’t agree more and this is one area I’m yet to perfect it myself. Overlooked? You bet it is…

      Well, look forward to what you in store, E and thanks for dropping by too.

      Good luck, buddy.

    • Yan

      Yeah, the key is careful planning and a little budget certainly helps to a certain extent.

      Thanks for the compliment, Tom and “Happy Birthday”. What are you doing commenting on you big day? No party or something?

    • Yan

      Thanks, Alex for your support. I hope I could manage to squeeze into the top 3. Keeping my fingers crossed as today is the last day.

  2. Great 10 tips to a blog design makeover Yan. I would say that a logo is as important as the theme to complete the blog design as well as to give the blog a stronger branding.

    Other than this, you pretty covered the rest of it. Great job smiling blogger =)

    Wei Liang

    Wei Liang | ABloggerBlog´s lastest post..Lesson 19 – Guest Blogging

    • Yan

      LOL, you are getting used to the other trademark of mine, huh? “The Smiling Blogger”.

      You are absolutely right, Wei Liang. A logo is indeed one of the key component on a design and part of the branding effort too. Speaking of which, I’m yet to have one myself…;)

  3. Hey Yan,
    I could relate well with this post since I just changed my blog theme. You can say my old theme was, for lack of a better word “ugly”. Now I just have to make my nice blog nicer eh? Your blog is like your home. If it’s spick and span will you dirty it or will you keep it clean for your visitors to come visit you (hopefully lots of them?)

    Peter Lee

    work at home ideas´s lastest post..How “Work From Home Ideas” Made Google Top 10

    • Yan

      Well, Peter..I think you’ve made the right decision to pay a price for premium theme, haven’t you? I can see there is a great improvement in your community.

      People do visit and most importantly they do come back. Keep you the good work, you’ll be there one day, no question about it.


  4. This is all stuff that I thought about when I picked a design for my blog. I don’t exactly have the money to spend on a theme just for my site, or the skills/time to go make myself one. So it’s not as unique as I’d like. But everyone I’ve asked has liked it.

    Chris Osborne´s lastest post..Fake-o Macro

    • Yan


      I believe “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”. Unless you do have the budget and are thinking to take your blog to the next level….


    • Yan

      Thanks, Daphne….glad you like it. Stick around as the best is yet to come. Oh ya, good to see you again. Have a great weekend ahead…


    • Yan

      I guess we look at design from different perspective, Rarst. Yours isn’t unmatched in my opinion, it’s just more technical in nature since you are sort of a more technical person than me in many different ways. Again, good luck to both of us and the rest of the participants.


  5. Excellent tips! Especially when it comes to images. I know that for years, I didn’t optimize my images for the web and I still see sites that load really slow, even without a whole bunch of images. Sometimes they’re even sites that belong to designers (yikes).

    Melissa Donovan, Copywriter´s lastest post..The Top 5 Blogging Essentials

    • Yan

      I understand, Melissa. In fact, this is one of the biggest headache for me as well. I’ve been contemplating to change this theme to Thesis for a long time but I didn’t get any positive feedback from my readers. Well, I put my readers first so if they are OK with it, I’m cool.


  6. Those are useful tips for a blog re-design, Yan. Keep it simple is definitely the way to go but I see many bloggers tend to clutter their blog as it age because they want to use the bells and jingles for the sake of using them.

    And I would add one more tip when doing a blog re-design. Track and test to see if the redesign brings you closer to your goals. Does it increase subscribers or profits? Asking reader’s feedback can be a great thing to do if they know what they really want… but do they? Only way to know is, therefore, to track and test.

    I delved into the subject a bit in a blog post here.

    Andre Thomas´s lastest post..The Lifeblood of Any Business

    • Yan

      Track and test to see if the redesign brings you closer to your goals. Does it increase subscribers or profits?

      I certainly have missed this critical point in my haste to submit this entry. You are dead right about it. It’s a matter of test and track. Thanks for the heads up, Andre.

  7. Yan

    As you know I recent had Mr Javo redo my theme on my blog. I never had a clean design in mind so I let him have fully creative control.
    It turned out better than I could have imagined.

    Bruno Auger´s lastest post..The Technology Of Indexing

    • Yan

      Yeah, he really did a good job tweaking Carl’s theme. I love the shadow on top navigation. You got your money worth every penny, Bruno.

    • Yan

      Oh I could have missed that article of yours. Let me get back to it later with my opinion but right now, I’m leaning towards the fact that your design does matter to potential advertisers – to a certain extent. It may not be the primary concern but it does say so much about the credibility of the blog owner.

    • Yan

      By default, any link (url) within the comment section will go into moderation mode.

  8. Hi Yan,
    Just one question regarding my blog design makeover, is it safe to play also with html in the sense of changing also h1 , h2, h3 (from one to another ?) Or would you rather leave these the same as per original so Google doesn’t see it as a bigger change to the blog’s structure or even content and as a consequence to filter pages off of search index result pages for a while. I’ve been contemplating either minor or larger changes after I read this article.

    Convert´s lastest post..Pixels px to em conversion

    • Yan

      Hey Rado

      With all due respect to all the coder out there, the use of headings (h1)(h2) in most free themes are just not optimized for SEO. In that regard, yes, you are better off changing them for SEO purposes.

      In theory, there should only be one (H1) in one single page. Hope that helps..

      PS: Did you receive my last email?

      • Hey Yan,
        Yes I second the points. I will have to keep 2x H1′s on a page for a while due to; a couple of weeks ago I changed these headings site-wide, basically from one to another and leaving their count the same. In 2 days after this, the site disappeared from Google index for 3 days. First I thought it’s only the alarm filter due to the makeover or other thought was it could be also G sand box. BUT to my surprise when it came back into search index after the 3 days mentioned, I noticed in Google’s Webmasters’ Tools that I was assigned a higher Page Rank (site is only moth old) – I cannot say its # cause there is only the graph, the blue bar is showing in it not only Low level but also Medium PR level. Can’t wait to see, I remember how well you did.

        Yes I received your email, thank You. My last (3rd) quarter has just finished, 1/4 of no outdoors finally came so I will send the dough for the review Mate now, I hope it’s still OK Yan.

        Convert´s lastest post..How many homes Santa visits per one second

  9. #6 I am totally with you, the readability and font space makes a big difference, I personally will not read blogs that I have to squint or strain my eyes to read, why so many bloggers use tiny font is beyond me!

    #7 IE is the biggest piece of CRAP on the planet and one of the biggest security risks out there, everyone should be using Firefox!!

    Great tips as always Yan! By the way what font style do you use here?

    JR @ Internet Marketing Strategies´s lastest post..Internet Marketing Bloggers Doin It Right

    • Yan

      Hey JR

      I’m using Georgia font here. By the way, please allow me to suggest that you align (text-align:justify) your content. In my opinion, it has a better and neater presentation style.


      • Do you mean the post content? Can you give me some details? Does it not align correctly when you view it? because for me it shows up aligned correctly everything in place.

        Also, when you read my posts, the font size shows up large yes? I mean large enough to read comfortably? I know for me it’s good, but it’s nice to hear from someone else’s browser view.

        JR @ Internet Marketing Strategies´s lastest post..Internet Marketing Bloggers Doin It Right

        • Yan

          No, it’s actually aligned properly. There isn’t anything wrong there….I just think you could possibly make a little tweak on the post content.

          Currently, it’s aligned to the ‘left’ so if you can make it align: justify where texts are justified on both sides. I’m not too sure if you understand what I’m trying to say.

          Let me put it this way, my content area is “justified” but the comment text here is aligned to the “left”….. can you see the difference?

          Lemme know if you need any help on that. Otherwise, font size is perfect. Leave it as it is.


    • Yan

      Yeah, it’s easy for you since you have the skill to do so. Oh ya, I read your latest article, it’s sad to see another blogger lose the passion to carry on. Of course, you have your reasons for doing so and I respect them. Good luck, gal.

  10. More great tips Yan. It made me take a look at my site and I removed several graphics. It’s still far too heavy but I did manage to clean up several areas. The quick clean up should help improve ezine subscriptions. It’s funny how attached we get to junk on our site that isn’t helping a bit.

    Brian D. Hawkins´s lastest post..Will The New Gmail Themes Effect Your Next Campaign?

    • Yan

      Well, we usually fail to see our own faults and that’s the reason why listening to feedback is important if you ask me. We are putting our readers first, are we not?

      Thanks for dropping by, Brian.

      • Agree with you. It is important to hear other’s opinion. Before I chose my design, I asked first some people if it is good for my blog or not. :) But the problem is, my principle in life – In matters of taste there’s no dispute. :)

        Hussein´s lastest post..November 2008 Blog Report

  11. This post is right on time buddy. I’m working on frogstr 2.0 design and I am trying to figure out the perfect balance. You know, I like good looking themes, but I still want to keep it very simple. It’s going well, but it just reminds me of what I really have to care about. Also, typography is one of most overlooked aspect of designing a new theme and it is as important as any other aspect because it is really what people are going to look at!

    Ben Tremblay´s lastest post..Why sharing your knowledge is not a problem

    • Yan

      Hey Ben

      I’m excited and looking forward to see what you have in store with your new design. I’ve seen what you’ve done so I guess I’m expecting something of that quality too.

      Typography? It’s the very first thing I take notice of in a blog design. In fact, I love the beauty of typography in a design. Something I’m yet to perfect.


  12. Very nice tips Yan. There is one more thing I can advise. Bloggers need to create a checklist and go over it after receiving their new design. The checklist should cover all necessary items of a successful blog design, like widget/sidebar functionality, compatibility with the latest WP releases, verification of plugins, etc. Also make a good deal with your designer and tell him/her that you won’t pay the full amount unless the checklist is fully verified.

    Mert Erkal´s lastest post..The Roadmap To Become A Blogger

    • Yan

      Hey Mert

      Good to see ya again. It’s my pleasure to have ya around, Mert. It’s a while, huh?

      Thanks for sharing your input. A checklist is indeed important in any design process. Something that I didn’t think about while writing this article.


  13. Yan, my man!

    Good post! I love reading your blog because I am constantly getting new ideas. My blog is still new and I can constantly tweaking my layout, trying to find what is right for me.

    Recently, I changed my header and it is getting a good response. I like it, but not really feeling the fonts to the right of my picture, so I will be changing that at some point.

    My favorite part of your post is when you talk about being yourself and not trying to follow the leads of others. Be yourself, because everyone else is taken….CLASSIC!

    Freddie Taylor´s lastest post..Goal Setting Sunday: Week 13

  14. Man o man, these contest entries are all great! I just started blogging recently and I am glad I entered this contest. I have found 9 more great blogs to subscribe to. You made some similar points I have seen elsewhere. As of writing this I havent read any other’s posts mention cross browser compatibility, KISS or just be yourself!
    Good luck with the contest.

    • Yan

      Welcome to the club, Ryan. The other 9 contestants (you too!) are equally great so I just hope I could squeeze into the last three with this entry of “Being Yourself”…. ;)


  15. Hello Yan.

    The point made about getting reader feedback is a useful one to be reminded of every so often, or to internalize, if that is doable. Readers/viewers see things about you site that you didn’t know were showing up, or that send a message that is different from the general message intended to be sent. Someone who is routinely comfortable with seeking and accepting feedback is able to flow through the upgrade cycle instead of getting stuck in it.

    Armen Shirvanian´s lastest post..Ways To Respond To Events Presented To You

    • Yan

      You hit the nail on its head, Armen. Only thru feedback, we can identify and rectify on our weaknesses. Without it, we are stuck in our comfort zone.

      The question is, in your own words, are we comfortable with critique? Do we take it easily? Well, the majority of us don’t…. We have the tendency to point out other weaknesses but fail to see our own.

      Finally, you arrive here at TSB. You ever feel unwelcomed here, please accept my apology.


  16. Basing corrections to be made on the desire others might have, to point out weaknesses that they see, is a way to re-frame possible insults into positive criticisms.

    I am glad to be taking part in TSB, and also enjoy writing ThouShallBlog in its shortened form as “TSB”.

    Armen Shirvanian´s lastest post..Ways To Respond To Events Presented To You

    • Yan

      ….also enjoy writing ThouShallBlog in its shortened form as “TSB”.

      Don’t be surprised that I might use it more often now that you wrote it… ;) Welcome to TSB, Armen.

  17. Holiday Munch is a restaurant review website where you can search any restaurant anywhere in the world. Website includes restaurants of Asia, Europe, Africa, America (USA), Australia, Middle East, so if you find something tasty and good then you can post your reviews on this website. You can also upload your menu if you are a restaurant owner.

  18. Once again, the best thing about WordPress is that you can pretty much find a theme that you love by searching for different styles, or purchasing one that fits what you want also. I just went through multiple designs for my newest blog before deciding on the one I liked.

    Mitch´s lastest post..Is Social Media Hurting Your Online Business?

  19. I know I personally get caught up in the appearance of my site a lot. I get bored with it and want it to look as good as the other blogs in my niche. The only problem is, especially for newbies, we get caught worrying about site change too much we lose focus on priority #1…traffic.

    It’s good to have a great looking site, but it won’t accomplish much if you don’t have traffic there to see it.

    Matt Helphrey´s lastest post..Develop a Link Building Strategy

  20. Yan

    Great. keep up the plagerism.

    Oh really? Perhaps you should take some grammar lesson yourself. Plagiarism isn’t spelled as “plagerism”.

    Appreciate the effort though……

  21. you discussed the best tips we can do with our blog design but i can add something about the Images which make your site ( blog ) load slow , you can use cached plugins to solve this problem and it will load your page faster even you have much Images

  22. Another tip – once you have designed it, take a break! come back to your design with fresh eyes at a later date, if you keep working and working on it you will become blind to its problems :-)