Blog Design For Dummies – Book Review

Blog Design For DummiesI have the perfect book recommendation for you guys: Blog Design For Dummies by Melissa Arce Culbertson of MomComm.

I have a list of the things I’ve been meaning to do for this blog and some others I have. It’s a long list. I haven’t gotten to it yet. Then Melissa asked if I’d review her new book, Blog Design For Dummies. Y’all this was the kick in the pants I needed. I’m not only working on my list, I’m excited about working on my list. I’ve gone through this book twice already and I currently have 20 pages bookmarked.

I know writing and editing. I know understanding your audience. I know usability (which is one of the things I’ve been meaning to update). But what I don’t know is design.

Melissa, on the other hand, knows a thing or ten about design and usability – two topics that can be daunting even for experienced bloggers. She has over 12 years experience with marketing communications. She got started with a personal blog (Adventeroo), but quickly discovered she was strong resource for the blogging community and created MomComm. Her regular series of blog critiques is wildly popular.

Getting Started with Blog Design

“Before you embark on designing your blog, you and your blog need to sit down and have a little chat.”

If you’re just learning about blog design or this is your first time considering usability, there’s a lot of information being shared in this book. It could be overwhelming, but don’t let that deter you. Melissa helps you easily prepare for the process of designing your blog by suggesting three key exercises in Chapter 3: Getting to Know Your Blog (Even Better):

  • setting goals
  • defining your writing – including choosing a niche (or not)
  • understanding your audience

Approaching Blog Design the Right Way

“Decisions, decisions. Blog design is full of decisions.”

If you’re most interested in blog design, skip to section two: Choosing the Visual Design Elements. This section in particularly is meaty. It covers the specifics of how to approach design from creating mood boards to using Google Analytics, and from choosing fonts and colors that compliment each other to creating a blog layout that helps your readers find what they’re looking for. Then Melissa ties it all together by helping you with some basic coding to get you started.

In Choosing the Visual Design Elements, Melissa shares five tips for defining your blog design (each one with its own chapter and complete discussion):

  • gathering design ideas (Tip: Check out Chapter 18 too; it lists 10 well-designed blogs that may inspire you.)
  • selecting fonts and colors
  • developing your overall blog layout
  • customizing your blog’s header, footer, and background
  • customizing the design with coding basics

Believe it or not, most bloggers have already started choosing their elements without even recognizing it. If you’ve ever made a note about another blog’s header that you love or a color combination that speaks to you, you’ve started creating a mood board (check your Pinterst boards — you probably have some things already there!).

Understanding Usability in Blog Design

“No matter how awesomely designed a blog looks, visitors won’t stick around if a blog is hard to navigate.”

If you’re just starting to think about usability but aren’t quite sure what it is or how to implement it, then section three of Blog Design For Dummies is your home. For those of you not quite sold on the idea of usability or think it’s too much work, consider this: Good usability = good SEO (flip over to chapter 10 to learn why).

When your users can easily find what they’re looking for, they’ll come back. This is especially important for resource blogs. And if you think you’re not a resource blog because you talk about fashion, food, or home decor, think again. When someone sees a great idea on your site, they may not bookmark it or pin it right away.  But later, when they’re ready to use that idea, they’ll return to your site and try to search for it. If they can’t find it, they’ll move on to another place that may have similar information.

The Importance of Using Pictures on Your Blog

“Think about it. Would you flip through a magazine if there were no images? Probably not. Like magazines, blogs come alive with images.”

Any part of good blog design is going to include images. Flip to section four, Creating Design-Friendly Content, to learn:

  • how to choose images to use on your blog
  • where to find pictures to use legally use on your blog (and how to attribute them)
  • how to edit your own pictures

This isn’t one of my strong suits so I’ll probably spend a lot of time referring back to this section.

The Parts of Ten – My Favorite Part

Finally, like most Dummies books, you’ll find the Parts of Ten in the back of the book. I love the Parts of Ten. It’s where you find quick lists of the best resources. Blog Design For Dummies shares 10 places to extend your design (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, printables) and 10 well-designed blogs that follow the tenants shared throughout the book.

Recommendation: Buy Blog Design For Dummies

In Blog Design For Dummies Melissa explains design and usability with easy-to-understand tutorials and discussion without being condescending. That’s a talent I can appreciate since many of the topics she covers can be fairly complex.

Whether you’re just getting started blogging or you’re a blogging veteran, I can’t over-emphasize how useful this book is. It’s a great tutorial for beginners, but it delves into each topic in ways that are satisfying for bloggers who’ve been around the block a few times. Buy Blog Design For Dummies and use it as a resource — flip around, mark what’s useful, and get started tweaking your blog design!

You can find Melissa’s Cheat Sheet on the For Dummies website.

Other For Dummies Books You May Like:

 

24 Responses

  1. julie July 31, 2013 / 9:37 am

    I totally need to keep this book on my desk in my office. Great recommendation, Melanie!

    • Melanie Nelson July 31, 2013 / 10:01 am

      Julie, it really is fantastic! I can’t recommend it enough.

  2. Andrea Updyke July 31, 2013 / 11:04 am

    I can’t wait to dig in to my copy. I have so much to learn about design!

    • Melanie Nelson July 31, 2013 / 4:17 pm

      I am awful at design, Andrea. Melissa does a fantastic job lining everything out.

  3. Tanya @ Mom's Small Victories July 31, 2013 / 12:44 pm

    Great review. not like I needed any more reasons to buy Melissa’s book, I am already a huge fan of hers! I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.

    • Melanie Nelson July 31, 2013 / 4:53 pm

      Thank you for stopping by, Tanya! Melissa is a wealth of information, isn’t she?

  4. Suzanne Perryman August 1, 2013 / 9:19 am

    Does the book cover or will tips work with typepad platform vs. word press?

    • Melanie Nelson August 1, 2013 / 1:30 pm

      Suzanne,
      The book provides core information about design and usability that is applicable to any platform. The instructions shared are geared toward WordPress.org users, but you can implement the ideas regardless of your platform.

  5. Jendi August 1, 2013 / 9:46 pm

    This is near the top of my to-read list. I’m glad to hear that you got energized by reading it because I’m half worried I’ll learn how awful my designs are. I’ve been wanting to re-do them for a while and keep putting them off.

    • Melanie Nelson August 2, 2013 / 7:19 am

      Jendi, you’re going to love the book and it WILL motivate you. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Daniella August 3, 2013 / 2:26 am

    Hi Melanie,

    I am new to blog world. I think it’s the right time for me found your blog. Going to look for this book as you recommended. Lot I need to learn.

    Thanks

  7. Rakshara Aryal August 4, 2013 / 5:54 am

    I am also new to blog world. I think it’s the right time for me found your blog. Going to look for this book as you recommended. I have learn more so your blog is my source to find new tips.
    Thank you.

  8. Melanie @MelanieMedia August 5, 2013 / 1:25 pm

    I think I just need to set aside a space in my house for For Dummies books. There are so many I need!

    • Melanie Nelson August 5, 2013 / 5:00 pm

      Melanie,

      Honestly. You should see my bookshelf. One whole shelf is yellow and black. And I have a whole stack that I’m donating to our local library. #AddictedToLearning

  9. Soni Sharma August 6, 2013 / 7:28 am

    Thanks Melanie for sharing this review. I will surely read this book.

  10. Rounak Baral August 6, 2013 / 12:07 pm

    I have read it ! Its a super book. I have recommend it to many one 🙂

  11. Himadri Subrah Saha August 9, 2013 / 1:22 pm

    At first i want to tell you that i just loved your blog design and header image. You organized your blog quite well. About the post, as a blog owner i know the importance of picture or image in a blog post. So, i agree with your point with blog post. The other points you mentioned about the blog design are just great!

  12. Eric August 13, 2013 / 1:06 am

    Thanks for the recommendation Melanie! My blog can definitely use a little brushing up. At the very least I’ll see if it’s available at the library.

    -Eric Out-

  13. Christine Derrel September 1, 2013 / 2:56 am

    Melanie, this design book looks pretty cool!!! I hope it will help me make my website prettier!!!

  14. rakesh kumar September 21, 2013 / 2:45 am

    Basically, i am a theme developer but i am sure if i had this book , then i am sure , i could save my lots of time. This is a must read book for every wp beginner.

  15. Siya October 17, 2013 / 9:52 am

    As is said, i will read the review :). It seems like the book will come in handy for me because I suck at anything called design! Lol

    Tell me Melanie, does the author cover anything that has to do with using colours? Like which colours bond with which?

    • Melanie Nelson October 21, 2013 / 8:26 pm

      Yes, Siya, Blog Design For Dummies touches on how to use color within your blog. It’s a great book to check out!

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