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:
- Facebook All-In-One For Dummies by Melanie Nelson
- Online Community Management For Dummies by Deborah Ng
- Klout For Dummies by Andrea Updyke
- Web Hosting For Dummies by Peter Pollock
- Raising Digital Families For Dummies by Amy Lupold Bair (review coming soon)