Blog Design: Can Yours Take You to the Next Level of Blogging Success?

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Last week I published a post that posed the question, How important is design to a blog’s success? I am really pleased with the depth of the comments that have been entered on that post by readers and by some designers that I respect. If you didn’t read that post, my point was essentially that design does have an impact on a blog’s level of success, but not as much of an impact as other areas, such as the quality of content.

To be honest, I was a bit (pleasantly) surprised at the overall feeling of the readers who commented. The overwhelming feeling was that design does play a significant role in the life of a blog (although other views have been shared too). While I do feel that design should be a priority for bloggers, I sometimes wonder how much my opinion is biased because of my perspective as a designer.

A few different readers commented that high quality designs are common with A-list blogs like Freelance Switch, ProBlogger and others. Most readers expect a top blog to have a quality of design that equals the quality of content. With that in mind, is your blog design capable of helping you to get to the next level of blogging success?

It’s obviously common and critical for bloggers to focus on content and being able to create better and more unique posts that will help the blog to grow, but what about design? In my opinion, your blog should look like it belongs at the level you are aiming for, not at your current level. This doesn’t mean that your blog has to be fancy and have lots of bells and whistles, some very good blogs have a fairly simple, yet attractive and effective, design.

This also doesn’t mean that your blog has to feature the best design in your niche. However, an improved theme design can help new visitors to see your blog at the level that you want to reach. Granted, if the content doesn’t back it up, it really doesn’t make much of a difference in the long-term.

To be fair, this is an issue that needs to be addressed with this blog as well. When the current theme was developed there were about 100 subscribers. At that time, I think the design reflected where it was headed, but as I look at the blogs that are where I want to be, this theme is lacking. Within the next few months that should change.


What are Your Thoughts?

I’m very interested in again getting some of your thoughts on this issue. You’ve probably heard the expression “You should dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” Do you agree that this also applies for blogs?

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21 Responses

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  • Chip, March 12, 2008

    Design reflects on the owner of the site, for better or worse. This should be a critical consideration when starting out as you try to build an audience. Content will build that audience and I think the owner will know when the time comes for some polishing to the design.

  • Zinni, March 12, 2008

    I pretty much agree 100% however this is nothing new. Just replace everywhere you just said “blog” with “business” and you will see a ton of similarities. A business (or blog) can have a solid identity, but then not back it up and it will not end up benefiting it.

    I too have the same problem, when I created my blog design, it was my first try at a blog and I really wanted to get something up quickly to see what I could achieve. Surprisingly I was rather successful within the first month and now I am finding my site has a number of issues and just is not what I wanted. So I too plan on redesigning my site (Maybe inline with the CSS Reboot?) however moving has made that hard at the current time…

    Good luck on your redesign, and keep up the quality articles!

  • Vandelay Design, March 12, 2008

    Chip,
    Good point, the design does have a reflection on the owner or the business. Thanks.

    Zinni,
    I think a lot of bloggers are in this position. We just have to keep working and we’ll get there.

  • Verne, March 12, 2008

    The design of a site can definitely play a significant role in the growth and success of the site itself, but really only when it’s paired with other important elements like quality content. It’s sort of like how a great designer (i.e. a great site design) can’t succeed that long without a strong sense of business (i.e. quality content). Likewise, an individual with business skills alone couldn’t run a freelance design practice. But combined together, it seems like the two elements multiply each other’s power and are capable of producing some pretty amazing results. (I hope nobody got lost in that analogy…)

    I like how you said your design should reflect where you want your site to go, or in your case, your content has set the bar for where your design should be. It’s very true and if you can continue to use one to challenge the other, you’ll be in great shape in no time.

    I share the same sentiments based on my personal experience as well. When I was designing the new layout of my blog, I had 44 subscribers. I launched the new design midway through February, and nearly a month later, I now have 124 subscribers. The growth isn’t just due to the redesign either, but it has pushed me to write higher quality articles that have fortunately resonated well in the community.

    So I guess the point I wanted to get across is that while we can debate whether it is design or content that plays a bigger role, I think the reality is that neither one can really do much without the other.

  • Vinh Le, March 12, 2008

    Yeah, I agree with the general feeling here. But one of the problems most bloggers have is that their background is not in web design like most of the people who read web design blogs are. It is pretty easy to take our web design skills and apply it to the design of a blog, but for other bloggers blogging in other areas it is more difficult or often times they require a professional and don’t have enough money from their blog to afford it.

    I have been trying to educate others on blog design and its importance as well. Recently, I have started a blog design 101 series that aims at helping people with their blog designs. I believe it might interest you and your readers Steven.

  • David Williams, March 13, 2008

    Designing a blog depends on the owners choice. It should be designed in such a way that the readers have to be impressed and also be happy in reading. The design should offenly be changed for the satisfaction of the viewers.

  • job, March 13, 2008

    I think a blog shouldn’t have an extreme design with many button in it. Readers love blog that is simple, a user friendly might say. To many unnecessary design, advertisement will make things complicated. Make it simple yet full of info.

  • Ovi Dogar, March 13, 2008

    We all know that we are different in opinions, thoughts…so every owner of a site or blog is creating one in the way he likes,the style he choose, and no matter how sophisticated it looks or not, of course that there will always be someone who may not like it.
    Anyway, the design should look professional, because it has a big impact on your business.

    Ovi Dogar
    AbsoluteCovers

  • Content is King, but the Emperor needs new clothes.

    We changed our blog image and design at the beginning of February. We had a solid blog going with a good subscriber base, but the look was blah and the reader count was stagnating.

    We redesigned and changed the domain name… and suddenly, we shot into the spotlight. Same writers, same content, same tone, same services… Nothing changed but the image.

    We were getting comments from people saying how they see us in a whole new light now and that we’ve definitely conveyed our expertise. But… all we changed was our look. Our expertise was already there.

    Design matters. Definitely. If you want to be taken seriously, be serious about all aspects of your blog and business.

  • Mohsin, March 13, 2008

    It sure does. I can testify to that. I’ve been tweaking my blog design quite often and every time I improve an important element, I see a positive change in overall visitor activity.

    As James rightly said, content is king, sure, but wouldn’t a king dressed in rags look like a beggar?

  • Earn Money Online, March 13, 2008

    This is a great blog post. I am currently trying to build my blog to the best of it’s ability. I have been using tips from sites such as yours nd they are very helpful. Keep up the great work.

  • Vandelay Design, March 13, 2008

    Verne,
    Thanks for your response. Yeah, you’re right. The two elements of design and content really have to be there for a blog to get to the top. When you think about the best blogs in any niche, almost all of them have great content plus an attractive design. Thanks also for sharing your personal experience with us.

    Vinh,
    You’re definitely right. Most bloggers are not designers. I think there are enough designers out there that a blogger can get a pretty decent theme for a reasonable amount. I think that premium themes are a great option for bloggers who want to get an improved look without breaking the bank.

    Ovi,
    Yes, you’re right. No design will please everyone. I don’t think that means that we should aim for a quality design (and I don’t think you believe this either).

    James,
    That’s a great line, I like it. You blog seems to be mentioned everywhere the last few months, so I can absolutely see what you are saying. That’s really interesting to hear the dramatic results that you got from changing a theme. Thanks for sharing.

    Mohsin,
    Yes, I have seen your blog change over a period of time. I like the fact that you make fairly minor and subtle changes that improve the design without making it feel foreign to your readers.

  • Laxman Bhattarai, March 14, 2008

    It’s Good i like it…

    Laxman Bhattarai

  • Biodun, March 14, 2008

    The design of a blog helps to create a pleasurable experience that is memorable, which helps your branding a lot and makes your message last longer in your reader’s mind or the other way round making displeasing blog designs more memorable of course but that which will hurt your message and reputation.
    So as to say either the design or content over weight each other, a blog should be effective, dynamic, simple in design depending on the niche and then with unique content.

  • fizetés és állás, March 14, 2008

    we wrote our own blog engine and it is quite nice as well (:

    I personally like nice looking blogs better

    but sometimes so awfully designed blogs are successful, that surely not everyone takes care

  • Fabian van Luyn, March 15, 2008

    I definitely think that a great design has really positive effects on a blog. A blog needs to be nice to look at. Some blogs have nice articles but there not read much because the design is disturbing or just ungly.

    The typographic part of the design is also very important. If a font is just too small or the contrast is too low, you have hindrance reading the text.

    I cannot really speak from my own experience, since I just started a blog two months ago. I took that opportunity to restyle my whole website. I’m quite confident with my design and I hope it can take me to the next level of blogging succes.

  • Sahara, March 17, 2008

    The design is what you see first and if it doesn’t appeal to you then you probably will disregard most of the content. Not to say that the content isn’t important either, because it is.

  • david Williams, March 19, 2008

    ya,I think it’s really true and i go with this post.But one should have a complete knowledge of web designing in order to succeed in this area.

  • skip, March 20, 2008

    i think design should be simple and easy to understand.
    no need to look hype or what else.list the important such a big point.

  • Optimized web design, April 10, 2008

    We tried to promote one new service web design easy to index for search engines.

  • I believe that design plays a significant role in yor blogs success. We cant miss the fact that it is also a factor in getting more visitors. Beautifully designed blogs gets more respect and sometimes provide some kind of ruling to visitors especially for commentors to provide quality reviews for the site. but bloggers and site owners should also take into consideration the loading time of the site or blog simply because not all users have decent connections which will lead to visitors leaving your site. Well thats just my opinion.Thanks.