Hey friends! This is Missy of Gnarly Gnails, and today I am going to share with you some of my favorite tips and "secrets" for making your blog pop in a sea of blogs.
This will be MOSTLY a conversation for people who run their blogs through the Blogger platform since that is what I am personally most familiar with. It is also the hardest to customize, whereas with Wordpress you get a lot of easy plugins that do the work for you.
First I'm going to start off showing you a few blogs that I think are very well done, easy to navigate and overall just have a very clean feel to them:
drinkcitra - I love the simplicity here. White background, no clutter. simple sidebar and top menu bar navigation with nothing hindering it. I also really love her logo, how it's one word with two fonts. Very classy.
lacquer: the best medicine - top sticky navigation menu is one of my favorite things. It's always there to help you move on to other topics. Sidebar is clean and easy to understand.
oh three oh four - great, bright color scheme without being crazy, clean background and easy to understand sidebar and top navigation. Search is also right at the top.
pimyko - less simplistic in nature, but this blog has cute down pat! I love how the background and header design share the same aesthetic and the overall color scheme is calming and also fits the theme of the blog. She has since changed her layout. =(
polish fixation - another fabulous example of cohesive background and header combinations without being busy or over the top. Love how the sidebar icons match the theme also.
so nailicious - quite possibly one of my favorite blogs to visit, just for the sake of how classy and streamlined it looks. Everything is right on top where you can't miss it.
the nailasaurus - I've seen this blog go through many a facelift, this is by far my favorite. Clean and simple. No bells and whistles, just the bare bones, making it easy to find whatever you are looking for and really making the posts the focus.
So those are some of the blogs I really enjoy seeing. They all keep a focus on their posts and not all the filler.
Like most things you get inspiration from, it's good to start off finding blogs you like, making a list of things you like from each one, and then blending them together to help make your own unique identity online. Never steal/copy though. Just become inspired.
Now let's talk about some of the things you can do to make your blog more personal, easier to navigate, cleaner, or all of the above.
Header - clear, easy to read and thin. One thing I really don't like in a blog is a header that takes up every bit of space on my screen to where I have to scroll to see any of the content. Your header is merely a small idea of what your blog is, it doesn't need to pack in all the info right away, and therefore there is really no reason it should be so huge. Ever.
Create a clear and defined navigation area. Whether it be at the top above or right below your header, or off on the sidebar - find a place you'd like it, and put the majority of your links there. It's not easy navigating a page where there are links thrown all over the place. Navigation is defined as your links like blogroll, about me, disclosure. Even things like your links to facebook, twitter, etc can be combined together with these.
A well defined sidebar and post area. Don't make your sidebar and post area be really close together and so smashed up against one another that it becomes hard to tell what is what. If need be, use a divider bar, they come standard on most blogger templates.
Within the realm of defined sidebar, if you want your areas on the sidebar to really pop and be easy to read and navigate, it doesn't hurt to create graphic images for each section within your sidebar. If you've got a blogroll there, make a nice easy to read image that says BLOGROLL right above it so it stands out. Do this all the way down and you will find you have a nice directory of easy to find information.
If you want to get your readers to follow you at one or more places, put them all together. If they want to know where to find you, make it easy for them. If you use links for your follow options in a place where others may not work (ie if you have your follow links for fb, bloglovin, etc in your top menu but you might also have an option for people to follow you via GFC which would obviously not fit in a top menu bar, make two areas. One for the top with your links and then put those same follow links for fb, twitter, etc down with the gfc follow option.) One well defined location is ideal, but two locations won't hurt as long as they are united.
Make sure the date headers and items that fit between each blog post are defined and don't blend in with the posts themselves. This will make it easier to decipher where each post starts and ends.
Sliders - a slider is a slideshow of images that scroll through featured content. In general these are customizable, stylized widgets that you create to point readers to specific posts you would like them to visit while they're there. A simple google of "slider for blogger" will bring you some results on how to create one. They are not the easiest to install, but well worth the effort.
Google Fonts - here you have the option to download from hundreds of fonts for use on your own computer. This works great for making graphics for your blog. The reason it's great is that you can also install these same fonts into your blog so you aren't stuck using the same crappy Georgia font. This makes your theme tie together even more when your blog post font matches your sidebar graphics or header graphics fonts. Just make sure it is easy to read! When you are in Google Fonts each font has install instructions for adding the font to your blog.
Jump Links and Bottom Navigation Links - for some simple updates that make a nice stylistic difference, try taking the links at the bottom of your posts that say Next, or Previous, or Home and turning them into graphics! Again, a quick google of "home next previous image links blogger" will get you some tutorials on how to do it. Jump Links are the links that appear when you have chosen to "put your post behind a cut" like we used to say in the 90s. Would you like your "read more" link to be more stylish? Create a graphic and then google how to change your jump link from text to a graphic!
Search - nothing bothers ME more than going to a blog and looking for something and there is NO SEARCH BAR! As a blog owner you may not realize how important it is, but as a reader, it IS. You never know what people are doing on your blog, you certainly can't expect them to web surf the same way you do. So make sure and use the standard blogger search bar widget, or create your own to be more in sync with your theme. Google it!
Secondary Search options - as with search, there are other ways people like to surf around your blog. You don't need to have them all, but please have at least one. Search, obviously. Also you can add things like a directory, which shows all of yours posts in a hierarchy by month or week for all of your blogging history. You can also have a keyword section, if you use utilize keywords. These are also things that will draw people in to stay on your blog longer.
More than ONE call to action - as I touched on a bit with the follow thing - it is OK to have more than one link to something without going overboard. For example - have an Instagram link in your top navigation menu, but also throw in an Instagram photo widget in your sidebar! It's a sneaky way to make sure they don't forget to follow you on Instagram! You're setting another call to action without hitting them over the head with it.
Pinterest - this is a big, global interest of many, most of which are your key demographic. Make sure and make it easy for them to promote you by having a "Pin It" button on your images. There are plenty of places to find the information necessary to get these overlaid on your post images so people can just mouseover your picture and click "Pin It" and add it to their boards. Free advertising. Why not make that happen as easy as possible, right? Google "pinterest pin it overlay"
Scroll Up - if you are a wordy blogger, or like to show 25 pictures of your nails, why not make it easy for people to get back to the top with a scroll up button? It's just a tiny button that sits at the bottom corner of your blog and scrolls it right back to the top of the page when they're done reading. There is even one right here on this blog... Try googling "scroll up button for blogger"
Hiding things! - Do you have a slider already? Or maybe you have ads? Are they intruding on your whole blog? Would you like the slider to only welcome people to your homepage, and not every single blog post, making it hard to load your posts? Or maybe you want your ads to only show on posts and not the homepage? Well, it can be done! Any widget you have set up on your blog can be hidden. You can hide a widget from only the homepage, or have it shown only on the homepage. And there are other options too. Maybe you only want a widget to show up in mobile view! It can be done! Just google "hide widget on blogger homepage" and you should get a tutorial on how to do any of those things.
SHARE - Get people to do the work for you! Like with the Pin It button, why not get some share buttons right there at the bottom of every single post you've worked so hard on, so that when someone likes it, they can click a button and share it on any number of social media for all of their friends to see. Sites like ADDTHIS can make these for you, or you can google tutorials for more customized options.
Make them stay! - Drive more traffic to other pages on your site by adding things on your sidebar like "top 10 posts", or try Link Within or NRelate to get a related posts widget to run at the bottom of your posts that shows similar topics you've written about! Make your blog NAVIGABLE!
Stumped for inspiration on how you want your blog to look? Try looking at design blogs and websites. Go to their resumes. Find resumes of people who work on blogs and see what they're doing. See whats IN style. Take notes. I love the blog Creative Bloq for getting all kinds of design ideas!
On the topic of IN style - make sure you create ideas that are classic and not trendy. I've fallen into this trap many a time, and it's why I've have a good 20 facelifts in the 2+ years I've been blogging. Take your time thinking about your colors and style, make sure it's something you will like 6 months from now. Use colors you like, but not colors you will be sick of seeing next week.
BRAND YOURSELF - Pick a name, again, make sure its something you can live with! Nothing worse than deciding on a name and realizing a year later you hate it or it no longer fits with what you are blogging about! It also doesn't hurt to do a quick google and make sure no one else is using it, especially in the same "genre" of blogging as you. Once you feel safe with your choice - grab that name across all social media. Get yourself a Facebook fan page with that name, a twitter account, an Instagram name, etc. Its probably a good idea to make sure they're all available before you commit to it. If you think you're gonna be in it for the long haul, go ahead and purchase a domain name, too. They're about 8 bucks a year.
REALLY BRAND YOURSELF - now that you've got the name - get that logo! Create a logo that is part you and part your content. Make it so that when people come to your site, the logo almost says it all. Make it easy to read at any size and once you're happy with it, splatter it all over your social media sites as your avatar. Make people know its you when they see that image.
INSPIRATION - as I said before, look around and get inspired by other bloggers and what they've done. Get ideas on how you would like YOUR blog to be. Maybe they have a great menu bar, or a really cool search bar. Jot those ideas down and reinvent them to fit your own theme and style. Think of what you as a reader like to see on other blogs and make sure you insert those into your design.
Now that we've got the ideas portion out of the way - I bet you think I'm taking the easy way out by just telling you to GOOGLE IT, right? Well, that's how I learned. I have been designing web and graphics for longer than I've done anything else in my life (basically 20 years of hobby design) and every thing I know, I learned by a search engine. Anything you need is out there. But I have compiled a list of my go-to resources for design, JUST FOR YOU!
If you are just stuck, or maybe you want something highly stylized without all the work, you're in luck. There are NUMEROUS sites out there with blogger templates that have done all the work for you. These vary from very simple graphics like backgrounds and headers:
Cutest Blog on the Block
Want something more professional? Or more stylized? There are tons of people online who have compiled lists of the best blogger templates. You can google blogger templates, or you can try this epic list:
275+ Best Free Blogger Templates
A great resource for all kinds of coding is bloggersentral. They are my go to for the Pin It button among other things! Another great coding resource is Southern Speakers.
You don't have to be a designer to have a nice blog. Want some cute social media icons, but you can't for the life of you work Photoshop? No worries - plenty of sites out there have done this work for you!
Try these, these, or these!
You can also download social icon FONTS and make your own by simply creating a small graphic with the font. It's as easy as picking the color and typing the letters you want!
Dafont has a great selection of social icon fonts!
Another great coding resource is youtube! Anything from how to do a curved watermark on your images to how to make a logo or code a certain bit of your blog can be found there. Some people learn easier by watching than by reading - youtube it!
If you are in need of color palette inspiration - try Design Seeds!
If you are in need of pattern inspiration - try The Pattern Library!
I hope I didn't leave anything out, or bombard you with too much information! Bookmark this article and come back if you ever need ideas, or you are ALWAYS welcome to email me if you need help or have a question!
PS - before attempting ANY changes to your blog, always create a backup!