Mes amis, you may have noticed the blog layout changed again.
I know, I know! I promised I would stop this. I promised I would settle. I really, really loved my header, after all, and now I can’t use it. And what about all those pretty featured images people would compliment me on? I have a lot of reasons for switching the layout… but I don’t want to talk about my reasons.
Today, I want to talk about blog layouts in general. I want to discuss the importance of a visually appealing layout, while balancing something that is functional for you. While I don’t have the proof (I’m not so nostalgic I take pictures of old layouts), I’m actually quite an expert at blog-layout-changing-forever-ness: The Literary Phoenix has seen about 12 layout changes since inception in 2010.
So lets talk blog layouts!
Choosing a blog style that speaks to YOU.
You would think that this is the easiest part, but it’s not.
Everyone has a unique signature. You have to let your style fly so that your blog is a place you want to be. Are you uncomfortable in pencil skirts and stiff blouses? Then maybe a sleek, business-like blog layout isn’t you. Do you abhor too much color in your world? Maybe you need something minimalist. Are you quirky and random? Then your blog should be, too. It has to reflect your soul, even if it feels a little weird.
The worst thing you can do for your blog is make it look like everybody else’s. This is a hard lesson learned, especially for new bloggers. It’s really tempting to copy the style of another blog, especially a popular one that you love and respect. For example – the watercolor on white style is super popular in the bookish world of blogging. If that style suits you, then go for it! But don’t do it because you think it’ll make you instantly famous.
Choosing a style that intrigues your readers.
People are shallow, and I say that with all the love in my heart. Unless you blog is focused on serious data and facts, you need something that allows for imagery. And, unless you are coding this layout yourself, you may want to take a look at how images populate for the themes you’re considering.
- You probably want something that gives you plenty of room for an image in the header.
- You want something with featured images.
- You want something with nice looking in-line images.
Readers need that mental break in the middle of long posts. Beautiful images will make people smile and brighten their day, but even if you’re just using stock images or book covers… you want to make sure it looks nice.
Some things to think about when you’re choosing a layout and noticing how images work:
- Can you use featured images? These populate on archive and search pages, as well as on blog layouts with a gallery-formatted front page (like mine).
- How do in-line images appear? For example, there’s a bunch of blog layouts out there that put an outline on the image space. That drives me crazy. Is that something you want?
- Can you use galleries for multiple images?
- Do images automatically resize to fit within your body space, or do they hold their original dimensions?
If your layout manages as much coding-related joys for you as possible, your life as a blogger will be easier and you can use an image heavy layout. Everyone wins!
Choosing a functional layout.
In car purchases, fancy dresses, and blog layouts, it’s sometimes difficult to remember to look for something that is well suited to your time and abilities as well as being totally gorgeous. That wedding gown may be stunning, but can you actually breathe? It’s the little things that matter. You need to be able to manage whatever you’ve chosen.
Realistically, if your layout requires you to take LOADS of REALLY INCREDIBLE photographs, but you don’t feel you’re a strong photographer, that may not be the best layout for you.
If your layout looks better with custom featured images for every post, but you don’t have a graphics program, or you don’t have the time, then maybe that layout isn’t the best for you.
If you want to use widgets, but your layout doesn’t have a sidebar so you’ve been loading them all into the footer, out of sight, then maybe that layout isn’t for you.
So which layout should you use?
There is no one right answer, no formula to the perfect blog! The layout and your happiness with it will depend on you. Some people pick a layout on day one and stick with it forever – others will change it every 3-6 months (hi!). For some, there may always be that one little thing that doesn’t work. And that’s okay. Here’s some thoughts on that.
Use plugins: If you’re on a self-hosted WordPress site, plugins are your best friends! I think I have 24 activated right now, and they do everything from auto-generate pretty layouts for my reviews (UBB <3) to protect my blog from ridiculous spam comments (yes, I know I don’t monetize my blog, thanks tho!). I’m not fluent in Blogspot, but I’m sure there’s something similar.
Preview themes before activation: Trust me, the last thing you want to do is change your blog layout and start updating all your old posts to discover that you hate it.
Customize as much as you can: Even the most basic blog layout will give you a couple color options and allow for a custom header or widget. Leverage these options to give your blog some unique pizzazz.
Own it: This is your blog layout, and if you’re like me, you’ve put hours of work into the darn thing. So instead of looking for all the little ways you can improve it, give yourself a high five.
It is amazing and you’ve worked so hard and it is beautiful and YOU.
How long did it take you to pick your blog layout?
How many times have you changed your layout?
What’s your favorite part of your layout?