Finding an excellent blog designer is like looking for a needle in a hay stack. Yet your blog design is one of the key factors influencing your reader’s decision on whether to stay or go. Do not take your blog design lightly – put an extra time, thought and research into it before committing yourself, your blog (and sometimes your money too!) to something that is just short of being the best of the best.
? What to look out for?
✏️ Pre-made vs custom template
You can either get a cheaper ready-made template which you just download and install (or have it installed by the designer if you prefer that – this is usually a free service) or you can request a custom template. Depending on how much customisation you require the prices will vary. A designer can charge anything from £30 to £1,000s depending on what you’re looking for. But then that is the price you’re paying for a unique template that no one else will have. I can’t tell you which one is a better choice, both of them have their pros & cons (which I can cover in another post if you want me to – just leave a comment below please!) however please do consider this carefully and weight out the price vs customisation value.
✏️ Blogger vs WordPress
Please please please do check whether the template is compatible with your host before committing your money to it. It happens so incredibly often that people buy a template because they like the look of it but only once downloaded they realise it isn’t compatible with their blog’s host.
✏️ Changes & reviews
When buying a custom design check with your designer how the reviews and changes work. Once you’ve drafted what you’re looking for you usually scan it (when hand-drawn) and send it to your designer for initial proof. They tell you whether what you’re looking for is feasible or not. After a few days (or weeks, depending on your designer’s availability) you will receive a demo. This is a link to a demo website where you will see what your design is going to look like. You can request changes to be made to this prior to installation on your own blog. Once installed you still have a number of changes you can request – it is crucial for you to know how many reviews are included in the price – as any additional changes will be charged separately. There’s no shame in asking, you’re the customer after all!
Another point that’s very important to clarify at the start. If the template (pre-made or custom) offers a free installation take it! Please take it! Losing your whole blog for a bit of pride just ain’t worth it. The designer can also tweak things like your Instagram feed and image size accordingly (which would take you hours upon hours whilst frantically Googling all possible and impossible tutorials). Whilst your new blog design is being installed you can either choose for your blog to stay live or to be shut down for maintenance for a couple of hours. This is completely up to you however it is an important factor to consider as you would potentially lose some traffic.
✏️ Site organisation
As I’ve already mentioned in SEO 2017 for bloggers site organisation is incredibly important. A great blog designer will give you the best advice on where to place follow icons and what to place above the fold based on their experience but ultimately this is your responsibility. Make sure it’s easy to navigate the different topics you cover – a list of categories needs to be at the top or on a side, your follow icons need to be easy to find, your about & contact page need to be accessible via one click. Everything else is 2-3 clicks away, that’s the general rule to go by.
✏️ Creativity & uniqueness
In the world where everyone & their cat (literally) have a blog it’s imperative to have a blog design that differs from the other 432802195604832 blogs. Of course, your content and photography will set you apart however adding something unique about your blog design will just reinforce that you’re one of a kind. Shaun always tells me that all blogs he sees me read are just white background and little white squares with handwritten text and photos with white backgrounds, gold ribbons and lipsticks. I mean, he’s kinda right isn’t he? There’s nothing wrong with being mainstream, crisp white blogs are absolutely gorgeous however if you’re looking for a design that will make you stand out say this to your designer and work together to come up with something unique.
Another important factor of SEO 2017 for bloggers is responsiveness. Check your Google Analytics and you’ll know that a huge chunk of your traffic is coming from mobile devices. Just remember how many times have you been reading a lipstick review whilst standing in an aisle in Superdrug? How many times have you stumbled upon a travel blog whilst finding your way around Birmingham? How many times have you followed a Spaghetti Carbonara recipe off a blog? Be 100% sure that your mobile responsiveness is top notch – no glitches, no mistakes, no dead ends. It’s vital!
✏️ Ease of self-management
Check with your designer prior to committing to a template whether it’s easy to manage. When you want to add a category – is it easy to do? When you want to change the font – is this something you can do yourself or will you need to fork out additional money for this a few months down the line? Can you change links within your follow icons easily? This can all add up to extra cost if your template is not easily tweakable.
✏️ SEO optimisation
One thing that not many designers are familiar with and you should bring to their attention prior to buying their template is SEO optimisation. It’s crucial for your header tags to be set up correctly and for the coding of the template to be optimised – otherwise you could be facing being de-listed from Google results without even realising or doing something wrong.
? Where to find a great blog designer (& also your inspiration)?
✏️ Etsy (click here)
Simply searching for a ‘blog template’ will give you a good range of both WordPress & Blogger blog templates (pre-made), most of them ranging from £10 to £35. The way I like to use Etsy is for gathering inspiration and finding creative artists I like. Then I usually search their profile for a link to their full portfolio or a website. This gives you much more of an idea what they can (and also cannot) do.
✏️ Creative Market (click here)
I use Creative Market in a very similar way I use Etsy – for gathering inspiration and leads. Even searching for something along the lines of ‘blog logo’. Or just ‘blogger’ will give you a solid list of potential blog designers you could work with.
✏️ Pinterest (click here)
The same old, same old. Search for blog designs, blog templates, blogger packs. The advantage of using Pinterest over the two sources I’ve already mentioned above is the ability to browse pin boards they’ve come from. Chances are there will be a lot more inspiration for you already gathered by someone else. What a win!
✏️ Facebook Groups
Facebook Groups are on the rise – they’re bigger than ever. Especially those run by entrepreneurs helping bloggers & small businesses grow their blogs & followings. You can usually sign up to them via a newsletter subscription (the owner will send you a link) or there might even be a link to them on their website. My favourite is Melyssa’s (her website is here). There’s so many talented creatives in that group. And you can always just throw in the question, it won’t cost you a penny so why not?!
✏️ Other blogs
Another easy way to find a blog designer you might like is simply scrolling to the bottom of your favourite blog. You will usually find a signature of the blog designer who’s created the blog at the bottom. It’s kind of like a signature at the bottom of a painting. And you usually have to part with a good chunk of money to have it removed (which I still think is kind of unfair on the designer!).
✏️ Idthed.com (click here)
If everything else fails (or to start with really) go on idthed.com & slot in your favourite blog’s URL. It will give you information on who designed their template and even what host they are using. This website lists hundreds of different blogs covering various topics and is super easy to use. It also gives you an idea of what your chosen designer is capable of on real life blogs – and perhaps whether it’s worth investing into a custom design from them or whether all their work looks pretty much the same!