Hello to my fellow Raining Umbrella students! As Vicki mentioned, I’ll be contributing to the blog design lesson and will be available to answer your questions afterwards. The tips below are add-ons to the interview with Rachel Follett from Lovely Clusters, so I recommend reading that article first ;)
Why is it important for artists/designers/photographers to have a blog?
In addition to it being a great place to showcase your work, having a blog adds a personal touch to your website. Your viewers get to know who you are and what inspires you.
Posting regularly to your blog is also great for search engine optimisation and getting yourself out there on the web! I won’t go into too much detail with SEO here (that would be a whole article in itself!), but you can read more on seo tips for your blog.
An aesthetically pleasing blog
You want your website to be easy to navigate and easy for your viewers to read. Don’t try to design a cutting edge website layout just to stand out from the crowd as these designs usually come across as amateurish (you don’t want to stand out for the wrong reason).
You don’t need to be an expert web designer though to have an aesthetically pleasing blog – simplicity is key. Choose a simple, clean template and add your own banner and buttons to make it uniquely your own. A clean design will make your blog look less cluttered and allow your blog photos and portfolio pieces to really stand out.
Also keep colours and font choices to a minimum (usually a maximum of 2-3 fonts is recommended).
Planning for your design
I like to look at things from a functional point of view before thinking about design. You first need to define what the focus of your blog will be, who your intended audience will be, and what you want to add to your site.
Think about what kind of blog layout you would like and why this would work for you. For example, before you decide on how many sidebars you want, ask yourself, “What do I want in my sidebars?”. Sidebar items might include:
- About bio
- Favorite links
- RSS and social media icons
- Post categories and archives
- Featured or popular posts
- Newsletter signup box
- Search bar
If you only decide to add social media icons to your sidebar, then you probably wouldn’t want a layout with a left and right sidebar!
As a starting point, I recommend taking a look at blogs that you really like and make notes on what features they have and what would work for your blog.
These website notes will be extremely useful for you to refer to if you choose to design the blog yourself, or you can send these through to your web designer to give them an idea of what you are after.
Optimising your blog
Once you have your website up and running, there are a few things you can do to keep everything running smoothly:
- Try to keep plugins and widgets to a minimum. Remove any plugins that you are not really using as these can slow your website down.
- Resize your images before you upload them to your website to reduce file size. Large images can make your pages take longer to load. If you do not have an image editing tool such as Photoshop, you can find a free image optimiser and resizing tool online, like this one.
- Always add keywords into the description and available text fields (called ‘Alt’ text) when adding images to your blog post. This makes your images more search-friendly and can even assist visually impaired users.
If you are interested in designing your own website, I also highly recommend Jo Klima’s Your Darling Blog course, which is a 6 week workshop on how to design your own custom blog. You do need a copy (and a little knowledge) of Photoshop though.
Q&A: your turn
Thanks for reading – I hope you find some of the extra tips above useful for your blog. I’ll be online from 2.00pm PST onwards on Monday Nov 12, so if you have any questions you can add them to the comments section below.