Saturday, February 8, 2014

Discussion: The Art of Blog Designing

Today I have three very special guests on the blog. Not only are they certified bookworms and awesome-sauce bloggers but they are also super-talented blog designers.
They are here to to share their expertise on the art of blog designing. Say hello to:

Amelia Robinson of The Authoress and Visualesque

Stephanie of Hopeless Romantics

Mitchii of Aeropapers!
Q1: When did you start designing blogs? And what inspired you to do so?
Amelia: I have been designing blogs as long as I've been blogging so that would be going on five years now.  I was a graphic designer for various sites before I was a blogger, and also I had spent a fair amount of time on RPG sites so I knew a respectable amount of understanding of codes.  I didn't have the money to put towards a custom design (I'm too changeable for that, anyhow) and I couldn't find any pre-made templates that suited me very well.  So I started tinkering.  Well designed blogs made by fantastic designers were my teachers.

StephanieI started designing blogs for other people about a month after I started my own blog, which was August of last year. I started designing blogs because I wanted to practice HTML and CSS for college. I'm currently majoring in web design and computer programming.

MitchiiDesigning blogs for other people just started last December but I’ve been designing my blog since 2010. I was so uncomfortable with pre-made templates. I wanted something that’s totally mine so I decided to learn how to design a wordpress theme and that’s where it all started. When I saw Emily and she wanted a custom made WP theme I decided to help her out. I really didn’t expect that other people will want my services. It was really mind blowing.

Q2: What is your favorite look for book blogs?
AmeliaMy design style is minimalist but that is because I am limited by what I don't know.  But as for the designs I admire, I am a fan of anything and everything that is put together in a logical way.  I say "logical" instead of "non-cluttered" because even cluttered looking designs can look fantastic.

StephanieI do love the cute and colorful book blogs. Honestly, I'm not very picky on the "theme" of your blog as long as it's not cluttered. If I have to wait forever for your sidebar and posts to load, I'm going to hit the backspace button. My favorite blog design would probably be Lit Up Review. 

MitchiiMinimalism accentuated by pastel colors or watercolor elements. I love simple design especially for blogs. Blog is a whole different platform than a normal website. You have to make sure that the content will standout while still leaves a good impression from your visitor. I’m always a big believer of less is more.

Q3: What elements would you consider as 'sidebar essentials'? Is there anything else that you think a blog design MUST include?
Amelia: Always have an About section.  I understand keeping your identity safe online (my name, Amelia Robinson, is a pseudonym) but an About section is crucial.  For sidebars specifically, I consider an About section, an archive, a follower widget, and social media links to be absolutely crucial.  Everything else, in my opinion, is flexible.

Stephanie: Essentials would be-
1. Social Media Icons
2. Following Options(Bloglovin, E-Mail, GFC)
3. Search Bar
4. Grab My Button
Many gadgets can be contained within a menu page. You could have a tour page to store all of your upcoming tour stops and pictures. You could have a challenges page to include all of your challenge buttons and progress. You could store your favorite series banners in your blog archive. 
Also, if you're designing on your own, make sure you include credit links to the artists if they say they require credit.

MitchiiOkay, this is a tough question. I always like to see a brief ‘about me’ like a simple introduction as to what the blog is and who runs it. List of recent post is okay; and maybe ways to follow you, I think. I’m not sure; I don’t mind what you put in there as long as it doesn’t look cluttered.

Q4: What is the production process when you design a blog/website for a client?

Amelia: I just recently launched my custom blog design site so my process is in its infancy.  Right now, I ask that potential clients of mine email me with their request.  I ask them questions specific to the style they want and also whether or not they have anything particular in mind about a certain element (blockquotes, for example).  Once I've got an idea of what you want, I'll send you an invoice.  Once I receive payment, I'll begin designing.  I'll send regular progress reports to make sure I'm going in the right direction.  Once I'm done, you'll make me an admin on your blog, I'll install it, and that's that. 

Stephanie: I used to start by creating a really rough pencil sketch of the overall layout, but I rarely do that anymore. The first thing I do now is brainstorm what the header should look like. Then, I'll go to sites like Etsy and DeviantART to search for resources I can use in the design. Once I have the resources, I'll go to Google fonts and pick the fonts that I want to use throughout the site(max 3).
I usually already know the colors to use because that is something I ask the client to choose. All I need to do is pick specific hues. I open Photoshop and design what the entire blog would look like with 2 posts and a couple gadgets. Then I extract the images from the Photoshop file and save them as individual picture files(png or jpg). Finally, I code. 

MitchiiI always ask the client what he/she wants in the design. I want the design as close as to what the client wants. It’s about translating those elements into a design. From there I send a mock-up design for approval and once the client likes it, I’ll build it. Then I show the live version where we will do some fine tuning until everything’s okay.

Q5: What's your pet peeve when it comes to the layout of a blog/website?

Amelia: Overcrowding.  Newbie and tenure bloggers alike are susceptible to putting so much junk in their sidebars that their blog posts -- what's supposed to be the main attraction -- are buried.  What some bloggers don't realize is that there is not a lot of information that cannot be consolidated and put into an appropriate place that is not the front page of their blog.  Having a priority of information does wonders.

Stephanie: I can't decide on just one, so here are a couple:
1. 3 column layout: you don't need it to keep your gadgets organized. If that is your excuse, you need to start removing gadgets.
2. Too many gadgets: less is more.
3. Blogs that don't have a summary page or jump link in their posts. It's annoying to scroll so far down just to get to your second post. It's also annoying when your scroll bar is so small.

Mitchii: Ginormous header. Like half of my screen is just the header. Big header, depends on the design, will work on websites but I really dislike it when I see it on blogs. It doesn’t matter if it’s the prettiest header I’ve ever seen but I just don’t like how it diverts the attention of the visitor from the content. Messy sidebar comes second.
Georgia or Verdana?
Amelia: I adore both, but Georgia is my go-to.
Blogger or WordPress?
Amelia: Oh God, definitely Blogger.
StephanieBlogger...I'm biased ;)
Mitchii I’ve never tried Blogger so I’m team Wordpress all the way.

Contemporary or Sci-Fi?
Amelia: Not to disgrace Sarah Dessen, but I'd have to go with Sci-Fi.
MitchiiContemporary…I think.
Chocolate Chip Cookies or Blueberry Cheesecake?
AmeliaAha, clever you.  Had they been oatmeal chocolate chip, that would have been the obviously choice, but ordinary chocolate chip lined up against blueberry cheesecake?  Clearly I take the second.
Stephanie Chocolate Chip Cookies! =DDD
MitchiiChocolate Chip Cookies
Twitter or Instagram?
Amelia: I am a frequent user of both, but I'd have to say Twitter because it can easily double for Instagram in a pinch.
Stephanie: Twitter
Mitchii: Instagram. (by just a slight margin). Probably because I love looking at pretty pictures.
Meet Amelia Robinson at Visualesque and The Authoress:
For simple yet stylish blogger designs check out her custom designs. A custom design for $10? It doesn't get better!
Visit her book blog, The Authoress.
Check out her portfolio at Visualesque:
Prefer Twitter? @authoressamelia

Meet Stephanie at Hopeless Romantic:

For a cute, colorful and uncluttered look for your blog check out Stephanie's work!
Visit her book blog, Hopeless Romantics.
Check out her portfolio at Hopeless Romantics
Prefer Twitter? @romantics10

Meet Mitchii at Aeropapers and Sky Circus/The Geeky Pie:

This Wordpress blog designer stands by the rule that less is more. If you are looking for a minimalist look that will put your content on the spotlight, Mitchii's your girl!
Visit her book blog, AEROPAPERS.
Check out her portfolio at The Geeky Pie
Prefer Twitter? @mitchiinism

So over to you guys: What's your favorite for a book blog? Any pet peeves? Have you used any of these talented designers' services?


  1. Oooh, I like this post! I think it's interesting to see everyone's take on design and "must have" sidebar essentials. I think it's interesting that despite their different design aesthetics, they agree on similar things.

    I love minimalism and white. The simpler things are, the better, in my opinion and I love "clean" layouts. For me, my blog design aesthetic goes beyond just blogs, I tend to be attracted to clean, white things and Swedish design (they're *so* good at minimalism).

    1. So glad to hear that you enjoyed it! It's definitely fun to see each person's view on aesthetics.
      Ditto, less is more-I too follow that in every other aspect and not just my blog!

  2. Ooooo thanks for sharing this post, I've been looking to change the look of my blog for a while now, so this was absolutely perfect! Thanks for sharing! :)

    1. You're welcome-I hope you find the perfect look for your blog soon! :)

  3. Stephanie recently did my blog and I absolutely love her design work :) I like clean and simple designs. Cluttered sidebars and colors which are too bright aren't really my thing.

  4. Stephanie recently lended a hand with customizing my IntenseDebate when I made my new design. I'm sort of still considering about the 2 column layout rather than 3.

    Then again, I'm worried about having to go in an edit nearly 400 posts afterwards... (reason why I don't really want to go to a 2 column layout. Call me lazy) >_<

    But honestly, I don't care what a blog looks like. If it's not messy or takes years to load - I have some patience but I guess multi-tasking and seeing other sites doesn't count - then I'm perfectly fine. Plus, it has to be readable. My eyes probably bug out when it's really messy.

    But I AM a minimalist with words though! :D Sort of. This comment being long isn't exactly "minimal" o_o

    ~Sophia @ Bookwyrming Thoughts

  5. Very informative and useful post! :D I've committed a few design slip ups by having a pretty big header image, oops! :(

    But I agree that a sidebar shouldn't have too many things on it, if it makes my comp lag with each new page, I get wary. It also sucks when a blog's text doesn't contrast well with the background and it makes my eyes hurt. :|

  6. I can definitely relate to Stephanie the most because I'm going to school for web design as well, and pretty much doing designs just so I can have more practice with code. Fun post! I've seen designs by all three of these ladies and they are awesome!

  7. I have to say that I've worked with both Stephanie and Mitchii before! They are both such talented and wonderful designers! :) I like to vary my designs depending on my mood, but the clean, simple and pastel designs are my favourite <3
    This was such a wonderful post! :D Thank you for sharing! :)

  8. Nice post! I was pretty much what the three girls described in the pet peeve section but I've never had an enormous header probably because I've never been able to design anything on my own. It took me a while to get out of the template funk but I got help with a friend. I wish I knew as much about blog design and html as these girls. I wouldn't know where to start.

  9. Love this post ;) I love getting to know other designers and hearing what they think of design aspects. This is a great post you've put together and thank you for asking me to be part of it!

  10. Loved this post! I really admire blog designers! I find it so complicated to design your own layout and stuff..

  11. What a great post! I'm a minimalist in general, but I don't mind different kinds of blog designs as long as they load quickly and I can leave a comment without a huge amount of hassle.

    Thanks so much for stopping by! Jen @ YA Romantics


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