The second part in my Blogging Design Tips! You can see the first part which is about choosing a theme here. I want to try and keep this post as short and concise as possible so I’ll just be going into what I feel like are the most important parts of your theme. Like I said in the Choosing A Theme post it’s all subjective; not everyone is going to like the same things, but hopefully I can help offer a few tips if you’re not really sure where to start!
Every theme will have different customisaton options, but the basic idea should be the same for all of them. Also, this is based on WordPress. I’m not sure how much you can get from this if you use Blogger, but hopefully there’s some general tips again that you can find useful. I figured the easiest way is to start from top to bottom so let’s go….
Titles & Header Images
I’m not going to go into the actual designing of a header image in this post (because that’s a potential post for later), but the main thing you need to keep in mind is the header size especially if you have a free account. If you have access to CSS customisation you can be more flexible in this area, but if you have a Free Plan then it’s really important to make sure your header is the size the theme suggests.
A header is one of the first things people see when looking at your blog so I really recommend having something there. Even if it is just a stock photo.
If you’re uploading a header image that you designed I highly suggest turning off the Display Site Title and Tagline. I still recommend putting something in the boxes though because I’m pretty sure this is what Google uses when it indexes your blog.
The Navigation Bar
A navigation bar (along with a sidebar) is one of the most important parts of a good theme! If people don’t have an easy way to access your content then it’s going to be a lot harder for them to see if they should follow you.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is set up a new menu. You can do that by clicking on “Add a menu“. You can call it whatever you want I just use “Main Navigation” because that’s what it is? Haha.
Once you’ve added that menu you’re going to want to go into it so you can add different links and pages. Make sure you have the location set to “Primary Menu” because that’s the one that’s at the top of the page. If your theme allows it you can also add footer menus and social media menus.
Clicking on “Add Items” brings up a list of all your pages, categories and tags. You can use ones you’ve already set up (by clicking on the category heading) or you can create your own custom links.
It’s a bit more complicated but I recommend taking advantage of the drop down menu feature that’s built into nearly all WordPress themes. Not all links on your navigiation bar need to have drop down options, but I think more category based ones like reviews ect. should. The menu builder in the theme is relatively easy to drag and drop. Drag links under other links to make a drop down. For example on my own blog I use it so people can find my reviews by specific ratings. It’ll look something like this:
If you have a theme were you use a custom front page instead of blog posts please please please have a “blog” link that shows ALL your posts. It’s a lot more helpful than just having ones that only shows reviews ect.
Another super important part of your blog! If your theme doesn’t have a sidebar that’s fine. There’s no rule to say you need one, but I really suggest having one so you can include information like a welcome message, social media links ect.
Definitely take advantage of WordPress’s Widget features. There’s a lot of cool things in there. The ones I use the most are the Text Widget because it’s like a blank space that you can put whatever you want in. You can also use basic HTML in these boxes.
There’s a widget for Social Media links, but I like using the Text Widget for these because it gives me more control and I can add more than just the basic Twitter and Facebook. I use a website called flaticon and some HTML code.
<a href=”social media url“><img src=”image url“></a>
which is what resulted in the way my social media section on my blog looks:
The above HTML is also what you use if you want to add separate images or text links. To get an image url then once you’ve uploaded it to WordPress click on the edit button and copy this:
Past it in between the “” marks in the IMG tag.
This works the same way for links instead you just copy the web address so it’d be:
<a href=”website url“>text</a>
HTML can be kind of confusing, but I really think you should learn your basics because it’s interesting and very useful! If you guys would like a post solely on some basic HTML that you can use in posts then let me know because I’d be happy to try and put something together! Otherwise go give Code Academy a vist!
Fonts, Colors & Backgrounds
If you’re going to use a background image I recommend using one that’s very subtle. A good site for free, subtle backgrounds is Subtle Patterns. Otherwise I suggest using a flat colour and something’s that an off white or light grey or something pale/pastel if you want more colour.
With fonts I recommend a serif or sans-serif (just your basic defualt print looking ones) one over a script one just because it’s easier for people to read. You could potentially use a script font for headings.
Unfortunately, free accounts don’t have a lot of customisation when it comes to colours or fonts.
Footers aren’t necessary but can be useful for putting things on your blog without cluttering up your sidebar. If you’re not sure then the Footer is what appears at the bottom of the page under the main content. So this is the footer of my blog:
Footers work the same way as the sidebar and you can add all the same widgets. If you have a Bookstagram or want to show some (again, not all) of your Awards then I think this is the perfect place to do that. All themes are different but in my theme each Footer represents a new column.
Theme Options & Featured Content
I won’t be going into either of these too much because each theme has different options. If your theme allows Featured Content you can input a tag that you’ve used like “reviews” and those posts will be displayed usually at the top of the blog. I think this is a really cool feature, but for some reason it just doesn’t work for me?
Theme Options normally lets you control how your posts look. You can sometimes choose options as to whether you want to display categories, tags and featured images!
Things to Remember:
- All themes have different options.
- At the end of the day it’s your theme. Customise it how you want.
- If you want to play around more with all the settings without affecting your blog create a test blog.
- DON’T HIT SAVE UNTIL YOU’RE 100% CERTAIN!!!!!!!
- Still stuck? WordPress has some Tutorials that probably explain this way better than I have.
What’s been your experience with customising your theme? Do you just use the default settings or do you explore all the options?
Next up in the series: Posts, Pages, Categories & Tags
I hope you’re all having a fantastic day!