When you start a blog it's easy to feel intimated with all the options: blog designers, graphic designers, fonts, colors, themes, oh and that whole writing process. I remember, when I first started my blog I had the ugliest blogging template you've ever seen. It was bright blue and splattered with images and links and polka dots.
I just wanted to set up shop, so to say, so I could focus on the important part: writing. That should be what we want to work on anyway! I spent hours upon hours, sleepless nights (and even part of work) trying to make my blog look professional. But it still looked like this:
While this isn't terrible, I can tell you I spent hours upon hours of creating and then implementing this. If I knew then what I know now, I could have saved myself so much time and effort! Today I wanted to write a post on how you can create a blog that looks professional without spending tons of time and money.
Use a Custom Domain
When you have a blog you want to make it easy and memorable for people to find you. Having a custom domain kills two birds with one stone. You can get them for as little as $3! Not only does this look good, this gives you instant credibility without setting you back monetarily.
GoDaddy is a great find for custom domains that work seamlessly with your blog.
Buy a Template
There are some great blogging templates you can buy online that you can simply import yourself. As soon as you upload them, you have a professional clean design. I love these templates and they are so inexpensive.
I recommend starting with a lower priced template because as you blog, your tastes will change. I don't recommend starting out with an expensive designer (or template) because eventually you'll want to tweak how things look. When I first started Helene in Between it was actually called "Do Dallas Cheap." Once I started blogging I realized my true passion and purpose and so my blog changed with me. Make sure you leave room (and budget) to grow and change.
Design it Yourself
If you have a basic understanding of HTML and CSS you can design your own. This usually takes the most amount of time and effort and can go wrong. But if you know what you're doing, go for it. I always suggest a clean design. Especially when you start out. Keep it clean and this will work better for you and look much more favorable when you first start.
Use a Platform That Does it For You
I've mentioned some of the benefits of Squarespace but one that I truly love is that you look like a professional blogger, instantly. With multiple templates to choose from and drag and drop design, they make it fool-proof to have a blog that looks (and works) properly.
In addition, I'm a sucker for blog posts where all the image widths match up, Squarespace does this for you automatically. Also, when you decide you want to add a tab or remove an image or change up your sidebar, you can do this easily (and on your own!) with Squarespace.
Have The Right Pages
I need to know how to contact you and who you are. So many people look over the "about me" page, but it's the number 2 page people go to (after your home page). So make sure it's easy to find and easy to read. I always prefer about pages that direct me to somewhere else, or somehow, keep the conversation going.
Set up Commenting
No one wants to have to confirm their contact details, make sure they aren't a robot, or jump through hoops to leave a comment on your blog. Set up your comment system so that the majority of your readers can comment. A great option? Disqus.
Along with that, make sure you're not a "no reply commenter". That means you leave a comment (typically on a blogger blog) and it goes no where since the blog author can't respond. Here's an excellent tutorial on how to ensure you're a "do reply" commenter.
Make Your Photos Pop
You can tell almost instantly when someone is a newbie blogger: their photos are all wonky. Either grainy or blurry or just sized all wrong, or all of the above. A quick fix is to make sure all your photos are the same width. Edit your photos to make sure they are up to snuff. Don't want to pay (or learn) Photoshop? No problem. Check out A Complete Guide to Editing Photos without Photoshop.
Make Small Tweaks
It's crazy how small changes can make a huge difference to the look and feel of your blog. For instance, make sure your blog post title comes before your blog name. Check out how to do this in a snap (and why you should!).
Add a favicon (that's the small square graphic that shows up in the tab of a browser). It helps to have a favicon to look professional, instantly. Squarespace makes it super simple (just upload and go) but here's a quick tutorial for a blogger blog.
Make sure you offer a "search bar" so that people can find specific information on your blog. I suggest adding it to your Navigation bar (the bar that links to your various pages; ex. About me, Popular Posts, etc.) or on your sidebar.
So there you have it. I really think these 8 changes help your look like a professional blogger, without having to spend a fortune.
Want more? Check out 10 Things Every Successful Blog Needs