When I first started this blog I was on a serious shoe string budget which meant I had to take designing into my own hands. I would spend hours upon hours searching through Google trying to figure out small things I could do to help my blog look decent. Fast forward 8 months later and I feel like I FINALLY have a design that is me with a professional look. Since I'm sure I'm not the only one on a budget I figured I'd offer up some DIY blog design tips that helped me a long the way! FIY: I'm using self-hosted Wordpress for this blog so some things may be only for Wordpress users but I'm sure Blogger offers some things that are similar. 1.Pick a free theme and customize it. When I first started (and for the first 6 months of this blog) I used the free Forever theme that I found on the Wordpress.org site. They have a ton of free themes available for download that can be searched according to the site elements you are looking for. (two columns, custom header, custom background, etc.) There are also a ton of other sites that have free templates as well. Before downloading make sure that the theme does allow minor changes.
2. Don't be afraid of HTML! All those numbers, symbols and letters can be extremely intimidating but I promise its not as bad as it seems. I'm definitely NOT a professional but whenever I wanted to change something that dealt with the html code I simply Googled the exact thing I was trying to change. (YouTube is also your friend!) For example my last theme had this ugly boarder around the sidebar that made my pictures look terrible, I simply Googled "remove boarder from Forever theme" and instantly found helpful instructions. If you download a free theme a lot of times there are different forums that go along with that particular theme. There you can ask questions and people will leave their answers on what you can do (Wordpress.org has a ton)
3. Use Plug-Ins. Now I'm not sure about blogger but Wordpress has a ton of widgets and plug-ins that you can use to do things like add social media links to the bottom of your posts, add links to relevant posts to the bottom of your current posts, add instagram to your sidebar and a million other things to make your blog pretty and user friendly. A few of my favorites are Image Widget, Share Buttons by AddToAny, Engageya and JQuery Pin It Button. Try searching online for things you would like to add to your site, 9 times out of 10 there is a plugin for it!
4. Create a nice clean header. You don't have to have Photoshop to create yourself a pretty logo for your blog. You can use free services like PicMonkey to create a nice image with your blog name.
5. Stay Consistent. Try your best to use no more than 2-3 different fonts and stick to a small amount of different colors in my opinion Busy blogs with a million different colors and a million different fonts can be distracting and give your readers a migraine. Again..in my opinion.
6. Sidebar Customization. You can also use PicMonkey and image mapping to do things like create a custom category menu and make your sidebar picture navigate to your about page when someone clicks it. You can also create small images in PicMonkey for the different sections in your sidebar (Sponsors, Instagram, Recent posts, etc) Its also important that you keep your sidebar images at one consistent width for a cleaner look.
If DIY blog design is not for you but a custom design still isn't in the budget then you can purchase a pre-made template. Etsy has a million great templates from very talented web designers for both Wordpress and Blogger and all decently priced around $40. I'm using a Wordpress template now from Shiny Magic. Rekita of Rekita Nicole also designs amazing Wordpress and Blogger templates for an affordable price!
A nice design is MAJOR when it comes to your blog, especially if you are looking to potentially turn your blog into a business. So before you start the design process (whether you are doing it yourself or hiring a pro) sit down and really think about what colors you wan't to use for your blog, your particular niche and the overall feel of your site. Or you'll be like me and end up changing your design every other month =/ You can also look at a few of your favorite blogs for inspiration and see what design elements you like of theirs. (but PLEASE don't copy!)
I hope these tips help!
What has been your experience in designing your blog? Did you DIY or hire a pro?