7.7.15 43

9 Blog Design Tips from Blair Culwell

At the Southern Blog Society Conference, Jessica and Cathy put together an awesome panel of speakers.

One that particularly stood out to me was Blair Culwell, who not only writes the blog The Fox & She, but also does blog design ‘for the stylish blogger’ at Leap. I thought the crop top and white culottes she was rocking would be a solid indication of her authority on style, but man y’all, she also has the back-end knowledge on lock.

Luckily for you all, I am a ferocious notetaker and wanted to share some of the tips and advice she gave that I found particularly useful. If you’re looking for more information from Blair, be sure to check out her new resource site, Blog Better by Leap.

On a sidenote—I talked with Blair during the networking suite portion of the conference about small changes I could make to A Touch of Teal to step it up a notch. Can’t wait to roll them out over the next few weeks.

blog design tips from blair culwell blog better by leap

1. You only get one chance to make a first impression. People are going to form their opinion about your whole site right when they hit your page. To make sure that you get the most bang for your buck in these critical first seconds, be sure to:

  • Use only 2-3 fonts, and use a basic font (i.e. Arial, Open Sans, Georgia and not one that requires CSS) to ensure faster load time. Stay consistent with how you use these fonts.
  • Make sure your images span the full width of the column.
  • Do not center-align text, instead, rely on the ever-faithful left-align.

2. Install Google Analytics. This is the industry standard and will give you solid insights onto where you’re sourcing a lot of your traffic from. You can look at what posts are bringing you the most hits, and create more content in that vein.

3. Utilize WordPress Plugins, if possible. Like me, Blair recommends using SEO by Yoast to maximize your content for search engines. She also recommends installing the Reduce Bounce Rate Plugin, as this will take into account when people scroll on your site, therefore reducing your bounce rate. Since Google counts a high bounce rate as bad—a healthy one is 35% or less—this plugin can directly impact your page rank, thus driving more traffic to your site.

blog design tips from blair culwell blog better by leap

4. Some design trends are great. For instance, sticky navigation bars—like mine!—allow readers to easily navigate through your site no matter where they are on the page. Sticky social icons are also good, but know that people are more likely to scroll through your content and follow your blog for a while before they connect with you on every social media platform.

Smaller, clean logos are also beneficial as they help create the aforementioned great first impression and don’t take up as much vertical space. This pushes more of your content to the “top of the fold,” which both readers and advertisers alike favor.

5. Some design trends are not so great. Be wary of editorial-inspired sites. Most readers don’t know how these work, and while they may look cool, there is too much going on to keep sustained interested.

Be equally wary of sliders that rotate images. Not only do these generally slow down your site, people tend to associate them with advertisements and your blog should be a beacon of authentic content.

6. Go mobile, or go home. In this day in age, if you don’t have a mobile-responsive site you’re really hurting yourself. Google rates mobile-responsive pages higher and readers like to be able to scroll through your site while waiting on their Starbucks order.

blog design tips from blair culwell blog better by leap

7. Think about the goals of your blog and figure out how you can achieve those goals through great design. The top left of your page is a great place for a “shop” tab and the bottom right of your page is great for a call to action (this is because our eyes’ move in a “Z” formation when reading). In a similar vein, he left side of the page is the “strong side” based on this formation, so move your post column to the left and have your about column on the right for maximum content exposure.

8. Get savvy with your images. A few best practices to keep in mind:

  • Compress your pictures for web (72 dots-per-inch aka dpi). These will still look beautiful but help your site load faster.
  • Make your images twice the size of your content column. This will allow your images to look great on both a regular screen and a retina screen.
  • Be smart about how you name your images. As many key words as you can get in there, the better. Google can’t search an image, but it can search the image name.
  • Take advantage of the “alt text” as this will help with keyword searching. Try to get three to six keywords or phrases in there.

9. Do the back-end maintenance. Delete any old plugins you aren’t using. Keep the ones you are using up to date, along with WordPress itself. This will help you keep your site safe from vulnerabilities. And, of course, back that sh*t up.

blog design tips from blair culwell blog better by leap

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Photos by Kim Graham

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43 Comments

  1. Kendall wrote:

    Thanks for these great tips! As a newbie blogger I’m getting ready to make the switch from wordpress.com to self-hosted, and these ideas will come in handy as I try update my design.

    Published 7.7.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      So glad they were helpful! I switched to a self-hosted WordPress last year, so let me know if you have any questions! xo

      Published 7.7.15
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  2. Sophia B. wrote:

    Such a great post! I loved hearing what she had to say from the conference! Super helpful!

    Published 7.7.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      Glad it was helpful, Sophia! xo

      Published 7.7.15
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  3. Thanks for the wonderful tips! I’m going to go though your list and see if my blog needs some updating – thanks and lucky you attending that conference, looks fun!

    Published 7.7.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      So glad they were helpful! I am very lucky – it was a super fun conference.

      Published 7.7.15
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  4. sounds like a fun event and seriously GREAT notes ha! going to look through and implement a few new tricks (reduce bounce rate plug in & moving around some menu icons to start) I’ve been off my blog game so to speak for a few months now and this was a good kick to get back in!

    Published 7.7.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      So glad my notes were helpful ;]. YES I installed Reduce Bounce Rate myself and am looking forward to the results! Best of luck implementing things!

      Published 7.7.15
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  5. Great tips! I’ve been wanting to attend a blogger conference – this post gives me all the more reason to go!

    Rhiannon @ http://www.peaceandblessingsyall.com
    xx

    Published 7.7.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      Yes you should definitely check one out if you have the opportunity! xo

      Published 7.7.15
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  6. These are great reminders on how to set up a beautiful, friendly site that will capture your readers’ interest while also paying mind to Google SEO techniques. Thank you so much for taking the time to share these great tips with the blogging community. xo

    Published 7.7.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      Completely agree! I am so glad you enjoyed them :]

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  7. Tiffany wrote:

    Left-align is the way to go! I’ve actually clicked off of posts when they’re center-aligned!

    I’ll definitely be downloading the reduce bounce rate plugin!

    I’m happy that I do many of these already, and I’ll definitely be tweaking some things on my site thanks to this post! Great advice, thank you!

    Published 7.7.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      Completely agree – left aligning things makes them so. much. easier. to. read! There is a reason books are left-aligned! Yay! So glad you found a new trick or two! xo

      Published 7.7.15
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  8. Brenda wrote:

    Great round up and thank you for sharing. I will definitely be using the bounce rate plugin!

    xoxo
    Brenda
    À LA PLAGE style

    Published 7.7.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      So glad that was helpful! xo

      Published 7.7.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      So glad that was helpful! xo

      Published 7.7.15
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  9. These tips are AMAZING! Thank you so much for sharing. I’m curious as to what they mean by editorial-inspired sites?

    Published 7.7.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      Aw yay! So glad they were helpful. RE: editorial-inspired sites — they mean the ones that look more like a magazine site. For instance, Grace Atwood’s The Stripe is very editorial in look, but she also has a classic blog feature available for those who just want a standard ol’ blog view. Hope that helps!

      Published 7.7.15
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  10. Ashley L wrote:

    I do most of these things already but I had never heard of that Bounce Rate plugin. I just installed it. Thanks for sharing it!

    Published 7.7.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      Yeah! I hadn’t either. Hope it works :]

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  11. These are definitely amazing tips. I’ve heard of Blair and I know she is an amazing designer so I bet meeting her must have been amazing. Thanks for sharing her tips with all of us. And I so love all of your photos from the event as well :). Can’t wait to see the new changes.

    Kia / The House of KTS
    http://www.houseofkts.com

    Published 7.7.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      Yes! I am so glad I got to meet her in person – she is so nice. Glad the tips were helpful :]

      Published 7.7.15
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  12. Christie wrote:

    Great post! Thanks for bringing all of these awesome lessons to us, Katie! Glad you had fun and learned so much from the conference.

    Christie
    The Closet by Christie

    Published 7.7.15
    Reply
    • Katie wrote:

      So glad you enjoyed them! xo

      Published 7.7.15
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  13. Angelina wrote:

    This is so helpful, love all these tips! I think another one would be to not post too many photos in one post, but not too few either. Also, I love Blair’s outfit, she’s killing it in those culottes!

    Angelina Is

    Published 7.7.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      Yay! I am so glad these tips were helpful. AND YES! That is a good one that I sometimes struggle with – I am never quite sure of what the right balance is.

      And talk to me – I wanted her whole outfit! (But could not pull it off haha!).

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  14. Rachel wrote:

    Thanks for sharing these, they’re great!

    Published 7.7.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      Glad they were helpful! xx

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  15. OMG thank you so much for sharing this. These are awesome tips. I read Blair’s blog and I think she is so genius. I am totally bookmarking this page for sure!

    Published 7.7.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      Soo glad they were helpful lady! Happy to share :] xx

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  16. Autumn wrote:

    These are such good tips and also make me feel so much happier I went to wordpress!!! Since the layout is harder to edit and I can add in widgets that will match my theme, it is so much easier to have a stream lined look.

    Great tips!!

    Published 7.7.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      Aw I am so glad these were helpful and affirmed your decision to go WordPress! xo

      Published 7.12.15
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  17. Chelsie wrote:

    These are all such great tips and things to keep in mind! I’m going to look into that plugin you mentioned to help reduce bounce rates; I definitely want to get mine lower!!

    Published 7.8.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      So glad this was helpful! I want to get mine lower too :]

      Published 7.12.15
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  18. You took some awesome notes! thanks for listening and sharing!

    Published 7.8.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      Aw thanks lady! So glad you were a speaker :]

      Published 7.12.15
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  19. Falasha wrote:

    Amazing tips, thanks for sharing. You are a great note taker.

    xx Falasha
    Bite My Fashion ll Instagram ll Bloglovin’

    Published 7.8.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      Thanks lady! Glad they were helpful :]

      Published 7.12.15
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  20. I always appreciate your blogging tips! I added the SEO by Yoast plug in a few months back per your advice and now I’m definitely going to add the Reduce Bounce Rate one! Thanks for sharing Katie!!

    Taffeta & Tulips

    Published 7.9.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      Aw so glad these were helpful Kate! XO

      Published 7.12.15
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  21. SO helpful! And Charleston looks beautiful. I was there for the second time in May and was impressed with almost every nook and cranny of that city.

    Thanks!
    Samantha
    socialbysam.com

    Published 7.10.15
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    • Katie wrote:

      So glad these were helpful! xo

      Published 7.12.15
      Reply