What makes a great book blog design?

Posted January 12, 2015 by Lory in discussions / 41 Comments

Graphic design is an art form that we don’t always think about because it surrounds us every day, yet I’m fascinated by how it subtly influences our experience of everything we read. I recently had my own blog redesigned to reflect my own preferences, and I’ve noticed both that it both gives me significantly more personal satisfaction, and appears to have led to increased traffic. When it looks good, more people want to visit, it seems.

Everyone has different tastes, though, and I wonder what your preferences are. Do you love dark backgrounds? Bright colors? Bare-bones designs? Do you not care at all about what a blog looks like, and just zoom in on the content? Please let me know in the comments!

Here are my top criteria for a book blog design, and some shout-outs for blog designs that I especially like.

Clean, simple, and easy to read
I prefer designs that don’t have too many elements, and that arrange them in a sensible way with plenty of breathing space. I have a hard time with light text on dark background, patterns behind text, busy sidebars, or flashing/animated things.

Something unique
A lot of bloggers rely on premade templates, and/or have gone to a very simple and streamlined look, and that’s fine. But I appreciate seeing some unique and creative element that highlights the blogger’s personal style, like a custom-made header or other image.

Fonts that work
I’m somewhat obsessed with typography, and I adore new and different fonts — but they should be used sparingly. An unusual display font can work for post titles or brief headings, but it should still be readable. And for longer stretches of text, it’s best to stick with classic serif or sans-serif fonts. Finding fonts that work together is another art, playing with similarity and contrast without creating a chaotic mess.

Harmonious colors
Color is an extremely personal choice, but my preference is for more subtle, non-clashing combinations.

A meaningful whole
Layout, images, fonts, and colors all provide opportunities to give non-verbal cues about your personality and interests, as reflected by your blog. When these all come together to express something about the content itself, that’s great design!

Here are a few blogs that have all of these qualities — and terrific content too. What are your favorites?

Posted for the 2015 Book Blog Discussion Challenge, hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at Midnight.Β 

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41 responses to “What makes a great book blog design?

  1. I feel like I could have written this post – I agree so much with every point you've made! (Although I don't have all my ideas as organized as yours!) Ultimately I feel like the blog design is for the creator of the blog since we have to look at it all the time. And I somehow feel more motivated to blog if I am happy with the way my blog looks. This was a great post Lory, and thank you for the shout-out! πŸ™‚

  2. Kay

    I'm actually getting my blog redesigned by New Chapter Designs in February. I am super excited! My husband bought me the basic design package for me for Christmas! I love how your blog looks, and honestly it is what drew me to it. (I love your content too but your design caught my eye first.) I think how a blog looks is very important, it gives the reader its first impression before one reads the content.

    This is a great blog post. πŸ˜€

  3. Thanks so much for including me in your list above! I agree with everything that you've said. I'd like to think that content alone would be the most important thing about a blog, but I find that the blogs I return to are easy to read (font and background). After that comes the design. I totally agree about the meaningful whole. Those blogs that incorporate all the elements are the most fun to read.I love your new design and your colors!

  4. I love the design of Behold the Stars, it's a good one to spotlight.
    I have to admit to being very lazy with my blog design – I keep meaning to improve it, but then something just gets in the way…

  5. I haven't the faintest idea how I'd go about getting a blog design or what I would put on it if I did. A….howling frog? It's a better name than image. (Don't even try to tell me that it isn't an awesome name, because I will never believe you.)

    • You have a design, even if it's just a premade template. And you managed to insert an image and motto to make it your own, too — nothing wrong with that. Someday I'd love to hear where the Howling Frog came from…

    • It's a book reference, though sadly not one that many people seem to get. There is, somewhere in Bookland, a Howling Frog Books shop. πŸ™‚

    • Aha — a clue! DuckDuckGo is pointing me to…Daniel Pinkwater? Daniel Pinkwater is awesome! Must hunt down this book.

  6. I agree with literally all of these points! I especially like unique blog designs, and that's why I recently changed my blog design from a pre made template to something that was a bit more in keeping with my blog's title, and a bit different.
    And I absolutely love your new design! The header is really eye-catching and unique and I think the shades of green are perfect!

    • Green is not usually my favorite color, to be honest, but I think the designer did a great job with the header. I love the way the colors work together.

  7. I really do like the way your new blog design turned out. I just love Stephanie and her designs. I try to not base whether I follow a blog based off design but I really just don't like it when a blog is way too busy. I am going to go and check out the blogs you listed to check out.. I love to find new blogs that are fun to read!

  8. Your design is awesome; I really love it. Clean, clear, modern, and works perfectly with your blog name. I think you're absolutely right with all your points, and it's making me antsy to redesign my blog (or have it done, since I'm not the world's best designer OR coder.) But I need to save up for it!

  9. Just like you I can't stand light text on a dark background, it's so difficult to read and I am less likely to stay long there or return when reading is difficult. I love simple designs with some characteristic for a blog, so I can easily recognize them. I also like designs which feature only a few colours.
    btw I love your new design!

    • I am curious to know why some people seem to like the dark backgrounds. So far I haven't heard from anyone in that camp!

  10. Great post! It's got me thinking. Of the blogs you linked, I like Bookish Whimsy the best, for all the points you mention. I would ideally like my blog to incorporate those design elements. I like the simplicity of my blog but it is a bit too plain for contemporary blogging, I think πŸ˜‰ It really needs a behind-the-scenes update and a spruced up design. It's cobbled together from some very old Blogger coding – it keeps asking me if I want to update and I say no because I don't want to mess up anything! I do like my simple, monochromatic design but I would like something unique like you mention, some sort of header graphic (I love yours!! Lovely shades of green…), and maybe incorporate some more colours. I think later in the year I will look into a proper redesign.

  11. Well, let me start by saying that I absolutely LOVE your design! The greens with just those little pops of yellow and red work really well! I really wish that I had a better eye for design. I have gone back and forth on getting someone to do a redesign of my blog for a long time, but I can't decide. On the one hand, I love that my header is very recognizable, but I think I might be read to be done with it. I don't know …

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    • It is a risk, because what if you don't like the new design? I can only highly recommend my designer (Stephanie of New Chapter Designs). I think she's really talented and doesn't charge what she's worth — fortunately for all of us!

  12. I've actually stopped following blogs because their design is lacking–hard to read fonts, garish colors, over cluttered space. I did some clean up last weekend on my blog and am very pleased with the results. It's amazing how subtle tweaks (like changing up the background color) can make things look new again.

    Terri M., the Director
    Second Run Reviews

    • Easy to read is key for me, but it's also great to see something a little different. I love your take on the Tweak Me theme — simple, but clever!

  13. You're right a good design that is easy to read is very important. I do like when it is more than just a header image and white background though. Layouts should show the blogger's personality off to their new visitors right away.

    • That's very important, and not so easy to do. I was so glad to find a designer who was able to capture the look I wanted for my blog.

  14. This is such a timely post for me. I have been thinking of starting the new year with a blog redesign, and all your points, and the wonderful blogs you have linked up to are super useful. I am brimming with ideas and enthusiasm now πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing,

  15. Totally agree! I can be a bit judgy with design lol. I try to just read as much as possible through an RSS reader so I don't have to deal with some blogs' designs. I like going for simple in terms of features and layout, but lots of pops of color. I actually just redesigned my site over the weekend!

    • Interesting idea to stick to an RSS reader. I actually like the individuality of blog designs, as long as they are readable.

  16. Great post! Key for me in a blog layout is simplicity. I don't mind a little flash at the top, but I personally can't stand having too much in my face. I struggle with keeping that balance, even when I try to keep the layout relatively simple, just because the side-bar tends to get filled up — I try really hard to keep it from feeling cluttered.

    I haven't played around yet with special fonts and such; I think that might be next on my list.