If you don’t already have graphics picked out for your blog, now is the ideal time to get some. This is Kathleen’s favorite part: we’re talking about design!
When visiting a website, we all immediately judge whether or not it’s “professional” based on how it looks and how it’s laid out. It seems like a lot of work to sort out graphics, but good photos and graphics are crucial to projecting that professional blogger image.
The good news is anyone can create good, professional websites right off the bat, without the help of a designer.
Knowing you can refresh your brand as your site grows can be liberating! Don’t let a desire for perfection stop you from getting your site up and going.
Let’s get to the beginnings of your brand.
Ready for Your Close Up?
Think of the last several blogs you visited. Not only do you connect with the brand of the website, you connect with a real, live person - a person you get to see thanks to their photographs.
Professional bloggers aren’t anonymous. Don’t be afraid to put your name (and your face!) out there for the world to see.
While it may seem intimidating to put your face out there for all to see, it’s one of the most important things you can do in order to build a relationship with your audience.
Find an existing high-quality picture you love, take a selfie, or have a friend take your picture. If you have the budget, find a photographer with experience taking promotional pictures. Don’t end up using a driver’s license quality photo!
While it would be lovely to have a professional photo shoot right away, the most important thing to do is to get a usable picture and get going on your site.
Make sure the picture you choose is appropriate for your brand. You want a picture that makes you look warm and welcoming. Avoid including other people.
Create Your Blog Style Guide
What is a blog style guide?
It’s the handy place where you say, in writing, the colors, fonts, and styles of your blog (and brand). Whenever you need to grab the code for the colors you selected, you’ll know exactly where to go. When you can’t remember the names of your fonts or need to remind yourself of how you lay out your posts, the blog style guide is your go-to.
We know you need colors for your site, but how are you going to find some? There are many handy tools online which make creating a cohesive color scheme easy-peasey.
Thinking about your blog niche, are there any colors want to include (or avoid)? If you want to blog about meditation and creating calm in your life, bright red is not likely to be a good fit for your brand.
When selecting colors, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this color easy to read on a computer screen?
- Is it too harsh or too faint?
This free website generates gorgeous color schemes with the tap of a spacebar. They have a quick tutorial to show you how the tool works. You can also use the Explore feature to gain inspiration from the palettes other people have created.
This is another free color scheme creator that follows color palette principles. To use this site, you need a starting color. Insert your first color into the Base RGB box, then select the various dials along the top to view Adjacent, Triad, and Tetrad schemes. From there, you can customize and tweak, as well as view Presets, Previews and Examples.
Once you settle on colors you want to use, write them down in your workbook.
Fonts will help you determine the look and feel of everything you create.
There are two types of fonts we’ll discuss here: fonts you use in your logo and offline branding, and fonts you use online. We’ll discuss online fonts here because we will go into much further depth about logos in the logo section.
When selecting web fonts, the standard here (as well as the rest of the internet) is Google. Google has thousands of fonts to choose from and they all “play nice” on websites. Select two at the most: one for your body font, and one for your headers/titles.
Experiment with different types of fonts: big or small, serif or sans serif. Then, select one or two and run with them. Just make sure they’re not so fancy that they’re hard to read!
Add these to your style guide in the workbook.
Your Visual Brand
By crafting a consistent visual brand experience over all of your platforms, you make yourself recognizable “in the wild.” Once you have your headshot, colors, and fonts, you can get to work creating your logo.
Brainstorming Your Logo
The first piece of the puzzle to create is your logo. Everything else ties back to it.
You can create your own logo using a program like Adobe Illustrator, or the free programs Canva and PicMonkey. Don’t hire a designer right away. It’s better to wait until you have some experience and settle into your brand, so save your money and create something simple yourself.
As you brainstorm and create, keep the following points in mind:
- Keep it simple. Create a text-only logo (two different fonts/colors) to start, and add images only where they help you.
- Be true to your style. Your logo belongs to you and you alone. This is a key piece of your brand, so be sure it is something you will like for at least the next year.
- Will it look good in color, black and white, and grayscale?
Use Images to Keep Your Blog Engaging
Find images to match your style, then take those images and use one of the free cloud-based image manipulators (such as PicMonkey or Canva) to create your cover images. Do not spend too much time on your images. Make sure they’re visually pleasing and easy to share via social networks, but please, don’t spend half a day getting your image perfect. The internet has a short attention span, so “good enough” is going to have to be good enough for you.
For every single post you create, you want to include both a horizontal image and a pinnable vertical image. Horizontal images are often what your theme uses. Facebook and Twitter do too, but Pinterest uses vertical images.
Important Note on Usage Rights
Imagine this: you’re thinking about writing a blog post about how to train your dog. Would you go to Google, type “how to train your dog” into the search bar, copy the text from the first result, paste it into your blog, and hit publish?
Of course you wouldn’t, because you’re not a plagiarist.
But for some reason, people don’t think the same way about images. The same person who would never copy and paste text and publish it as their own, will, without realizing what they're doing, take a picture from Google Images results and put it on their blog.
DO NOT DO THAT!
Instead, use free images (forprofitblogging.com/images) with a CC0 license or, if you want, buy stock images.
Kathleen is a fan of iStock, but it’s pricey (~$165/mo). If you don’t want to shell out that cash (and who can blame you?), try Graphic Stock. It’s $99/year, and the image selection is “okay-not-great” but at least it has a search engine.
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