The more that I write in this blog, and the more I get connected with my readers, the more that I realize how just about every Jew that’s connected to the internet seems to have a blog. For some, it’s just a personal blog for their friends, for others it’s one of those awesome Tumblr GIF-animated blogs, and for still others it’s something they really want to use as a platform to get a big audience and make a change in the world.
In that vein, I’ve decided to create a series of blog posts dedicated to helping Jewish bloggers take their blogs to the next level. This is the first of the series, focused on design.
Design Is King
The truth is that the more I see Jewish blogs on the web, the more I notice certain struggles that seem to be unique to the Jewish world. Interestingly, it reminds of a lot of the issues that seem to surround Jewish (religious Jewish work, I mean) in media.
An interesting theme that has emerged in the secular blogging world is the idea that “content is king”. The idea behind the concept is that many people spend a lot of time making their blog pretty, and using SEO and all the other fancy blogging tools, but forget to actually write quality pieces of work. No blog is worth anything without something actually being said in it.
Jewish bloggers have the opposite issue. We’ve understood since the day we got the Torah that it’s all about what you write, and that all the other stuff is just a distraction. But we forget, oftentimes, to build the right vessel for our work. We forget how much a certain design can make a difference in the way a person interprets our work. A professional design can take someone with great content from an everyday blogger to an outstanding blogger.
Today, it’s easier than ever to make your blog beautiful. So many designs and themes are available for only about $30 that just about any blogger in the world can make his blog look great in just a few minutes.
Here are the steps I recommend a Jewish blogger take to take his design to the next level:
This is actually more of a design issue than might be readily apparent, since (self-hosted) WordPress is by far the best blogging platform in the world. While Blogger might provide some easy tools, WordPress provides the ease of use and functionality that every blog needs.
But just as important, there are about a jillion awesome WordPress templates out there. Themeforest is the best site to get them. It’s a marketplace for individual designers to share their WordPress (and other) designs with the world, and some of them have done truly astounding work.
When you go to Themeforest, because there are a lot of blogs to dig through, make sure you are careful to pick a blog design that is not just beautiful, but well-rated. This will mean you’ll get a blog that doesn’t just look nice, but works well as well. And the more recent the design, the better.
If Themeforest is too complicated for you to deal with, Elegant Themes is also a great option.
When picking a theme, make sure that you use the design as an opportunity to reflect who you are as a person and the feeling you want to convey with your writing. You’d be amazed how much design can subconsciously affect the way people read what they write.
So, if you’re trying to write something lighthearted, use a design that’s sunny and happy. Out Of The Orthobox uses an orange design to reflect the fact that she wants to create a positive environment. My message, ironically, in my blogs, is that it’s all about the content and the images, so I have a very bare layout. Think hard about this before you choose a theme.
Make Sure It’s Readable
Remember, it’s not just about making your blog look cool. Your blog needs to be easy to read. That means a clean design is key. As you can see, I’ve chosen to use a minimalist design on my own blog. This is partly because I love minimalism, but also because it’s the easiest sort of blog to read.
However, if you want to make your blog fancy, it’s also possible to make your blog readable. Take a look at LadyMama for some inspiration.
Also, make sure your blog has relatively large (and normal) fonts. If your blog uses fonts the size of Facebook’s, they’re too small. There is a reason sites focused on design like Smashing Magazine have such huge typography.
Use Great Images
One of the most underrated ways to take a well-designed blog to the next level is using amazing images. Great designs can often be ruined by bad images. Especially in a more bare, minimalist template, an images are essentially half of your design. Take a look at Fashion Isha to see the power of great images.
So here are a few tips:
First of all, only use high res images that are ideally shot by a professional photographer. Anything less will make your site feel more like Facebook than something professional.
Second, try to make the images as big as your template will allow. The bigger they are, the more impact and power they will have.
However, most people have trouble finding these great images. So here’s my method, although there are plenty of others:
Go to Flickr’s advanced search. In the search box, pick a word (only one, ideally) that covers the theme of what you are trying to convey. Then choose to search by tag instead of by keyword. And choose to search by Creative Commons so that all the images you use are legally allowed.
After you do the search, order them by “Interesting” rather than “Recent”. Most likely, you will now see a huge collection of awesome images that will be great to use for your blog and legal to use for free.
If you need any help with this process, feel free to email me.
Stay tuned for the next post. Topic yet to be decided! If you have an idea about what you’d like me to choose, please suggest.