As someone who blogs about blogging and all that goes with it, I try to give the best advice and information I can to help my readers become the best bloggers they can be. That being said, I don’t expect any of my readers (or myself for that matter) to be perfect bloggers with perfect blogging habits. I mean, do perfect bloggers even exist?? Anyway, today my goal is to help bloggers who deal with a something that everyone says you shouldn’t do, yet I’m fairly well known for—editing your blog design.
Usually, when you find yourself tweaking with your design, it means you’re not quite satisfied with the design you purchased and might need a redesign to settle your thoughts. If you’re like me though, tweaking is just a fun thing to do and a great way to explore the backend of your design and learn new skills!
Now I’m not recommending that all of you should go mess with your blog designs, because there are still several reasons you should avoid that (you lose consistency, your audience may not recognize your blog as well as others, or you may mess with something you don’t know how to fix), but if you’re a self-proclaimed tweaker, there are a few things you should consider when changing up your design to avoid disastrous results! Rather than give you a bullet point list of tips, I’m going to list some questions to ask yourself during your tweaking process:
How big of a change is this?
There’s a difference between “tweaking” and “redesigning”, and the former can quickly become the latter if you get carried away. Examples of tweaking might be rearranging your sidebar, cleaning up any part of your design, generally moving things around. Once you start playing with fonts, colors, logos, and other major design elements, you’re heading into redesign territory. Those elements play a big part in your visual identity, and changing them can make or break what you’ve built your blog to be. For example, if you’re really sick of your main color scheme, consider going for a full brand redesign rather than changing around the colors on your blog several times. Your website probably isn’t the problem, so spending some time narrowing down which colors you really want would be more beneficial than tweaking!
How will this look on other screens?
Responsive design is basically a requirement when designing blogs these days, so making sure your tweaks show up well on every screen size is extremely important. This is where things can get tricky, because if you haven’t implemented a responsive design before, it can be confusing. For example, when I changed my header layout last week to display my logo better, I completely forgot to check how my blog would look on mobile devices! After spending an hour or so trying to get my second menu to not look horrible on mobile, I finally got the responsive features to work, but I can’t promise it will be that simple for everyone. To test your blog’s responsiveness, just squeeze your screen down and see how everything changes based on the screen width.
How long will it take to change this?
The tough thing about tweaking is that you can’t really shut down your blog to do your work. If the change you want to make will only take a few minutes, that shouldn’t really matter, and your readers probably won’t notice it. But if you’re taking on a major coding job, I’d suggest you a) do it when your blog is the least busy (I’ve definitely done design work at 4am for this exact reason), b) edit a separate page on your blog that your readers won’t be viewing (this works better for WordPress, where you can edit your PHP so certain features only show up on specific pages), or c) set up a testing blog that looks exactly like your current blog, but no one knows the domain so you can edit it freely and then transfer over your work.
Do I have a way to get my original design back?
If you’ve ever read a Blogger tutorial, you probably have the words “backup your template!” embedded in your mind. But it’s all with good intentions—you will love yourself so much more if you save your design before working on it, because if something goes horribly wrong (who knows, your sidebar could end up in the middle of your content), you’ll know you have a working design to go back to. That’s it. Just save your template. Always.
Do I know what I’m doing?
Earlier I said that tweaking is a great way to learn more about coding and teach yourself new skills, but you should know what you’re doing to some extent once you open your blog’s files. This is less of a concern on Blogger, where you’re mainly editing your blog’s CSS, which only affects how things look. Once you start digging deeper into the backend of your design, you need to be extremely careful with what you’re editing and ensure you have saved copies of every file you edit. For example, if your blog is on WordPress and you want to edit a PHP file for your blog, every single character matters. Leaving out a bracket can leave you with the “white screen of death”, where your dashboard and blog become white screens with no way to access them other than through your host. Basically, it’s a very stressful situation that you don’t want to deal with!
If you’re looking for more design/coding tutorials, check out my blogging archives, where I’ve compiled all of my posts regarding those topics! Can’t find what you’re looking for? You can always suggest a topic in the comments! ☺️