Awesome Site Design Tips & Tricks from Alt Summit

Hi everyone! So it’s been taking me ages to formulate my thoughts after Alt Summit. I took loads of notes…half a notebook full…and today I thought I’d try to share a few of the great tips and tricks I learned regarding site design dos and don’ts. For the sake of timeliness I’ll be sharing them in bullet pointed fashion. I’m afraid I would never make this post happen if I didn’t simplify and start somewhere. Please let me know if you have questions in the comment section below and I will be happy to answer them for you to the best of my ability. I’ve made bold the tips that resonated most with me.

Site Design Dos & Don’ts:

  • Determine the purpose of your site and have a message to convey.
  • Your design decisions should always support that message.
  • A quick glance at your site design should make your purpose/message clear.
  • Keep the big picture in mind.
  • Include a line of descriptive text under your header i.e. a tagline.
  • Be thoughtful about your site layout. The design should lead readers around the page.
  • Your site navigation is vital and should be easy to find.
  • Take time to determine the hierarchy of your content and then categorize and tag to make it as easy to navigate as possible.
  • Whenever possible condense content into fewer categories.
  • Fonts play a very important roll in the design of your site so use them wisely.
  • Choose only a few typefaces and stick with them.
  • Use fonts to help aid navigation.
  • Be sure to use a font that gives the right meaning for your site (i.e. preppy, artistic, vintage, etc.), the wrong font can easily confuse readers about the nature of your site.
  • Consistency with design and content is vital. Decide what the goal of your blog is, and always use that to guide your design decisions.
  • Too many messages (content, contrasting visuals, fonts, etc.) results in noise.
  • More messages will dilute the main focus. More is not always more, so be selective.
  • The internet has changed the rules. Online, first impressions happen multiple times. Make sure you are making the right impression every time.
  • Begin by always including a personal photograph of yourself along with a bio on the front page of your blog.
  • Show your readers the person behind the blog…it builds trust.
  • Make the profile image you use consistent across all online social media outlets.
  • You are your brand!
  • Brand consistency builds a trusted reputation.
  • When choosing colors for your site, select between 3-5 colors.
  • Keep the look consistent throughout your site.
  • Think of your blog like a polished outfit. What does your look say about you? Do you need to change or remove anything to make the look represent you better?
  • If you’re stuck on color inspiration, you can find inspiring palettes on sites like Kuler or ColorLovers to get you started.
  • Don’t be afraid of “white space.” It gives eyes a place to rest.
  • White space isn’t necessarily white…it just means you’ve left appropriate space between elements to allow them to “breathe.”

Next Alt post I’ll be covering what I learned in the Advertising / Ad Networks panel. xo Ez

P.S. They’ve removed the schedule information from the Alt Summit website, so unfortunately I can’t remember exactly who presented on this panel. There were four talented ladies: two of them were Christine Castro of Darling Studio, and Arianne of Aeolidia. I apologize that I can’t recall the names of the other two. Update: The last two speakers were Alyssa of We Like We Love (thanks Liz) and Laurie of Upside Up (thanks Alyssa).

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29 Comments

  1. Lisa / / Reply

    This is amazing Ez, thank you so much for sharing it with us! Your site is one of my favourites in terms of design (and content!) because it is so uncluttered and easy to navigate. I will definitely be thinking hard about each and every point you make here. Thanks again!

  2. Hannah / / Reply

    Bullet points was totally the way to go with all this info. Thanks for such a comprehensive list!

  3. Skye @ Neathering our Fest / / Reply

    These are such awesome tips! I especially love the one about using the same picture across all of your sites to build consistency and recognition. I've been trying to do that! :) Thanks for sharing these!

  4. allyn / / Reply

    thanks for always sharing so much of what you know, ez! i really appreciate it. this is my year to grow my blog + content in a personal way. this will help a great deal. thanks again!

  5. rooth / / Reply

    Thank you for sharing your notes and tips – these are great reminders if anything

  6. Rowena / / Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing these tips! As a relatively new blogger it's SO helpful!

  7. Denise / / Reply

    Thank you Ez! It's so very generous of you to share what you learned at ALT. This is a great list.

  8. Cecilia / / Reply

    ah! amazing recap and i have been thinking so much about this as i embark on customizing my blog design. thanks for all these tips & tricks!

  9. Heather / / Reply

    Thank you for posting! This is good info. I'm about to re-design my blog but I'm a little overwhelmed with all of the possibilities. I'm trying to decide how I want it to look and I'm having design idea overload. Creature Comforts always looks beautiful and professional. How do you clarify your vision for your design?

  10. Adi Edlen / / Reply

    Thank you SO much for posting this – I'm brand new to this great big world and I just LOVE the community it brings. Your tips and blog are equally amazing!

  11. Megan Wells / / Reply

    Great advice! I love learning the things shared at Alt without having been able to go….maybe next year, but until then, thanks for the great advice!!!!

  12. GEORGINA / / Reply

    Thank- you for sharing the information and ideas that you picked up at ALT. Perhaps one day I will manage to attend, but for now – it's great to have BLOGS like yours sharing the 'secrets'. Cheers x

  13. Irene / / Reply

    Thanks so much Ez! These tips sure are helpful reminders. Its like a checklist. I started my blog using a wordpress template. I had to be very careful with my choices because, unless one is a savy code person, the template options are somewhat limited.

  14. Laura Gaskill / / Reply

    Like the first commenter, I think your site is one of my very favorites in terms of aesthetics and content – you are such an inspiration! Over the past few months I have really been clarifying what I want my own blog to be and I am hoping to get a professional redesign sometime later this year…looking for a designer, btw, in case anyone knows someone great! :) I redesigned everything myself last year, but I am coming to realize it's okay to admit I can't do everything!

    I am looking forward to implement some of the other tips here, like using the same profile image across platforms – that makes so much sense!

    Thanks for the awesome recap, and I look forward to more :) xo Laura

  15. amber / / Reply

    Thanks for taking the time to summarise and share this information. I am really struggling with categories on my blog. I can't seem to develop headings that adequately capture the range of my content, and I don't want to end up with an endless list of them. I have both regular columns and varied content. Can anybody recommend a method to resolve this problem? I'm also wondering about removing the earliest, lacklustre content or creating a whole new space altogether… except I am worried about losing readership and being inconsistent after building up a certain aesthetic and identity. :-/

  16. Ez / / Reply

    Thank you all so much for your comments. I'm so glad all my furious note-taking at Alt will be put to good use! xo Ez

  17. Ez / / Reply

    Amber – great questions! Firstly, I would recommend that you never delete any content from your blog…unless you no longer feel that it is appropriate for the direction your blog has taken, or will take (i.e. if you used to write a very personal blog and want to shift the focus). Old blog posts still help when it comes to SEO (search engine optimization), and will increase the strength of your blog even if they are not regularly accessed any longer. I also recommend that you never change the name of your posts since this will directly effect the URL for that post and will make all old references to your blog through that link inactive.
    Next, I struggle a lot with categories too. It's actually something I'm trying to work on at the moment myself. I took a look at your site and I think your categories are great. If you wanted to simplify even more, you could put the current categories into broader ones such as: Life, Style, Musings…etc. But that's only if you want to. I think what you have now is really straight forward and easy to understand. That's the main goal…to make sure your readers know what you have to offer them at a quick glance, and I think you're doing that very well! xo Ez

  18. Uncle Beefy / / Reply

    Awesome round-up and reminder, Ez! You're doing much better than I am in terms of rounding up your notes! I'm still swimming a bit. And, your site is pretty damn skippy so I'm not entirely sure what you're taking away from all of this but, for me I'm taking loads. SO in need of a total overhaul/redesign! So, y'know at least a couple of hours of work there. Gah!

    Hope things are well with you! {hugs!}

  19. Ez / / Reply

    Bradford, you're the sweetest. Actually I don't really feel like I've filtered the info through my brain all that well just yet. It's still all notes on a page. I completely get what you're saying about the overhaul/redesign…I'm working on one as we speak! Crossing my fingers that it comes out about a million time better than it is now. :-)
    Big hugs to you too! xo Ez

  20. Emily / / Reply

    Thanks for sharing, Ez. I'm definitely going to bear them in mind next time I do a little bit of a redesign. Hope you enjoyed altsummit – looks like a great event!

    Emily x

  21. Susan / / Reply

    What you have shared is invaluable to people just starting to blog. I have sent your
    generous information to several friends. This is what networking and supporting
    women is all about .. because most bloggers in this sense are women.

    I have just retired from a big career in television sale and marketing and in event
    marketing to women. I consult pro-bono mostly and am thrilled to share your generosity!
    Love your blog!

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