I gave him my review, pointing out the flaws, misalignments between identity and design, and improvements that would not just help his page ranking but also help his readers navigate through the blog better. I told him to pass this on to his web designer as they would understand what I was talking about. Normally, I work in combination with the blog owner and designer, but in this case, it was only with the owner.
A month later, I got an email asking to review his blog’s changes. I dropped by and screamed. It looked like he did the changes himself. I emailed back, “Did you do this yourself? Or is this the result of the web designer you hired? Is this what you want it to look like?”
He did it himself.
Which begs the question of if you should design your own blog, and when you should hire a professional to design your blog.
Should You Design Your Own Blog?
A blog’s design is only as good as the blog designer.
That’s the truth. Like it or not.
If you know what you are doing and have the experience to do it, then go for it, knowing your blog design will still be only as good as the blog designer, based upon your expertise with web design.
If you have the time and desire to learn by trial and error, you will get a blog design designed by trial and error, fixing it as you grow and learn.
Web design, especially blog design, is not about moving a sidebar to the left or right or changing your header art. It’s not about making the background blue instead of green and adding pictures to the overall design.
Web design is about matching the design with the content, the design with the blogger, the design with the blog’s purpose, the design with the audience, and about making the connections between all these pieces come together.
In its most simple element, a well-designed blog for a race car fan would not feature flowers and pink colors. It would feature race cars and race car design elements. Design matches content.
The more complex aspect of web design typically ignored by beginner to intermediate level designers, is the ability to match the design with the blog’s identity and brand. Branding is a more subtle art form and every detail either supports it or not.
A blogger who specializes in presenting articles on life structure, organization, improvement, and “cleaning up your life” would not have their brand well represented with a cluttered web page design.
A blogger blogging on photography has a hard time getting the point across without some good photographs on their blog and blog design, incorporating the presentation of their images and content as if it was a gallery or magazine.
A blogger covering political and/or international news needs to have a “newsy” clean design so the words jump out with only a few eye catching images and a lot of links to categories and popular content deep within the blog and to other informative resources to support their point of view. Without it, it’s just another blog.
A blogger blogging on web design better have the most lovely and well-built web design as a portfolio of their web design capabilities.
Seeing these connections between the blogger, blog purpose, blog identity, and blog branding, and the overall details of the blog design comes with a great detail of experience and education. It takes a comprehensive understanding of advertising, marketing, demographics, psychology, accessibility, web technologies, branding, and public relations in addition to a comprehensive and well tried and tested understanding of web page design.
There is another aspect to web and blog design easily overlooked by those who have blogs and websites and are designers. Proximity. When you are too close to the subject, too familiar, and lacking the perspective of distance, it’s hard to view the site with a fresh point of view. It takes new eyes to see what you are standing too close to.
I know many web designers who rely upon other web designers to help them design their own blogs. This is also why there is a growing trend in blog reviews, with professionals volunteering or being paid to review blog designs, helping their owners put together all the pieces appropriately and professionally.
When Should You Hire a Professional Web Designer?
The time to hire a professional web designer is:
- You don’t know how.
- You don’t have the time to do it right.
- You understand your blog’s brand and identity is critical to your blog’s success.
- You want to focus on content, where your expertise lies, and let a web design expert do their job to improve your blog.
- You understand that you need a second pair of experienced and educated eyes to design your blog.
- You want it done right.
If the bottom line is your blog must help you make money and you want it done right, then hire a professional to do it right.
But who do you hire?
You do not hire your friend, neighbor, or family member unless they have 3-5 years of blog design expertise. You do not hire someone who volunteered web designs and has not been paid for blog design work. You do not hire someone based upon a recommendation unless you research their portfolio and talk to the blog owners.
You do hire someone with 3-5 years of graphic design, web design, and blog design expertise. If you go with less, you will get less. Remember, a blog design is only as good as the blog designer.
You hire someone who understand blogging and all of the intricacies therein. They must understand blog identity, branding, interactivity, communication, and relationships, and how to maximize your blog’s design to accommodate all of these without cluttering up your blog.
They must be able to listen, and to really hear your concerns and ideas for your blog design.
They must have a history of meeting or beating deadlines and follow through. And most of all, they must commit to at least one year of technical support.
Most of all, you hire someone whose reputation, career, and roof over their head is dependent upon their ability to design your blog.
From there, it’s a matter of negotiation details. You can negotiate for the ability to tweak and edit the design without permission, define the terms of their technical support including dramatic improvements or additional features you may need over the course of the contact, and other details.
If You Are Serious About Your Blog, You Hire a Web Consultant
If you are very serious about having your blog design be professional, understanding how much it plays into your identity, brand, and market value, you can hire a web consultant. A web consultant acts as the manager for the design and development of your blog. I think of a web consultant as the image consultant for your blog. She works directly with you to help you understand the purpose and presentation of your blog as your adviser and then coordinates your blog’s design with a professional web designer.
A web consultant knows all the ins and outs of web design, but has the added experience and education of advertising, marketing, public relations, professional writing, and business communications.
There are two main reasons to hire a web consultant. One is to help you improve your blog overall, through the design, content, SEO, and marketing techniques. The other is that a good web consultant may have a stable of web designers to call upon, choosing the one or more who will best meet your needs, personally and professionally. If not, the web consultant will work directly with your web designer to ensure the follow through of the blog design and marketing plan.
Most bloggers are worried about their budget, not seeing the earning potential inherent in their blogs. But if you are one of the bloggers who do see beyond this year, into year five of your business, consider hiring a web consultant and not just a designer to work with you to build your blog and associated business.
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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network
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