25 Why your blog design needs to be unique! (Blogger Template Series)
January 04, 2008 /

As many of you will know, I've decided to post a complete series about Blogger Template Design, taking you through the process step by step in order to create a reference for the creation of your own Blogger templates. To kick start this series, I wanted to discuss some of the reasons why you may want to create your own blog design, in essence to make it unique.

Blogger's Generic Templates

Currently Blogger offers it's users 16 generic templates, many of which have different color schemes or options. These default templates do have their advantages:

  • They are very easy to use. When choosing a new template, you simply check the radio button below your chosen design and click "Save Template". No need to upload a new template, or copy and paste the code!
  • Your widgets will all be saved if you decide to change templates. One of the disadvantages of using customized templates, such as those I offer in the Templates section is that non-standard templates cannot be configured to host existing widgets unless the respective code is already present in the new template (though there are ways of getting around this problem).
  • All images contained in Blogger's generic templates are hosted for you, so you don;t have to worry about hosting them yourself.

Unfortunately, these default templates have one big disadvantage: there are thousands of bloggers using exactly the same templates all over the world.

Default templates are not really unique.

For example, a blogger in Utah may write about her experiences as a dental nurse while using the default Snapshot template; a gentleman in Baghdad may write his memoirs, again using Snapshot for a base; an up and coming finance company in Berlin may be blogging company news for potential customers and shareholders... But if, on first impressions, their templates are the same, what is there to easily distinguish between them?

Of course, their sidebar widgets, blog title and post content would be vastly different, but from experience I understand that web-surfers are impatient. First impressions really do count, and if a visitor has seem dozens of other blogs with the same design, they are unlikely to take much notice of yet another of the same theme, regardless of the value of its content.

First impressions count!

It's an old saying, but this is very true of blogs and web content in general. As I mentioned earlier, visitors can be very impatient, and the first few seconds they experience when landing on your page are crucial in determining whether or not they will stay to read it.

For many blogs, new visitors will find you through a search engine. In such an environment, there are many other links they could choose from, and perhaps they have already visited many other sites while searching for the piece of information they need. Your blog needs to stand out from the rest if you want this visitor to stay and read what you have to offer. Even if your page doesn't contain the information they are looking for, a unique and interesting design provides just as good an invitation to stay!

Brand your blog!

Don't be fooled into thinking only products and companies have a brand to offer the world! Just as you are an individual, so is your blog. The clothes you wear are those you have chosen, and probably make a statement about the kind of person you are. The same principal can also apply to your blog.

To illustrate this, I want to offer you two examples of Blogger blogs. One of these uses no branding at all, while the other provides an excellent example:

Let's look at the first example. Without knowing anything in advance about this blog (which I understand many of you already will), would you have much of an impression of what this blog talks about? Can you tell at first glance that this is one of the most popular Blogger powered blogs in history, that it spawned a series of popular books and even inspired a TV series here in the UK?

While Belle De Jour does serve as an example of how popular a blog can become, it doesn't so much in terms of branding to offer the casual onlooker a taste of what it has to offer. In fact, when I first visited this blog, I thought I had got the wring URL!

Now let's take a look at our second example: Flair in the City. You would be forgiven for believing this is not a Blogger powered blog at all. By providing a striking header related to the theme of fashion and shopping, Flair instantly tells us what her blog is all about. The consistent color scheme and style of logos throughout the blog reinforce Flair's "brand": a playful and feminine theme used both to reflect her personality and attract her target audience. Flair in the City is not a commercial blog, though the effort put into the theme would certainly convince us of it's authority in its niche!

Taking both of these examples into consideration, which method do you think better serves the purpose of ensuring readers want to read your blog, subscribe to your feed and return regularly to see what new posts you have to offer? To brand your blog effectively, you wouldn't need to customize to the same extent as Flair's complete design, but you can take some inspiration from it.

Customize your template because you want to!

The most important reason you should make your template unique is because you want to! It may surprise you to know that for a few years, I blogged using generic templates which I barely customized at all. When I finally began to look into the possibilities of template design, it was because I wanted to learn more about it, not because of any criticism of my original blog design.

Most of what I know about blog and web design was learned through my experiments with blog templates. For me, this has been a great learning process, and I would certainly recommend this route for anyone who wants to learn the basics of web design. One of the most rewarding things you could do with your blog is to learn how to customize your design.

In the next installment...

Creating a completely customized Blogger template is no mean feat. In fact, it took several weeks of hard work and experimentation to create the design you see in place on Blogger Buster today!

So rather than throw you all in at the deep end, the next installment in this series will be A Cheats' Guide to Blogger Template Design. In this post, I will tell you offer you some quick tips and tricks to make your existing template more unique in less than an hour of your time.

Once you've seen what can be achieved with a few quick tweaks, I'm sure you'll feel more confident in creating a whole new template for your blog! In the meantime, why not take a look at some of my earlier posts about template design as I will be drawing on many of these in the forthcoming step-by-step guide.

Be sure to subscribe to the feed to keep up to date with the latest posts in this series. And as always, I love to read your thoughts and opinions, so please feel free to leave your comments below.

Author: Amanda Kennedy

Amanda is a professional blogger and web designer living in Sheffield, United Kingdom.

In addition to curating Blogger Buster, you can find Amanda on Twitter, Facebook or add her to your circle on Google+.

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25 comments:

  1. Hi Amanda,
    I downloaded a template designed by you (butterflies maybe), and tried to customise it a bit too. I really must thank you for making 2 column bloggers life so much simpler by designing 3 column templates. Look forward to yr tutorials.
    Wonder if the following will figure:
    How to make a header with our own pictures; mine is fuzzy!
    How to get the 2 sidebars to move up a bit to reduce the gap between the header & side-bar?
    I have no knowledge of CSS HTML etc, so am merrily trying to figure it out. You are doing a splendid job!!! Have a great 2008
    Cheers
    Deeba

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  2. Hello Amanda

    First i want to thank you for your excellent work. Your site is a great resource.

    I'm using your cool-blue template for my two blogs. See it Here.

    I customized the cool blue template so i can change the color themes through the blogger dashboard. I think this makes the templates even more flexible.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Amanda,

    Eager to see yout comming articles.

    I have tried several blogger hacks for recent articles & recent comments but there are still errors while viewing in IE.

    The search button isn't at the same level as the searchbar.

    May I know my mistakes? Here is my blog.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I will never fail to come back again and again to read your guides, Amanda. You have such talent in the blogging design world! Thanks for this post, and I can't wait for the new series of blog template designing guides you will be writing soon. I am re-designing mine too, and now it looks soooooo boring. :)

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  6. Thank you for using my blog as an example, Amanda. :D Much appreciated.

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  7. I get the point you're trying to make but don't your examples kind of say otherwise?

    The title says "why your blog design needs to be Unique." But in the examples the common blogger template is a bigger success.

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  8. @Passionate Baker:

    Yes, the Blogger Template Design series will cover both these aspects of template design (and a lot more besides). I'll discuss some aspects of the header in the next installment (a cheats guide...), and in more detail in a later post of the series. The margins will be covered much later, though if you need help with this sooner, feel free to send me an email and I'll explain this more quickly for you.

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  9. @anonymous:

    Personally, I think that Belle De Jour (the example which uses a default template) would have become a much more successful blog if it had used a customized template. As it stands, I assume that Belle had initially started her blog as a personal endeavor and placed little value on the overall design.

    But take a look at some of the most popular blogs around today: Problogger, JohnChow.com, and even Post Secret: you'll notice the one thing in common is that none of them use default templates provided by their blog software. I looked at the top 100 blogs in Technorati, and of those there is only Belle de Jour which I recognized as using a default template with no branding/customization. If you're still in doubt, read this post about John Chow's own experiences between using default and custom themes. Hopefully this will clear things up :)

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  10. Hi Amanda,

    I don't know how I stumbled upon your blog but I am so excited to learn in your template modification series!

    I am eager to have my blog stand out from the crowd and learn some HTML at the same time.

    Thanks so much for your work on this!

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  11. Hi Amanda!
    I stumped upon your blog while searching for templates and some CSS enlightment and I wish to thank, THANK YOU very much for your ideas, shared knowledge and templates. I'm just reading your ebook and learning a lot from it. Thank you very much for sharing this valuable resource - just can't wait to start creating my own customized blog!

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  12. Hi Amanda,
    You are doing a great job redesigning templates and I am using one of them. I just made minor changes as you will see here: http://arisingsunset.blogspot.com

    Thanks a million. I will bookmark all your work and will keep visit again.

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  13. Having a unique web design is definitely very important in terms of branding.

    Even if you afford to have some design a unique theme for your site, you can always have a web designer cutomize an existing template for a fairly low price.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi!!
    I have some questions, and sorry they doesnt fit exactly to this post, i didnt know were to put it.

    Q1: How can i put an ad (or lets say a div ) only after the top post shown on a index type (i mean not in the posts pages). and not getting it looped in all posts??

    Q2: How to put and adsense unity on every post page. But not under the title nor on the post footer... but some place in the middle of the content?..or maybe before the "div="fullpost"" but after the first part of the post (the one is shown on indextype).

    Please answer..
    Ill be so thankful!
    God bless!
    bychobed

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  15. I think you can get by using a template in most cases. The real "design" is all in the graphics or choices of appropriate photos. Alot can be done with photography.

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  16. I like it. design is perfect for HTPC, is this new look gives it a modern flavour. thanks shelly

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  17. now i will use other template out there.great idea..template really is one foundation of any blog...

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  18. I must say a wonderful and selected collection of themes. Good one. ^_^

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    ReplyDelete
  20. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about information and love learning more on this. If possible, as you gain expertise, It is extremely helpful for me. would you mind updating your blog with more information

    ReplyDelete
  21. I was looking for crucial information on this subject. I was very pleased to find this blog. I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it. Thanks...

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thanks to share with us the information. I wish you good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Make sure they are the same with other ways to design good website.

    ReplyDelete

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