My #BlogHer11 Notes: ‘Great Blog Design’ Panel Discussion

by Carrie with Children with 22 comments

While many of us (myself included) have been focusing on the parties and fun surrounding BlogHer’11, there were also fantastic, education sessions during the conference.  I was extremely interested to attend the “Great Blog Design” discussion led by Cynthia of Nap Warden and Jill from Scary Mommy.

In the coming months, I’m hoping to make some changes to my site, so this was the “cannot miss” session on my list.   Here are some things I learned –


  • A blog header sets the tone for your entire site. If you have a limited budget, invest your dollars there first.
  • Sidebars are useful, not areas for dumping things.
  • The load time on your site is effected when you “junk up” the sidebar.
  • The only goal for the posting area?  Make it easy to read!
  • Place a three column footer and navigation bar at the bottom (Cynthia’s suggestion)


  • If you want images in your header – edit them to perfection. It’s the first thing a reader sees.
  • All images post at 72 dpi – there is no need to upload images in 300 dpi
  • Uploading images at 72 dpi helps speed up your load time
  • If you use iStockPhoto, don’t be afraid to manipulate image to make it your own.


  • Use sparingly. Keep it under three different font sizes.
  • Most importantly – ask yourself  “Is my font legible?”
  • Check your site in different browsers to compare look/feel of fonts.
  • Use body fonts that are on all computers or no one else will see them!
  • Stay away from Comic Sans.


  • White space is important!
  • If you see something inspiring in a color pattern, take a picture of it – you can find the palette online!
  • Check out these sites for color inspiration and also
  • Don’t be afraid to try different color combinations

Overall Design

  • Social Media consistency – stay true to your “brand” and look/feel of your site throughout platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.).
  • Watermarks are a personal decision – (Cynthia says no, Jill says yes)
  • If you are on a strict budget, check out Woo Themes for affordable WordPress themes.

If I haven’t overwhelmed you with enough information here,  check out Scary Mommy’s Great Blog Design recap post. She offers additional links, along with more great facts!  Be sure to read the “Evolution of my Logo” post – very cool to see how it was created!

Also check out Cynthia from Nap Warden on Twitter and Scary Mommy on Twitter too!


  • Ellen Christian

    Thanks for the suggestions! I am always looking to improve my site!

    • Carrie with Children

      Thanks, Ellen! It was a great session, hope my notes were helpful for you!

  • diane

    I am so jealous! I wanted to go to blogher too! But, I am thankful for the informaiton on how to better my blog!

    • Carrie with Children

      BlogHer’11 was a fantastic experience. I hope my notes were helpful – I’m going to write up some other notes sessions soon.

  • Cassie W

    Thanks for posting this. I dont’ remember why but I missed this one and it was on my list. I will have to use some of this advice. =)

    • Carrie with Children

      Cassie – It was definitely easy to lose track of time at BlogHer. I almost feel like there needed to be a “dinner bell” letting us know when activities were going on! 🙂

  • Karen Moran

    One thing to also note that the gals didn’t discuss – be sure your navigation pull-downs and content throughout is rich in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) keywords. I don’t recommend using the generic 5 terms Scary Mom suggested for navigation pull-downs as your content will unfortunately get lost in the abyss that can be Google. Those nav words in the pull-down GREATLY affect how other people organically find your site. If you master how to leverage SEO you will never really have to pay to buy an ad to generate traffic to your blog. Google Analytics has great online courses and videos for FREE.

  • Christy @ Insanity Is Not An Option

    Thanks for this! I of all people could use all of the help I can get. I really need to work on my blog and it’s actually on the “to do” list so I’m saving this list as reference! Thanks again! Sparkle on!

    • Carrie with Children

      So glad to hear my notes were helpful for you, Christy!

  • Erika

    Thanks for the great tips! These are so useful. I am new to WordPress and this is perfect timing!

    • Carrie with Children

      Yay! So glad it’s useful for you! Welcome to WordPress – it’s a great platform and I love the ability to customize things!

      • Erika

        It is! Do you have any tips for comment moderation? Right now, I have to moderate everything and it’s rather cumbersome. I’d rather have less moderation and only restrict later if it becomes necessary.

        • Carrie with Children

          Erika – I don’t monitor my comments! Not sure if we have similar dashboards, but look under Settings, Discussions and there you’ll see the settings for comment moderation. I would recommend adjusting those settings and then just check your spam filters regularly! Feel free to email me if you have questions! Carrie at CarrieWithChildren dot com

  • Megan at SortaCrunchy

    Thanks so much for posting this! This was one session I didn’t get to but heard such great things about. I can’t remember which one I went to instead, but I’m sure it wasn’t as helpful as this! Thanks for recapping!

    • Carrie with Children

      You are very welcome, Megan! I attended a few other sessions and hope to recap them soon too!

  • Melissa

    Thanks for all of the great tips! I can’t wait to get a new blog design. So do they thinking you should have white backgrounds and not color?

    • Carrie with Children

      Most of the examples they showed used colors throughout the header and the design, but mainly white space as backgrounds. If not white, then something kinda transparent. I don’t think there’s really a “right” or “wrong” way to do it though!

  • Jessica @FoundtheMarbles

    Love Cynthia. She always has great tips to share!

    • Carrie with Children

      She was fantastic and offered up a ton of useful information! I loved this breakout session!