I was browsing through the list of blogs I regularly read, and something suddenly struck me - half of these blogs have the exact same design!
It's not necessarily a bad idea to use the same design as another blog, but when it comes to standing out from the crowd, a unique design is an important part of a successful blog. That being said, I have seen some god awful designs on some of the best blogs I read.
Here's a little story...
Back in the day, on one of my first site, I learnt about unique blog designs the hard way. Instead of coming up with a unique theme, I simply used the same, freely available and open source theme that the most popular blogger in the niche was using. And of course, so was everyone else.
So how did things work out? Well the original blogger who first used and popularised the theme is still around. All the other blogs unfortunately are nowhere to be seen, including mine. The only thing that happened was the original bloggers brand was strengthened.
Don't get me wrong, if you're just starting out blogging, of course you should be using a free theme. There is no pointing dishing out the dosh only to find out you can"t be bothered continuing your blog.
Start out simple. There are plenty of minimalist themes that you can use as a solid base and starting point.
Premium or Unique
You have to pay for a premium theme, but that doesn't make it unique. There are plenty of theme marketplaces (mentioned below) that sell these. Because these themes aren't free, the chances that someone in your niche will have the same theme is reduced, but its still possible.
A unique theme is the best way to stand out from the crowd. But obviously, unless you're a designer, its going cost big dollars. Premium themes start at around $20 and go up to around the $100 mark. Hiring a designer will cost upwards of $800. And learning php, css, html and photoshop...priceless.
Use a Framework
This blog uses a premium theme - Thesis. But unlike other premium themes, which are sold "as is", Thesis is a framework to build on. Basically it makes creating unique designs a lot easier, as there is less code to write. But be warned, it still requires design and coding knowledge. It just makes the process speedier, even to the point I can waste my time creating a theme for the Winter Olympics.
Don't Break the Rules
Even though the more creativity the better, when it comes to designing a blog, you'll need to the acknowledge rules of design. This is mainly for usability purposes. This means readable fonts, no frames (you know who you are), clear navigation etc. etc.
So remember when unleashing your inner creative beast, you're still designing a blog.
If you're buying a theme, make sure its usable.
Where to Buy a Unique Look
Here are two sites to buy and find themes. Of course if you want, you could just hire a designer for a 100% unique look (heres my contact page ;) )
I love the envato network which ThemeForest is a part of. Even I buy stock graphics here, when I'm too lazy to create an effect myself. You'll find plenty of awesome designs and make sure you check out the .psd section. You will have to convert these .psd's into Wordpress (about $200 cost) but I think it would be worth it for a unique look.
I now do all my blogs in Thesis. Its fairly expensive at $87 a pop, but I think I make that back in the time I save.
Thesis is a wonderful starting foundation for your blog. You can tweak until your hearts content.
But Isn't It About the Content
Yes! At the end of the day, your content is what speaks the loudest.
What do you think? Leave a comment...
Photo by - Mexicanwave