A recent sneak peak at a fellow food blogger's new web design got my fingers typing away on the subject of blog design, in particular visual branding. I hope to continue this discussion here and give my fellow bloggers some design ideas to chew on.
Each of us has our own reasons for putting our culinary adventures online. We may be seeking fame and fortunes, or we may just hope to never lose a cherished recipe again (trusting of the electrons we are...). Whatever your reasons, your blog is getting drooled and poured over by your adoring fans- the best of whom return to your blog for continued hits.
A viewer's interaction with their computer, and hence your blog is a complex thing. Our blogs elicit attention by roping in readers through visual cues (a future posting about making sure your blog is helpful to screen readers is forth coming- please don't forget that the blind love to read about your food too!) as well as enticing words. Our posts may be crafted with careful detail, but its the visual state of your blog that will first get someone to pause and help them remember who you are.
The first thing a visitor to your site will typically see is your banner- that first space at the top of your blog. Ideas to consider regarding your blog's banner:
- Does your banner have an image or is it your blog title only?
- Does your banner convey the feelings and ideas of your blog?
- Is your banner unique?
Blogs are as unique as their owners (well, the good ones are). There are no right answers as to what your banner should be. However, you'll soon begin to notice that the really good blogs all have something going for them... groovey banners!
Banner Samples from My Foodie Web Travels
My own banner creation simply was a riff on my blog title, Brownie Points. I figured being self referential was in order since my blog title has such a concretely defined word in it (that would be brownies...). If I created a banner that didn't have anything to do with brownies, I'd probably end up confusing my viewer. Traveler's Lunchbox does a similar banner with an image reference to its blog name. This tactic is a surefire winner and will keep your banner identity inline with your blog.
Pastry Life creates an interesting visual identity with banner imagery that stretches into the blog template. Right off the bat we know what this blog is about- pastry in an urban setting. And that information came even before I read the blog's by line.
Some blogs establish a visual brand without a typical banner. Check out Taste Everything Once's banner concept. Instead of the traditional defined "headline" field, we see an identifying image in the right hand corner. This de-emphesis relies on a signature layout to brand the blog rather than letting the banner space do all the work. Nordljus plays with banner expectations as well and breaks out of the blog mold with a left sided vertical banner. Plus this banner does double duty- working as an image gallery!
An interesting twist in the use of a banner for blog identity can be seen at Delicious Days. Nicky has managed a special feat by integrating a changing banner concept in her blog design. If you have a well defined sense of your blog's aesthetic, this is a delightful approach to take. Nicky changes her banner monthly, and yet her blog viewers are never confused about whose blog they are visiting... the sign of a gifted designer. This blog entices me to bring about seasonal color changes to my blog!
I am an image junky. I eat pictures like I eat pringles (in other words, keep 'em coming!). However I recognize the value of an image-less banner. They help a blog load quickly and set the stage for what really matters... your entry! 101 Cookbooks accomplishes this with a combination of a clean layout (white helps the food images jump off the page) and careful font choice in the blog title. A La Cuisine takes a similar tactic.
If you feel that creating an indentifying banner is still a bit overwhelming to take on, I ask you to consider the following blogs. Our own hard working and relentless Sweetnicks has made the best use of a standard banner by augmenting it with a charming "about me" photo. Anne's Food and Orangette have also successfully taken this simple approach that helps their viewers remember who they are.
I see many blogs, some especially famous food ones, that simply fail to establish who they are with their banners. I don't offer criticism unless its asked for, so I'm not naming names.
I urge all bloggers to rise above the included banner image/graphic that comes with a free template. Your banner space is a beautiful opportunity to create a bookmark for your viewers... why settle with something that isn't unique and doesn't speak of your own desires?