In this post Daniel Scocco answers a question from Reader Mar Joseph who asks:
I would like to have my site professionally designed as my lack of code knowledge is really holding me back. What are the best avenues to find designers?
First of all let’s identify the goal behind this question: to have a professional looking design. The reader is specifically asking about avenues to find designers, but that is not a necessary step to achieve the goal.
There are several ways to obtain a professional looking design for your blog. Some of them will cost you nothing, some will cost you a couple hundred bucks, and some may even cost thousands of dollars.
How much you should spend and when you should do it are question that you will need to answer by yourself. If you are just starting a blog, for example, a free solution could work well for the first months. After this initial period you will be in a better position to evaluate the potential of the blog (in terms of audience and revenues), and to decide how much you should spend in the design.
If you have a clear business plan for your blog and know where you are going to take it, on the other hand, you could invest $100 into a premium theme right from the start.
Part time bloggers might also want to wait the blog to generate some revenues, and then to reinvest that money into the design. This method would not touch one’s personal finances.
Once your blog is established and healthy, you could consider hiring a professional web designer to create a unique look for it. This solution will cost a significant amount of money, but it should be worth it in the long run.
Obviously the more you spend, the higher the quality of the final product, but the idea is that there are solutions for all pocket sizes. Below we will cover each of them.
Provided you are using WordPress, you will have literally thousands of freely available themes to choose from. You might need to spend some time looking for a professional looking one, but I am sure you will be able to find a theme that looks clean and professional, and that matches the content or niche of your blog. Here are some places to get started:
Even after finding a professional looking theme, however, you might want to learn the basics of HTML and CSS. In a matter of hours you should have enough knowledge to customize and tweak the selected theme a bit, as to make it different from other blogs that might be using it as well. Here are some resources that will help you with that goal:
Low cost solutions
If you have some money to invest into the design of your blog, you could start by purchasing a logo. A logo can be easily integrated into any theme or design, and it will give a unique look to your header and more strength to your brand. If you don’t want to spend a lot, head to the contest section of online forums like Digital Point or Sitepoint (now called 99Designs) and create a contest. You should already get some entries for a prize as low as $50.
If you have more money to spend you could consider hiring a professional logo designer or a company. Prices will be higher, but most of them offer several mock logos where you can choose from, and they will revise the work until you are 100% happy with it. Here are some places where you can get a quote.
An alternative low cost solution is to purchase a premium WordPress theme (which could also be used combined with a custom logo). Those themes are created by professional designers, and they sell anywhere from $30 up to $100 in some cases. Other people might purchase the same theme that you will be using, but this number should be significantly smaller than with a free theme. Secondly, most premium themes are high quality, bug free, and they come with some support from the designer. Here are companies and designers that sell premium WordPress themes:
High end solution
If your blog is already running strong, or if you have a clear business plan for it, you might want to get a professional designer to create a custom theme. Tailor made designs tend to cost at least $1,000, and this figure can jump to $5,000 and more in some special cases.
If you have the budget, however, it should be worth it. First and foremost because you will be able to make your design work around your goals and priorities, improving greatly the user experience in your blog. Secondly, a custom design will also fit your monetization strategy, probably improving your revenue streams (sometimes even creating new ones).
Here are is a list of renowned blog designers that you can consult with:
- The Blog Studio
- Ben Bleikamp (Problogger designer)
- Solo Stream
I’m interested in more than the look of a blog. I’d like to commisson a turnkey “best practices” blog, with good design, ergonomics, features, and the most important plugins. Or buy it off the shelf. I’m not interested if its look is unique or not, as long as it’s professional.
Buying a premium wordpress theme can be a good option for people who cant afford a custom theme design. A premium theme wont be as common as all the free themes, and a bit of tweaking and modifying the CSS yourself can produce something that looks quite unique. I have found this site has a good showcase of most premium WordPress themes available: http://www.premiumwp.com/
I am also a free lance designer Darren .. you can check my portfolio at: http://www.uzzz.net/portfolio/
I just used bloggspots designs, and changed the colors.
I agree with Alex: WP can do anything you want and look just about any way you want it to look. I used to build sites with site generators, XSitePro, and text editors, but after taking the Static Blogging course (aff link above), I greatly simplified my life while still giving clients what they wanted and needed.
I think the best way to get a professional looking theme is to purchase a premium theme, something like Brian Gardners Revolution theme.
To add to the short list of self-promotions, I happen to specialize in premium custom blog design (specifically WP) at http://hefmedia.com/creative.
You can see my latest work at http://thehatchet.net.
Hope everybody finds their way to a great blog design, no matter their means of getting there. :-)
Hello, I am a new wordpress user (and blogger for that matter)… In fact my blog still has that new blog smell :)
I started by reading the ProBlogger book (thank you Darren and Chris it’s given me quite a head-start with all this stuff) and I was able to find a great site for free themes.
I prefer a theme that is a little more professional yet simple and the “simple_theme” worked out great for me. You can see it in action with only a few mods to the sidebar at http://www.mlmblogcast.com
Cheers all :)
If you weren’t yet ready to go hosted, Blogger can be a lot better than the crippled WordPress.com solution, so for those of you who have stuck with Blogger rather than WordPress, I highly recommend eblogtemplates.com.
They have some amazing templates there for New Blogger that are so slick you won’t even know your blog isn’t wordpress. Take a look at my blog, which I recently overhauled using an eblog template, to see what I mean.
I am not associated with eBlog in any way, except as a very satisfied user.
If you have any questions about my implementation of the theme (obviously I made some changes to it), drop me a line on my blog at the link above and I’ll be happy to help.
Smithereens Blog: Productivity, Persuasion
and the Art of the Written Word
Hello all…A great resource I used for my theme was at http://www.FreeWPthemes.net
They are a great resource for 100% free, legal, and compliant with all standards.
You can check out the one I chose and modified a bit (with my extreme novice html and css savvy) at http://www.freenetworkmarketing.net
If I am any good at this blogging thing I may consider purchasing a premium $$$ theme.
Thanks a lot for those theme links. Finally now am able to make up my mind to decide on a theme. Phew!! sometimes its so confusing to decide the theme. I even read the post on Ben’s site about make of Problogger;s new design. I should say this design is really cool and much much better than the first one infact frankly speaking the I didnt like the first one because it was a little boring. I am sure with this new design you will get more readers to your blog. Well I am already a fan :).
I’m actually quite pleased with the free theme I’ve got off the WordPress site.
I went and purchased a premium theme then tweaked it to my likings as well. I must say I couldn’t have done it all by myself.
it’s very versatile for a great featured post area, but avoids the magazine style look
Thank-you for a wonderful and very helpful article – I’m currently obsessing over the design of my blog, and am considering paying someone to design a website for me, as I am completely web-illiterate! This article, however, has taught me a lot – thank-you :)
Thank you for posting this. Our manager, Catherine is a huge fan of your site and pulled our company into blog design. We often stop what we are doing to discuss your posts. Your pricing and tips here are spot-on.