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December 16, 2005

Moving Away from Default Site Designs

I tend to use some of the default settings a bit more frequently than one should. The problem with defaults is that when some people see them they may not take them seriously…thus new readers are less likely to trust or link to content since they initially saw it through a speculative eye.

When you are new to the web it can be a bit hard to edit the page code, but just a couple small changes to the site can turn something from a default piece of crap to something that makes it look like you care about it.

Here are my general rules:

  • Do not use the most default template.
  • If there is a template that sorta fits your theme then start from there.
  • When in doubt start off with one of the cleaner looking templates. You can always add noisy elements later if the site looks too plain, but if the design looks too cluttered from the word go that’s no good.
  • A plain looking site also makes it easy to blend ads with the content or make something stick out if you want to push a special promotion.
  • If you plan on monetizing the site by selling ads make sure the ad space is part of the design instead of trying to fit it in later.

My specific steps:

  1. Buy a logo
  2. Find a template. There are some decent ones out there if you search around.
  3. Color match your template to your logo using a photo editor or a free program like TrayColor to grab the colors. Typically I match the headings and subheadings to colors in the logo and like to try to keep links blue if possible. This free color scheme tool will also help you find colors that are complimentary in design.
  4. Add feed subscription buttons
  5. Add a stats package like MyBlogLog, Sitemeter, or Google Analytics.
  6. Create a favicon. A favicon is the little image that shows up in the browser address bar when someone visits your site, or on your bookmarks when someone bookmarks your site. Performancing has a good thread on Favicons, and here are a couple free favicon generators: Chami and . Please note that Favicons are super small so they can’t have much texture to them, and you may need to use a image manipulation tool like Adobe Photoshop or Snagit.
  7. If you can afford the time and effort required to make a great design off the start that is great. If not most people can still get by with a decent design until their sites are profitable enough to buy a better design.

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