Since I just went through the process of getting a custom blog design for the third time, I feel like I know enough about the steps to share them with you. Hopefully it will help equip new bloggers for their first design, and help designers by working with better prepared customers.
- Portfolio - do they do the style of design you want? If you really want a modern look for your blog and all they design are scrapbook style blog, then they may not be the best designer for you. Also, are the blogs in their portfolio pleasing to you? Are you impressed with her work?
- Prices - these will vary depending on the designer's skill level and experience. The more experiences, highly trained designers will demand well over $100 for their work. The more self-taught, still-developing-their-skills designers will price their designs anywhere from $30 to $75.
- Waiting list or "queue" - this is how many bloggers they already have contracted to design for. If you are in a hurry for a new design and the designer you are looking at has a waiting list that reaches until March, then keep shopping.
- Policies - these can be different things, like how many revisions to the design they will do, which images you have to pick from, how many changes you can make after a design is installed. Most designers are very reasonable and set policies to protect themselves from being taken advantage of by needy bloggers who change their mind too much.
Before contacting the designer, look around for blogs you admire, both in the designer's portfolio and around the Web. Decide what you really want or don't want. Write down the URL address to blogs you like.
Don't expect a designer to create a design exactly like a blog you show her. Not only does she want to create something original, exactly duplicating another blogger's design is wrong and akin to stealing.
It is acceptable, however, to use another blog for inspiration. Your designer may use similar effects to achieve the design you invision, yet stay far from the original blog's design. For example: I was very fond of many design elements used at A Soft Place to Land, and we were able to get some of the same effect for BBD using different images. You would not come here and think you were there and vice-versa.
Things to think about are:
- What style do you want? Scrapbook, modern, shabby-chic
- How many columns do you want for your blog? One, two, three?
- Do you want a menu or navigation bar?
- What style font do you like?
- Is load time a factor for you? Some backgrounds take the longer to load.
- Do you want post dividers, sidebar dividers, other design elements?
- Follow whatever procedure they instruct you to on their site. Some just have you email them, others have you copy a questionnaire to paste into an email, and have you answer the questions in that email.
- Make sure to fill out the questionnaire completely, including any pictures or images you want used (like a picture of a child you want put in your header). Sending those at a later date makes more work for the designer as she will have to sift through emails to find the "pieces and parts" you want for your blog, rather than just opening up the one email that should include everything.
- Really look at the design. It may not be exactly what you envisioned or it may be nothing like you envisioned, but give it a few minutes to register for you. Then, pick out the things you DO like about it (if it isn't want you want as a whole) and write them in a reply email to the designer. She will keep those effects while revamping the rest. Maybe give her some ideas in your reply so she knows better the direction to go in.
- Example: When I was having a new design made for Moving Forward, Summer's first draft was nothing like I envisioned, but there were a couple of things I liked about it. She kept those and then scrapped the rest. Her next version hit the mark much better.
- I struggle with this one, so know that it is an easy mistake to do. Bless Erin's heart!
- Example: The swirly font in my new design was a little two swirly for me. Erin gave me some other options, which didn't suit me either and rather than have her spend more time searching, I stuck with this one, and I have since grown to love it!
Things to remember during this step in the process are:
- Decide on a time when you want it installed. You will want to be around when it is so that you can move things around because some gadgets and text will be displaced during the transition. I call this time "unpacking."
- Example: I asked Erin not to install until the afternoon, when I would be home to "unpack." I didn't want the site to have things look out of place or in weird spots (to me).
- Things to look at are spacing of the text at the margins and sidebars, even in the comments. Those are often overlooked by bloggers during the process.
Designers - If you think of something you would like me to add or change, please contact me.