Friday, August 3, 2012

4 Ways to Tell if your Blog Looks Hideous & FREE Blog Banner Give-Away!

All right, we are going to end off this guest blogging marathon with a BANG!!! And I mean bang. Please welcome Kelley York, guest blogger at many websites (which you can see below in her bio section) including YAtopia, which just passed its 1,000 follower mark!

She is a GENIUS when it comes to blog design. And, she is giving away one of her beautiful blog banners to a luck winner! I cannot thank her enough for her amazing generocity and willingness to go the extra mile. She is fantastic. Look at the end to see the details of the give away!

But first, the beauty test. Does your blog pass it?


Hello, readers of SC's blog! While thinking of topics for this guest post, it came to mind that I could touch on a subject I haven't before, even on my own blog.


Or, specifically, designs. What makes a visually good blog?

If you aren't graphics-savvy, there’s always the option of using a pre-made template and header from one of the thousands of template websites, or paying someone to make one for you if it's within your budget. But if you want to delve in and try a few things yourself, I can give you some pointers.

What I like to see when I go to someone's blog:

The Checklist to a Beautiful Blog -- Does Yours Pass?

1. A clean, easy-on-the-eyes layout.
  • Avoid colors that are a strain on the eyes. For the love of everything ever, don't put something like red or yellow text on a black background. Use a dark color on a light background. Light on dark is possible, but if you've ever tried reading a long chunk of text this way, it starts to hurt.
  •  For the body of your posts, stick to a simple font like Times New Roman or Arial, around 12 point in size. Too small strains the eyes; too big makes the blog look cluttered.
  • Find a color scheme. My current theme on Flowers for Ghosts is, simply, black and white. The last layout was white, pastel green, and baby blue. I incorporate these colors into everything; even the buttons in my side bar are monochrome. Find two or three base colors to revolve the rest of your layout around.
  • Avoid nasty, cluttered headers that look like they were made in MS paint. Something simple and clean is best. Try Stock Exchange for free images to modify and use.
  • It's not 1995 anymore, so you should not have music playing in the background of your page, or animated gifs all over the place. Get rid of them.
  • Streamline your sidebars. This is a pet-peeve of mine. Lots of people list books they like/friends' books in their sidebars, and that's great! However, make them all the same size. Whatever buttons, icons, banners, etc you're using, open up Photoshop or Gimp or whatever, and make all the images the same width. You'll be amazed how much this cleans things up!

2. An immediate idea of what the blog is about and who is writing it.
  • If, in the page titles beneath your header, I see "review policy," I immediately assume this is a book review blog. If I see "my books," I assume you're a writer. Have an "about" page or even a brief blurb in the sidebar. Let people know your name, and give me an idea what your blog focuses on.
  • On this note, give your blog a title that is memorable. If your title is "Jennifer's Blog," chances are there are ten others out there in the book community with the same thing. Give us a name that sticks.

3. Easy access to contact information.
  • Social media is important, so tell me how to find you. Your twitter handle, facebook page, goodreads, and group blogs should be someplace easy to find. Preferably in your 'about' section, as that is the first place most will look. Chances are if I decide to follow your blog, I want to follow you other places, too.

4. Interesting content.
  • Doesn't this go without saying?
  • Keep on topic. If you're a book reviewer and 60% of your posts are about My Little Pony, I'm probably going to unfollow.
  • If you're a writer, avoid discussing anything you wouldn't want an agent, editor, or potential reader to stumble upon. I've seen many authors talking in great detail about their querying process. Believe me, agents DO look at your blog if they're considering your book, and will be deterred if they see information they don't like.
  • Display courtesy. This is a big issue in the writing world, from book bloggers to authors alike. Express manners and kindness to your fellow writers/bloggers/reviewers/readers. Treat them as you want to be treated. I guarantee, the fastest way for me to unfollow anyone anywhere is if I see them being, frankly, a jerkface.

I’d like to take the opportunity to give away one free custom blog or website header! (Of course, you aren’t obligated to use it. ;) ) You can see samples of the graphics I’ve done here:

And a simpler one:

  1.  I’ll include a button and banner for people to link back to your blog.
  2. You’ll need to give me an idea of what size your banner needs to be. Exact specs would be preferable, but if you don’t know, we’ll work it out.
  3. You can send me an image of your choosing, or give me an idea of what you want and I’ll find images myself. If you want something to color-coordinate with the current color theme of your blog, I can do that, too.
  4. You must be a follower of this blog (SCwrite).
  5. You must be a follower of my blog
  6. Leave a comment with your email address below.

We’ll choose a winner at random one week from today. Thanks, SC, for having me!


Need to add some spice to your blog? Enter this give-away :) You won't regret it!

Kelley York guest blogs over at
Flowers for Ghosts, YAtopia, and For the Love of Contemporary. Obviously she is an expert in blogging! So do participate in her give away! She is also the author of HUSHED.
READ THIS SUMMARY. JUST READ IT. Then you'll know how awesome it is. It got a 4.27 out of 5 stars on Goodreads! Just READ the reviews of this book on that site. I searched for a good excerpt to put here, but there are frankly too many that I got lost in reading them.

He’s saved her. He’s loved her. He’s killed for her.

Eighteen-year-old Archer couldn’t protect his best friend, Vivian, from what happened when they were kids, so he’s never stopped trying to protect her from everything else. It doesn’t matter that Vivian only uses him when hopping from one toxic relationship to another—Archer is always there, waiting to be noticed.

Then along comes Evan, the only person who’s ever cared about Archer without a single string attached. The harder he falls for Evan, the more Archer sees Vivian for the manipulative hot-mess she really is.

But Viv has her hooks in deep, and when she finds out about the murders Archer’s committed and his relationship with Evan, she threatens to turn him in if she doesn’t get what she wants… And what she wants is Evan’s death, and for Archer to forfeit his last chance at redemption.

I just want to take the time to throw out a HUGE thank you to Kelley. The give away was completely her idea and there was no requirement for it at all. She is so nice, and a great writer :) (You read the above summary, right?)

Anndd, her new book below :) Read about it here!


  1. I think I've set up my blog right. And my banner is from my first book's cover, which rocks.

  2. Thanks so much for having me on the blog!

  3. New follower here, and I'm so excited for this giveaway! Kelley is a superb writer, and from that HOLLOWED cover, I see a pretty fantastic graphic artist as well!

    I loved HUSHED and can't wait to start HOLLOWED in a couple of hours--thanks again for the giveaway!

    jmanni32 @ yahoo dot com

  4. My blog is set up well (I think), but it could definitely use a new template. Great post! And Hushed is definitely on my TBR list!

    erica @ byericacameron dot com

  5. I am new to blogging and interested in getting it right. I have worked on it in fits and starts, and have one just dying or dead out there. Help!

    Hushed is amazing--posted my review on Goodreads, got the ARC from Netgalley. Must look for Hollowed!!!!

  6. Love the commment about music and animations. Perhaps also mention a waving American Flag...I see that on a lot of sites with poor design...not sure the connection!

  7. I'm only very new to blogging with my blog being about 2 months old. Thanks so much for the giveaway. The prize would sure come in handy!!