Blogging Part 7–Fashion Faux Pas

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, based off my best-selling book, We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. This is the day I dedicate to help you guys rock it hard when it comes to social media. For the past month and a half, we have been discussing blogging. If you are new to the blog, I recommend going back and reading the previous lessons. It will save you a lot of time and heartbreak. I am going to assume all of you are clever enough to look to the sidebar to take you there ;). For the rest of you? It’s Fashion Week!

Today we are going to pose the question, “What makes a great blog?” To a degree I feel I am an authority, namely because I have made all the stupid mistakes so you don’t have to. After a lot of noodle-throwing (to see what would stick) and tar baby wrestling, a book, and 130 blog posts, I now feel confident to call myself an expert. This blog has been very successful and grown to have a worldwide following. I wasn’t always a good blogger and, in fact, when I look to some of my early blogs I just kind of want to start whistling and walk away.

Don’t make eye contact. Baby blogs not properly nurtured by humans go feral.

This week, we are going to address some superficial aspects of a blog that can make or break you from the beginning. Appearance matters. Yeah, we would all love to believe that we don’t judge books by their cover, but most of us do…all the time. We aren’t going to buy a house with the front door hanging off the hinges, a car the color of baby puke, or eat a gourmet dish that looks like something the cat coughed up. We don’t go on a blind date and see some guy across the room and go, “Kafka! Kafka! That seems like someone I could have intellectually stimulating conversations with.”

We are shallow! Blogs don’t get a pass on human nature. We are going to judge by appearance first.

So today, we are going to do a fashion makeover on your blog. Does you blog have bad breath? Her dress tucked in her panty hose? A bat in the cave? Appearances matter, and they matter when it comes to blogs. Let’s check out some top blog fashion faux pas.

  1. The Emo Blog?

The Emo Blog is dark, angry, moody and most often misunderstood. His black background mimics the color of his soul, and the red letters are like the self-inflicted slashes on his arms. Emo blog is just a bummer to hang out with.

The goth look is okay for teenagers who use their blog to catalogue teenage angst. If the purpose of your blog is to tell your friends about the time you dreamed you were Bella and Edward made you a vampire, then this background is fine. If you are over the age of 17, choose another background.

For the blogger trying to gain a following, tossing your readers’ corneas into a Digital Iron Maiden is not a good way to get on their good side. Black backgrounds with red letters might look killer, but they are murder on the eyes. Any dark color with lighter lettering is bad juju.

There is a popular WordPress background that is turquoise with pale yellow lettering. Every time I click to a blog with that background, I move on. My eyes get strained enough without me volunteering for thicker glasses.

Yes, I will grant that these Emo/Goth/Dark backgrounds look cool to us, but we already know what the words say (um…we wrote them). For a stranger, this will just make them hate you. It certainly won’t encourage them to hang out and read your previous posts.

Blogs need light backgrounds, dark letters, and, above all, be easy to read. I feel for the horror writers, but there are some gray urban decay backgrounds that will be just as creepy, and the upside is that readers will be more likely to hang out on your site. Overall, when you choose a background, go ask the friend you can trust to tell you your butt is fat to look at your blog.

2. The Poseur Blog

The Poseur Blog is the blog that just tries too hard to impress, and, in the end, just seems desperate and kind of sad. Italics, creative fonts, and too many flashy widgets are like two bottles of hair gel, a spray tan, an Ed Hardy shirt, and arms full of man bracelets. Sad, sad, sad.

Again, love your reader, love their eyes. If you must use a creative font, use it for the headers, but try to stay with standard fonts like New Times Roman or Callibri lest your blog be banished to the Jersey Shores.

Our content should be creative, not the presentation. When our blog has odd backgrounds with video, music and cursive font, that is the equivalent of sending a query letter written in pink on perfumed paper with stickers. Readers are judging us by what we write, not by the zillion flashy gizmos we learned how to insert into our page. Again, less is more.

3. The Invisible Man Blog

The Invisible Man Blog has less to do with the content and more to do with the author. Where is your name? Is it easy to spot, or is finding your name like a frustrating game of “Where’s Waldo?” Are you a blogger or in witness protection?

Our names need to be visible. If we are blogging and we are writers, then the blog needs to serve our careers. This is called “efficiency.” Blogging and writing are not two separate activities. Our blog needs to build our brand, which is always our name. I have read some really excellent blogs, but had no clue who wrote the darn thing.

You might be like me and you started the blog before you got a clue. No problem. Your name might not be in the URL, but it does need to be in the header. This is not the time to be shy. Write a blog you are proud to slap your name across…tastefully ;).

4. The Gypsy Blog

The Gypsy Blog has long flowing…everything. Long sentences, long paragraphs, long blogs. Loooooooong. The Gypsy Blog is so carefree that it forgot to care…at all. I know there is a lot of debate how long blogs should be. Personally, I don’t care. If a blogger is keeping me engaged and entertained, word count is the last thing I am paying attention to.

The trick with length is to make the paragraphs smaller. Break a long blog into digestible bites. As long as you are writing in a way that engages the reader, likely she won’t notice if you run long. Trust me, a 500 word blog that is all one paragraph will get skipped before a 1200 word engaging blog with lots of breaks.

Next week we are going to discuss some more ways to make your blog connect to readers and grow faster than you ever imagined. In the meantime, do you guys have any pet peeves? Notice some Blog Fashion Faux Pas? Surely I didn’t get to all of them. What are some things you like to see in blogs? What turns you off?

Happy writing!

Until next time…..

Give yourself the gift of success so you can ROCK 2011. My best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.

Also, I highly recommend the Write It Forward Workshops. Learn all about plotting, how to write great characters, and even how to self-publish successfully…all from the best in the industry. I will be teaching on social media and building a brand in March. For $20 a workshop, you can change your destiny….all from the comfort of home.

Mash Up of Awesomeness

The Writer’s Toolkit: The Alpha and Omega of Your Novel by NY Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer

What’s In a (Pen) Name? by Peter St-Clair. Awesome post about how to keep up with more than one identity.

How Should Writers Use Social Media? With Purpose by Dan Blank

3 Topics for Writers To Avoid on Social Networks by Jill Kemerer

10 Creative Ways to Break Writer’s Block Fast by Fred White

5 Ways to Develop Consistency in Writing and Blogging and The Snowball Effect of Social Media by Author Jody Hedlund (yes, I am a Jody fan)

Saying I’m a Writer–The 6 Stages of Responses from Others by Roni Loren

How to be a Mom/Dad and Still Be a Writer by Suzan Isik

How to Write a Press Release for Your Book  by Alexis Grant

When is a Story Worth Writing? Part One by Jami Gold

Can Self-Publishing Lead to a Traditional Publishing Contract? (really interesting article) by Joel Friedlander

Hey Writerface: Don’t Be a Dick but Still Have Opinions and From Bile to Buttercream; How a Writer Makes Use of Rejection by the brilliant Chuck Wendig

I also highly, highly recommend Chuck’s book of short stories Irregular Creatures. If you love his blog, you will TOTALLY dig the stories and you can’t beat the price to be THAT entertained.

How Authors Move their Own Merchandise via The Wall Street Journal (Joanne Kaufman). One more reason EVERY writer needs a copy of my book…just sayin’.

A really inspiring post by Piper Bayard Unemployment: Aka The Road

Get Your Geek On With…

Manon Eileen’s A Test–Introversion and Extroversion

What is a Cult, Exactly? by Peter Saint-Clair


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  1. I once saw a blog that just looked…well I couldn’t put my finger on it, but the guy just came across as fake. Not really anything about the design, just the way he presented himself seemed way too perfect to me, and that was a big turn off.
    I love that you mentioned Chuck Wendig’s blog because he’s a fantastic example of keeping it real without being self-centered.
    Also the advice about breaking up your paragraphs is spot-on. I try to keep mine down to a four or five sentence maximum and often they’re a lot shorter than that. I’ve also noticed that setting off important points in bold makes it a lot easier to follow the flow of text. I’ve noticed Jody Hedlund’s blog in particular is good about this.
    Thanks again for the great advice.

  2. Thanks for another insightful and humorous post! I agree Mayer’s The Writer’s Toolkit is an awesome book. So many writers are so caught up in their ego they think such a simplistic how-to-write book is beneath them. Let go and grab these useful tools and build a beautiful book!

  3. If reading someone’s blog makes my eyes hurt . . . I leave and do not return. That includes dark blogs, flashing blogs, and paragraphs that refuse to end in a timely fashion.

    I don’t care if their name is front and center, as long as I can find it with relative ease.

    Great post!

  4. Oops!! *raises hand* I have committed fashion faux pas no. 1. My blog is black background, with orange header and a cream colored text. I had a really hard time choosing a WordPress theme. There was something about every one of them I didn’t like. Even this one, I hate that the sidebar goes away when viewing a post. I’ve been considering changing to, so I can customize more, but they have intimidated me into thinking I’m not IT enough to do it on my own. Thanks for the tips!

  5. I forgot. The thing I don’t like is when a blog plays annoying music or has ads that start talking to me. I just mute it or click off and not stay.

  6. Great blog again, Kristen!

    I personally am really happy with my blog layout ^_^

    Thanks again for the shoutout! <3

  7. Hey — Thanks for the mention!

  8. Thank you! Another blog that send us all scurrying off to check whether we have to sit on the naughty step! I’m hoping that by halfway through this year I have a blog to be proud of with visitor stats so high I need oxygen to check ’em. I promise to credit you with my success.

  9. Thanks so much for the mention!

  10. Great tips as always. I’m preparing for the switch to from .com and will be unveiling a whole new look soon. (Shh, don’t alert the press just yet. I’m not ready to face the blogarazzi). You’ll have to scan the updated version with your magic eye and tell me what you think when the time comes. Of course, if you’re in a Spice Girls mood that day you could just tell me what you want, what you really really want.

    And in other news, I finally have slugged through the dozen freaking textbooks my job required me to complete like a gauntlet these past few weeks and am ready to read your book! Yeah for WANA! I just pressed the little order button, index finger trembling in anticipation upon the mouse. Can’t wait to read it.

  11. Great stuff, quite enjoyable.

    I’d have to disagree with you in part about the emo blog, though. It can look rather silly to have black background with red text, yes, but I think it can be tastefully done. Plus, white text on a black background is a bit easier on the eyes than the reverse because all that white is light going directly to your eyes. (To my preference, though, I like black on white. It’s plain and simple, or minimalist I suppose.)

    1. You still need to enlarge the font if you want a dark background. I guess in theory white text on black should be easier, but I can’t read them. They hurt my eyes. And we also need to remember that people aren’t going to our blog because of a killer background…they go there for the great content. I don’t remember backgrounds unless I had to leave due to eye strain. I think the black with red letters looks AWESOME. It was my first background, but then I realized that I had chosen a color scheme that fatiqued the reader. It isn’t that these aren’t the “prettier” backgrounds. They are. It’s that they are less conducive to a reader lingering and checking out previous posts (which can help turn them into a die-hard fan). Thanks, as always for taking the time to comment.

  12. Mmmm…muffins!

    Thanks for the advice on blogs. You forgot the Zombie Blog: one that rises from the dead every few months (mine for the last four years). The archives are marred by huge black holes of nothingness in between spurts of activity.

    1. I LOVE that! That falls under “stuff I wish I would have thought of” :D.

  13. I hate invisible man blogs because when I find a great tip I want to share it with my readers. If I can’t find a name I can’t give credit and I’m less likely to use the tip in a blog. That means you can kiss a backlink from me goodbye. If getting backlinks helps grow your blog (and isn’t that the point?), then why would you hide your identity?

  14. Hmmm…thought-provoking…you make some great points…

    *sneaks off to make blogger layout lighter and get rid of a couple of widgets*

    • M on January 19, 2011 at 5:25 pm
    • Reply

    Great set of links today! Lots of interesting stuff.

  15. I love this post! And the Picasso Butt at the top is a hoot.

    I would add the Infomercial Blog to this list. I’ve gone to blog sites with so many ads cluttering the sides of the page that I feel like I just fell into a ShamWow commercial. I won’t even read them.

    Thanks for the shout out. I’m honored to be on that list. 🙂

  16. This is great stuff–I so enjoy reading your posts. Maybe I’ll make some changes to my invisible gypsy blog soon.

  17. How about the “Poky Little Puppy” blog. This blogger has so many gorgeous, stunning graphics that it takes a full MINUTE from clicking to reading. Sorry, puppy – this is the age of short attention spans. If I have to wait more than ten seconds, I’ll probably move on and never read the deep thoughtful post.

  18. What I love about your post is that they’re both humorous and educational! Although, I have to say that I do disagree with your black post on white (though it’s been addressed with). I think it makes you stand out.

    • Caroline Clemmons on January 19, 2011 at 6:23 pm
    • Reply

    I agree that your posts are both humorous and educational. By the way, how’d you get that photo of me in jeans?

  19. Great, informative post, as always. I’d put the Flash Blog nrhatch mentions at the top of the list. Two of the blogs I used to visit regularly now have flashing animation. Not only do they take forever to load, but they’re unreadable and they make me feel a little nauseated. Why do people do this?

    I’d also add the Music Man blog. Please, please, people, unless you’re a musician selling your wares, we do NOT want to hear music on your blog. And even a musician should have a play button and not ambush visitors with blasts of your latest opus as soon as the page starts to load. Some people visit blogs at work. Or at the library. Or they’re already listening to their own choice of music, which WILL be in a different key. Or they have hangovers.

  20. I concur with Lisa that blogs with music are an immediate Back click for me. Makes the page load slow, and the volume is often ridiculously loud, and it screams Geocities circa 2001.

    Don’t know whether it’s more the Poky Lil Puppy, or some tarted up version of The Poseur, but I cannot stand blogs that have a bajillion widgets along the sides. Giant buttons for every site they’re part of, and every blogosphere award they’ve ever gotten, and six lists of their followers, and an extensive archive and tag cloud…it’s exhausting. Not to mention it clutters out the real information. I noticed I started doing it, and created pages in Blogger for the clutter.

    And I toss another vote for dark backgrounds. Not just because I’m angsty and disaffected. O,.,O The light blue-gray on black is easy (so I’m told), and it fits my brand.

  21. I have a harder time reading blogs with white backgrounds.Which is why I picked a dark background ( It’s not completely black though.) A darker background blended with my banner too. White, the banner would have stuck out like a sore thumb, but with a darker background there is more chance the eye is drawn through the blog.

    I went to college for art and the one thing my design teachers stressed was never have a focal point in the middle. You want to draw the viewer’s eye through out the piece. I figure the same can apply to blogs. You don’t want the viewer staring at ONE thing, you want them to look at every part. (Kristen you’re blog is an example of that.The design is simple and sleek, but right at the top you have this white that extends into the banner w/ your picture. Every time I look my eye is drawn to your picture.It becomes the focal point, what draws the eye. BUT you do offset it with an interesting image at the beginning of your blog posts that catches the eye as well. Therefore drawing the viewer to the topic. – I just got to put my college education to work here.)

    That’s my two cents. Oh and my boyfriend said brown on computer screens stress the eyes so never use tones of brown. (And Kristen I wasn’t bashing your blog at all either, hope I didn’t offend or anything.)

    1. LOL…nah. No worries. Very interesting stuff. I had a hard time picking backgrounds because many of them had such a layout that the paragraphs were clumped making them look even longer. I am a blogger that tends to run long, so I needed a background that was easy to read, but also fooled the reader into thinking he/she wasn’t reading that much. The dense clumps of text would have sent readers screaming.

      The point of all of this is test, get feedback and make sure your content is easy to READ :D.

      1. Big clumps are evil, I know I tend not to read when the post looks huge. >.>

  22. Thanks for posting this, Kristen. I have a hard time reading some blogs, even when I like the content, because the appearance is so unapproachable. Ironic that this is your front page today, too, because I’m also tossing you the Stylish Blogger Award. (Post is going up at my site in five minutes…and you definitely deserve it!)

  23. Thanks for the mention! And I agree with everything you mentioned here. I’d talked a lot about numbers 1 & 2 in my What Makes People Avoid Blogs series, but numbers 3 & 4 are extremely valid as well. Great summary!

  24. Excellent advice! I see I can make a few changes according to your list. I’m the invisible one. I guess I have got to get my name in there,

  25. You TOTALLY cracked me up with this post!! Particularly this line: “Are you a blogger or in witness protection?” 🙂 Great stuff here as always, Kristen!

  26. Isn’t the whole point of having a blog is to be different, write what ever you want and above all express yourself? Reading your post appears to me that you intend to standardise the blog market (if it ever was a market) make it appear like some ISO standard in creating website for the industry.

    I have been on blogs that have -50% creativity but the content is good, and likewise I have been on blog that look like Microsoft new home page but the content is just so ‘not there’.

    Would you live in a house where outside would display exactly who lives inside, their names, age, date of birth and what they do for a living – for the world to see – or would you like to remain ‘private’.

    Would you drive a car where on the bonnet displays your name, drivers licence, convictions, marital status and value of your car – I guess no because something just should remain private.

    I might want to right about my boss but if I display my details I wont have a boss to write about.

    For me, a blog is personal and there is never a right or wrong design – but simple a shadow of your character which changes once in a while.

    I think slightly outside of the box so pardon me for anything incorrect I may have written.

    1. Not if you are trying to build a platform. When we are building a platform, we have to consider readers first. They are the customer. If you are blogging as a personal hobby, then it doesn’t matter. Use any background you like and be wild and weird and daring. This blog, however, is to give tools and tips for how to build a very large readership. Think like restaurants. Want to appeal to millions? Open a pizza place. Want to do funky things with quail legs and avacados? There is still a market, but it won’t be as large.

      I feel writers need to show their creativity in their writing…not the background, widgets and gizmos on a page. People don’t visit and revisit and subscribe to blogs because of the “killer background.” In the end, it is of course a personal choice. I am offering advice based on my own expertise (and failures). Thanks for taking the time for such a thoughtful comment! 😀

      1. The point I was trying to make, you confirmed it quote “..writers need to show their creativity in their writing..” – that said – I agree that its about the content and how it connects to the reader.

        Personally I like to read from writers who make their content appear to be individual and for you. Where they are directly communicating to you on a one to one basis. This for me is key and my decision to follow the blog is based on this.

        Too often writers appear to be talking to the masses and I just feel they ‘sometimes’ lack the connection to the individual read.

        1. YES! And an EXCELLENT point. I was actually going to talk about that next week. When you begin blogging (at least it happened to me), often we are insecure, so our blogs, if we aren’t careful, can sound like we are talking “at” people and not “to” them. Our blogs need to be a dialogue…a conversation that feels personal and intimate. At least, that’s my opinion. I get talked “at” all day. I want to feel like I am in a relationship/conversation. Thanks!

      2. 🙂 good stuff

  27. Just awesome. The timing of this blog is so perfect as well, considering the time I’ve spent on it this week. First it was issues with my computer not talking to my template page, then it was finding a different background that was less cute and more meaningful. Kind of like going from one relationship to another because you wanted more out of it than just a quick peek at the gorgeous thing on your arm. 🙂 Thanks so much!!

  28. I’m another that simply cannot read white on black. It makes lines appear on my retinas after a paragraph or two, so I have to keep tilting my head from side to side to avoid interference. I must look like a demented budgie when I find a blog like that!

    Needless to say, I tend to give up on those, even if they have fantastic content.

    I don’t mind so much if the contrast is less, but then you can run into problems with readers who have different problems. I love the idea of a shadowy picture behind my blog text, but I sadly had to abandon it because it makes it harder for some readers.

    I do find white backgrounds can be a bit harsh when I’m tired, but I find it the best compromise.

    I do find myself wishing WordPress would consider readability issues and just not have themes with problems! One or two have horribly small fonts, and you can’t change them.

    Agree as well with not having sound or flashing images. Oh how I hate those moving adverts! I cannot read with one of those in my eyeline – I have to move the window so that part is off the screen, or even hold my hand over it! Hideous!

    The only one I am guilty of is being invisible, still… I am a little paranoid…

  29. Yep – I made the mistake of red lettering on a black background at first. Thanks for the tips, Kristen!

  30. This is such a funny, clever post! There are two things that drive me crazy when I come across a new blog, and you mentioned them both–the dark background that makes it hard to read, and the nameless author. I have a terrible time remembering “The Write This” or “The Write That” but I will remember “Susie Sunshine.” Blog authors should have their name near the top!

    Thank you very much for the shout-out. Your last post made me so happy, I linked it to tomorrow’s post. By the way, your book ROCKS! Every writer should own it.

    1. Actually, I linked it to next Friday’s post–duh! Brain is monkey mush today!

      1. LOL…I feel ya. I really appreciate that. Thanks so much!

  31. Blogging is a set of relationships, too. There is a person behind each post and comment. When I remember that, it guides me well. If it wouldn’t be appropriate in a gathering of friends, it isn’t appropriate on my blog.

    Good post!

  32. Ha! Loved this! All so true. I especially can’t stand all the blinking bling on some blogs.

  33. Very timely post for me, Kristen. I’ve been bothered by the font/colors on my own blog for awhile — in fact, when I came to other, similar looking blogs, I would stop reading. You would think that would have been often for me to change up my own place pronto…nah…took awhile. I’m still tweaking, but my new look is definitely easier on the eyes.

    Thanks for the great tips~

  34. My favourite colours are red and black so by default those would often end up as my starting colours. After I looked over my blog I overhauled it into white and black (Beh) but readable. I am currently wondering about what name I want my handle to be when I start writing. In a case like that would you have a blog header that shows your topic of chioce or do you just keep the one they give you?

    1. Use the name that will be on the front of your books. That will save you a TON of time and energy. As far as the header stuff? No idea. I just fill out fields. Am the nost non-technical tech writer on the planet, LOL.

    • Patti SJ on January 25, 2011 at 3:13 am
    • Reply

    Thanks for the great information regarding blogging. Planning to start my own in 2011, and value your wisdom.

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kristen Lamb, Kristen Lamb and others. Kristen Lamb said: Does your blog need a fashion makeover? Make sure your blog is dressed to impress #pubtip #writegoal #indie […]

  2. […] Kristen Lamb wrote a post about common blog mistakes.  Well, it turns out I was an offender.  Not only that, it was the […]

  3. […] Blogging Yes, of course it’s a Kristen Lamb post, and of course it’s amusing. But Blogging Part 7- Fashion Faux Pas also contains helpful advice I wish everyone would follow. (Found because I […]

  4. […] to get into color theory, so here’s a quick page on the subject. Kristen Lamb wrote a great post which brings up this subject. She says that blogs need light backgrounds with dark text to be […]

  5. […] Lamb has an ongoing series on blogging.  The latest installment is “Part 7:  Fashion Faux Pas” and has some tips on what to avoid in your blog design.  Be sure to catch up on the […]

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