Our Members' Blogs

Monday, July 1, 2013

Catholic Bloggers' School: Appearances matter

by Connie Rossini

This post is part of a monthly series to help our members and other Catholic bloggers improve our blogs for the glory of God.

File:Albert Anker Schreibender Knabe mit Schwesterchen I 1875.jpg
Painting by Albert Anker (photo in Public Domain).

There are two good reasons to make your blog visually pleasing. The first is evangelization. Fr. Robert Barron has said that evangelizing in today's climate should begin with Beauty, rather than truth or goodness. Beauty attracts people who may not otherwise have their hearts and minds open to the faith. The second reason is more practical. If your blog is hard to read, surfers may skip right on by, no matter how great the content of your posts.

Over the past several years, my husband and I have researched basic design principles for both old and new media. Here are some tips I'd like to share with you.

The easiest text to read is black type on a white background

There is a reason newspapers and books are generally black and white. Tests since the 1980s have shown that this is the easiest combination to read. Now, some people say that color combinations on the computer are a little different, because so much light comes from the monitor that people who spend hours looking at white backgrounds get eye strain. But generally, white (or other very light) text should be kept to things like titles, rather than large blocks of text.

There should always be good contrast between your text and background colors. And using bright colors as a background for your text--especially when the text is white--is not only hard on the eyes. It also emphasizes your background, not your words. Presumably, your words are the most important thing on the page, unless you are posting audio or video content. Keep distractions from your text to a minimum.

Don't distract your readers with patterns, garish colors, and animation

We don't need to add to the ADD problems rampant in our culture. Give your blog a clean look. Minimalist blogs can be very effective. If your readers' eyes are constantly wandering away from your post, how will your words sink in?

I like to use colors on my blogs, but I make sure they will compliment a variety of photos and convey a  meditative mood. I have always favored purple, and I learned a few years back that in color psychology, purple is said to represent spirituality--hence, the blue-purple wallpaper here.

Use beautiful pictures

At CSBN, I try to find one great work of art to illustrate each post. This not only makes the page attractive, it also helps us get lots of hits from people who see the photos on Pinterest.

As a side note, we should respect the copyright of others' work. Not every photo you find on the web should be "borrowed" for your blog. Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia have countless photos that are in the Public Domain or Creative Commons that you can use. I almost always add a caption that lets my readers know I respect copyright laws. Photographers and artists appreciate this! Some are trying to make a living off their work. Don't use it without proper permission.

Don't forget white space

You'll notice that all our posts here have lots of white space at the top. White space gives the eyes a chance to rest. It makes your blog feel peaceful. It makes your photos and text pop out more from the screen. This is an old, well-known design trick.

Be consistent

Readers should recognize your blog by its design.  It's okay to tweak things and make changes infrequently, but overdoing it may chase readers away. Your blog design is a reflection of yourself. Readers enjoy getting to know the personality on the other side of the monitor. Don't confuse them.

Although we have eighteen bloggers now at CSBN, I use the same font and general layout for all our posts here. Our group blog has its own character, just as our individual blogs do.

These are just a few design basics to get you thinking. You don't have to hire a professional designer, nor go beyond the free templates at Blogger or WordPress to have an attractive blog. But it does require some thought. Remember that your content is ultimately more important than your design. Let the latter serve the former, not the other way around.


  1. Great post Connie...I appreciate the good advice!

    1. I've always thought your blog was beautifully designed, Theresa.

    2. I've always thought your blog was beautifully designed, Theresa.

  2. I was smiling at your excellent advice to let readers know the personality on the other side. My blogs were originally set up by one of the men in my family, and I think even I didn't recognize the blogger (me) until I got the courage to change the templates myself. It wasn't at all hard once I took the plunge!!!

    I thought it was "just my age" that I'm distracted (often to the point of clicking out, I'm sorry to say) by moving, singing sidebars. Maybe not.

    I will spend some time now looking at my own blogs, trying to see them through others' eyes. Thank you for a very practical post that can help us all do our best for Our Lord!

    1. I noticed that you changed you design slightly at The Cloistered Heart recently. I really like it. You kept it consistent enough with the old design that people aren't going to ask, "Am I in the right place?" Yet, the look is fresh. And I appreciate your change from a dark to a light background for your text.

  3. Very practical advice, Connie.. Thanks for all the great suggestions. +

  4. excellent picture, captures the spirit of home schooling


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