*With FREE Brand BOARD Template*
Welcome to part 4 of How to Start a Food Blog. If you’re reading this, you probably already have a clever name for your blog, a domain and website set up, a publishing platform (probably WordPress) and a number of extra plugins installed to make your site do super-special things. But your site still looks a bit, well, unappetising. What you want to do next is think about customising your site. And this is just the guide to help you do it!
So, what can you change?
Well, the short answer is: just about anything!
It’s really important that your site has a unique look and feel; nobody wants to visit a set of identical sites, even if the recipes are what sets you apart. If you haven’t heard of it before, you probably need to think about branding your site. The brand is the particular colours, fonts and styles that you use to make your blog stand out. The brand has to convey what you have to say, so, for example, if you only cook seafood (great niche!) then you could use blues, sea graphics and your logo could contain a fish. Twee, I know – but you get the idea. You want it to be immediately apparent what you are offering. And remember, you’ve got your blog name to help you say that too.
The second thing that a brand can do is help visitors recognise you at a glance – your posts, graphics, logo and so on. You want visitors that will read an article or recipe simply because you wrote it! Imagine that!! And to do that, you have to be consistent.
Luckily, here’s a Brand-Board Template to help you do it!
The fonts are what the text looks like. In most blog themes, you have to choose a font for the paragraph text (this bit you’re reading right now) and a font for the headings – the bit that says “fonts” above this. The paragraph text needs to be very plain and easy to read; popular fonts are Lato, Roboto, Arvo, Raleway and Montserrat (which this site uses).
Furthermore, headings can come in different sizes, for different purposes throughout your site. In WordPress they are referred to as H1 (heading 1), H2, H3, H4, H5 and H6. When a search engine like Google pulls words from your blog, it prioritises H1 first, then H2 and so on. So you really want to use those for the more important titles. Headings can basically use any font you want BUT again, it needs to be readable. When I chose the headings fonts for this site, I set most of them to a simple font, same as the paragraph text, but I also chose a “feature” font. That feature font is called Selima and it’s what you see for the word “collective” in the header of this site. I chose to maintain consistency by adding a few flashes of it here and there throughout the site – like in the text in my graphics (images) too.
To change the fonts of your website, go to Appearance >> Customize >> Typography. The page will still be visible on the right so you can change something and get an instant “live” idea of what it will look like. When you’re finished, just hit “Publish” and it’s all saved. If “Typography” or “Fonts” are not available as an option in your customizer, you might need to upload a plugin to help you do it. I recommend Easy Google Fonts as it draws from the entire Google font repertory.
In the same way that you can adjust the font appearance, you can also adjust the colour. Firstly, bear in mind that most people read websites on mobiles and tablets these days, so the screen is quite small. Therefore you want dark and bright colours that are easy to see – no pastels here.
Most paragraph text is best in black or dark grey; headings can be a combination of black and colour, particularly if you want to use a feature font like I have. Make sure the colour ties in with your overall theme and feel of your site and write down the code for the colour in both RGB format and hex (e.g. my feature font is 230, 34, 109 in RGB and #E6226D in hex). If you’re not sure of these numbers, you can use this converter to switch from one to the other and this site to help you pick colours in the first place. As well as a paragraph colour and colours for each of your headings, you will also need to pick a colour for the links people can click on within your site. These should be really bright and stand out to encourage your visitors to keep reading more and more of your work.
I read somewhere that food websites should draw on colours from the food world; as I said above, a seafood site would do nicely to draw on colours of the sea, but bear in mind also that the wrong colours can turn people off food altogether – and if they’re not hungry, they won’t read your recipes!
To change the colours of your fonts, go to Appearance >> Customize >> Colors. It will ask you to enter the hex values and you can play around with the live editor until you’re happy. Don’t forget to hit “Publish” when you’re done!
The layout of a blog post or recipe is really important because you want the reader to follow your train of thought and remain on your page as long as possible. You also can use the layout in a clever way to guide the visitor through a number of steps that ultimately lead to whatever your particular goal is, e.g. getting them to sign up for your newsletter.
But it doesn’t stop there. There are some themes that come complete with different template layouts to pick from so you can import testimonials, galleries/portfolios, CTA (call-to-action) boxes, sliders and featured posts (e.g.) recipes, in whatever order you want. And furthermore, there are plugins you can download (see below) that enable a drag-and-drop style page builder where you pull the various elements around until you are happy. King Composer and Page Builder by SiteOrigin are extremely detailed but extremely easy to use. In fact, the homepage of this site was designed with Page Builder!
Check out “plugins” below to see how to add new functionality.
It should be obvious that if you publish a recipe of your own then the photograph should be your own too. I was amazed to find that some bloggers write a beautiful recipe and then publish a photograph of a similar recipe (e.g. just a standard burger) – that leaves your audience thinking that that’s what it will look like!
There are a few instances where thing get a little more complicated, however, for example, if:
- you are adapting someone else’s recipe; then it’s customary to publish your photograph – not theirs.
- someone is writing a guest recipe for your blog; then it’s usual to use their words, recipe and photographs and give them full credit for the work.
- you have a photographer who takes your photographs for you. This is quite common with the big bloggers as they have a whole team behind them. Just make sure you have full copyright permission to use the photograph(s) and that you credit the photographer where necessary.
- you are writing a post about food in general – so any eye-catching photograph about the topic would serve your aim well.
Let me give you some examples.
I took part in a collaboration with a professional photographer who was looking to broaden her food-photography portfolio. I sent her a recipe which she cooked, styled and photographed. She then gave me full permission to use her photograph anywhere (with a link back to her, of course) and I gave her full permission to use my recipe for her portfolio. Win-win.
Another time I wanted to use a photograph with a general “food” theme for a post I was writing about meal planning. For this, I turned to one of the many stock-photography websites and looked for an image marked CC0. CC0 means that a photograph is covered by a creative commons license and that the photographer has waived their right to copyright of the picture so that anyone can use it for creative purposes – like in a food article.
There are numerous websites that allow you to download CC0 photographs – some with a fee, some without – and usually they don’t even require a credit to the photographer. My favourites are Pexels, Pixabay and Unsplash. They can be very useful when you are posting generic material but be wary of relying solely on these pictures as your site could end up looking like everyone else’s!
The best thing to do is to hone your photography skills and focus on displaying your own work on your food blog. Then all of the compliments you get can be met with genuine thanks.
Related: Food Photography 101
To add images to your food blog, go to the dashboard and click Media >> Add New. If you’re not using Smush yet then now is a good time to do so (see The Best Plugins for Food Blogs). It’s also worth checking the documentation that came with your theme for ideal image sizes. Don’t worry, everything can easily be resized on websites such as this one.
If you find that you are still not happy with the way your site looks (but it’s not the theme that’s bugging you), then why not see if a plugin can add that extra sparkle? Check out my post on recommended plugins to add to your site and this article on the best plugins to customise WordPress further.
To add a plugin go to the dashboard and click Plugins >> Add New. You can then use the keyword search on the right-hand side to narrow it down to what you are looking for. Just make sure to check it’s compatible with your version of WordPress and has a good rating from other users or you could be making your job harder, not easier. Remember, some untested plugins can open your site up to hackers and malware so, if you’re not sure, run a backup before uploading/updating plugins. Then, if it all goes wrong, you can just revert to saved.
Widgets are the clever tools that enable you to put information in the sidebar and footer of your website. They’re great for including links to your most-popular recipes, contact details, sign-up forms and adverts too.
If you haven’t checked it out yet, take a look at Appearance >> Widgets in your dashboard. Click and drag a few into the sidebar and footer boxes on the right and have fun seeing what they can do!
By now, you’ve completed parts 1-4 of How to Start a Food Blog and you should be all set up and ready to go. The only thing left to do is to make sure your visitors can contact you, and you can contact them. A huge part of the success of any blog is creating a community around your work; people only buy from sources they trust and they will only trust you if they know you. Therefore, it’s vital that you are visible and interacting through your blog – not hiding behind a computer. For advice on this final stage, see part 5 of this series: Getting Connected and if you haven’t already, download the Brand-Board Template now!
Related: How to Get Your Readers to Trust You.
How do you customise the look of your site? Let me know!