Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Blog Designer Interview: Revka of RS Designs

Today's BlogCoach interview is with blog designer and blogger Revka of RS Designs:

Let's say I wanted a makeover for my blog and I came to you. What would we talk about before you got started?

I have created questionnaires for each of our packages and individual products, and I further customize those questionnaires based upon the information I receive in each order. I always ask general information (name, state, etc.) for our business records and then ask some standard questions followed by additional questions customized for the order. Standard questions include the following:
  • Do you have any images you wish to use in your design? (At this point, I also recommend their browsing iStockphoto, 123 Royalty Free, and stockxpert if they do not have any images of their own but would like some in their new design.)
  • What is the general mood or atmosphere you want your site to convey?
  • What colors do you prefer? Do you prefer bright colors, subdued colors, or colors somewhere in between? Are there any colors you do not want us to use in your design?
  • Do you have a font style preference? (old-fashioned, fun, script, traditional, etc.?)
  • What title/tagline do you want in your header? (only if a header was ordered, of course)
We would also address background images or textures, sidebar headings, a navigation bar, coordinating banners and buttons, and/or a signature.
As your website says, "RS Designs specializes in helping mommy bloggers and Work At Home Moms improve their online presence." What appeals to you about working with mommy bloggers as opposed to bloggers in other niches?
Initially, I thought that designing for everyone was the way to go, and we are still willing to design for anyone with a family-friendly site. But after struggling to be "all things to all men," Linda and I finally decided that we needed to stop fighting our inclinations and focus on designing for the groups we most understand and can relate to. I am a mommy blogger myself, and my designs tend to appeal more to those in the mommy blogger niche than to bloggers in other niches. The same thing applies to our WAHM emphasis and the special 10% discount we offer all work-at-home clients: both Linda and I are WAHMs, so we know what it is like to need a professional look for our business site but not be able to afford what most places charge. (The cost of a custom design was why I started RS Designs in the first place.)
I've talked to other blog designers who are inspired by "real-world" hobbies like scrapbooking. Do you have hobbies or interests offline that flavor or inspire your work as a blog desiger?
Not directly, but I am an artistic person by nature. I not only design blogs, but I have taught piano for 15 years and can sketch a passable portrait. I admire and am inspired by all kinds of beautiful objects - paintings, furniture, Easter baskets, and even a diaper bag have inspired some of my designs.

Since I started RSD, I have become much more aware of design in every area of life. My physical idea file contains pictures of cute baby bedding, elegant and high-class bedroom furniture, snippets of ad embellishments, colors and patterns, and even a real estate ad. I also have an Inspiration folder in my Firefox Bookmarks, and there are many, many sites in there. Inspiration is everywhere if I just keep my eyes open.
What are some new trends in blog design? What are you tired of seeing? What do you hope to see more of?
I see more and more magazine-style blogs. I would not be surprised if this were the next common look. As for what I am tired of seeing - I am so tired of seeing the same old look (that I am guilty of in my designs, too!) - boxy content area over a patterned background. I'd like to see more creative layouts that stand out, and I intend to use CSS and images more creatively in upcoming designs to try to minimize or avoid altogether that "white rectangle layered on top of a patterned background" look.
Tell me three blogs (not designed by you or your partner) that you think are just gorgeous.
I love the yellows and blues of Tammy's Times, and I love the old-fashioned header image and the background pattern.

Ever since I was little, I have loved purples and greens together, and Over the Backyard Fence incorporates those colors well. I love the different textures Susie used in background images, too.

I absolutely love Viget's blog! Everything about it is beautiful to me from the "painting" in the background to the "watercolor" portraits to the various colors used in the design.

I'll give you a fourth one for free. ;) I love SoLi Designs' blog. It is not the "traditional rectangle over a background" design, the colors are warm and inviting, the top and bottom "ancient leather" look is just gorgeous, and the navigation tabs are coordinate perfectly to add the finishing touch to an elegant design.
What's your top design tip for new bloggers?
Less is more! Don't try to incorporate every neat effect or button. Blinkies, automatic music playing, excessive buttons/awards/advertisements, using more than three colors in your design - all can be distracting and a big turn-off for your readers. Use two or possibly three colors in your design for a cleaner, coordinated look. It's much more difficult to create a coordinated, cohesive design when you use a lot of colors. Use's color palette tool to find the codes for lighter and darker shades of a color. It's so much simpler than trying to create those shades on your own. If you must have blinkies, awards, and such, create a separate post or page from them so they aren't a constant distraction or annoyance on your main page and archives.
Read more BlogCoach interviews.