In order to create and maintain a cohesive online and in-person presence that engages readers and clients, you may want to consider a style guide for your blog or brand. A style guide is a document (PDF/binder/digital file) you create to keep you consistent on important blog elements such as fonts, colors, and image styles, as well as brand elements such as tone, document styles, and more. To create a blog style guide or brand guide you will collect, organize, and create images and text that inspire you, and then you will compile your preferences into a document.
“But why, Regina? Why must I do more work?” you cry out in anguish.
A style guide will save you time (because you won’t have to wonder what your next Instagram image should look like or how you should design that invoice/flyer you need) and it will create a recognizable presence for you online (people make my day when they say they see images on Pinterest and automatically know it’s from my blog–it’s like a non-germy virtual kiss I tell ya).
I’m currently making a new style guide, so I wanted to share the process and benefits with you.
I can’t wait to show you all the new brand. Some of the most fun I’ve had is defining the consistent styles you’ll start to see. I think you’ll enjoy creating a thorough style guide as well (so I created this new post + template out of a previous post from my site). When you look at your style guide, you will immediately have a clear picture of how you should do something or how to create certain brand elements. Can you please just imagine that for one moment? Confusion = gone.
So. You know what’s next. WORK. Download the 3-page blog style guide template below, and follow the guidelines on the template and in the post below. (Note: I made the template a Google Doc that you can copy and it paste into your word processor of choice.)
How to Create a Style Guide
1. Collect everything you like.
Use a private board on Pinterest, a planning board on your wall, or a service like Dropmark to collect images, text, and other files you enjoy.
2. Organize everything into categories.
Narrow down and delete items/colors/styles that don’t seem to fit the natural theme that develops as you organize. Use the categories in the free template download above (or the list below) as a starting point. Depending on your brand, you may see fit to add or delete categories.
3. Pick your final elements and put them in a document.
You can use Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or Apple Pages to create a document (just copy + paste the download above) that will remind you of the key elements and styles you decide on, and keep you consistent as you write and select elements for your blog.
Sections of Your Blog Style Guide or Brand Style Guide
- You’ll want to pick 2 – 4 colors to use consistently on your blog for text, titles, graphics, and image enhancements.
- Use a site such as kuler.adobe.com for color inspiration.
- Make sure to record the hex code (the 6-digit color code, ex: #000000) of each color you intend to use. This way, when you use Canva, or edit with Pixlr, design in Photoshop, add items to your blog, or hire a designer for branding, you’ll know that the exact colors you originally selected are being used.
- Decide on 2 – 3 fonts you will use on your blog for the logo, text, blog post titles, headings and sub-headings, sidebar, information highlights, and any other places text will occur.
- Google Fonts and dafont.com are great resources for selecting fonts. Google Fonts can be used in most blogs (either with built-in text selectors or a plugin), and most dafont.com fonts can be used in logos, graphics, text you add to images, sidebar graphics, etc., through the use of Photoshop or Pixlr.
- Make sure fonts you download from dafont.com (or any similar service) can be used for your logo. Most font authors will specify if a font is only available for personal use.
Decide the image styles you (and/or your designer) will create for each of the following:
- Main blog post images for each category (Will you use low-opacity text overlays, collages, etc.?–view the images below as examples)
- Secondary post images
- Images for static pages
- Instagram (Will you stick to just one filter? Will you put your logo or web address on some images as a watermark? Will you overlay text on all your recipe posts? Determine what each type of content will look like: blog post previews, food photos, quotes, regular images, etc.)
- Pinterest (What will your different types of pins look like?)
- A note on SOCIAL MEDIA PROMOTION: In addition to the image styles, decide on the 2 – 3 ways you will promote each type of post on each social network you use. For example on Google+ and Facebook you may decide to either include a large preview image + teaser text and a link, or use the built-in link function that automatically pulls a small preview image from your post; whereas on Twitter you may decide to use quotes with an image or quotes with a link.
- Decide on a consistent tone (playful, serious, sarcastic, authoritative, etc.) for your blog posts.
- Include a list of words, phrases, and concepts that should and should not be used. This will come in handy for guest bloggers should you decide to allow guest posts.
- Decide how you want to use links within your posts. Should each post have a minimum of two links to other related posts on your site (to help readers stay looped into your content)? Should you only link to one of your products or services per week (as to not overwhelm readers with sales pitches)?
- Decide how often you will link to affiliates or sponsors within your posts. You might be able to link to an affiliate product on the Amazon or Target websites in every post without overwhelming your readers, but you might not be able to reference an affiliate’s new book in each post without seeming spammy. Judge your advertisement link use against what you think your audience will appreciate, use, and respect.
- Include details on any specific plugins that you need to configure for each post. Examples of plugins: an SEO plugin, a related posts plugin, a Pinterest plugin, etc.
- Record any specific title rules you have. Do you plan to Google each title before you publish your post to see how much competition there is? Do you want to add industry keywords to each title? Do you want titles that shock and awe or create major curiosity? Write down your title guidelines so that you don’t stray from your rules.
- List any image rules you have for each type of post. Should recipes include a minimum of five pictures? Do you want to include brand specific divider lines after each section? Include elements that will build your blog brand and establish consistency.
- Write down your text, spacing, and formatting rules. Will each post be in size 14 font? Will the headings all be size 18 pt? How much space will you include between each line of text? Will you add a divider line before and after lists? Will you create a light gray box around all your side notes or quotes?
- Do you want to add “Tweetable” phrases to each post? Do you want to add a signature line to each post? Do you need an author byline for each post? Write any of these repetitive elements down so you won’t forget them.
- Decide on any elements that will be specific to your individual blog categories. For example, you may decide to include a link to an inspirational song on YouTube each time you post in your “Humpday Happiness” category, or you may want to include specific images in the sidebar of your “Interior Design Tips” category that differ from the images/links in your “Fabric Finds” category.
- Determine the different graphics, plugins, tone, etc., that may be required for each category on your blog.
OTHER BLOG ELEMENTS
- Determine any additional graphics or links that belong in your sidebar.
- Set rules/guidelines for your footer and header content.
- Create templates for sliders, banners, or advertisements that will be placed throughout your site.
So, that’s it. What other elements that are important to include in your blog style guide? Might you be thinking about making this a weekend project? I’ll bring the wine.
Got any questions for me? Leave them in the comments below.
Photo: © halayalex – Fotolia.com
Article by Regina Anaejionu