The Importance of the First Impression | “So You Wanna Start a Blog?” Series

October 1, 2015·

The feedback I’m getting on this series so far is AWESOME. The more you guys get excited about it, the more I get excited about it! And we have A LOT to cover! 🙂 I mean, I told you that I was going to cover allllllll the things.

In case you missed the previous posts in this “Blog” series, you can check them out here:

SO, today we’re talking about the first impression. Now, you might be wondering… “What do you mean ‘first impression’ when it comes to blogging?

Well, there can be many components to this, but I’m going to focus on three. I also am going to FULLY admit that an entire series could really be dedicated to EACH ONE of these components… so, clearly I am not going to be able to go into a TON of depth about each one, but hopefully this will serve as a good starting point for you!

Let’s first consider what a first impression is…

Whether or not we want to admit it, we all make snap judgements about people, places, things, etc. When we see someone, we immediately make a snap judgement about that person based upon their personal appearance, physical presence, what they’re wearing, etc.

When we are introduced to a new store or place of business, we make assumptions about that business based upon how clean (or dirty) it is, maybe atmosphere, branding, colors, smell, etc.

We judge books by their covers (even though the old adage is to NOT focus on that…).

First impressions may not be EVERYTHING, but they sure are pretty important. ESPECIALLY in the blog world.

Let’s be honest… the blog world is SATURATED. There are MILLIONS of blogs out there and your blog, my blog, is just one in a million. So, how do you make your blog stand out? When someone new comes to your blog, you honestly about about 10 seconds… MAX… to convince them to stay. This is why your first impression is SO VITAL.

The three main components of your blog’s first impression are:

  1. Branding
  2. Design
  3. Photography / Imagery


This is the heart, the soul, the theme, and the visual inspiration for your blog. Your branding includes your logo, color scheme, any relevant doodles or images. Anything that is iconic to YOU and YOUR brand.

Think about iconic brands… Kate Spade, Nike, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, etc. These are all brands that you recognize just with color schemes, fonts, logos, etc. These are iconic brands who have done branding right.

image via

Sure, they may go through a rebrand every now and again, but they ultimately stay true to their roots and to their brand focus.

That’s the kind of thing you need to think about as you develop your own blog’s brand. Again, I could go WAY MORE into this (and I likely will at some point), but I want you to be thinking about it as you plan out your blog or maybe even look to spruce your current blog up.

This is where it is SUPER helpful to bring someone else on board if branding is not your strong suit or area of expertise. When I worked with my friend Johnna almost two years ago to rebrand my blog, she helped me really hone in on my brand and develop a scheme around it. This is the branding board we developed to help guide our design:


Now, this is almost two years old at this point and I’m definitely in the process of rebranding and redesigning everything, but a lot of these same things will stay as they are (or at least influence the future design).


Your blog design is your blog’s outfit. It’s what your blog is wearing when they meet someone. Yes, your brand (mentioned above), is a piece of the overall puzzle, but the actual DESIGN of your blog is the completed puzzle.

Designs change over the years, for sure. What’s “cool” or “trendy” can absolutely change… just like styles and trends in clothes and fashion change. But, that doesn’t negate the point that a good, solid design is important.

You want your design to feel like YOU… but you also want to think about the experience of your reader. So, ask yourself these questions?

  • Is my design clean? Or is it too cluttered and a jumbled mess?
  • Is my design easy to navigate? Or is it difficult to find your way around?
  • Is my design cohesive and thoughtful? Or is it all over the place and confusing to look at?
  • Does my design accurately represent me and my brand?
  • If my [INSERT YOUR DREAM CLIENT HERE] were to come to my blog today, would I be happy with what they see and experience?
  • Does the reader know WHO I am and what this blog is about just by visiting my site?

I, personally, am drawn to blogs that have clean layouts, incorporate something personal, and are clear as to who and what the person is about.

I wanted to show you some design examples from blogs I love to demonstrate what I’m talking about…

First is Rebecca Lately. My friend Rebecca just did a redesign of her blog and it’s GORGEOUS. It’s so simple, clean, and easy to navigate. It really represents Rebecca’s classic, mature style.

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 7.33.20 PM

The next is Katelyn James. Katelyn was actually our wedding photographer and I’ve been reading her blog for YEARRRRS. She went through a massive redesign last year and I’m obsessed with it. It’s stunning and a true representation of Katelyn’s brand.

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 7.32.04 PM

The next is Kate from The Small Things Blog. Kate and I met through blogging a few years ago and actually lives near me. She’s just as sweet and kind as can be! She went through a big design overhaul last year and it’s such a clean, classic, minimalistic look… I love the simplicity of it and how easy it is to navigate!

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 7.32.37 PM

Lastly is A Beautiful Mess. I wanted to show you a design that incorporates more color and more design elements, but still is clean and easy to navigate. These ladies are blogging CHAMPS and their design represents their brand so well.

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 7.33.04 PM

So, all this to say… I HIGHLY recommend investing in a good blog design. If you can go for it and spend the money, hire someone like Katelyn Brooke or Johnna Hetrick to do your design. If you don’t have as large of a budget, there are a ton of AMAZING designers out there who will at least do a logo or you can even buy a template that you can easily install. You can even get simple designs off of Etsy!

The point is… invest in a good design. It’s SO important!!

Photography / Imagery

This is another EXTREMELY important piece of your blog’s first impression. When I look back at early posts I’m almost horrified at how terrible my photography was. EEEK. This is something I have constantly worked to improve.

Just as an example… here’s a photo of some Irish Soda bread I made for a post over three years ago… I mean, it’s just… not a great picture.


And here is a picture of some muffins I made a few weeks ago… see the difference in the picture quality???

RECIPE | Healthy Zucchini, Carrot, & Raisin Einkorn Flour Muffins (2)

Simple addition of natural like and minimal staging (plus a better camera and lens) makes a MASSIVE difference.

Now, let’s talk personal style photography. As much as I love taking photos (I take any and all photos that are not of me…), I realized that I was terrible at taking photos of myself for style posts. So, I made the investment and I began outsourcing personal style photography (photos of me) to my dear friend Emily. And it’s worth EVERY SINGLE PENNY.

Sure, the photo below isn’t terrible… but it’s not awesome either. This is a style photo from 2012. YIKES.

still being molly: red J.Crew midi skirt, patterned blouse, yellow cardigan, riding boots

And here’s a photo below from this past month… see the difference (other than the baby bump… haha)???

Striped maxi dress, black fringe bag - Maternity / Pregnancy Style (4)

My photography has drastically improved and, therefore, my readers have become more engaged, my readership has gone up, and brands that I want to work with take me more seriously because they know the images featuring their products are going to be extremely high quality.

I actually did a whole post last year about ways to improve your blog’s photography. These tips will be super helpful to you if you aren’t able to outsource your photography to someone else… or even if you’re still doing some of the photography yourself.

The point being: having high quality photos that capture the eye of your reader is SO important!!!! In fact, I really can’t emphasize this enough!!!

So there you have it. Three things that go into your blog’s first impression.

Share your thoughts – did you learn anything new today? What would you add to the list? Do you have any designers (branding or blog design) that you’ve worked with that you love? What about photographers? Tips? Tricks?