Starting and Growing a Design Blog with Design Informer’s Jad Limcaco
Hello everyone! This week I had some time to sit down with Jad Limcaco. Jad is the guy behind Design Informer, a relatively new design blog that has been publishing some really nice content. I wanted to talk with Jad for a couple reasons: 1) because his site was new and; 2) because the quality of his site’s content was so good that I thought that he would be a great person to talk with about starting a new design site. The result was a pretty solid article about starting and growing a design blog. Please take a moment to review what Jad had to say and feel free to leave a message in the comments.
Deciding on a Name
Deciding on the name for Design Informer was very tough. I started by opening up Notepad and typing up different ideas for my blog. The next step was to arrange them descending order, starting from the one that I liked the best.I then went to GoDaddy and started going down the list and typing them in to see if they were available. This part was very frustrating! I typed in domain name after domain name and they were all taken. I also considered buying a domain name that was already in use but I decided not to. After typing in over 50 possible names, I typed in “designinformer” and guess what? It was available. I quickly purchased the domain name and threw up a landing page.
Here are some more tips to consider when choosing a domain name:
- When choosing a blog name, try to choose something that’s easy to remember. This doesn’t have to be about web design or graphic design. Try to make it catchy. When I chose Design Informer, I wanted a name that would be easy to remember and also a name that sounded good. It’s pretty funny actually, that after I chose this name, some people actually refer to me as ‘DI’ or as the Informer. So remember to keep that in mind when coming up with a name.
- Is your name scalable? What I mean by this is that if you decided to expand your network/blog, would it be easy to come up with another name? For example, Collis over at Envato has a network of sites called Tuts+ (ie: NetTuts, PSDTuts, ActiveTuts, CGtuts). He also has the marketplaces which are all named after nature, such as CodeCanyon, ThemeForest, GraphicRiver, etc. Make sure to think about this as well when choosing your name. Oh, and don’t forget to purchase these other domains as well that you think will one day be part of your network.
- By the way, it would also be wise for you to think about how easy it would be to promote your potential name. Design Informer was a catchy name so it was very easy for me to spread the word about it.
Building your Brand
For Design Informer, I already had a logo in mind when I started the process. I wanted to use a speech bubble as part of the logo. I know, it’s a little bit overused but I thought that it would match the name. I also included a spy holding a magnifying glass as a mascot for Design Informer. When I think of the word Informer, I think of a spy, or someone who tells and shares secrets with someone (Informant), hence the Design Informer. So it was very easy for me to create the logo. As far as the website, I went through many different iterations until finally deciding on the current one. Here’s an excellent article about branding basics that every designer should know.
It is very important for a new blog to have its own identity. You don’t want to be just like any other blog out there, but you want to stand out. Here are some tips on doing that.
- Design your own website. Please don’t use a purchased template for your site. Chances are, there are already other blogs that have the same design, making it much harder for your site to be memorable. I know for a fact when people come to my site, they always remember the large header that I have with the spy as well as the big, bold logo. Don’t have the skills to design and code your own theme? Then shell out some money and invest in one. If you aren’t willing to do this, then you probably won’t be succesful anyway. I learned a lesson a long time ago that where your “treasure” is, there will your “heart” be also. This means that if you are willing to spend money on something, then you will be into it. :)
- Be very visible in the design community. Get your name out there. If you are a new blog, consider purchasing some advertisements from bigger, well-known blogs. Leave comments on other blogs, but don’t spam. Make sure you leave intelligent, well thought out comments.
- Use the power of social networking. It is extremely important that you use social networking to aid you in building your brand. Tweet useful articles, interact with other designers, build relationships with your followers. Get people to follow you by being a good resource.
These are just some tips that I have personally used to help me build the Design Informer brand.
Choosing a Direction
The direction of your blog should already be chosen long before you start blogging. There are many different niches out the that you can cater towards. For example, Design Informer is a general graphic design and web design blog, so it is in a very broad field. You can be more specific and start a blog about typography, or about design theory. I would also suggest that your blog’s direction should be something that you have a passion for.
Remember, once you set your blog’s direction and you start establishing your blog, it’s going to be hard to switch it to a different direction so choose wisely. Here’s a great article that deals more with this subject.
We’ve all heard it before. Content is king. If you are going to be successful at blogging, then you will definitely need to have high quality content. Most new bloggers have a lot of article ideas so writing content in the beginning isn’t too difficult. But what happens during the second month of blogging when you have already used up all your great ideas? What do you do then? Where do you get your content? Let me give you just a few things that help me develop content for my blog.
- I keep a notebook with me at all times. I have a small field notes notebook that I have been carrying around with me to write down ideas and inspiration when they strike. I remember when I first started blogging, I got tons of ideas while I was out and about. I told myself that I would write it down when I got home, but eventually never did. I’m sure the same can be said about others as well. That’s why having a notebook will definitely help you remember your ideas.
- I spend some time thinking of new ideas. Ideas aren’t always just going to strike you when you start blogging. You are going to have to spend some time churning out ideas from your brain. Once in a while, I just sit there on my desk, think of new ideas, and then I write them down. Also, it helps that I have a long drive to work everyday, so I have lots of time to think about what to write next.
- Read other blogs.There are some blogs that I visit frequently and read so I can get some ideas. There have been plenty of times that I have read an article, and at the end of it, I received multiple ideas for blog posts, all by reading a single article.
There are lots of other great articles online that you can read to help you with producing high quality content. Now that I have given you ideas on generating new content, here are a few pointers on keeping the quality of your content at a high level.
- Don’t just compile a list post that has no value. Add your own spin to it. Now, I’m not going to elaborate on this much as there have been tons of articles that were written this past year about this, but don’t just pump out a list post because you are out of ideas. If you are going to do a list on the “50 Best Photoshop Tutorials” then at least describe each tutorial to us. Tell us why you chose that tutorial to be on the list. Really, I’m sick and tired of these people who are doing list posts after list posts so they can get another post written.
- Learn how to spell. Please do this for the sake of your readers. I know that English is not everyone’s first language, but there are hundreds of spell-checkers out there that you can use.
- Vary your content. I already mentioned lists earlier, but try to mix it up with articles, tutorials, inspiration posts, freebies, interviews and resources.
- Do something different. Put a unique spin on things. Let me give you an example. Most blogs do some type of interview. Let’s use Chris Spooner for this example. Chris has been so gracious to allow people to interview him multiple times, but more often than not, these interviews are all the same. They all ask the same questions. Where do you live? Mac or PC? How did you start? I wanted to be different so I decided to start a series on Design Informer called “Ask the Expert.” This series of interviews all focus on one topic and that topic alone. I’ve also had tremendous positive response from the readers about doing these types of interviews. It’s a unique spin on something that blogs have been doing for a long time.
Growing your Readership
Now that we have a name, a brand, a direction, and good, high-quality content, people should automatically start flooding the site right? WRONG!
While all of these are good, there is still much work to be done. Your blog won’t grow just because you have great content and a great design. Let me give you a few tips to generate some buzz around your blog and how to grow your readership.
- Take advantage of social media. By far, Twitter has been the most profitable for me. I’ve received tons of new readers through Twitters. Interact with people and build relationships with them. This is the best way to grow your readership.
- Write an article for another blog, especially one that is already established.
- Comment on other blogs. Don’t spam please, but leave genuine, well thought-out comments and people will notice you. I’ve also acquired readers using this method.
There are a lot more ways to grow your readership, but those three are what worked for me the best. By the way, don’t get discouraged if your blog doesn’t grow rapidly. Keep working at it and you’ll eventually start to gain more readers. I can sum up the magic formula for growth in two words. Are you ready for this? Hard work!
Earning an Income
This is an area that I am in no way an expert, but I have had some success with this in the three months of blogging. Currently, all my advertisement spots are taken. In the beginning, I would suggest not placing any ads in your site at all. Some would be against this, but this is what I did. I didn’t want to have lots of blank spots saying Advertise Here on my blog. An alternative would be to use affiliate ads such as Theme Forest, Woo Themes, etc. until you are able to acquire some advertisers. (Oh, by the way, I currently only use BuySellAds but I’ve heard of others that are great as well.)
Also, I would suggest to start off at a low price. In the beginning, I was a little discouraged cause after two months, I didn’t even have 1 advertiser. Then one day, I woke up, I got my first one. I was so excited. This happened for about 5 straight days. I’m not sure how they heard about my site, but all I can say is this. If you have good content that draws people, chances are, you will probably draw some advertisers as well.
Here are two articles that you can read to further help you earn an income on your blog.
- Selling Ad Space: Tips from Top Design Blog Owners
- From the BuySellAds Blog
- Which ad network should work best for your blog?
- Interview with Todd Garland of BuySellAds.com
Again, I just want to thank Grant for allowing me to share some of my experiences and lessons that I have learned from blogging.