What makes a Design Blog Interesting?

I have mixed feelings on whether yesterday’s post should ever have been written. There was lots of lively debate in the comments and even a few cranky ones mixed in to the long list I received (I also lost a reader according to her comment).  Also, two emails arrived saying “Wow your sisters must be upset about that post”.  And here’s the thing, I read it to one because it was mostly about her and she said “sure no problem’” because actually I’m committed that we come to a solution that works for us all (and so is she).  My other sister was mentioned (so I didn’t read it to her in advance) and she was cranky, and we worked it out. She is the real writer in our family and she offered to write a post from their point of view, so I agreed. Stay tuned for that one.

I wrote about ‘decorating for family’ because I know a lot of designers (and anyone who sells time) struggles with maintaining a balance with their family and friends and I honestly didn’t know the best way to handle it.  What makes me a good colourist and a designer is that I analyze everything and I do the same thing with relationships.  If I wasn’t writing about design, I would write a relationship blog because what makes people tick inside them fascinates me just as much as colour does.

And I also love a lively debate once in a while, I always learn something and I think what makes relationships great is when you work through the issues that push your buttons and get to the other side.  And forgive.  And forget. And forgetting is hard.  We hardly remember the argument that we had but we sure remember how we felt when the event or argument happened.

So what makes a design/or any blog interesting?

As Copyblogger says in this post, The first rule of Copyblogger

1. “Great content comes from craft, care, and attention, not talent.”

Image via This is Glamorous 

2. “It comes from obsessively focusing on what your reader wants. What’s bugging her? What problem is she having a hard time solving? What does she want more than anything? What’s she dreaming about? What wakes her up at 3 in the morning? What makes her feel like a beautiful and unique snowflake?”

Since a huge number of my readers are designers, I think that my post attempted to help them (and me) in the family = free conversation.  But what about all the rest of my readers who don’t care about that (because it’s not what you do) and had opposite opinions?

Or then there’s the other side of it (this part is for the bloggers reading this), written by Mike Duran; who asked this question:

3. “What kinds of comments are you looking for on your blog? Are you looking for “amens” and “attaboys”? Or are you really looking for dialog?” and then he quoted Copyblogger (like we all do):

“In the blogging world, buzz mainly finds you in your blog comments. When you hit a hot button, that’s where you first find out. When you look at great blogs, it’s not uncommon to find that the comments become even better than the post itself — so let them.

If you’ve written something that’s whipping up controversy, don’t hide from your comments. Embrace the buzz, both positive and negative. Learn from it. Dive in and chat. Your readers will thank you (and become even more loyal on account of it)” 

4. To have a good blog, pretend that your perfect client is on the other side of the desk while you’re writing.  Write to her.  So when I’m writing posts about money, I’m talking to the designers that attend my workshops.  When I talk about “How to have a great blog” I’m talking to other design bloggers.  When I talk about design, colour and atmosphere, I’m talking to my future clients, readers that love design in addition to designers and bloggers.

I created this blog because I’m passionate about colour and design and because it took me so long to figure it out on my own, if I can, I like to make it easier for everyone else. And sometimes I write ‘about me’ because whenever I read a personal post on a blog that I follow it makes me feel closer to the blogger and it makes her blog more interesting to me.

There was lots of talk in the comments in yesterdays post (almost 100 by the time I’m posting this) analyzing my relationship with my sisters and whether it’s ‘healthy’ or not so let me be clear, for the record.  I love my sisters deeply, we are very close and at the same time, we most certainly argue and occasionally hang up on each other, but it generally never lasts long. Is our relationship perfectly healthy? Well that is up for us to decide and for you to analyze, should you care to.

Over to you, what makes a blog interesting?

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me for on-line or in-person consultations.

Related posts:

3 Things I Learned about Design while Decorating for my Mother
6 Uninteresting Things about Me
10 Things I Hate/Love/Share about me

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  1. Maria I don't know if I've commented before, but whether I can pinpoint *why* a blog is interesting, I can definitely say yours is one of the most interesting to me personally. In fact, I think yours is my favorite blog in my "house" category (the others are "sewing" and "just for fun" FYI.)

    I'm an extremely visual person and your blog is always chock full of pictures, so even if I don't feel like reading, I get my pretty fix and then I end up reading anyway.

    Also, I found your blog when trying to pick colors for my house, which is turning out to be blue, blue and blue. Oops! But your tips have really helped me along.

    So whether I agree with you or not, I think it's great that you *communicate* with your sisters on the subject of work. So many bloggers complain about relatives and hold grudges, and I'm glad to see you didn't do that. So here's one reader you didn't lose, and I live in the south!

  2. Hi Anonymous, re negative comments.
    It's taken me 2 years of blogging and reading so many other negative comments on other blogs that I have developed a thicker skin. If someone just writes something really nasty I'll still delete it but I have come to the conclusion that everyone is entitled to their opinion and they don't sting me for 2 days like they used to so I'm okay with it.

    Thank you everyone for your comments, I really appreciate your thoughtful insights!
    xo
    Maria

  3. I disagree with Anonymous at 7:59 AM because I DO NOT want to read negative comments that are snarky or do not have anything helpful in them. I want to read comments of people, especially those who have something useful to add, and feel a sense of community with them. Why should someone in a bad mood take it out on the community of readers? I appreciate it when the blog owner deletes them.

  4. Maria, your blog is inspiring. Don't change a thing. You share, you teach, you let us know what you've learned… but most of all you are human and real. These are all things that keep me following a blog. But if I had to narrow it down, the 2 key factors are great visuals and quick, easy to read content. I really appreciate blogs that are short and easy to read – it makes me look forward to the next post because I know I'll have time to read that one too!

  5. Maria:
    Thanks for responding to my post about negative comments. I think when you welcome negative feedback rather than fear it, it allows you to grow. I used to be a professor, and at the end of every semester, I would bring in a group of randomly selected students from that semester and ask them for their feedback. I was a good and popular professor, so they would start with all the things they liked about me and my class, but after a couple minutes, I would cut them off and say, "Enough of that. Now tell me what you don't like about me and my class." They would usually laugh nervously, not used to criticizing an adult to his or her face, but with me egging them on ("I'll give extra credit to the person who criticizes me the most!"), I usually got some helpful feedback.

    One time, this girl really ripped me — "your monotone voice is annoying, your class is boring," etc. — but it didn't really bother me because I knew I was good professor, but I wanted to be great, and to be great, I had to figure out a way to reach students like that girl.

    I went on a little too long there, but again, thanks for the response.

  6. Instead of telling you what I think makes a blog interesting, I'd like to tell you what I think makes a blog uninteresting!

    An uninteresting blog is one where comments that differ from the bloggers point of view are not welcome. I'm not talking about cruel, vitriolic comments, which shouldn't be welcome anywhere, but comments like, "I don't really like that suzani, but the chair is great." In the same category is any blogger who needs constant reassurance that his/her work is spectacular. If a blogger can't take (constructive) negative comments, he/she shouldn't be blogging.

    An uninteresting blog is one where the blogger engages in shameless self-promotion EVERY SINGLE POST. I realize that many of you have blogs for the purpose of promoting your business/store/gallery/service, but you don't need to promote it every post.

    An uninteresting blog is one where the blogger engages in snark for the sake of snark. I love a witty and/or biting comment now and then, but to dedicate an entire blog to it gets old very quickly.

    And, finally, an interesting blog is one where the blogger inspires and/or educates his/her readers.

  7. Luciane at HomeBunch.com

    Maria,

    I need to sit down and read this post and the one from yesterday, but right now I want to thank you so much for your comment on my blog. It's super knowing that you went to visit me! 🙂 I truly appreciate it!

    I hope you have a great weekend and now, I'm going to read your posts.. I was really busy the last 2 days.

    Thank you again and come back anytime! 🙂

    xo

    Luciane at HomeBunch.com

  8. Jil Sonia McDonald Professional Interior Designer

    I couldn't stop thinking about your blog all day yesterday. Isn't that what makes a good blog?
    -One that is thought provoking-?

    As an interior designer I have to deal with people and family constantly asking for free advice. Then they often don't do what I suggest, (I never have this problem with clients). It seems if you pay for something it tends to hold more value in other's eyes. Sad.
    Keep up the good work and honesty – we love you for it!

  9. Maria,
    As a former blogger & one who's getting her nerve up to re-start my uber-honest one again (hence my anonymous post – it's not online at the moment), I loved yesterday's post & admire the heck outta you for posting it.

    I'm with several other commenters re I love design & design blogs. And yes, I subscribe to Veranda, Traditional Home, Southern Accents (Well I used to, before it folded; ditto the US version of House & Garden), etc etc ad nauseum — so I can see pretty pics whenever I want, via blogs & my bookshelves of back issues.

    But give me a sense of WHO YOU ARE – as you do, here & there – and I'm SMITTEN!

    So some folks don't like the mix. Great! Posts like these are how you find "your tribe", as Seth Godin would say.

    I'm honoured to be part of your tribe & honoured that you give us the space to get to know YOU as well as your talent.

    nancy v-b

  10. A blog is interesting to me for many reasons, but I always love when bloggers open up and are transparent about something. Then the blog and post becomes very personal.

    I didn't comment on yesterday's post, but knew that it would stir up alot of feelings and opinions on it. Personally, as a graphic designer, I feel and have the same issues with family and friends. When to do Pro-Bono work or not? Should I charge family and friends, or at least give them a discount?

    After learning a few lessons, I realized that, for me, while I love designing it's still work that takes time and skill, and I need compensation for it. I've found that this works well for me and family, who now come to me when they're serious about a design and really want it done – not like before when they were wishy-washy about it and not sure what they wanted.

    So, while I don't encounter this issue as much as you (because not all my family members need graphic design work, whereas pretty much everyone with a home/apartment could benefit from interior design work) I can understand and see where you come from. It's a hard line to draw.

    Kudos to you for putting yesterdays post out there and stirring things up. I look forward to reading your sister's post on that subject, as well!

    ~Chelsea

  11. maria,

    i for one am glad you wrote yesterday's post! it is helpful for those of us that are designers and have family members that ask for help. i'm not actually practicing anymore, i'm staying at home to raise my girls. my family asks for advice all the time and i love to help, but sometimes its too much. i just don't have time, and when i do put in alot of time sometimes they don't even do what i suggested. it can be frustrating. i am very close to my sisters as well, and i don't think close means that you are always on the same page. like you said you can have arguments and you still love each other! talking about it is what keeps you close to each other. so keep the good juicy posts coming because i like to read them!

  12. Maria, I love your blog because of a. the interesting content that always teaches me something new whether it's about design, color, decorating, blogging, or relationships.

    b. the photos..I LOVE looking at beautiful photos of lovely homes because it inspires me to make mine better.

    c. Most importantly, I love that you are REAL and personal. I feel like we are all your 'girlfriends' and I always feel like I'm visiting and chatting over a nice cup of tea, which I love to do often.

    d. I love your reader's comments..including the ones where they disagree. I learn as much from your readers discussing your topic and answering your great questions, sometimes, as much as I do from you.

    Your friend..and HUGE FAN!!

    xo
    Donna @ Comin' Home

  13. Design in the Woods

    Maria,

    You've done a great job with these posts and I'm sure it's been a bit shocking. The relationship between you and your sisters is very personal and for people to pass judgement on you and stop following because you've put yourself out there with this issue is really amazing to me. People don't realize how incredibly common this is for interior designers in particular. We have ALL dealt with this in many ways. People just don't understand that although this profession is fun and creative, it is still a job! Anyway, enough about yesterday….I love your blog, I'm learning so much from the dialog, and I'm so sorry that people who really don't understand this business feel so entitled to get prickly. You deserve better!

  14. Virginia Blue - Director Blue Fruit

    Cripes, what a reaction you got to yesterday's story! I just read it then and it shows what a touchy subject this is. My take on reading all the comments as well as your own is that there is no perfect way to handle this issue – each person just has to muddle their way through with mixed success. But I am impressed with your honesty and bravery in even broaching such a topic! As for what makes a good design blog – I think there are some that are for inspiration, some for escapism and some for the gaining of knowledge – of which yours fits into the latter category. And there is room for all 3.

  15. I have to say when I read the post about your sisters I thought "wow – she's jumped the shark".

    Given you write often about representing yourself as a professional I thought it interesting that you got so specific about your issues with your sisters. I'm suprised that you didn't write a more general "how do you handle this situation?". Giving the right of reply to your sister who is still cranky with you could see it turn a bit Jerry Springer!
    I have two sisters too and can empathise with your feelings – but I also have to say – if I was your sister I'd be super ticked at you for airing the dirty laundry.
    Just my observations – good luck – I will continue to enjoy your blog.

  16. I had read your post the other day and then today I was out shopping with my friend whose stepmother is an interior decorator. When she comes to town she takes a room and helps my friend decorate it. Basically, she tells her what she needs, needs to change and rearranges items. She doesn't charge her, but she stays at her house when she in town and she doesn't do all the legwork (shopping). Now, on the other hand, my mom has offered to pay me to come and paint rooms in her house. She figures she rather hire me than pay someone else. I'm not a hired painter, but have had lots of practice and can do as good as a professional for what she's wanting. Perhaps your sisters should look at like my mom, if they need to hire a decorator, why not hire you (with compensation). They'd be paying someone anyway. Family stuff is always a slippery slope. I'm not sure why any reader should be so offended as to what happened between you and your sisters to never read your blog again. I just started a blog and go back and forth about what kind of posts would be received well and what kinds would not be. I like reading blogs to get different perceptions of issues. It's food for thought as far as I'm concerned.

  17. alwaysrobinseggblue

    Maria:
    One thing we all have to remember is that we are human before we are professionals. We had family before we had clients. Sometimes merging family with design capabilities can be touchy. I respect you for your honesty and putting your thoughts and feelings into a post! Controversies are learning experiences. Debates are the same. I have family that won't even ask me to assist and I have family (daughters) that will.
    I will always help my daughters and I will always help my son. My son is a chef and just opened his second restaurant (my second design for him) I did not charge him and made very little. He is my son (AND without ever asking, my dinners in his restaurant are always "on the house" ) We must listen and learn from each other. I respect your honesty about feelings for family and how situations can impact our professional time and talent. No one in a family situation is either right nor wrong. What is right for one is not always right for another. God Bless you for being so candid. If you LOST a reader or two…………..it is their loss not yours.
    Still love you!!

  18. Things That Inspire

    I have not read these comments before posting this, but I think this is an interesting question as there are definitely some design blogs I prefer more than others, and there are also so many new design blogs popping up every day that it is hard to weed through them.

    I think people go to design blogs for all sorts of reasons. Some people simply want to supplement (or even replace) the magazines for pure visual inspiration. I find it to be very relaxing to look at a well researched and thought out blog post that is mainly pictures – it can truly be a visual feast, and causes me to notice things I have never seen before.

    Other design blogs provide 'free' advice, which is a huge draw for those out there who love design, but aren't working with a designer, or like to do their own home but need a bit of guidance. I know that a lot of the professional interior designers out there who write blogs are inundated with emails asking for advice, and have to come up with a strategy how to handle this without offending their readers.

    I also think some people read certain design blogs because the blogger has a gift of some sort – a gift for writing, a gift for revealing, a gift for weaving together their posts. They develop a loyal readership base because friendships emerge – virtual communities – and their readers go to their blogs to interact with them as friends.

    There are other reasons why I don't like certain design blogs…but maybe that is a topic for a different day!

  19. All your advice has been helpful, decorating for family included.

    And blogging advice.

    You are one of the sites I refer when asked about starting a blog.

    Thank you for all you do.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  20. Why are some, interior designers so sweet and wonderful on TV and yet bitchy and nasty in the blog world? They sound like they would eat their young and I can't hear what ever message is intended or talents possessed because they are lost in some sea of bitterness. I visit the sites of the wonderful designers who are representative of the beauty they create and share in the world. I dread topics like this that allow the nasty ones to 'come out to play' with their caustic tongues. You know who you are. I appreciate Maria's PROVEN talent, authenticity and above all her generosity. The problem with all social media as I see it is the inside voice gets shared.

  21. I have to say that initially I found your blog interesting, but have since just bookmarked it and only occasionally look at it. Your primary focus seems to be on how other designers should run their business and the role of blogging to do that. Interesting to some, but not what I'm interested in. I see less about actual design–shorter pointed posts with good images is what I'm interested in.

  22. I enjoy having a generous spirit and being able to gift things to family and friends, when I can. I also charge for services. I don't think there is a hard a fast rule. I follow my heart.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

  23. Christina Rodriguez | The Diva's Home

    What's wrong with your post? Family members are experts at manipulating and making you feel bad for not giving them free advice! At least they should buy you dinner!

  24. traci zeller designs

    For the record, I loved your family post. And you are so right — there are different posts for different audiences.

  25. I basically just read design blogs. I find it interesting when ideas are fresh and a bit edgy. I think the best blogs are not afraid to show the reader who they are as a designer, family member, business owner, etc.. It begins to be a story of a journey. In some ways like reading a great book.

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