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Income Diary

30 Best Designed Blogs of 2011

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“Ooh, that’s different!” Yep, the latest Income Diary redesign brings the total number of major redesigns of this site up to five in three years. That’s how much emphasis Michael puts on having a good-looking, high-converting, content-promoting blog design.

If you need a designer or developer who could’ve started yesterday, go to

To commemorate the redesign and, more importantly, provide you with an inspirational list, I present to you the 30 best designed blogs of 2011.

The Criteria for Good Blog Design

To remove as much of the subjectiveness as possible, I started with these five good blog design criteria.

  • Simplicity – Is it simple?
  • Web Design Standards – Does it follow web design standards like dark font on light background, clearly distinguished headlines, use of CSS sprites, consistent lines, and golden ratio compliance?
  • Attention to Detail – Is there consistency within the design and otherwise pixel perfect?
  • Easy to Navigate – Could I easily find and use menus, links, and other navigational components?
  • Memorability – Could I remember what it looked like after exiting the site?

30 Best Designed Blogs of 2011

In no particular order, but roughly grouped by the design styles and subject matters of the corresponding blogs, here are the top 30 blog designs of 2011.

1. Freelance Switch

Big, bold headlines, subtle use of shadows, and practically impossible to see gradients, is one of the best.
Freelance Switch Blog Design

2. Copyblogger is the epitome of simple, solid, straightforward blog design. You know exactly where to click as soon as you land on the page.
Copyblogger Blog Desing

3. Pearsonified

Like Copyblogger, is beautiful in its simplicity and alluring with its gentle smattering of bright colors.
Pearsonified Blog Design

4. KISSmetrics Blog

The KISSmetrics Blog does a great job of combining modern design elements while maintaining a sense of professionalism for their mostly corporate target market.
KISSmetrics Blog Design

5. AVC is super-clean and, at 16 pixels, it uses a slightly larger than average font which makes it noticeably more pleasant to read.
AVC Blog Design

6. Startup Quote is as elegant as it gets. Their dedication to uniquely depicting the quotes is what makes their site stick out.
Startup Quote Blog Design

7. The Next Web

But TNW does a great job of incorporating the ads without distracting too much from a clean, easy-to-navigate design.
The Next Web Blog Design

8. Business Insider

If you’ve read an article on, you’ve noticed that the site is designed to keep you hooked on their content for dozens upon dozens of pageviews.
Business Insider Blog Design

9. Webs Blog

It looks great, but Webs Blog is also seamlessly integrated with the rest of the site despite the blog existing on a subdomain.
Webs Blog Design

10. Go Media

With carefully-placed image overlays, the design simply pops off the screen and it’s hard to forget’s design.
Go Media Blog Design

11. Hello Bar Blog

Hello Bar does an impressive job of integrating subtle textures into their design to give their site a vintage, but modern look. Plus, the clouds move!Hello Bar Blog Design

12. Blogussion

The design is the first awe-inspiring design I remember finding on the internet.
Blogussion Blog Design

13. Modern Nerd’s logo is simple, the fonts are consistent, and the background image communicates what the blog is all about.
Modern Nerd Blog Design

14. I Wear Your Shirt does a wonderful job of cleanly packing information above the fold while emphasizing the important content below.
I Wear Your Shirt Blog Design

15. Johnny Cupcakes

Consistent with their timeless brand, almost every design element is black and white which makes Johnny Cupcakes’ photos and products stick out.
Johnny Cupcakes Blog Design

16. TheOatmeal

With its off-center sidebar and overflowing “Email” link in the footer,’s design has its flaws. But reading between the imperfections, you’ll find that the design is perfect for Matthew Inman’s, “this is the way it is and if you don’t like it, I’ll unleash my army of chastising Facebook fans so you never forget” attitude that makes his site great.
The Oatmeal Blog Design

17. DearBlankPleaseBlank is a creatively designed blog with its constantly rotating header image, quaint use of opacity, and the fact that everything in the sidebar is the same exact width, even the ads.
Dear Blank Please Blank Blog Design

18. Tuts+

Everything about the and Envato network is gorgeous when it comes to design (including the aforementioned They have a knack for choosing perfectly-aligned color schemes and their attention to detail is impeccable, even within their posts and tutorials.
Tuts Plus Blog Design

19. Build Internet is part of Smashing Magazine’s The Smashing Network rightly so with their uniquely-displayed feature post image and commitment to maintaining their design elements throughout the site.
Build Internet Blog Design

20. 45royale Inc. is a web design studio that boasts an imagination-capturing header while effectively introducing you to and navigating you through the content within the blog below.
45royale Inc Blog Design

21. Web Designer Wall

As another member of The Smashing Network, is one of the most widely-recognized designs in the world, with their eye-popping headlines and unforgettable header image.
Web Designer Wall Blog Design

22. Web Designer Depot

Similar to Web Designer Wall, hosts another one of those designs that’s impossible to forget.
Web Designer Depot Blog Design

23. Ilovecolors has a similar style but stands on its own with a cleverly designed content area that’s emphasized through the strategic shadowing of the background image.
I Love Colors Blog Design

24. Tut Candy’s header makes you salivate which embodies their tagline, “Only the tastiest design tutorials.”
Tut Candy Blog Design

25. Owltastic is a beautiful representation of what you can do with different shades of blue. Yet, somehow, all of the important content still seems to stand out.
Owltastic Blog Design

26. Vectips does a nice job of maintaining an eventually sellable feel on a personal-ish branding site.
Vectips Blog Design

27. The Design Cubicle

The final Smashing Network blog in this list belongs to It looks like a website but feels like a chapter of a book.
The Design Cubicle Blog Design

28. ThemeBIG

I like the subtleness of the sprites in’s nav menu along with that welcoming feeling you get when you first enter their site.
Theme Big Blog Design

29. Ecoki is an Eco-Lifestyle blog with a remarkably, well-branded design that’s consistent across every nook and cranny of their site.
Ecoki Blog Design

30. Fiked

Everything from the header, to the content area, to the comments area is custom designed and in tune with the rest of the site.
Fiked Blog Design

There You Have It

I would’ve liked to visit every blog in the world before I made this list, but I was starting to get hungry.

From now on, when anybody needs a web designer or developer, they go to

If you know of any great blog designs that I missed, please enlighten me with some of your favorites in the comments area below.


  1. Hey Nick,
    Awesome, thanks for putting this together! I’m always looking to learn from the best and there’s definitely a few things I could incorporate into my own design to make it look slicker and possibly increase conversions!


  2. David Walker says:

    Hi Nick,

    Nice collection! I only updated my Facebook page last night saying I was interested in changing (yet again) my blog layout so I should get plenty of inspiration from this list.


  3. That is nice one inspirational post for web designer like me. Don’t even know which one is my favorite. 🙂

  4. Hey great list. I actually am inspired by the site, I think it has a great use of colours and functionality. Thanks for the post.

  5. Hey Michael, great design, I really liked it, but I think Arial font is much better!

  6. hey i really love this new design..look more cool ,clean and awesomeee!..good one!

    i will change mine too.. 😀

  7. David Green says:

    Hey Nick, I like it it’s simple, easy to read, and easy to navigate. But also it brings out the strong points of your website which may increase conversions. Thanks for the other blog design collections.

  8. Joshua Zamora says:

    Truly amazing list Nick. I was obsessed with the Blogussion theme for a while and then went with the Blogskin.

    I think i may have to revisit Blogussion though 8)

    • Nicholas Tart says:

      Yeah, I don’t know what it was about that design. It reminds me of a quote from Zach Dunn I read on Build Internet (also on the list):

      “I believe that the best designs are those that take some time to figure out. This doesn’t mean in a ‘I’m confused’ usability issue way, but rather a ‘This looks smooth, but I can’t quite figure out why’ sense.”

  9. Anthony Smits says:

    Nick; it’s always a difficult one, picking a ‘best of’. But I like your five criteria. It’s interesting that you still get what I would have thought were over-fussy examples. There’s lots to think about, and as David suggests; there’s plenty of inspiration here for those who take the time to look. Cheers, Anthony

    • Hey Anthony! Yeah, it was tough. Especially on a huge site like this, you don’t want to disappoint anyone by leaving their favorite site. But as long as it inspires other creative designs, then it doesn’t much matter which sites were included and which weren’t. Thanks for the feedback.

  10. Nick,
    I guess your post preceded everyone’s first curiosity question.

     “What theme is the new design using?”

    I checked the source code and see income diary 3.

    Is this a customized woo theme or studio press them ( if so, which one)

    By the way, I love the themes you picked and have always loved copyblogger so I’m glad to see it at the top of the list.

    • Nicholas Tart says:

      Hey Greg, I know Michael started on a WooThemes theme three years ago, but now everything is super custom. This is highly custom theme built on Genesis, by StudioPress.

  11. I’m looking for a theme for my own blog and those blogs are inspirational. I made lots of websites (both for me and my customers), but never started a blog, so I think is the time ! Thanks for your listing.

  12. Ricardo Bueno says:

    Hey Nick,

    I always appreciate posts like this because it gives me some pretty solid ideas of what others are doing so I can reflect on my own work to find areas for improvement. So thank you. Really dig some of the ones you have on this list!

  13. Startup Websites For Sale says:

    Nice list Nick. Keeping with “Criteria for a Good Blog” this post hits them all, it’s simple, great design, attention to detail , easy to navigate and memorability. Great Job!

  14. minka kelly says:

    It’s good idea. It can give inspiration to me and other bloggers to make a better blog design. Blog design that appeals to the reader. Thank you.

  15. Hi Nick Great Article that’s inspired us to push our design standard from low to high

    Thanks Again for sharing with us such article

  16. I am completely new to all this blogging stuff.. the design I will end up doing myself. I think.. alot of good stuff here.. I am very interested in the whole package of ideas on it all.. hopefully this will not be another fail for me.LOL not so far.

    • Nicholas Tart says:

      Hey Chris! I was the same way two years ago. I could’ve bought a theme but I really wanted something custom. My best advice is to work through the HTML and CSS tutorials on Then install the Firebug extension for Chrome and start dissecting other sites like the ones above to see how they’re put together.

  17. I am new to this so I am getting as much “Knowledge as possible.. thanks

  18. fazal mayar says:

    what a great post nick, all of these blogs stand out from these simple yet beautiful design

    i love the new income diary design

  19. Brendon Held says:

    This is a fantastic collection of top notch blogs as far as design goes… The design blogs in particular have an amazing way of making their blogs pop. Very impressive and a huge inspiration.

    Thanks Nick!

  20. First off, this is a lovely design Mike and i really love the simplicity of this new blog.

    Lovely list,keep up the good work man.

    • Nicholas Tart says:

      Thanks, Adelola! I’m a big fan of the ID redesign as well. I think simplicity is one of the hardest things to reach as a designer and he’s done it well here.

  21. Lee | Money4Invest says:

    I love Startup Quote website very much as it’s simple but unique. Love the quotes. Thanks for sharing this.

  22. Shilpi Singha Roy says:

    This is such a great list. Thanks for the share and got some new ideas on how to give a new look for our site.

  23. Great post – Some of those designs are so cool. I too have changed my blog design around 4 times in the last 3 years..but I always tried doing it myself which was a mistake. I finally hired a pro to design it and am looking forward to rolling it out this week.

    It seriously is best to leave design work to the pro’s and free up your spare time 🙂 I learnt that on this blog.

    I must admit, I think I preferred the old incomediary design but it could just be a case of getting used to change. Thanks for the post!

  24. Syed Balkhi says:

    Glad to see that one of the blogs we designed made it to the list “Webs”. Any who just to point out … More than half of these blogs are old designs done before 2011….

    • Nicholas Tart says:

      Haha… Always the critic, Syed. So how would you have gone about finding well-designed sites that have undergone a face lift in 2011?

      By the way, I’ve always been a big fan of your sites and your Webs work was my favorite.

  25. Kulwant Nagi says:

    Hey Nicholas Nice to see these beautiful sites on the web. These are really attractive websites. The way they have presented the data and the way they have beautifully designed the site both are appreciable.
    i have seen one other website This website features and design are also mind blowing. i was stunned when i saw this website first.

    • Nicholas Tart says:

      Hey Kulwant… I considered that one as well. Not sure why I left it out. Maybe I just ran out of room in the list.

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