There are a lot of ugly, sad, pitiful, and homely blogs out there. Not exactly breaking news, right?
Migraine-inducing backgrounds, fonts you have to squint to read, flashing glittering boxes, animated widgets galore . . . any number of bad design choices that contribute to “bounce” rates (people who visit one page of your blog then quickly depart). Today, there is no excuse for having a blog with a poor design, cheesy clip-art, or bad images. Blogging has been around for 10 or 15 years now and there is an endless selection of high-quality blog designs, clip-art, and stock images. And a little self-education on color schemes and design means anyone, no matter how novice, should have a decent-looking blog or website.
Design & Graphics Should Enhance Your Message
Your blog design should illuminate and enhance the message you are trying to convey to your readers; this includes the way your blog is laid out, the graphics, the fonts, and the color scheme. All of those should work together to make your readers feel “at home” when they visit your blog along with – of course – the great content they have come to expect.
It’s beyond the scope of one post to completely cover blog design (I’ve been doing professional graphic design for over 25 years) but I will offer a few quick tips that will help you evaluate the visual appeal of your blog:
- Have a professional header. This will probably require hiring someone to help you but with the abundance of good graphic designers offering services at reasonable prices, this shouldn’t be a time or financial strain. Your header should be large enough to catch attention but not overwhelm your homepage. Make sure the header information is relevant to your blog and the color scheme/logo carries through to the rest of the website. Your header is a “visual headline;” and, as much as your blog name, communicates what your blog is about so make sure you do it right.
- Be consistent with the use of fonts. Try not to use more than one or two fonts within your website, three at the most. A good rule to follow if you aren’t a design expert is this: a serif font for the body with variations (bold, italics) for subheads and callouts… and a sans-serif font for the major headlines and blog-post titles. A sure sign of amateur design is mixing a bunch of fonts (note: be careful about all those widgets and badges on your blog as they usually all have different fonts). And… don’t use ugly “the secretary does our website” fonts like Comic Sans (oh boy, that will get me some ugly emails!).
- Leave some white space. The most appealing designs usually have some white space, maybe even a white background. White space makes it easier on the eyes and readers will have an easier time navigating through your pages. Another sure sign of amateur design is giving in to the temptation of cramming something into every nook and cranny of your blog. Let your design breathe easy… loosen it up with some white space.
- Be sure to check what your blog looks like on a variety of devices, screen sizes, browsers, and operating systems. You do not have to go out and buy all those things, just ask your friends or colleagues if you can check out what your blog looks like on their device. Don’t assume that what you see on YOUR monitor is what everyone else is going to see.
Beyond the basic visual-design tips above, here are a couple other important things to keep in mind if you are new to blogging or you want to improve your current format:
- Most bloggers will have a handful of posts that I call their flagship content. It is the very best of what they have written and what they are most proud of. Make sure you have a link or a button in a prominent place on your homepage where new readers, or any reader, can quickly go to find that content to either read it or refer other people to it. You also need to keep that list fresh by adding new content or trading out newer content that is even better. Do not underestimate the power of this best-content list. Very often it will be the page that people bookmark the most and use when referring others to your blog.
- Do not be tempted to continually test and use the latest cool blogging format and presentation. People like familiarity. In the end, they are coming to your blog to READ, not be a guinea pig. Pick a great design and settle into a format and style that your readers can become familiar and comfortable with. You will know the right time for a complete redesign that will inject some new energy and life into your blog experience.
- Make sure that each of your posts include social-sharing buttons (Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus, Twitter). If you want people to share your content, make it as easy as possible.
Finally, if you have not had your blog design objectively evaluated, find successful bloggers or designers and ask them to give you their cold, hard, and blunt opinion about your blog. Better some sting now than failure later.
An Honest Opinion
Most people are afraid to get a hard-hitting objective evaluation of their blog. You should not be. Find a proven designer and ask them to critique your blog design, layout, and use of colors, fonts, and images. Find a successful blogger and let them evaluate how you’ve set up your blog. They may totally blister you but it is better that you hear the bad news from one professional now than have to discover it after two years of blogging failure.
In the same manner, find or hire a professional writer and have them read a few of your posts and give you feedback. You may have to invest in professional editing help for a period of time as you strengthen your writing muscles, but it is worth every penny. Your blog will live or die on the quality of your writing, and yet most bloggers will not spend a penny to improve their writing skills and they get offended if someone tells them they could improve.
What are your questions for me about a professional, successful blog design?
PS: WHAT ARE YOUR QUESTIONS FOR ME? Ask here. Want to book me for training, speaking or business consulting? Go here. If you benefitted from this post, would you be so kind to share this post with others by clicking one of the SHARE buttons?
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