Happy Bloggiesta, children! I’m excited to be participating by giving my unadulterated open opinon and things to consider when designing your blog and deciding what to put on your page. Now obviously ‘attractive’ is an extremely subjective term but I just want to give you a few things to think about as well as the general thoughts of other much more wildly successful bloggers that participated in a highly scientific survey I did.
It goes without saying that content is king, but sometimes a poorly thought out website can drive people away from that amazing content.
You can look around here and see that I obviously prefer a very minimalist style. This is not to say that there are not many blogs that eschew minimalism (to a certain extent) that are gorgeous and highly readable. Search your feelings. What is absolutely necessary? What is just kind of fun and for your own edification?
- Who is this blog for? You? Your readers? Publishers?
The answer to this question can have a lot of bearing in what you do with your blog design.
For the love of all things holy, if you currently have auto-play anything on your site (music or video) go and take it down right now. I’ll wait. Are we cool? Okay.
Let’s start with things to think about no matter who your reader is or what kind of posts you generally write.
There have been some extremely useful past Bloggiesta Mini-Challenges on decluttering and cleaning up your sidebars. A cluttered or overfull sidebar can really make your blog appear unprofessional and difficult to navigate. Additionally, I’m generally a fan of only one sidebar, having one on each side can detract from your posts, which should feature the majority of your awesome content. So ask yourself:
- What is really important to me?
- What do my readers care about?
- What am I trying to feature?
Do you really need all seventeen buttons from the reading challenges you’re participating in on the sidebar? Maybe consider creating a separate page for things that – it’s a great way to still give love to those bloggers hosting all those amazing challenges without sacrificing a sexy streamlined look on your own page.
Now here are a few things that are non-negotiably indispensable:
- Social media buttons and how to contact you.
- If possible, matching buttons make for a more professional look.
- Blog archive.
- Search bar.
All of these serve the purpose of allowing the reader to find the content that they want as quickly as possible or figuring out how to contact you as easily as possible. Everything else is subjective to you and your blog based on the answers to the questions above.
Less is more.
Not only will too much sidebar clutter make your page more difficult to navigate it can also cause your page to load slower. For this reason I also want you to think long and hard on if you actually need those animated graphics and ads. That NaNoWriMo badge over there? Its days are numbered. Stick with the important stuff.
Which brings me to…
Ads can range anywhere from background noise to flat out obnoxious. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use ads on your site – but I entreat you to think about a few things:
- Do you really need the money?
- How intrusive are the ads?
- Are you actually making any money?
A simple banner somewhere on your page is probably not going to turn off most people, in rare cases it can even make a site look more professional, but once ads start to get intrusive – especially if they pop-up, cover your content, and are hard to figure out how to get rid of – they’re probably doing more harm than good.
Unless you’re making mad bucks from those kinds of ads get rid of them.
Additionally, we’re back to the loading time issue. If you have a lot of flashy graphic ads, you may drive readers away before your site is ever loaded.
So, there are some things you need to think about when it comes to the template that you use for general text-heavy posts.
I know we all like pretty fonts and cursive – but let’s face it bloggers… ain’t nobody got time to try and wade through a post written in hard to read font. We all want our blogs to be unique and beautiful snowflakes but honestly, you’re better sticking with the classics when it comes to font styles. I have a fondness for Georgia but Times, Arial, and Helvetica are all appropriate choices. Since I know you’re all bright and shiny individuals I’ll leave you with this rule of thumb:
- Would you use this font when writing something to turn into a boss or a professor?
If the answer is ‘no’, then it’s probably not a good choice for the body of your posts.
For the bulk of your blog post, your font size should be at least 15px. Smaller and larger font sizes for effect are fine – in small doses. The same rule of thumb in choosing your font should be applied to the size as well.
The wrong colors can cause the readability of your posts to tank faster than you can say… something that’s fast to say. I prefer a simple black font on a white background, leave the colors to your wallpaper behind the posts! But, there are other ways. As long as there is plenty of contrast between the background and the text, you’re going to be fine but if your writing using yellow on white or purple on black… your readers are gonna have a bad time. (And worse, may not come back!)
This is something you need to think about when it comes to the color of your links as well, both before and after clicking.
During my very scientific survey Shannon from River City Reading said, “My kingdom for a single scroll!” There are a lot of cool looking layouts out there – but you have to ask yourself:
- What am I trying to do here?
For a book blog, which is by necessity largely text based, simplicity is key. If you run a blog with a lot of photography maybe little snippets of each posts in rows of three will work for you, but I like to see the whole post. This is your content! Your bread and butter! Put it allll out there, baby!
When I started blogging I didn’t even know CAPTCHA was a thing keeping my audience from interacting with me. Turn it off. There are few things more upsetting than writing an awesome comment and then losing it to mistyped CAPTCHA. Comments are like crack to bloggers – so make it easier to get
Whether or not you choose to moderate your comments before they publish is a personal decision. I’m a small blog, I’ve had maybe… five instances of spam, so I don’t moderate.
Personally, I prefer when other blogs don’t moderate and I like to be able to edit my comment after I leave it. (Because I’m always making a jerk of myself, somehow.) Disqus allows this, there may be other plug-ins and toggles that do as well. (Full disclosure: I’m a slave to Disqus.)
Really, the moral of the story?
KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Your content is what is going to sell your site, an attractive and easy to navigate site will help that greatly. A hard to read, cumbersome, long loading monstrosity? It may not matter how great your content is if people can’t read it or find it.
Do a little blogging soul searching. Figure out what you want from your blog, make changes, come back and tell us about it! (I promise, there’s no CAPTCHA here.)
Don’t forget your mobile site! You want that sucker to be just as sexy and streamlined as your full site, maybe more so!
Alternatively, what are your absolute turn-offs on a blog?
P.S. A little knowledge of HTML/CSS can go a LONG way in making your blog more professional. If you’re interested in the basics I’d suggest learning for free at Code Academy. It’s actually kind of fun.