I love a good blog design, I really do. Often I’m sucked in to a blog purely for how pretty it looks, not so much for the content. Strange, isn’t it, when it’s supposed to be the other way round?
There are so many ways you can design a blog. You can make it look like a portfolio with lots of photographs, or a magazine for that sharp and chic twist to a professional-looking blog. You can wipe everything out and just have the content without any sidebars for a clean look.
As for me, well, I’ve been designing personal websites for over 10 years now. Mostly for myself, of course, since I don’t believe I’m good enough to actually do it for anyone else. It started in my university days, when Internet Explorer was like, the IN thing to use, and we’d be rocking Windows NT on every cream PC. I did the whole auto-music thing, and back in the day, it was awesome. Everytime someone accessed my website, Richard Clayderman would start playing Ballade pour Adeline. God I was a nerd
So anyway, back to blogging and today’s topic, which is designing your blog. There are so many ways to go about it. You don’t even have to design them from scratch these days. There are heaps of free themes for you to download and use for your blog. After looking at thousands (I kid you not) of websites and blogs for the past 10+ years, there’s a thing or two I’ve learned about designing themes for blogs and websites.
1. Use a simple, streamlined theme. No fuss, no muss. Magazine themes are beautiful and professional-looking, but personally not my cup of tea because I wouldn’t know where to begin. I believe a blog is called a blog for a reason. It’s very important that I make it easy for my readers to know where to start reading on the blog. For this, I chose to use the Thesis framework. It was my first time actually paying for a design, but it was worth it.
2. Fonts. For text on a blog post, I always stick to a single colour (black) and I keep them the same size. Italics and bold are used sparingly for emphasis. I try not to pepper my posts with them. Handwriting fonts may be cute, but in paragraphs, they are difficult to read and are a turn-off. Oh, and please let Comic Sans die. Please.
3. Keep links easy to find. Underlined links is the usual way to go. This might be a tad odd, but as much as I can, I keep links on a post to a minimum. I don’t normally link to popular brands’ websites like Chanel, MAC, etc because they are well-known enough. I don’t think links to those homepages are necessary. Also, if I have linked to a website once, it’s not necessary to link to the same website within the same paragraph and/or post again. Minimal, prudent links keep the article readable and tidy.
4. Kill the auto-music. As it happens, I found out that not everyone’s a fan of Richard Clayderman. Or Creed.
5. Savour white space. It’s so easy and soothing on the eyes.
6. Break up paragraphs as much as I can. It’s not easy, but I try not to let each paragraph go longer than 5-6 lines. It’s far easier to read and it engages my readers. Humans have shorter attention spans in the age of social media and the Internet. To keep my readers hooked, I don’t only have to create good, original content, I also have to make sure I engage my readers with that content. Unless the post is very interesting, I often find myself scanning the article instead of really delving into it word for word. Especially if each paragraph was 10 lines long.
7. Less is always more. I always have to remind myself not to worry if my blog design, sidebar, footer, header, etc is too simple and bare. Allow the content to stand out.
8. It’s still a work in a progress, but I try not to clutter the blog with heaps of advertisements, e.g. pepper each post with Google Ads, lots of image and text link ads on the sidebar (something I’ve been struggling to manage ever since I started blogging).
Here’s a tip – if you have a number of affiliate links/image ads on your sidebar, do a monthly review of your earnings. If you’re barely making any money, it might be time to reconsider your options. Don’t waste precious real estate (yes, your blog is web real estate) on things that aren’t working for you. Learned that lesson the not-so-sweet way.
There you go, some points I always keep in mind when designing blogs. You may think it’s a no-brainer but sometimes, the design that looks good to you may not be the same for your readers. For example, I once had a charcoal-grey damask background for my blog. I thought it looked so pretty, but after randomly requesting for feedback a few weeks later, consensus was that the damask was too busy and that it was distracting from the content. Ooops.
Moral of the story is – unless you’re blogging for absolutely no one, then you’ve got to keep your audience happy, and make your blog visually-appealing for them to return to.
What about you? What’s your #1 tip to keep your blog visually-appealing?