Many bloggers just want to get on with creating their content or herding more traffic from social media, and can’t be bothered with the fine details of making their site attractive and readable. (The same way some people see nothing wrong with living in a messy house – we all know at least one.)
But before you pay someone else to do all that “boring” stuff for you, know that a good understanding of the basic principles of design are important, so that at least you know whether or not your hired help is doing a good job for you.
If your site design is poor you can easily lose readers simply because they find it hard on their eyes, difficult to navigate or annoying for various other reasons.
You can have the greatest content in the world, but if users find it tedious to read then you’re doing yourself a major disservice, which in most cases can easily be remedied with some simple changes.
1. Add Some Bling!
These days people expect a lot more variety than just a wall of text on a blog. Adding pictures – and increasingly video – is also important for reshares on social media. Various studies have also shown that pictures make information easier to remember, the so-called ‘Pictorial Superiority Effect.’
For video, make sure you Embed rather than Upload to your site. To embed a Youtube video, simply click on ‘SHARE’ under the video, then ‘EMBED’ on the popup. Copy and paste everything within the <iframe and /iframe> brackets into the ‘Text’ section of your WordPress post.
If you don’t like the size, simply change the width and height numbers – I find that increasing them by 10% works well for my blog (so 616 instead of 560 and 346 instead of 315.)
2. Readability & Scanability
Use a larger font size, generally between 16px and 18px. 12px is fine for books and that’s where it should stay – use tiny text and most people’s first squint at your site will probably be their last.
The Easy Google Fonts plugin makes it simple to change your fonts and font sizes in the various sections of your blog in a simple and visual way. The plugin lets you access hundreds of beautiful web fonts for you to choose from and try out.
Whitespace and line height are both important for readability and to let the reader’s eyes relax. The normal setting for line height is 1.5 in most blogs.
With people having many more distractions these days, especially those using mobile devices, it’s been found that paragraphs should be kept shorter online than in books – two to three sentences is usually the recommended limit.
Line Length is also important, with the optimal length considered to be somewhere between 50-75 characters per line, including spaces. People find it easier to ‘scan-read’ text with shorter lines, rather than reading to the end of a long line and having to jump back to the left again.
3. Use Headers (Like This One)
Headers are useful for breaking up chunks of text and also add to scanability. Don’t use Heading 1 or Heading 2 – Heading 1 is usually the blog title and Heading 2 the post title. The heading above is Heading 3. If you had a sub-heading under that you would use Heading 4 and so on.
4. Edit the Text
You should always go back and proofread by checking your spelling, punctuation and grammar. Lots of errors here can turn readers off very quickly. A useful tool for this is Grammarly, which does a decent job of checking your spelling and grammar for you, though still nowhere as good as a good human editor.
5. Choose an Appropriate Theme
If you’re using WordPress, as recommended by most experts, they have a full library of themes to choose from, either for free or a small fee.
I personally use Genesis Framework and Child Theme from StudioPress. Genesis is optimized for SEO, is well coded and supported, is more secure from hacker attacks, and you can update to new versions of WordPress without losing your customizations.
Most themes are not easy to edit and that’s where page builders come in handy. Page builders are plugins that work on top of any theme and allow you to build and customize your layout with a simple drag and drop interface – no need for coding. Some recommended ones are:
6. Color scheme
For post text most people use black on white, or a lightly shaded background. Don’t use white on black as I sometimes see – it’s too hard on the eyes!
URL links used to be blue underlines – not these days, where the underline is seen as outdated, and most people using either blue, green or orange. It’s usually best to choose a darker color or the text could be hard to read.
It’s generally recommended not to use more than two or three colors in your posts, as many people simply find it annoying. It also makes it harder to tell what is a link and what isn’t if your eyeballs are being bombarded with a plethora of color.
7. Get a Unique Logo
One way to make your blog stand out from the crowd is to have a unique logo. You can either design one yourself with Canva or PicMonkey or pay someone a few dollars at a site like Fiverr to create one for you.
8. Make Sure Your Website is Mobile-Friendly
These days mobile devices account for more than 50% of internet traffic – three years ago it was 31%. The trend is definitely towards mobile.
Thus you want your site to be optimized for mobile, else those visitors won’t stick around for long. The Genesis Framework is designed with mobile in mind, being “perfectly optimized for every browser, device, and screen size.”
9. Remove the Clutter
The majority of people scan websites, reading in chunks rather than from top to bottom. Thus the overall impression that your site gives is important.
Removing the ‘tag cloud’ and categories from the sidebar is often a good idea, as you can replace the categories with a menu in the header bar, and the tag cloud with a more compact Search box.
Removing the cloud also frees up valuable real estate for ads.
Do you have any good blog design tips? Let me know in the comments below.
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