I’d like to thank Brandignity for giving me the chance to guest post! When you’ve finished reading about design choices for your blog, check out this helpful post on Building Call to Action Phrases, which are key to increasing reader engagement.
It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of how your site looks and “feels” to users. You might be impressed with all the hard work that’s gone into your new site (and you should be!), but visitors are much more concerned with what they can see for themselves.
What do visitors want? It’s complicated, of course, but it can be boiled down to six basic concepts.
There are two different ways you need to consider your audience when you’re choosing a blog design.
First, you have to put yourself in the shoes of your users as we go through this list. You might have put a lot of heart and soul into this project, but you’re going to have to learn to distance yourself enough to look at it from a first-time visitor’s perspective. What do they see when they look at your blog? What do they want to see?
Second, you have to pick a design that makes it clear to your audience that they’re in the right place. Say you’re a cooking blog. Everybody has to cook, so your blog is for everybody, right? Wrong. You have to consider what makes you unique and what you have to offer.
The blog of a mom who focuses on recipes that are easy to make with kids will be very different from a blog written by a professional chef. Visitors to the mommy blog should instantly understand that they’re in a kid-friendly environment, and people looking for restaurant-style cooking need to know they’ve found a place where cooking is taken seriously.
This is a basic part of branding, and it should inform all the decisions you make about your blog.
Readability is something you need to think about with every post. Readers prefer short paragraphs, lists and clearly designated headings within posts of a reasonable length. Include images where relevant, underline links and use bold lettering when appropriate. Make sure that the formatting turns out correctly when you post!
This also means that you can’t go overboard on the colors and fonts. Choose one very clear font for the body of your text, and maybe another, slightly dressier one for headings and subheadings.
There are lots of resources for choosing color palettes, so we won’t delve too deeply into the subject here. Sticking to one main color and an accent color and keeping the text in black is a safe bet. If you want to include a certain pattern or gradient, it may be better to use it sparingly rather than letting it tile across the entire background.
When users come to your website, what are they looking for? Do they want to see your most exciting new opinion? Do they need to find your phone number? Your design should funnel people toward the most important content.
People generally expect important information, such as an About page or your archives, to be readily available in a sidebar. The horizontal bar at the top of the page is probably the next place that readers will go for what they want. Don’t disappoint them.
However, you can’t overload them with too much information. Don’t clutter up the homepage. Your readers will probably want to access your newest content, but you shouldn’t prevent them from finding the classics too. Put short blurbs on your homepage and give readers the option to click to read more. (This will also help with our next point, load time!)
You may also want to have a list of your most popular posts because popularity is a pretty reliable indicator of how useful/entertaining/interesting people find a particular post. Give the people what they want!
Load speed is a critical facet of your design for today’s impatient users. Keep the number of posts per page relatively small, at less than ten per page. Take the above advice about giving readers a hook, and then the option to click for the full article.
Optimize your videos and images with editing tools or plugins, but don’t include a bunch of fancy plugins just because you can. Stick to what readers want to see. Disable anything you don’t need.
Your visitors don’t want spam and malware from your site, and of course, you want to keep your information safe and private too. You’re probably keeping your computer reasonably secure, which is the first step to blog security, but when you’re running a blog, there are special considerations that may make a difference in your blog design.
Only use third-party elements (such as themes and plugins) from sources you trust, and update them as soon as possible. How do you know which sources are safe? The WordPress catalog is always a good bet. If you want to branch out, try reading reviews and checking to see whether the designer has tech support available to deal with problems. If they offer tech support, they are taking responsibility for their creation, and they probably haven’t infested their products with malware that will cause problems for their customers.
You may want to consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) while you’re making changes to your blog, especially if you work from public WiFi often. A VPN is a subscription service that creates a secure tunnel for your information to travel through, both to and from your computer. That means that people with malicious intent (and there are a lot of them!) can’t intercept your information. This is particularly important if you’re working from unsecured public WiFi, such as a network at a coffee shop or an airport, where anybody on the network can take a peek at your data.
Encouraging readers to share your posts is a critical part of growing your readership. However, the focus should be on the content that people will want to share. There’s no use plastering your blog with Twitter buttons if no one is going to make use of them.
Instead, have a few clear and attractive buttons that will allow visitors to easily share your content. A popular choice for WordPress is this Social Media Widget. Also, make sure that once they share your content, that it looks attractive on every device and browser!
How did you go about designing your blog? Do you have any cringe-worthy design mistakes to share? Join the conversation!
About the Author
Cassie Phillips is a blogger and internet security expert at Secure Thoughts. She’s passionate about sharing the details of web security with other bloggers to help them succeed.