"You never get a second chance to make a first impression."
We all know that saying and it holds true for blogging.
That first impression can be the difference between visitors exploring your blog or leaving after a couple of seconds.
With so many beautiful blog themes out there, is there really an excuse to have a design that isn’t optimized to help you succeed?
But many bloggers choose to skimp on their blog theme because they don’t want to spend the money. They aren’t sure if blogging is for them, so before they make an investment, they decide to stick with subpar free themes.
The problem with this is that honestly, your design can make it look like you aren’t succeeding, which can be a turn-off for your visitors. You have no way of knowing that though, so you end up thinking that blogging must not be for you.
If you had an attractive and organized design from the very beginning, then you wouldn’t have that problem. If you want to see if blogging is for you, then take the time to do things right in the beginning.
Helpful Posts for Improving Your Blog Design:
- 5 Quick and Easy Ways to Clean Up Your Blog
- 6 Things That Should Be In Every Blog Post
- 5 Things You Need to Have on Your Blog
More Than Just a Pretty Face
It’s easy to get caught up in the looks of a design. When bloggers go theme shopping they often search for the theme that they like the best based on how it looks. While this should play a big role in choosing a theme, there are other things that you need to consider.
Let’s see what every great blog design has and ensure that you don’t miss out on having these crucial elements.
1. A Unique Header Section
The header section is the top section of your blog. This section typically includes a beautiful header or logo design with a white background.
Because there are so many blogs out there and you are competing with 100s or 1000s of other blogs in your niche, you want to make sure that your brand is memorable.
You don’t have to go overboard, but you want people to recognize your site the second they land on it.
2. A Simple Navigation Menu
If you’re doing a great job with your content, then naturally, people will want to explore your blog. This can be hard to do if your navigation isn’t easy to follow.
The fewer links you have in your navigation menu, the better. That doesn’t mean you should try to knock the number down to 2 or 3, but don’t go crazy and have a navigation that resembles Amazon.com.
Also, I believe that there is no reason to have drop downs in your navigation menu. Peter over at Roundpeg talks about this in his post Why You Should Drop Your Drop Down Menu.
3. Legible Text
Here’s the thing with online text, people do not want to struggle with it.
Your readers shouldn’t have to strain their eyes when they read one of your posts.
If your text is difficult to read, odds are they will simply leave because they can find similar information elsewhere.
Your goal is to make the reading experience on your blog as easy as possible.
How do you do that?
Here are some tips:
- Make sure the contrast is strong. Black text on a white background works best. You can always go with a darker gray on a white background.
- Make sure your text is large enough. 18px is ideal, but if that is too big for you, I don't recommend going below 16px.
- Use a serif or sans-serif font. Do not get fancy and use a handwriting font or script. This isn’t the time to make your blog feel like a handwritten letter.
Stick to these basics, and you’ll make your blog a more pleasurable experience for your readers.
4. A Clear Site Purpose
When someone arrives at your blog, they should know right away what it’s all about.
Maybe your domain name tells them what your site is about, or maybe it’s a tagline under the logo.
See how the logo at FITnancials perfectly describes what the blog is about?
Also, in most cases, you also want a nice site blurb about you somewhere. Usually, this is found in the sidebar (if you have one) or in the footer. Your goal is to help people become familiar with you while reading your content.
5. Gets Out of the Reader’s Way
Some designs are just way too cluttered. When someone arrives on your blog they want to read the content, so you should let them read your content.
This one can be difficult to do because you might be inclined to believe that everything is important so everything must be shown.
Instead, think of your blog as an Ikea store. Ikea has a ton of stuff, but it never feels cluttered because Ikea takes you on a journey.
Find a design that leads people through a journey. If you want people to sign up for your mailing list, then how can your content guide them to that action?
If you take a look around at the pro bloggers in your niche, many of them have clean designs that aren’t trying to force a million things on you.
6. A Clear Call to Action
One of your top priorities as a blogger is to get people to sign up for your mailing list. If it’s not, then move it up to the top.
A lot of bloggers have difficulty getting people to sign up for their mailing list, and they aren’t sure why.
If you are raising money for charity on the street corner do you just sit there being quiet or do you ask for donations?
The same concept applies when trying to build your mailing list. You need to make your call to action as strong and clear as possible (hopefully with a nice content upgrade or opt-in). You never want to hear someone say "I didn’t even know you had a mailing list."
Some designs take this a bit too far and make it seem like the blog is only about signing up for the mailing list. It’s tough to find that balance because you know that your money is in your mailing list, but if you are too pushy and not providing enough value by letting people read your content, then you’ll quickly find that nobody wants to sign up for your mailing list.
Where are some great places to put a call to action?
In my opinion, there are two great places for calls to action:
- Within the blog post itself. This works really well if your content upgrade relates to the content.
- Right after the blog post. Someone has just finished reading your awesome, action-oriented blog post and is ready for more. In the sales world, they would say that the person is "primed." This is the perfect opportunity to sell them on your mailing list.
Melyssa at Melyssa Griffin does a great job with her call to action placements.
Call to action above content:
Call to action after content:
It’s About Your Audience
It is your blog, but it all comes down to your audience. When you visit another blog what things keep you around?
Your goal should be to create an unbelievable experience for your readers. You want to make your blog their new online home. A place where they can learn and have fun.
Also, don't forget that this is your blog and it should represent your personality. Don’t hesitate to throw in some fun colors and images.
Just find the right mix of professionalism, awesomeness, and you.
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