A nice* blog design makes people want to stay and read.
Nice (in reference to blog design) adj. “A blog that doesn’t make your eyes bleed when you click over.”
I think that everyone has opinions on what a nice blog design is, some of us think a background design looks really cool, where others think that lots of white space is the cat’s meow. Some people like two sidebars, others prefer three or even four. Since this blog series is about what has worked for me, that’s what I’ll focus on, but also include some links to helpful articles and blog posts I’ve read on the subject.
Today we’re going to cover overall blog design…and yet again I’m giving you the much coveted list.
1. A unique design makes you look more credible than a default template (like those provided by Typepad, Blogger, and WordPress.)
I know that when I switched from one of Blogger’s stock templates to a unique three-column design with custom header, I had an increase in readership. Certainly there are exceptions to this, as two of my favorite blogs, Swistle and Oh, The Joys, simply use the Minima template provided by Blogger and they are doing justfinethankyouverymuch without a fancy pants design.
There are thousands of free templates that you can find simply by googling “free template for blogger/wordpress.” Also, simply adding a unique header, easily made with the assistance of a program like Photoshop Elements can spiff up a basic template. If you happen to use Blogger for your blogging platform, Tips for New Bloggers is a great site that walks you step by step through tweaking and customizing the basic templates.
If you prefer a truly unique design, there are many reasonably priced web designers who can help you. Here are just a few…
Dawn and Coming to a Nursery Near You
Dress My Blog
Temptation Designs (on a brief hiatus due to the birth of her second baby boy!)
Judith Shakes Designs
Oh My Stinkin Heck
Izzy Blog Design and Graphics
Blogs Gone Wild
Splat Creative Designs
Swank Web Style
Jenny at Absolutely Bananas (headers and buttons)
Me! I can help make headers…but that’s about it.
2. Whatever template you choose MUST be fast loading
When people have 1000+ unread in their Google Readers or those who’ve stumbled upon your blog have to wait for your page to load, they simply aren’t going to wait and will click away. Therefore, you are LOSING READERS. Waaa!
I had to take my twitter badge off of my sidebar because it was causing slow loading time. That makes me want to cry, but I did it FOR YOU because I heart you even more than I heart twitter. Other things that slow loading time are cluttered sidebars, coding errors, and flashy ads or backgrounds.
3. Make sure that whatever template you choose for your blog looks nice* in all web browsers.
You can check this by going to browsershots.org.
4. Your blog should be easy to navigate.
a) Is it obvious where to comment on your blog? Also, don’t make people have to register to comment! Adding that step could possibly make people throw up their hands in frustration! Edited to add: I’m not referring to blogs powered by Blogger, but rather blogs that require you to register to even comment.
b) If your header isn’t “clickable”, then you really need to make a button that people can push to send them to your “home” page. This is easily done in your sidebar…for example on my last template, my header wasn’t clickable, I made a “home” button by writing this code:
You can also make your header clickable…somehow…if anyone would like to share with the class how to do this, please do so in the comments section.
c) Is your most recent post the first thing at the top of your blog? If it isn’t, people aren’t going to scroll around looking for it and you are LOSING READERS! WAAA!
5. Did I mention before the design should look nice*?
Oh yes, I did! And this is what I mean…
Think about these things…the colors you choose for your background, headers, links, and fonts. Make sure they are easy to read. Stay far, far away from tiny fonts, they’re too hard to read! Beware of really elaborate or flashing backgrounds, as they can distract from your content. If you have ads on your site, make sure they don’t overwhelm your content.
There is also a debate around the blogosphere about music that automatically plays on blogs. I personally don’t mind the music, but there are people who swear that they immediately leave if music starts playing. It’s just something to consider.
Here are a few links to posts that discuss blog design…
Next week I’ll discuss your blog’s sidebars and use of pages. It will be a RIOT.
I’d love to hear what you all have to add about nice* blog designs. Please, please, please, please…make certain your comments don’t sound like “I hate blogs that…” I certainly don’t mind people putting in your opinions about what makes for a good blog design, just please consider the feelings of others. Also, let me know if you’ve seen any results from StumbleUpon this week…I’m so proud of you who have really jumped right it and stumbled your little hearts out!