Starting a blog is simple. You find a template or theme you like and start writing.
But if you’re serious about blogging, or blogging for your business, you want your site to be as professional as it can be, or at the very least, digestible. And there are a few things you should consider before putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard!
The way it is designed will be largely in the hands of your blogging software, but there’s more to a design than a logo and a colour scheme, so whether you already have a blog, or are thinking about starting one, these handy tips will keep you on the right track.
Design for content
This is your blog’s reason for being. If you remove all the visual styling, it should have the same value to its readers. Make sure your spend time and effort on your content. Bad spelling, punctuation and grammar all make difficult reading and reduce trust and confidence in your content’s worth.
Pictures add interest and there’s no excuse for not having some sort of supporting illustration. If you’re blogging for your business, then you should be able to lay your hands on a picture that illustrates your point. If not, get out your phone and take one! Failing that, go to a stock photography site and buy one! Or use an image from a photo hosting site like Flickr, but make sure your image is marked ‘Creative Commons’ and check the licensing details, or you could end up infringing copyright.
On the subject of copyright, always make sure your content is original. Never, ever, EVER, cut and paste large portions of someone else’s work, unless they have given their permission or you are using it as a reference or discussion point for your own blog and provide a link back to the resource.
Make sure your headline is eye-catching without being too clever. Clever headlines may work well in tabloid newspapers, but poorly in blogs. Use words that describe your content or no-one will read on. Your headline may be all that potential readers see on, say, Twitter, so you need to ‘sell’ your content in one line.
Design for readability
Easy reading is enjoyable reading. Correct spacing, colouring and typography is essential to make your blog a pleasure to read. So make sure:
- you use dark type on a light background.
- you use a clearly readable typeface, if in doubt, Arial or Georgia are safe choices.
- column widths sensible. Too wide or too narrow can both have detrimental effects on readability.
- that letter-, word- and line-spacing are sensible. This is controlled by your blog’s ‘stylesheets’ which you may not have access to, but if you have a choice, use your eyes to judge readability
If your blog allows you to edit your stylesheets, make use of Google Web Fonts, which currently has a range of over 250 free fonts, and it’s very easy to implement. But be sensible!
Design for concentration
Avoid distractions on your page, such as flashing adverts, spinning or animated graphics. Bright coloured side panels and backgrounds will draw the eye away from your content.
Make sure your focus is on your content to maintain concentration. If your blog is too long, people may tire of reading it, or become easily distracted. Cut it down to a reasonable reading length or split it up into parts, or pages. Use pictures to break up sections and make use of subheadings, blockquotes and bold/italic to allow readers to speed-read your page.
Design for sharing
Make it easy for readers to share your content if they like it.
Put buttons for Twitter, Facebook, and email at the end of your post. That’s exactly where readers will stop and think ‘that was a good read, I’ll share it with my friends’, make it easy for them. Use a sharing widget such as AddThis or ShareThis, both have analytics built in. Twitter and Facebook also provide their own content sharing buttons. Make use of them.
Make sure you share your own blog posts on your own networks when you publish them. WordPress can make use of plugins to automatically share your posts when they are published, but otherwise it’s as easy as posting the link into Twitter or Facebook along with your headline.
Prompt your readers to sign up to your mailing list, RSS feed, Twitter or Facebook and they’ll get your updates ‘pushed’ to them when you publish them, rather than relying on them returning to your site.
Design for comments
Comments are the lifeblood of any blog. Encourage commenting and you will build a thriving community around your blog. This can only be good as long as you manage your comments well. The downside of this is that commments can also become a haven for spammers and bots. If your blog software supports it, use a spam blocker like Akismet for WordPress, which almost completely eradicates spam.
Be bold. Ask for comments. The first comment is the hardest one to attract, especially for a blog that doesn’t generate a lot generally. but ask a direct question of your readers, and they are more likely to respond.
Design for search
Your blog could turn out to be an excellent tool to get your content well-ranked in search engines. Remember to use relevant keywords in headlines and body text, but never write as if to influence the search engines, otherwise you risk alienating real readers if your copy is too keyword-heavy., Write for human consumption, but be aware of how search engines work. Use proper headline tags (h2,h3, etc) for subheadings and make sure your main page title has an h1 tag around it. Blogging software generally does this automatically, based on ‘heading styles’ and you may never see tags like h1,h2,h3 at all.
Design for the future
Most blogging platforms are free to use. WordPress for example, allows you to download their software and install it on your own site. This gives you total freedom to build and control your site away from the constraints of a free account.
Consider how you think your blog may grow. Will a free platform always be right. If it’s a business blog, you may want your blog to be part of your site, branded with your colours and logo, etc. Free services will limit your options in the future.
WordPress is a perfect ‘evolution platform’ – you can start free, and convert to a self-hosted version at a later date without losing any content or functionality.
Canary Dwarf are our wonderful technical partners. Be sure to check them out for amazing web and blog design, paired with top-notch service.