Along with content, great blog design is a key point in keeping the interest of any visitors to your blog.
Sure, content may be king to some, but if that’s the case then the design is your Royal courtyard. And you wouldn’t want to have a messy courtyard, would you?
So having a great blog design is key to not only keeping reader interest, but for making it easy for them to get to other parts of your blog and reduce that bounce rate (and maybe even sell some products).
While there are a whole bunch of different factors involved in a great blog design, here are four key ones that every blogger should consider using.
What’s one of the first things you see when you arrive on any blog? The header – or at least you do if it’s a custom one, and not a generic image that comes with the theme you’re using.
The header is one of the most important parts of any blog. It can give you an instant snapshot of the person behind the blog or – like this blog – tell you exactly what the blog is about (in our case, it’s a blog for bloggers by bloggers).
Having a custom header helps you stand out from everyone else, and can really separate you from the millions of other blogs out there. There are a few ways you can get a custom header for your blog.
- If you know Photoshop or a good equivalent, make your own custom header. Think of what you want it to say (picture of you, blog tagline, contact details) and build these elements into the header.
- Use an online resource to help you put a header together. Some are premium while others are free – you decide which has the better options.
- Hire a professional to make you a custom logo. While designers may not be cheap, they know what looks good and the best ones can really capture what your blog is about.
If you’re proficient with coding (or know someone that is), you can then add search options or social network icons into your header, too – another way to stand out from others and make it easy for your readers to connect. Don’t underestimate the strength of a custom header.
The layout of your blog can play a big part in attracting and keeping readers as well. How many columns should you have; post formats; navigation (which we’ll look at next); and other layout options play a big part in a blog’s success.
While the final design layout is up to you, here are some things to keep in mind.
- One, two or three columns?Most blog layouts follow a simple columns formula – the content area, and then the sidebars. A one column approach means no sidebars; the two column approach is usually content and then a sidebar on the left or right; and the three column approach is content with two sidebars. Decide by how much focus you want on content and what information you’re going to display in the sidebar.
- Full posts or teasers? Some bloggers prefer having a full post on display all the way down the blog (so you can read each post, usually up to ten posts) without clicking through to the single post. Others prefer teasers (like we use here), since that encourages clickthroughs to the post itself. If you do go with teasers, use thumbnail images to make the copy stand out more.
- Sidebar information. The sidebar of a blog can help your readers to keep coming back, as well as read more posts from you. Consider having a subscription option, a search box, popular posts, archives and copyright details in your sidebar (subscription and search is a must).
How your blog is laid out visually can very often determine if someone comes back – make sure you get it (for the most part) right.
Think about it – if your blog navigation isn’t clear and simple, you’re essentially stopping people from visiting the rest of your blog. Do that, and you may as well be saying you don’t care about keeping readers on your site.
A blog’s navigation is the difference between a reader staying on your site to find out more about you, or leaving and going to someone else’s blog instead. So making it easy for them to find what they want is key.
- Don’t over-complicate your navigation. Think of what the essentials are – Home, About, Services, Contact, etc – and use these as your main navigation menu. Too much information can be as bad as no navigation menu.
- Use a category menu. If your blog supports it, consider using a category sub-menu. This lets readers get straight to the topics that interest them.
- Use breadcrumbs. While some people aren’t fans of breadcrumbs in a blog’s navigation, they’re great for guiding readers around your blog, and offer great SEO benefits too. Think of breadcrumbs as the tourist guide for your readers – making sure they don’t get lost and helping them enjoy their experience more.
While your navigation will be set up based on the information you want to share, make sure you’re also thinking of the reader as well. Easy equals satisfied equals a happy reader.
The question of blog typography is one that doesn’t have a set-in-stone right answer. Some bloggers like using a straightforward font like Arial, while others prefer to be more artistic.
The key thing to remember is your readers. Do you know what their demographic is? Often an older demographic are used to newsprint type font, while a younger audience might prefer one of the new Google fonts as it’s less “boring and safe”. Some things to remember when it comes to typography include:
- Not all font renders the same. While web font can be hugely varied, unless the device being used to view the web page recognizes the font, it won’t be rendered and can often look untidy and messy.
- Arial 15px is popular for a reason. One of the most commonly used fonts is Arial, with a pixel size of 15px. While you don’t need to use this setting, it’s tried, trusted and popular with many bloggers, so that means it’ll be a great option for your blog too.
- Pretty isn’t always practical. Some of the best fonts from an aesthetic angle are, unfortunately, also difficult to read (especially wavy italics as used on many graphic design blogs). If you’re unsure, try Font Tester and see what your typography looks like across multiple formats.
The key thing to remember when choosing your font’s typography is that it’s for the reader’s benefit, not yours. You might love a font, but to 80% of your readers, it’s too hard to make out. Keep it simple (even when stylish) – your readers will thank you with their continued visits.
These are just four options that will help you create a great blog design, both from a visual and user aspect. There are more – images in blog posts, for example, as well as separating longer posts by headers and bullets. But as a starting point, the four above are definitely among the most overlooked.
How about you? What do you find key when it comes to a great blog design? Let’s open up the discussion.