Average bloggers tend to fail on this one…a lot. Most people get into blogging because they have a passion to write about something. The majority of bloggers assume that as long as they write about what they love then they will be successful. Instead of ever beautifying their site they just plug away creating articles.
According to Technorati, a new blog is created every second. There are literally millions and millions of blogs competing for traffic and if you want to succeed then you have to find a way to set yourself apart from the rest.
I’m a huge proponent of the concept of the total package: Amazing Content, Brilliant Design, and Commanding Influence. Develop yourself and your online presence in those three areas and your potential for success will skyrocket. Below, you’ll find 12 incredibly practical design concepts that will help you take your blog to the next level.
1. Dazzle Visitors With Inspiring Colors
A blog with fresh, vibrant colors that are carefully chosen will always stand out over those that make use of drab, boring tones. If you need some bold yet eye-catching color ideas be sure to check out Adobe’s Color Kuler or Colour Lovers.
Notice how Slavery Footprint uses a beautiful color set. They’ve used their colors to create shapes that clearly communicate the organization’s purpose. Additionally, the shapes’ placements create direction that guides your eye directly toward their call to action.
For more information on selecting the best colors for branding your website, be sure to check out Choose Your Brand Colors Like A Pro by the Creative Lunatic, Dustin W. Stout.
2. Simplify Your Approach to Navigation
Usability is the measure of how easy it is for a user who has never seen your site before to be able to navigate throughout its pages, to find information they’re looking for and to interact with its content.
The challenge with navigation is to present the navigation and interactive options in places and ways that are both familiar to most internet users and are creative enough to set your site apart from the crowd.
The IdeaLists provide us a great example of navigation done right. Notice how The IdeaLists provide clear navigation links at the top of the page that follow you down the page as your scroll. As you scroll, you find clear calls-to-action with plenty of comfortable negative space to draw your eye to them.
For more information about improving your visitors navigation of your website, jump over to the KissMetrics blog and be sure to read Are You Making These Common Website Navigation Mistakes? by Andy Crestodina.
3. Make A Remarkable First Impression
Every visitor that hits a less-than-amazing blog ends up leaving before even looking at the first post titles. Visitors never even make it far enough to see the ‘amazing’ content that the blogger has put together. First impressions are, after all, lasting impressions.
According to research by Psychologists, users begin forming their initial impressions of websites in only a fraction of a second.
For more information about first impressions, check out First Impressions Matter: The Importance of Great Visual Design by Peep Laja, an expert in conversion optimization.
4. Simplify Your Visitors Journey at Your Site
Navigation is the measure of how easy it is for your users to find their way around your site and how easy it is for them to journey their way into engaging with your content. As you work to make it easier for your users to journey throughout your site and find points of interaction, you will see a dramatic increase in repeat visitors and in user interaction.
5. Make it easy for your users to subscribe to your website.
I recommend that you find a large RSS icon that matches the overall look of the site and that you place it on several parts of your website. If you can prominently display your subscription options in a classy, non-overbearing way then your readers will be led to click through and subscribe to your feed.
6. Identify Yourself Quickly and Clearly to Each Visitor
Provide for your users a well defined header that explains the overall mission of your blog, clear navigation links, and a quick eye on new content and how to stay connected with your blog or website.
7. Use Your Sidebar to Complement Your Site’s Mission
Most people use their sidebars as the catch all for anything they find on the internet that happens to be labeled as a widget. But good sidebars aren’t built like that. Effective sidebars support the focus of your website. They provide information and links that build your site’s overall theme.
8. Allow Your Visitors Easy Access To Your Site’s Information
Most internet users want to find information quickly and conveniently. People don’t want a difficult search experience across our websites. Simplify the process of searching across your website by placing the search box near the top of the page or by integrating a third party search platform like Google.
9. Make Your Site Simple and Fun to Interact With
Every obstacle that your readers have to tackle in order to leave a comment will only result in less comments. Forget about forcing people to login or forcing people to fill out a captcha form. These tools are useless. If you’re worried about spam, simply use Akismet or the spam filter of your choice. They’ll get the job done and you can keep your blog open for comments.
10. Use Your Post Footers To Draw Your Readers Deeper
If you have a visitor that just read one of your articles and enjoyed it then what would you like for them to do next? Regardless of your answer to that question, optimizing your post footer is the key to achieving it.
11. Be Careful. Poorly Placed Ads Can Send People Running.
If you want to drive first time visitors away from your site and ensure that they never return then simply plaster so many ads on your site that your visitors have to fight with them in a battle to the death over a pit of fire breathing lizards just to get to the content.
12. Deliver Your Content in an Easy-to-Read Format
If your users are squinting to read your material then you can count on the fact that they’re probably not going to stick around for very long. Since our fonts are carrying the actual content of our blogs, it’s vital that they provide the support necessary to really bring the readers in.