The blog you set up some time ago may well be looking a bit dated, so you need to consider how to make your blog look good by today’s standards.
What do you need to do to make sure your blog looks up-to-date, fresh and modern?
The appearance of your blog is arguably the thing that is most important to get right. Content is king but appearance is the king’s mother – if the appearance has a big problem then nobody will discover the king has been born.
The appearance should not put visitors off. Neither should it be the reason they come to visit (that’s the contents job). The best appearance is one that the visitor does not really notice – it is an essential ingredient of a successful blog but should always remain in the background.
Here are five rules to follow to ensure a great appearance.
1. No Clutter
Avoid the “can’t see the wood for the trees” syndrome.
Too much content makes it hard for the surfer to find what they want. The impression of being cluttered can also come from using too many colors, fonts and sizes. Think of the standard ransom note in TV cop shows made up from newspaper clippings – yes, it can be read easily but would anyone want to read a whole article made that way?
2. No Distractions
A visitor coming to your blog to read something that interests them would more than likely prefer to read without having a whole load of moving objects all around the screen. You wouldn’t dream of using a reading lamp with a flashing light, so why expect your visitors to tolerate something similar?
If you are carrying advertising, you may have no control over what is displayed. If your advertising provider uses animated ads consider putting these only at the tops or sides of your pages so that the visitor can scroll the annoyance out of sight.
4. Focused Content
If a visitor arriving at your blog is immediately presented with a load of links instead of some content, then there is a good chance that your blog has grown out of control. Consider breaking your blog into different sections. The best blogs are in focused sections, will have interesting content on the home page, and provide easy navigation to their sections.
5. Arouse Interest
It can be difficult to get this right, but it is very important. You need to present enough content to get the visitor interested while at the same time not overwhelming them with a mass of text. Condense information into fluff-free key points or good opening paragraphs that serve as appetizers. Long content should always be broken into smaller chunks. Ensure you use sub-headings to break up the text.
Now you know how to make a blog look good but you also want to make it look modern.
All of the appearance rules above were just as valid 10 years ago as they are today, and you can make your blog look modern by availing of the latest technological advances without breaking the rules.
Modern computer screens can display much more than their predecessors, but it is not good practice to fill the entire screen. This is because there is no longer a ‘standard’ screen size, so you want to aim at a happy medium. Modern practice is to leave margins of about 10%-30% on the left and right.
It’s good to leave a margin but make sure you control the full background, preferably with a subtle, neutral color.
Most modern blogs use a two or three column structured layout. There is often a main column with text that flows around an image and one or two narrower columns with images or more text. Modern blog layout is very similar to a magazine layout where the blog’s smaller columns emulate the magazine’s sidebars.
check frequently to make sure you are using the latest themes and plug-ins. This is a great way to keep up to date. If you are not using the latest themes then seriously consider moving to them. There will be a bit of a learning curve and a time overhead in changing themes but it will be well worth it.
Promptly moderate and reply to all comments. Long time gaps between comments and replies imply the blog owner is not interested, so you need to stay on top of this.
There are ever-increasing ways to allow visitors to spread the word about your blog at the click of a mouse and you should make sure your blog incorporates the most popular social media plugins. Right now, your blog should include at least Facebook, Twitter and Google +1 buttons.
You can help to keep your blog looking good by frequently visiting the most popular blogs to stay aware of modern trends. Leading newspapers, magazines and online companies invest a lot of time and thought in their blogs and provide a good way of staying in touch with what’s new.
We have had a look at best practices, but remember to bear in mind that judgements on your blog (or anyone else’s), whether by yourself or third parties, will always be subjective – what is pleasing to one person may appear grotesque to another.
As the blog owner, you need to strike a happy medium that will make your blog appeal to as many as possible of the type of visitors you are trying to attract. You will never achieve a 100% satisfaction rate so do not waste time trying to appeal to all.
You also need to keep in mind that the subject matter of your blog is what should determine its overall appearance. If your blog is about graffiti or heavy metal bands, then the surfer will probably expect to see a blaze of color, whereas a blog about prayer probably needs to be a lot less in your face.
When surfers arrive at your blog for the first time, for them it is like opening a door into a room or peeking through a curtain – they will have an instant first impression. If the reaction is one of revulsion (“yuck!!”), they are almost certainly going to move on immediately and won’t even see that you are offering free entry to a million dollar draw. No matter how interesting your content is, if people are too dazzled or confused by your blog’s appearance they are going to shut their eyes (and minds) and back out real quick.
What’s your view? How do you keep your blog fresh looking?
Please share your views in the comments below.
Andrew is a full-time Internet Marketing Specialist and blogger from the UK. At his blog he shares all his knowledge and experience on how to make a blog.