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BLOG DESIGN JOURNAL


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Blog Design ABCs

Posted on September 15, 2007 by Blog Design Journal

In the grand old tradition of alphabet lists (A is for Apple, B is for Bear, …), here are 26 blog design principles, from Audience to Zones:

Audience—Who are you writing for? What do they like? Don’t imitate the sites they frequent, but be aware of the kind of look they like.

Blog engine—The WordPress blogging engine, hosted on your own domain, is by far the only way to go for flexible design, prestige, a wide selection of free ready-made themes and plugins, and search engine optimization. There is also a wide selection of tutotials and instructional videos for WordPress these days. Many are free.

Color—Color conveys meaning. What are you saying with your blog? If your links are pale gray or pale blue or some other unreadable color, you are saying I don’t care whether you can read this or not. And most people cannot. So you will annoy and lose potential blog readers.

Design principles. Do you know the basics of good design? If not, either learn them or hire a good blog designer. Design matters. It helps convey your message to the right audience. It helps you get and keep readers.

Elegance—Strive for elegance in the mathematical sense: simplicity and directness. No matter what your audience and topic, make sure your blog is optimal for that audience and that topic, with no extra gimmicks or clutter.

Focus—What is your blog topic? Again, who are you writing for? Focus your design on communicating with that audience about that particular topic. Context is everything.

Graphics—The style of blog graphics should match the style of the blog—and each other. A ragbag collection of ads, free widgets, and fuzzy photos (not to mention crappy clip art) is worse than no graphics at all. If you plan to fully monetize your blog, it’s worth paying a pro to get the riight look if you don’t have a trained eye for graphics yourself.

Headlines—Make sure the headings are easy to read. You’ve written them to be catchy and include keywords relevant to your blog topic. (Haven’t you???) Now make sure people can easily read them.

Ingenuity—Even the best theme has limitations. Experiment. Innovate. A little ingenuity can solve design problems and make your blog stand out. For example, did you know that if you run out of text widgets, you can put two scripts into one WordPress widget? You can.

Justify—-Justify every design decision you make. Really think about what you are doing, especially before adding new features. Will this new feature really make the blog more useful to your audience and help communicate your message? If not, skip it, no matter how cool it is.

Keywords—Keep your keywords in mind. If they express the purpose of your blog, then your design should represent (or at least be appropriate for) your keywords. For example, if you are blogging about your life as a soldier of fortune, a pale pink blog would conflict with your keywords, don’t you think?

Leading—Make sure the vertical spacing, the amount of space between lines, and the amount of space above and below links and subheadings make your blog easy to read. Some themes do not have enough leading, and they are tiring to read. So most visitors don’t.

Monetize—If you want to make money on your blog, it starts with the design. Make a list of the ways you plan to monetize, then design your blog to include them in the most appealing or unobtrusive way, depending on what they are.

Navigation—Arrange your pages and the widgets in the sidebars of your blog to make it easy for visitors to find their way around. Make sure navigation is intuitive. Make it obvious.

Organization—Before you even choose a theme, before you write a word, you should sit down and figure out the structure, or organization, of your blog. Will you simply have dated posts? Will you have an authority site with a great deal of reference materials on your topic? Will you have a whole page of links? How do you want your readers to use your blog? As the saying goes, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

Perfect—Don’t just slap a blog together and forget about design. Keep working to perfect the look, the colors, and the overall layout. If you keep working to perfect the design, your blog will get better and better.

Quiz—Visitors love to take quizzes and polls. From silly to serious, quizzes engage visitors and make them stay longer, tell their friends, subscribe, and return.

Rethink—Every once in awhile, rethink your whole design. Maybe you’ll find that it is perfect for the job. More likely there will be areas where you can improve. As you learn more about blog design, you will see things you want to change. And wonderful new themes and widgets appear constantly.

Simplify—How easy is it for people to grasp at a glance how your blog is organized and where to find things? Blog visitors are often tired and/or pressed for time. Keep it simple.

Typefaces—For reading on line, simple, sans serif typefaces like Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, and sans serif work are far easier to read. Learn as much as you can about typefaces and how to use them to make your blog as easy as possible to read. Use dark text and links on a white background, so your typeface is easy to read.

User experience—Get people to test your blog for you. Ideally get a few people who are interested in the topic of your blog and also some people who are not. The people who have little or no interest in the topic will notice things the others don’t, and those may be the very things you need to know.

Validate—View your blog design in every known browser, not just Internet Explorer and Firefox. Try it on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. You will be amazed (and may be
upset) at how different it looks in some browsers. You may need to change your design.

Why?—The greatest question you can ask yourself before making any design decision or design change is “Why?” What am I trying to achieve? Why do I think this will help? Have I thought this through? Where can I find out more?

X-Ray—Look at your blog with X-ray vision. Learn to check HTML, PHP, and javascript for errors. When you need to figure out why something is not working the way you want it to, knowing how the code should look can help you fix problems yourself.

Yes!—Say “Yes!” to new ideas and inspirations. Innovate. Lead the design trends. Don’t just follow. Got an idea? Go for it!

Zones—Learn what the hot zones are in blogs in general and on your blog. A lot of valuable research has been done to determine where the visitor looks first on a blog. Take advantage of that. Design (or redesign) so that the things you most want people to read are in the places they are most likely to see them.

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