Blogging

Effective Blog Design Part 1

Blogs have almost become as ubiquitous as the internet itsself. With powerful CMS tools like WordPress and Blogger it’s never been easier to start a blog. In past articles I’ve spoken about the need to hire a professional web designer to get a great design or to rely on one of the thousands of free themes. However, whether you’re designing a new blog yourself or you’ve hired a web designer this series is going to teach you what you need to know about your blog design

Why Your Blogs Design is so Important

With the increasing number of blogs out there it’s easy to have your message diluted in the pool of similar content blogs. Trust me, what you’re writing about is most likely being written about 10 times over. That’s ok, but you need to stand out.

The quality of your content is going to rule over the blog realm, as they say, “Content is King”. A King dressed in a fine robe and crown not dishambled in rags. Every web designer knows that you have about 3 seconds to convince a new user that your site is worth paying attention too. As much as I’m an advocate for great content above all else, no one can read enough of your article to keep them interested in 3 seconds. Which is why you have to implement some strategies and make use of the tools that come with a blog so that a user will be happy and stay or return to your site.


This Isn’t A Blogging Strategy Article

I’m not discussing blogging strategies today, I’m going to leave that to the experts:

The above individuals are fantastic bloggers and some even blog on blogging. However many if not all haven’t designed their own blogs. They most definitely know the rules of blog design, though.

What Do I Have In My Arsenal?

If you’re using a cms like WordPress you have a lot. None so powerful as the RSS Feed. A new user to your site may be there for several reasons but there are two that are most likely.The user is researching something and found your site through google (or other search engine) or somehow they were recommend to your site either through word of mouth or other form of url sharing.

The point is that you have an opportunity to take someone who has stumbled across your site and turn them into a subscribed user. The easiest way to do this is with a prominent RSS icon that when clicked offers several options for subscription, the easiest way to do this is with Feedburner. Take a look at Geek & Hype they are definitely doing it right.

The next vital element is url sharing tools. It’s very likely that someone found your article from a social media network like Facebook or Twitter which means that user has an account and can help spread your site to other users. There are tons of free social icons and plugins out there that help with sharing. However my experience is that less is more. In the past I used to put every social network icon on a blog which was actually hurting the design of the site. Either it seemed too cluttered or I had to hide the icons and wait for a user to click on a button to show them.

What I found is that all you have to do is choose a few larger networks. Facebook has 175,000,000 users and is growing by over 500,000 users a day. It’s likely that your user is on facebook, which offers a great link sharing tool that’s inserted in it’s users feed. Twitter is growing in popularity as well, and it inherently works very well at sharing links.

The other factor is that most people won’t share the article on more than one network, so don’t bother over cluttering your design. SEJ is a great example of this. At the top of this article you’ll see a Sphinn logo and a retweet icon.  Instead of adding a dozen or more networks an SEJ user has two very effective choices they can make.

Don’t give your users too many choices, it can frustrate or confuse them. It’s important to offer them the tools they need to help you share your blog or article but we want to have a great mix of being subtle and obvious.

These were just two examples of techniques you can implement to optimize the design of your blog. I am going to add a few more articles to this Blog Design series and focus on a lot more specific aspects of design elements and strategies. Let me know your thoughts on this article and what you’d like to read in the next below. In the meantime take a look at Design Meltdowns list of “Beautiful Blogs” for more examples.

 Effective Blog Design Part 1
Jesse Friedman is a veteran WordPress developer. In 2012 he wrote the “Web Designers Guide to WordPress“. With years of experience as a speaker and a Professor at Johnson & Wales University he delivers impactful and educational talks. Currently Jesse is the Director of Web Interface and Development at Astonish, the premier Digital Marketing Company for the Insurance Industry. Jesse co-organizes the local WordPress meet-up and is very active in the community. He works closely with his students and others to share knowledge and bring forth a better future for web design and development.

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4 thoughts on “Effective Blog Design Part 1

  1. Interesting concept when you state

    “The other factor is that most people won’t share the article on more than one network, so don’t bother over cluttering your design.”

    Now do you feel that people that put the retweet, facebook, and digg button all in one spot are kind of wasting there time? Or as well, giving more options results in more social networking with whatever they are reading?

    1. I should clarify. A single user won’t share an article on more than one network. So you choose the most popular networks like Twitter, Facebook, etc…

      This way you give them choices but one’s they’ll use. Rather than giving them 20 or 30 choices that they probably won’t use.

  2. Great article Jesse – very true that blogs can get very clutteres with all the various interaction and subscription buttons.
    How can I get the buttons similar to the SEJ page – the twitter, fb and rss ?

    Could you do a future article on top wordpress plugins and maybe something on how to make your blog look better? I could give you one of my horrible looking wordpress sites that you could do a before and after on!

    Thanks again Jesse

    Nina

  3. Great article Jesse – very true that blogs can get very clutteres with all the various interaction and subscription buttons.
    How can I get the buttons similar to the SEJ page – the twitter, fb and rss ?

    Could you do a future article on top wordpress plugins and maybe something on how to make your blog look better? I could give you one of my horrible looking wordpress sites that you could do a before and after on!

    Thanks again Jesse

    Nina