A Guest Post by Graham Phoenix of ‘Male eXperience‘
Great content makes a great blog, but if readers just click away and don’t come back, it all goes to waste. If they don’t know where to focus or what to do, they’ll move on. Design is crucial to that all important first impression, particularly now that Google let’s you see a site without going there.
It’s easy for me, I am a designer! I design lighting for cathedrals and theatres so I understand about first impressions. When I started blogging I thought I knew all about it. I could manipulate images, format text and balance the overall visual impression. I created great looking sites that didn’t attract readers.
I played around, slowly improving, but this was precious time away from writing. There was plenty of advice on how to setup your blog and wordpress. How could I get people to stay and look around? How could I make best use of my writing and marketing?
But How do I Solve it?
In life the solution is often never what you think it’s going to be. I realised that design was about the brief not the art, it’s where any designer should start. What do you want to achieve, what is important?
Whether you design yourself or pay a professional, you need to treat yourself as a client. Interview yourself, not about the design, about the blog itself. Why are you doing it? What do you want to say? What are you trying to achieve?
Above The Fold
There is so much to consider with the practicalities of design, perhaps most important, though, is what happens above the fold. You need to achieve your purpose without readers having to scroll down. They need to get the message and know where to go next. There are four simple tests.
1. What impression do you want to give?
People decide within 10 seconds whether to stay. Colour and banner are important, but so is content. Beware of too much distraction, beware of too much minimalism, unless it’s a focus, find a balance.
I focus on a bold red with black and white. I use colour in my images, to create a secondary impression. What you see in the image is to the fold, my focus.
2. What do you want the reader to focus on?
People read from the top left, so keep your sidebar to the right. I have a banner that puts the focus on the text. The title of the post should stand out. Keep the left side clear of images, put them on the right. The eye flows down the page, breaks make it easy to click away.
Hierarchy is critical, other than reading your post what do you want people to do. Get rid of your widgets, focus on your primary call to action. My focus is the signup form for the eBook and email list.
3. How much do you want to get people around your content?
People usually start with the first post. I put an excerpt at the top, it gives people a flavour but allows the next post to entice people further. Once a reader clicks on one of the titles I’ve hooked them.
The navigation is simple, clear and obvious. I recently added a search bar after realising how much we search now.
4) How do you want to connect with your readers?
It’s important to connect with your readers. I have a photo and brief bio at the top of the sidebar. This shows that I am a person, what I look like and who I am. My about page is right there in the navigation with ‘My Story’. People can connect with me easily.
Design is a skill that takes time to learn. If you can do it then go ahead, if, however, you feel lost then go to a designer and pay for it. Get it done well and reap the rewards. You need to know what you want and articulate it. We’re all writers, right, so write it down!
Go back to your blog and look at it, above the fold, criticise the easy of use and impression it gives. Look at successful blogs and do the same. You will connect the dots and see what works and what you like. When you combine the two, then you have it.
What are the issues you have most difficulty with in blog design? Let me know in the comments and I will help you find an answer.
Read more by Graham Phoenix on his blog ‘Male eXperience‘