10 important design tips for your blog
1. Use a decent theme.
Don’t use the theme that came preinstalled with the blog. Search for a better theme. Or at least change the header! If your blog looks like thousands of other blogs, nobody will remember it. Readers have a short attention span. I’ve already forgotten what I was talking about…
2. Don’t use a dark or “busy” background.
This is likely to be determined by the theme you use, but I strongly recommend that you only use black text on a white background, or a light background. A black background with white text can be very hard on the eyes.
If you want to use a background image, make sure your content is readable. You could put a simple background image around the edge of your site and display the content on a light background. Whatever you do, don’t use a photograph and put the text directly on top of it. This does not look good, even if it’s a great photo. You don’t write on a photo.
3. Keep ads and widgets to a minimum.
I have seen so many blogs with ads, widgets, games, awards and other assorted junk cluttering up their sidebars. It looks messy, and it slows everything down.
Don’t add “just one more widget” because someone wrote about it, or because other bloggers have loads of widgets. Many widgets serve no purpose whatsoever and just get in the way. If you want to try a few things out, try to limit yourself to a couple of new items at a time – don’t just add everything you can find.
4. Content should be the main focus.
Aside from keeping ads and widgets to a minimum, any bits and pieces you do put on your blog should not draw attention away from your content. Surrounding your posts is not a good idea. Make it easy for readers to find the content of your posts – don’t make them hunt around.
5. Don’t make the text too small.
Some “designers” think it’s “cool” to use ridiculously small text, with the excuse that you can always increase the size in your browser. This is crazy. Use a respectable font size as your default – don’t make your readers push their noses right up the screen to read your posts. It just leaves noseprints on the screen.
6. Use colours to distinguish between navigation and content.
Many blogs have one or two sidebars alongside the content, sometimes with a horizontal navigation bar across the top as well. It helps to use a subtle background colour for your navigation areas so it’s clear where the content starts and ends.
I have actually seen sites that blend the whole lot together, which causes a big problem when reading – some of the lines within each post actually run into the navigation links!
7. Beware of scrolling.
Except for a few special cases (Plurk is a good example) most sites should not have a horizontal scrollbar. The content runs from top to bottom, you expect to scroll down to read a long post, but you don’t want to scroll across the read the end of each line.
Even vertical scrolling can get annoying if it’s excessive. Don’t put too many posts on your front page, especially if you want to display the full text of each post. I prefer to use the “more” tag in WordPress so the first part of the post is shown on the front page, but the rest isn’t visible until you click to view the full post.
8. Avoid animated images, marquees, and blinking text.
At best, these are a minor distraction that just gets ignored. At worst, your readers won’t be able to concentrate on reading your content. Avoid them, or you might have readers who spend more time watching the animations than reading your posts.
9. Keep everything neat.
Some sites don’t make very good use of the available space. It seems like even a tiny box has huge spaces above and below it. The FeedBurner “subscribe by email” box is a good example of this.
Changing the default code is a good way to tidy things up a bit. Have a look at my home page for an example. Neat and tidy!
10. Give your site an identity.
A logo, an icon, a photo of you, there are a few ways to give your site its own identity. Even if you use an existing theme, you can modify it to make it your own. This will help with establishing your site.
Do you agree with these tips? What other design tips can you think of that are important to bloggers?