I read a lot of blogs. A lot of blogs about blogging. Here I am with my big a** iPad Pro reading a blog about, you guessed it, blogging.
I love blogging because it is an amazing opportunity for people to express themselves and earn money with something they are passionate about.
I love the creativity involved as well as the discipline.
As a web designer, I’m fascinated with what makes something appeal to and engage an audience. I’ve seen great looking blogs not do so well. I’ve also seen really ugly blogs do incredibly well.
This leads me to believe that there is not necessarily a magic formula, however I also think it becomes this mixture of finding something people are genuinely interested in and becoming an authority in that area.
And I think that the design aspect is not so much and whether there are popular colors or trending features but in whether or not the user is able to use the blog efficiently and effectively and is not turned off by weak design.
One of my favorite images is an image of a fork that is made out of chain.
For me that demonstrates a perfect example of poor blog design can look pretty but if it doesn’t function the way that the user needs to function or in a way that makes your information palatable and consumable then it isn’t good design.
By contrast it doesn’t matter how great you make the fork. If what you’re serving is garbage no one’s going to eat it. So if there is a magic formula it’s there in that concept.
Serve GOOD food (read: blog content) in a way that people can eat it.
So what are some stumbling blocks that make your blog design get in the way of the user consuming your amazing content (and for now we’ll assume your content is amazing?
One error I see frequently is the poor use of typography and spacing.
A good design will allow the reader to READ without fatiguing them, straining their eyes, or making them think too much about HOW to consume. Unless you’re deliberately using chopsticks for the novelty, most people just prefer to shovel the food in their mouth. It’s the same way with your blog.
Use of good spacing techniques and boldings, italics, fonts and sizes all goes into helping this be a win for your readers. So what are the rules. Well, some of this is by gut and some is by standard practices.
My advise is always to design for accessibility. That’s the Internet’s sort of standard term for making sure people with handicaps can use your site.
People with vision impairment should still be able to access your content. There are awesome tools that will read your content to them, but you have to make sure it flows correctly and things like images and videos have titles and alt tags. That’s one example.
It doesn’t stop there though cuz guess what, people with handicaps are usually pretty smart compared with the average user. They’ve had to find things. Average users do not like to think. Like at all. Don’t make them.
If an 8 year old or an 80 year cannot use your site, it’s not designed for consumption. Better yet, if a drunk person cannot use your site, it needs work. There is actually a guy who sells his services as a drunk user for testing your site. Awesome!
Another way we sabotage our own stuff is to assume people know and have access to the same tech we do.
Don’t assume people know to find information somewhere on your site. Don’t assume they know what comes next. Spell it out, and when you think you’ve been explicit, spell it out again. Don’t get in your own way here out of laziness.
I can help. If you need some input on specifics, let me know. I will criticize for free. I will charge you to fix it, and we can be friends again. Life is good.
Ok, with the ads. Ads are good. They are money-makers and we love them. But there are problems aren’t there.
People get what they call ad-blindness when they are just so used to seeing ads in certain places. So we try to maximize our income and overcome this by popping them up everywhere.
No one likes this, but it works.
Except when it doesn’t.
If you have an ad that is causing technical difficulties, FIX THEM or get rid of the ad until you do.
Imagine I am a hot dog vendor on the street. I sell amazing hotdogs and I’m pretty vocal selling them. You can handle me shouting an occasional “hey, buy my awesome hotdogs here!” You can even stomach me coming up to you asking if you’d like to buy this tempting dog.
What you will NOT abide is me dumping the contents of my cart in your path and ruining your good suit with splattered mustard.
Don’t crash people’s machines or give them viruses by running horribly written scripts and code for serving up your ads. Please. Just don’t. You’re a professional now.
You test things first.
Yes, that actually is my definition of a professional.
Bad design isn’t good for anyone, but it’s especially bad for a blog that wants to get some good attention or get it’s point across even.
We have some very fundamental habits and expectations at play, but it is definitely something we can tackle! People all over the internets do it every day.
Just take it little by little. Improve as you learn. Take your feedback if you’re blessed enough to get some, and we’ll go over more of these in the weeks to come.
Let me know your thoughts! Please comment below.