15 Secrets That Can Make Your Next Blog Design More Effective

blog-design

Have you ever thought about what a huge impact a blog’s design has on its perception by readers? If you’re going to run a blog as a business (or part of your business), branding should be one of your biggest considerations.

 And if you’re going to pull off a successful branding job, design is essential. Having a clean, reader-friendly design that is structured to accomplish your goals is, next to having excellent content, one of the best things you can do to help your blog succeed. Let’s look at 15 secrets that will help your next blog design stand out and be successful.

1. Go for the Logo

logo

It’s worth repeating – a blog needs good branding as much as any other business, and the logo is obviously the first place to start! It’s important to really take some time and thought in this area to come up with something that’s not just good but excellent. Go for a design that is simple, classy (not trendy) and memorable. Here’s some good reading on this topic:

Your logo will be the ‘face’ of your blog, so make it unique and worth looking at!

2. But Don’t Leave it at That

beautiful theme

Of course, your branding efforts and steps toward uniqueness shouldn’t stop with the logo! If you’re serious about creating a successful blog, you’ve got to come up with a creative theme as well.

One of the best areas to invest your creative theming efforts in is the background. Think Webdesigner Depot and Web Designer Wall. Those blogs are instantly recognizable, and very much talked about, because of their unique background illustrations.

Put some serious effort into creating an atmosphere with your theme – make it something that readers will feel good about coming back to.

3. Leverage that Favicon

favicon

Favicons seem so trivial, and yet what an impact they can have! Readers will seem them on tabs, next to bookmarks and in the address bar, so they will be seen quite a lot.You should definitely invest some thought in this one as well – keep it simple and similar in style to your logo.

Favicons are yet another way to improve your branding and create a unique identity for your blog, so don’t miss out on that opportunity.

4. Make it Easy to Subscribe

subscribe

Since a strong subscription base is key to a successful blog, it stands to reason that you should do everything you can to promote your feed. Don’t shove it in people’s faces, but by all means make it easy for people who are interested to subscribe to your blog.

It drives me nuts when I want to subscribe to a blog and the rss is hidden way down in the sidebar or footer. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen often, but it’s still worth thinking about. People shouldn’t have to look for it!

5. Readability is Worth its Weight in Gold

readability

The main point of a blog is text-based (unless you’re a podcaster or screencaster) content, right? People come to your blog to read! That means that good typography and readability is even more important than on other websites, if that’s possible.

Good readability has immense value for your blog, and should definitely be one of those high-priority areas that you put a lot of thought into. You can even get away with a crummy design if you have good readability (although I wouldn’t recommend it!). The point is that good readability is not just something you go over on your usability checklist – take the time to do it right.

6. Show a Personality

personality

It’s been said before many times, but the advice still holds true as ever – show a person behind the site! The web is a personal place, and it makes such a difference when you can go to a blog and actually see the person/team behind it.

Have a good about page, show a picture, whatever it is that will let your personality shine through. You can incorporate this into your design by doing something like Viget Inspire’s author images or including a picture/friendly copy widget on the front page to introduce yourself and welcome visitors, like on Michael Dunlop’s IncomeDiary. Build some trust and loyalty with the community and it will go a long way.

7. Plan for Monetization

monetization

If you are running your blog to make a profit, be sure to plan ahead of time how you are going to monetize it. Sometimes ads just get slapped on as an afterthought, but your monetization will be much more effective, and pleasant, if you plan it out ahead of time.

Do you plan to use BuySellAds? Are you going to have Google AdSense on your blog? Affiliate marketing? E-book production? Whatever it is, think about how you’re going to incorporate that smoothly into your design. The blog will be more enjoyable and you’ll likely have better conversion as well.

8. Make Discussion a Priority, not an Afterthought

comments

One of the most important signs of a healthy blog is an engaged, commenting community. When you’re first sketching out your wireframes, then, think about discussion and how you’re going to encourage it.

Come up with a really unique, impressive, comment and comment form design, and plan for having a recent comments or top commenters section in the footer or sidebar. By making discussion a priority rather than an afterthought you can help yourself develop that thriving community that every blogger longs to have.

9. Efficient Navigation is a Must

navigation

Readers should never have to work to find what they’re looking for on your blog – “Don’t Make Me Think” still holds true. That means you should have effective navigation, be it tag based, category based or some other way. It’s also helpful to design some nice looking secondary navigation to show things like popular posts or related posts (more on that below).

Making it easy to track down specific types of posts will make your readers happier and cause them to read things they wouldn’t have otherwise. That’s a pretty big payoff!

10. Ditto on an Easy to Find Searchbox

search

Some people tend to prefer the searchbox to a navigation system, and even those who use the navigation system might still want to find search if they’re having trouble finding something. That means that an easy-to-find search function is a must-have as well.

A lot of  blogs have the search down in the sidebar, I personally prefer it about the fold, but it’s your decision. Just make sure it’s easy to track down and use!

11. Destroy the Bounce

related posts

It’s a proven, time-tested tactic – once you have somebody looking at something, it’s way easier to channel that into looking at something else. That’s why so many blogs have a related posts section at the end of each post.

By building an appealing related post section into your blog, you can lower your bounce rate and help readers find more good information without making them search for it.

12. Awesomeize Your Footer

footer

A good footer can be so much more than the end of the page. In fact, it can be one of the most valuable parts of the page, enabling you to take traffic that has “made it to the end” and redirect them back into the site.

There are two things that really make a footer stand out - impressive graphics and good content. Get those two and your design will be better for it, I guarantee you. Here’s some good reading on how to get those two ingredients:

13. Give Some TLC to That Poor 404 Page

404

That 404′s happen is a fact of life – some one mistypes a link on their blog, you change your permalink structure, etc. What you do with them, however, is something entirely different. The basic “404 – Missing Page” is so common it can almost bring you to tears. What a disappointment to click on a link and see that.

The good news is, you can be different! Done right, 404 pages can be entertaining, trust-building, and even help someone find a part of your blog they might not have before. There have been plenty of inspirational collections of 404 pages that are done right:

Try giving readers a way to reorient themselves, another chance to find what they’re looking for and hopefully even a way to find something new – it makes a big difference.

14. Do Something Cool with Post Images

post-images

Post thumbnail images have clearly become a defacto standard of blog design. They are one of the most beneficial trends I can think of, and it’s amazing how much images can add to the polish of a blog’s presentation.

If you want to go for extra credit, you can even try something creative with the layout (other than the same old square image on the left). If you aren’t sure what I mean, check out how Chris Spooner did it on Line25. And some good news – WordPress 2.9 has an awesome new post-thumbnail feature that makes it easier than ever before!

15. When You Think You’re Done, You Aren’t

enrichment

 Nick La hit it on the head in his interview in the Smashing Book: when asked how he knows when a design is complete he said,

“To me, a design is never complete. Even after the website is launched, I often find ways to enhance it based on feedback.”

Remember that – design is a process of continual enhancement and improvement. Don’t expect to be ‘done’ with a blog design, because it won’t be. Instead, enjoy the process of continually improving – and keep working to make your blog as effective as it can be.

Wrapping Up

The blogging market is huge, so whether you are designing your own blog or marketing yourself to others as a blog design specialist, having a good grasp of what makes a good blog design will have some huge rewards.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this and been inspired to change the way you go about blog design. Of course, it’s easier said than done (Webitect doesn’t quite measure up on all these, either), so if you have an experience to share or think of anything else that should be on this list, do tell in the comments!

Written By Nick Parsons

Nick is the editor of Webitect and a developer + designer from Houston TX.

24 Comments

  1. Patrik

    February 4th, 2010 at 05:32 pm

    very good & usefull advice!
    Already incorporated some of the tips in our upcoming company blog, which will be available soon at http://www.saismo.at
    Just sign up for our mailing list to see when it’s done!

  2. Mary Lou

    February 5th, 2010 at 05:58 am

    This is a really helpful article, and I will definitely follow your advice when it comes to redesigning our blog (which badly needs a makeover) :-) Thanks again, your posts are always great!

  3. web2000

    February 5th, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Great advice and tips. I would add one more – Make sure your site is optimized for mobile browsers

  4. Sara

    February 6th, 2010 at 01:50 pm

    There are some real good examples that you used. I just might add a few of these ideas to my site.

  5. Ajay

    February 9th, 2010 at 01:25 am

    Great Article! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Akira Graphics

    February 10th, 2010 at 08:22 pm

    Awesome list!!

    Good job Nick!

  7. Eko Setiawan

    February 10th, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Thank you for reminding again, we often read these tips to improve the quality of our blogs, but most of us just read and plans to implement it later, why?
    Good tips, one by one we will try to impose on the design of our templates next.
    :)

  8. Kristina ZG

    February 25th, 2010 at 08:36 pm

    Nick,
    I am still just an early-early-enthusiast :-) ( made the first site for a friend on Wix) but these days I am looking at ways to make a great WordPress site (blog).

    After reading tons of resources on the web, I must say your article sums it all up, very straight to the point!

  9. Aidan

    March 15th, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    I think most of us will never get it right the first time. It always takes a lot of effort, trial and error and experimenting to find the better solution. Even that’s is not perfect and constantly changing, as a freelancer, we must be very adaptable to changes.

    Nice article and thanks for sharing.

  10. inspirationfeed

    April 4th, 2010 at 06:28 am

    Great tips, these are all true.

  11. leaflette's

    June 19th, 2010 at 09:05 pm

    seriously, it’s a wrapped up of a total 101 course for designer/blogger
    :)

  12. Lucian Rosca

    June 19th, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    This is a very good post. I just lunched my blog three weeks ago
    http://www.carbrandimage.com
    and I agree it’s never done. I still need to work on some details and then… still work more. But that’s the fun of it.

  13. Tin180.com

    June 20th, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    Thanks for useful post!

  14. Paul Olyslager

    June 29th, 2010 at 06:12 pm

    Some great tips indeed and nice to see that you’ve implemented them on your blog as well :) Cheers

  15. Maicon

    July 22nd, 2010 at 07:32 pm

    Valuabel tips. About to create an atmosphere make me think.

  16. chris

    October 20th, 2010 at 01:26 pm

    everything in this article is to the point and extremely useful

    Thanks for the tips!

  17. Chris

    November 14th, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    I love this blog, its really interesting to read …. well done

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  21. Marian

    August 19th, 2014 at 02:21 am

    Great tips indeed, Great design is very important for your blog, no one will want to stay in an awful blog.. :)

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