Months ago, I wrote a post about what to avoid and what to consider when designing a website. That was written on a complete user-perspective as I have no formal training in web development and web design. Fast forward to today, a pet project of mine prompted me to write a follow-up post.
I created a directory to help local bloggers and advertisers connect with each other faster and easier. Upon checking out and listing each blog, I noticed a few rather unhealthy practices that some fellow bloggers do when designing their blogs.
When we become bloggers, we also take up the mantle of web designers by extension. Whether we like it or not, we have to learn a few things about design or else, no matter how awesome our content is, readers won't be enticed to come back or share our posts. This will happen if merely looking at our blogs hurts their eyes.
So here are a few tips on how to make your blog more appealing at first glance.
Take note of your page width.The launch of customizable widths on new Blogspot templates was a double-edged sword and many bloggers didn't realize that. On the one side, it gives way to a lot of flexibility in design. On the other, custom widths might ruin the way your website appears on different browsers and screen resolutions.
What exactly am I talking about? This:
A closer look at the lower right-hand corner:
Readers shouldn't have to scroll sideways to see your entire blog. Scrolling sideways feels awkward and unnatural. This is even more detrimental if you have important content on your sidebar that readers are not immediately seeing or taking notice of becuase it's chopped off.
Remember, you are not designing your blog only for yourself. You are designing it for your readers and potential readers. Be mindful of what they see on their end when they browse through your blog.
Thankfully, important information can be obtained from free analytics services like Google Analytics and Stat Counter. With this information, you can find out what kind of online "crowd" you attract and design your blog accordignly.
Notice that a considerable chunk of people are using smaller resolutions. These might be mobile browsers or older computers. Eitherway, if you feel that the percentage of your readers who are using smaller resolutions is too large to ignore, check your blog's page, post and sidebar widths and find a fair compromise to accomodate more resolutions without sacrificing your aesthetics. You can also considering making your blog mobile-ready if you feel that a considerable number of your visitors are on their mobile phones. Mobile visitor traffic information is also available on Google Analytics and Stat Counter.
De-clutter.No, you do not need all those sidebar widgets. No, they don't look nice. No, they don't add any sort of value for your readers. They are just eyesores and they slow down your blog loading time. This goes for some footer widgets too.
Background check.If you're going to use a non-pattern or non-single-color background, make sure it that the color does not clash with the color of your text. That is, if you're using black text, very little to no part of your background picture should be black. I've been guilty of this a few times before and I'm to avoid it as much as possible. Readers shouldn't be forced to scroll up or down to so that they can read the black text that happen to be placed over the black part of your background image.
Make good use of jumps.I'm talking about the <!--more--> tag and its variations depending on what platform you're using. The current trend is that only the teaser paragraph is available on the homepage and readers have to open the post if they want to read the whole thing. This is very user-friendly since readers won't be forced to scroll through entire blog posts to navigate to the next one. There are still however, some bloggers who choose to show their entire posts on the homepage. While I do not see anything significantly wrong with that, if you choose to do the same, please limit the number of posts visible on the homepage. Displaying 10 whole blog posts on the homepage will kill your blog load time. Readers don't like it and search engines don't like it. Don't do yourself and your blog a dis-service.
These are just a few things I notice time and again. You might think I'm nitpicking and somehow, I am. But the way I see it, we need to impress our readers in any way we can or else we'll lose them.
So, do you agree or disagree with the points I put out? What little (and big) things irk you when browsing through other people's blogs?