Are you getting ready to set up a blog, and can’t afford to hire a designer? How can you avoid some horrible design mistakes and create a well-designed blog?
You don’t have to be an experienced web designer to design a good-looking blog. When I designed Contemporary Communicator, I drew on my background in page design, as well as some good and bad things I’ve seen on other blogs.
Here are some tips for how to make a blog that is well designed.
Colors and contrast:
If you use WordPress, there are all kinds of themes and colors to choose from. This can be both good and bad. The good side is you have a lot of options for your blog’s look. The bad side is you can get drawn in by all the fancy options and end up with a site that’s not readable.
Go for pleasing colors that establish the mood of your site. I tried one of my favorite color combinations, maroon and gray, on my blog at first. It was so dark and boring that it made me depressed! If I thought it was depressing, I’m sure my readers would have. I experimented and found the much more cheerful blue and yellow combination.
High contrast between colors makes your text easier to read. Watch out for textured backgrounds, especially under your text. Confine the background to the sides of your blog, and leave your text area plain. I think black text on white works best for the reading area because of the high contrast. Other combinations could work, as long as the text stays easy to read.
Keep in mind that all of your readers might not have great eyesight, and they need to be able to read your content.
Top and side menus should be clearly labeled and easy to click on. They should be brief and make sense to the reader. Menu standards, such as Home, About, Contact, Resources, and other labels, are what readers are used to seeing. For example, “Jennifer Thornberry’s Journey to Blogging” is probably a bit much. Luckily, I went with the simple “About.” On the pages themselves, you can be creative, but make the menus and links simple so that visitors will click to your creative pages.
Links that work:
This may seem obvious, but I’ve visited sites that have either broken links or menus that say one thing, such as “Forum,” then either lead nowhere or take me back to the home page. Make sure your menu links go where you intend them to go. If you link to other pages (especially on other people’s sites) or social media profiles, test the links to make sure they work.
More and more people are consuming online content on smartphones and tablets. Make sure your theme adjusts for readers on those devices. I used to use the WordPress 2012 theme on this blog, but then I visited my site from my phone and realized it looked terrible. Now, I’m using Weaver II because it is mobile responsive.
Don’t annoy your readers:
If you want readers to come to your site because they are interested in your content, don’t put annoying elements in their way. For example, I was looking at a blog a few days ago, and a little Twitter bird icon kept flying all over the page as I scrolled down. It didn’t make me want to tweet the post more. It annoyed me until I left the site.
If you want people to share your content, the best sharing menus are the ones that stay at the top, sides or bottom of your post.
I also get annoyed with pop-ups that come up just when I’ve started reading the first few sentences of an article or blog post. I quickly look for the X or “No thanks” button to get it to go away so I can continue reading. Before you use a pop-up, think about whether it’s worth the possibility of driving your potential readers away.
Readers, what are some design elements that you like and don’t like? How have you designed your blog to make your visitor’s experience better?