I really love blogging – but more than blogging, I love pretty blogs! I don’t care what people tell you, looks do matter.
I know it sounds snobby and superficial, but if your blog is hard to navigate, full of ads, and not very organized, I leave. Your blog design is your first impression to the world – so I believe that it really matters what your design looks like. On the flip side, if you have a pretty blog with a beautiful theme, I will probably return to it several times a day just to look at how pretty it is. No joke.
I think we should all challenge ourselves just to look at our blog designs. I mean, actually look at them. Pretend like you are a newbie who just stumbled across the page for the first time. What do you see? A clear message? A simple “hello”? Or a thousand colors that make your eyes spin?
(By the way, if you really do want a new reader to read and analyze your blog, submit your URL to Peek User Testing. It is a free service that sends you a video of a new reader navigating your site. I’ve done it and it was INCREDIBLY
So, here are my 50 (new and unique) ways to improve your blog design right now. Believe me, these are way too fun. Have at it!
Improve your Blog Design
The easiest fixes can be made with plugins/gadgets and widgets. And, because most of them affect your sidebar, now is the perfect time to update and change your sidebar. Here are some easy fixes:
- If you use WordPress, update all your plugins every day. Like now.
- Remove the Meta Tag widget/gadget and the Blogger Navbar. They do nothing.
- Remove generic Blogger “About Me” gadget.
- Make your Categories or Archives on the sidebar SIMPLE (make them a dropdown or a simple list, not a list of 73 things).
- Move the search bar to bottom. If people want it, they will find it. (Oh, but make sure you have a search bar!)
- Remove your affiliate and group buttons to separate page and just link on sidebar.
- Consider removing Google Friend Connect. I don’t think it is really used much anymore.
- Only have ONE Bloglovin button (not two or three).
- Show off your favorite posts (or most popular posts). Those are vital to your blog.
- Move your “sign up for emails” widget to the top.
- Consider removing or simplifying footer widgets. Don’t let your footer collect your long, unimportant, list-like widgets.
- Remove or change generic text that comes with plugins, email list boxes, or contact forms.
- You know that plugin that makes your blog take TWO MINUTES to load? Delete it. (Test your plugins’ speed with the awesome Plugin Performance Profiler Plugin. I TOTALLY recommend it.)
Add Social Sharing Options
All too often, I want to save/share/pin a blog’s image – and can’t! That blog just lost my business. Here are some ways you can amp up your social footprint.
- Add a social sharing widget. I love Shareaholic, but there are tons of options. Make them easy for people to find at the end of every post.
- Add a print button. Here’s a great one for Blogger or WordPress.
- Add a hover pin-it button. (UPDATE: I like this plugin now!)
- Add an email option.
- Right now I am using Genesis Simple Share Plugin and love it!
I am getting into sticky territory here. I know we make money off of our ads. But, here’s the thing. If an ad is not making money, remove it. Your blog real estate is precious, and if an ad is not making you money, it needs to go. Here are some other ad changes you can make:
- Move your ads around to find better locations.
- Consider removing obnoxious ads (pop-ups – or the ones instead of the header). I know they make you money – but they also turn away readers. Like me.
- Consolidate a bunch of small ads and show just one large ad. (UPDATE: this isn’t necessarily better. 300×250, 728×90, and 160×60 ads are the best sizes for ads, hands down. If you qualify, sign up for Adthrive (where I work). It will change your life.)
- Adopt an “I only accept pretty sponsor spot ads” policy. It might sound snobby – but makes for a pretty blog.
Streamline Your Reader’s Experience
If you offer ten thousand messages to your readers, they drown each other out. Pretend you are a first-time reader and create a simple message that leads your reader from one page to the next. Here are easy ways to accomplish that:
- Remove all audio and video players that play automatically.
- Create and advertise only one call to action. (ie. “Follow for a free e-book”)
- Create a “Start Here” page and link it in the menu or sidebar.
- Remove above-the-fold ads that show other people. You don’t want the reader to think the old lady at the top of your sidebar is you.
- Simplify your menu. If you have a thousand links, it is hard to know what the blog’s forte and focus is.
- Only have one set of follow buttons with all your follow buttons together.
- Maximize (and update) your “about” and “contact” pages. These need to be the hub of your blog.
- Get rid of broken feeds, the Captcha function, and anything else that stops the reader from reading more.
- Do you type in all italics? Please change it. It looks like you are perpetually whispering.
- Remove dud images from old posts. (Why not go ahead and replace images with pin-able graphics!)
- Add “the fine print” with your terms, policies, copywrite info and affiliate link info. See mine here and in the footer.
Fix the Big Stuff
Every blog has “big stuff” (colors, fonts, spacing) that can go awry. I know the following list might involve hiring a blog designer to fix things, but please consider doing it. You can have the best content in the world, but if your font is illegible, it doesn’t matter. Here are the top fixes most blogs need:
- Make your font darker.
- Make your body text left-oriented (or justified). Center-orientation is the worst.
- Space your widgets evenly to have an easy-to-read sidebar.
- Remove any extra spacing after your header.
- Change up the font and format of your post titles.
- Change up the format of your headers (inside your posts).
- Make the body of your blog wider.
- Have only one menu – and maybe make it only one level. (Don’t have ANY menu links that are duds. Be intentional with your menu.)
- Change up your fonts to make them appealing.
- Remove the meta text that says “Ginny posted this 4:00 am”.
- Does your background show seams when the pattern repeats? Dislike. Find a seamless pattern.
- ADD WHITE SPACE. If your body background is a dark color, your reader’s eyes will get tired and move to another blog.
- Simplify to only 2-3 colors on your blog.
- Change your comment system. Either customize the colors and fonts for the system, or download a plugin like Disqus for better commenting.
- Consolidate your categories and tags! Use the Term Management Tools plugin to merge all your current categories into just a few large categories. (I love this plugin!)
- Add an opt-in bar for a blog newsletter.
- Do you like patterns? Choose ONE. Too many patterns = scary.
- Make sure your images don’t extend over into your sidebar – ask your designer to set the width of your images.
PHEW! You made it to the end! Let us know what design tweaks you make!
See more Blogging & Design Posts:
- Why I chose Flywheel Managed Hosting over Bluehost (and everything you need to know about hosting)
- Increase blog pageviews – How I grew my blog to over 10,000 pageviews a day
- What to expect with The Modern Commonplace Book Newsletter
- How to trade services for free business advice
- 5 Ways to Prime your Blog for Social Media
- Ten Picmonkey Tips for a Killer Blog Graphic
- Great Tips for Blog Comments
- The State of the Blog Address (and where it’s going…)
- Bloggers: Protect your Privacy
- A Few of My New Favorite Designs