With as much time as you spend researching, writing, formatting and publishing amazing content, you deserve to have your work appreciated. Unfortunately, the stark truth is that many blogs with excellent content don’t get read because of one often overlooked aspect of blogging: design.
Whether you’re an amateur learning how to start a blog or a full-time, professional blogger, you need to understand that blog design plays just as important a role as your content, SEO and marketing strategy. In order to better grasp the situation, you have to know something about the nature of online readers.
StatisticBrain.com reported that the average person has an attention span of 8 seconds and, based on a survey by KISSmetrics, 47% of readers leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load!
The ultimate result is low on-page times, high bounce rates, fewer conversions, and less revenue. Fortunately, there are some basic changes even amateur bloggers can implement to improve their site’s metrics.
Below, you will find a number of blog design tips to guarantee your content gets read and shared.
Choose a simple, yet beautiful WordPress theme
“Beautiful” doesn’t have to mean elaborate or complicated. Instead, a beautiful design can mean organized, functional, and geared towards enhancing the user experience. And since the user has come to your site to absorb information or utilize a tool, the focus of your WordPress blog should be on the content.
A few important aspects of simplifying your design include the following:
- Navigation must be straightforward. Make it easy for the reader to find what he wants or needs. At the very least, links to the Navigation Menu, About Page, Contact Page, and Search Bar/Button should be prominently placed. Don’t make the user look for them!
- Leverage whitespace by focusing on your best content. While we will discuss this in more detail below, it is very important to note that bloggers should never try to advertise all their content on one page. When given too many choices, consumers become confused and leave. Instead, focus on your most high value propositions and properly space out different sections.
- “Home” button or logo reverts to homepage. Don’t make users click the “Back” button continuously. If a user wants to return to your homepage, make sure your header or logo is clickable. Similarly so that it will take the user back to the main page with a single click.
- Use a single sidebar. While some WordPress themes allow you to incorporate a double sidebar theme, this can be confusing for users who are used to reading content on the left and navigating on the right.
- Use neutral colors. While you may want your page to make a splash by using bold colors, bright and vibrant colors on a page can often be blinding on different monitors. Stick to a mostly neutral color palette and use dashes of vivid color for headlines or graphics.
Make it fast by reducing page bloat
According to CrazyEgg, every 1-second extra it takes for your page to load can result in 11% less page views and 7% less conversions, so don’t make users wait. There is enough competition and search results out there that visitors can simply move on to a site that isn’t slow.
So what do you do to make your blog pages load fast?
- Remove the ‘bloat’. All unnecessary widgets and plugins should be removed from a page. Not only does this reduce calls to the server – resulting in faster load times – but it also de-clutters your site.
- Compress images. Large size images add a heavy strain on servers, making for slow loading times. When inserting images into blog posts, be sure to resize them in Photoshop and use the “Save For Web” feature within the program. Similarly, you can use WordPress plugins that reduce image file sizes without you having to do it manually. WP Smush.it is a good option.
- Install a caching plugin. If you’ve built a high traffic site, it’s time to use W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache. These plugins will create static, faster versions of highly visited pages.
- Remove unnecessary code. If there are sections of pages or code that you don’t utilize (default “Author Box” or “Meta Data” code embedded into themes), feel free to remove them. This can be especially useful if you are using a Fancier Author Box and don’t need the default one that comes with WordPress themes.
A mobile-friendly design is essential
If you check your Google Analytics under Audience > Mobile > Overview, you find a breakdown of Desktop, Mobile and Tablet visitors. With Google, Facebook, Yahoo and every major internet company focusing on mobile users, building a mobile-friendly is a necessity, even if mobile traffic comprises a small percentage of your overall traffic.
If you don’t want to code – or don’t have the skill set – use plugins such as WPtouch Mobile, iThemes Mobile, Duda Mobile, Any Mobile Theme Switcher, or WP Mobile Edition that automatically create a mobile version of your site.
Make your content easy to consume
Online visitors tend to scan and skim articles, looking for chunks of information instead of reading an article in-depth. This means that your task is to make sure your content fits their reading habits.
How do you improve readability and the user experince as a blogger?
- Start with a great headline, a shocking statistic, or promise a result.
- Write paragraphs that are 5 to 7 sentences long.
- Speak directly to the reader by using the pronouns “You” and “I”.
- Organize your content with sub-headings. This will give a physical flow that makes it easier to read.
- Use bullet points.
- Use captions, block quotes, or pull quotes to highlight important points.
- Use images and other visual aids (infographics, pictures, charts, graphs, videos, GIFs, etc.) to pull readers in and break up long chunks of text.
- Tell a personal story.
Flaunt your best content
According to The New York Times, the more likes your post already has, the more people will like it as well. This is the concept of social validation and hype at work. The thinking is, “If a lot of people like a certain blog post, it must be good, so I’ll share and like it as well.” Take advantage of this psychological phenomenon by showing off your best content with a “Popular Posts” section in your sidebar and adding a sharing plugin.
You should also use a WordPress author box plugin, something similar to the one we use on this website. This increases credibility and creates reader-author connection.
If your blog is not getting enough traffic or you are seeing too high a bounce rate, but know your content is high quality, look more closely at your blog’s design. You may be self-sabotaging your results and preventing your blog from growing. Yet before you complete a major re-design, take the time to fix the small things that can make a huge difference in your blog’s performance.
What about your experiences? If you’ve got design tips and plugins that work to enhance the user experience and get your content share, please share them with me below!