The primary job of a blog is to deliver content to a distinct audience. In staying true to the topic, the blog must also meet the challenge of attracting the target reader’s attention and relate to their point of view.
All of these factors are typically handled through design. Naturally, the color palette, imagery, logo placement and style most prominently communicate a blog’s personality and topic. However, the best blogs are not the most visually stunning, but the most relevant and functional.
Start with Strong Typeface
Elliot Jay Stocks is a veteran designer and speaker. On his blog, he outlines core fundamentals and concepts designers should consider. He writes, “For far too long, many of us have been guilty of focusing on decoration: the colors and the shapes and the textures. We’ve been neglecting the details.”
As blogs revolve around content, and content is composed of type, it’s no surprise that the heart of Elliot’s approach is typography. His recommendation is to take out everything that is not absolutely essential, and let the typeface guide the design.
Don’t Over-do It
By toning down the extra stuff on your blog or removing the eye-candy, it may feel void of personality. Through visual storytelling, topic-centric graphics and photos can be used to captivate readers and illustrate ideas in a more dynamic way than header and background designs can afford.
This is not to say you can’t have a visually stunning blog. Rather, hold back from integrating every widget and feature available into the homepage. Every element of the page should have a purpose for the content to thrive and stand out.
Focusing too much on the static design of a blog can distract from the content and make maintaining a consistent look more challenging. For example a blog built around glossy, modern, vector graphics is not an appropriate frame for vintage imagery, limiting what can be used in your visual storytelling.
Brand designer Nubby Twiglet balances her personal style against her content by using consistent typography and colors to create a seamless flow between the two. As a result, the blog’s design, while appealing to her target audience, becomes secondary to the post imagery.
Decide What’s Important for the Layout
For most blogs, a Tumblr or journal-style layout is appropriate and will direct the most attention to the content, but for some, a magazine layout may offer better content organization. The deciding factors are whether chronology is important, how many authors are involved, how large the blog’s community is and if the blog is selling something.
Magazine formats give more emphasis to images, separating individual posts or categories and highlighting interactions, but risk turning a blog into, well, a magazine. In contrast, journal layouts highlight the most recent content and present a more momentous mood.
It is tempting to want to re-invent the wheel when it comes to blog design, but don’t stray too far from conventions that are familiar or proven to work. Straight North Content Strategist Brad Knorr says, “Two places where designers should not flex their creative muscles are social buttons and subscriptions. To get users to [share and follow], the imagery and positioning of these features must be familiar.”
Design for the Audience
Most serious bloggers are looking for a way to monetize, but the fact is that ads will interrupt your blog’s design and distract readers. That is, after all, what they are designed to do. As a best practice, allow some time for the blog to mature before saturating it with ads, so you have a better understanding of the reader’s needs and motivations.
Ads tend to do best when placed above the feed or in the right sidebar. Writer Matthew Kimberly’s blog uses an ad presentation technique that tries its best to integrate the ads into the overall design and flow to the page, leading to a higher click-through rate than if he used image ads alone.
To build the most successful blog homepage possible, use these best practices:
- Start with a strong, readable typeface and let it determine the scale of other elements.
- Use simple, familiar layouts.
- Tone down the clutter and gimmicky functionality.
- Help readers find content quickly through clear navigation and search.
- Use consistent visuals that enhance and compliment your content.
- Think about content first and ads second.
Image courtesy of Flickr, Jason Pier
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