One of the things that will determine the success of your blog is its design. Most businesses assume that all they need is quality content. But if the design is lacking, then people really will judge the book by its cover and leave the page before they read the content. Here are some of the main design elements that define or destroy a great business blog.
Do: Consistent Branding
While it’s alright to have a different design for your blog vs. your main business website, it is important that people still know they are on your blog. A great example of this is KISSmetrics. You can see a subtle difference between their main website design…
… compared to their blog design.
While the former focuses on their analytics platform, the latter focuses on content and lead generation. This is one of many good models to go by. Other examples of unique blog branding include the Salesforce website vs. blog and the Southwest website vs. blog.
If you don’t have a web designer to help you out, that’s alright. The keys to making it work really boil down to having your logo in the same place (top left, top right, etc.), having your menu in the same place, using the same fonts, and using the same basic color scheme. Most people familiar with blogs know that the layout generally changes between a website and a blog, so don’t be afraid to add in a sidebar.
Do: Content-First Layout
Branding is not the only thing to factor into your blog’s design. Layout is another key element that can help direct visitors to your content – or distract them from it. When people visit a blog, they expect to see the content almost immediately. Your job is to visit your blog using multiple devices (desktop, tablet, and smartphone) to determine if people see your content or if they are seeing ads, popups, large headers, or other distracting elements first. If that’s the case, you may want to consider updating your layout.
Do: Clear Readability
How easy is it for people to actually consume your content? Small fonts, the spacing between lines (or lack thereof), and dark backgrounds can make it hard for people to ready your blog posts. You don’t need to dive deep into typography to make your text readable. Just make sure the fonts are well-sized (Derek Halpern of Social Triggers suggests a font size of 14 – 16) and the spacing looks good (see Personified’s Golden Ratio Typography Calculator to test font size and CPL base don the width of your content). And of course, dark text on a light background is the easiest to read. Participants of this study were 26% more accurate reading dark text on a light background vs. reading light text on a dark background.
Don’t: Sidebar Cluttering
One place that businesses really go overboard is the sidebar. It’s easy to keep adding new widgets until your sidebar extends farther than your content. The last thing you want is someone scrolling and scrolling and scrolling to find the end of your sidebar with a blank content space next to it.
There are a few essential things you need in your blog’s sidebar.
- An opt-in to your mailing list or lead submission form. The mailing list opt-in should be no more than a name and email address, and the lead form submission should be no more than a name, email address, phone number, and text box.
- Social profile links, badges, or boxes. Keep it to a minimum of your top social media accounts: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.
- A brief bit of text letting first time visitors know about your blog and your business.
- A call to action graphic that encourages visitors to sign up for a free trial of your product, take advantage of huge savings during a sale, or similar.
- A listing of categories so people can navigate quickly to the topics they want to read about. If you have hundreds of categories, create this list manually with the most pertinent categories or the ones that have the most up-to-date content..
If you have anything more than this in the sidebar, you really need to ask yourself what good those items are doing to either keep visitors on your blog or convert them into customers. If those items do not do those things, they may not belong on your sidebar.