How to Design a Successful Blog - dummies

How to Design a Successful Blog

By Amy Lupold Bair

Blog design is a very personal experience. The blog that you’re starting is a reflection of you and your individual style. The decisions you make about how your blog looks are just as important as the technology that you choose to run your blog and what you choose to put on it.

Because the web is an ever-evolving medium, no solid rules exist that tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your blog. But you can follow guidelines to keep putting your best foot forward.

Regardless of the design you prefer for your blog, it is critical that your site is easy to read on a mobile device. This is called being mobile responsive and is important because of the overwhelming number of readers who prefer to enjoy blogs from smart phones and tablets rather than on their home computer or laptop.

Whether you hire a designer for your blog, use a blog template, or try to make the design yourself, seek ways to make your blog stand out from the rest. If you’re a business, make sure that your logo appears on your blog. If you’re creating a personal blog, add your own photos. Even if you use a default template, you can often add an identifying graphic or element on the site that differentiates your blog from others.

Don’t be afraid to start small and plan to redesign later. You can grow into your big ideas when you’re sure that you know what you want, so take the time to look at what other blogs are doing while you make your plans.

The average blog has four very distinct areas in which to place and customize content: logos, headers, sidebars, and footers. In a blog, each of these areas has a specific purpose. As more blogs have come into existence, these areas have developed in specific ways that can help you organize your content.

Here’s some detail about each of these customizable areas in your blog:

  • Logos: Getting a visitor’s attention on the Internet is a science in itself, and clean, crisp logos can hold a visitor’s interest long enough to get him or her to read some of your blog. Typically, a logo appears near the top of each blog page (but doesn’t have to). Many logos include an illustrated element and a special font treatment of the blog name.
  • Headers: The header of any blog contains a few elements. The first element should be, of course, the name of your blog. The title or secondary tagline should explain what your blog talks about or who you are as the main writer. You can also throw into the header some form of navigation that can help your visitors find their way around and provide them with quick links to special areas that you want highlighted on your site. On many blogs, the logo also appears in the header. As the name suggests, headers appear at the top of blog pages.
  • Sidebars: Sidebars usually become a major focus for a blog site. Sidebars are columns to the right or left (or both) of the main content area, and they contain elements such as navigational links, special graphics that point to social networking sites, lists of blogs that you read (blogrolls), archive links, or anything that you want to share with your visitors outside the context of a blog post. Sidebars usually appear on every page of your blog and look consistent from page to page.
  • Footers: Footers live at the bottom of each blog page, and sometimes they do nothing more than feature a copyright message. More advanced bloggers have expanded the use of footers to include a significant series of links to content within their sites. These links might lead to comments on the blog, recent posts, or posts that you particularly want to highlight. The footer can feature parts of your blog that you want visitors to find easily.

How themes impact your blog design

Your blog is your home on the web. Make sure you get a taste for the various blog platforms that are popular with bloggers today before choosing your home. What all these platforms have in common, however, is the use of blog design themes.

Think of a blog theme as a combination of the floorplan blueprint an architect might use to build a home and the design software that the interior designer uses to decorate that space once it is built.

Themes are an easy way for technological novices — or even somewhat seasoned bloggers — to customize the look and feel of their sites without needing to know how to code the site from scratch. Many beautiful themes are available to bloggers for free, and themes available for purchase range from a small one-time fee to a pricey subscription-based recurring cost.

Before selecting a blog platform, spend some time looking at other blogs that already exist on that platform. You don’t want to fall in love with a specific design theme only to find that it isn’t available on the platform you selected.

Themes have become a very important part of how bloggers define who they are in the blogosphere! Those hoping to focus on their top-notch photography skills can choose a theme that places images front and center. Writers hoping to establish themselves as members of the online media are likely to select a newspaper or magazine style theme where content is king.

Which content type are you choosing for your blog?

When blogs first entered the World Wide web, they were word-based, content driven sites that resembled personal journals or traditional print media. That is no longer necessarily true!

Becoming a blogger no longer means writing paragraph after paragraph of wordy prose. Considering the following content options currently popular in the blogosphere:

  • Photography focused blogging : They say that an image is worth a thousand words! Photography based bloggers would certainly agree. Rather than wordy posts, pictures with captions and short explanatory text are the focus of photography-based blogs.
  • Vlogging: Combining the words video and blogging, vlogging simply means using uploaded video content in place of the written word.
  • Podcasting: Not interested in typing your thoughts into a post and not comfortable in front of the camera? Consider podcasting!

Design with your blog audience in mind

While blog design is a very personal decision, you need to consider your audience before making decisions about the look and feel of your site.

If you’re blogging for business reasons, either on behalf of a company or to promote yourself, make sure that both the writing and design demonstrate the proper tone. Be sure to select a clean design with appropriate graphics and colors. This is not the time to share your love for wild animal prints and fireworks animation!

Seek advice from bloggers in the same blogging space and find out from friends and family members who read blogs frequently what design elements they enjoy. Check out other blogs, especially blogs that reflect the same goals or tone you want to create. What does the design of those blogs say about the blogger and the blog content?

Are you hoping to create a cozy community of like-minded readers? Keep that in mind when planning the layout of your site. Consider warm, inviting colors and conversation encouraging comment software. Be sure to make it easy for readers to learn more about you! Unlike a business-based blog, readers will want to feel like they are getting to know you through the words and images on the screen.

You want your blog’s design to be professional and clean, but you also want to allow your personality and unique perspective to shine through.