Hi! Thanks for stopping by and welcome to part 2 of my new Blogging Basics series!
…you’re an absolute Blogging Newbie.
…you just started blogging and you feel like you could need some helpful tips and tricks
…you have been blogging for a while, but somehow feel like you might have missed out some vital steps
…you have been blogging for years, but somehow you have trouble getting people to read your blog and subscribe
Last time I told you some blogging basics on HOW TO GET PEOPLE TO LOOK AT YOU.
Today’s blogging tips are all about LAYOUT!
PART 2: LAYOUT
#1 Investing time in your layout is important
Invest a LOT of time in your layout in the beginning. Yes, I know, it can be annoying, but people won’t look at your blog, if it’s not attractive and a lot of good content might be unnoticed if the layout is not appealing enough. Try to do as much as you can with optimizing your blog’s layout before you send people a link to it. You might lose readers/subscribers from the beginning, if your blog looks like it still need a lot of improvement.
#2 Have an interesting layout
Take your time to think about what kind of layout you want to have. Do you want it to look serious or more kitschy and cutesy?
If you really don’t feel competent enough to create your own header, buttons, backgrounds etc., there are a lot of options to use existing themes. The disadvantage is, that they often are not customizable and will annoy you in the long run.
Another possibility is piecing together your site from smaller templates (for posts, for the sidebar, for comments, etc.) and thus avoiding taking over a complete and fixed layout. A really useful website that provides free downloadable templates for headers, backgrounds, sidebar tags etc. is shabbyblogs.com.
Allie Browns Layouts as well as Aqua Poppy Designs have supersuper cute blog layouts you can use!
The blog guidebook has some useful tips on how to create a header with pic monkey.
#3 Use fonts cautiously
Don’t get too crazy with the fonts you use in your pictures, as they might just become hard to read.
And don’t get crazy at all with the font of the actual text on your blog. The font has to be installed on your reader’s computer to be displayed. If you use some edgy font you found on some website, chances are you are one of 10,000 people in the whole world who see the site the way you intended it to look. Stick to standard fonts that everyone has, even if their aesthetics are questionable.
#4 Think about your blog’s structure before starting
Do you want to use different pages or rather use different categories on your sidebar?
Will all pages be static or do you want to have a blogroll page with your newest articles?
It makes a lot of sense to think about it before you start. Sure, you can change your structure later on, but it will be much more complicated once you’ve already produced content.
If you already started blogging, don’t be afraid to change categories and page names.
You can write a short article on what you changed and where one can find all the different information now.
#5 Make it easy for people to find the information they are looking for
Use an easy navigation structure. Drop-down menus are often not very helpful.
Make sure your readers can search the whole website. Include a search function and put it as far on top of your page as possible.
#6 Less is more
Have a clean layout, sometimes less is more!
You want the content to pop out!
Do you really think the pink background with the blue dots is such a good idea? Sure, it’s cute but especially backgrounds that are too eye-catching can be very distracting.
Too much sidebar clutter can be really distracting and may look unprofessional.
You can use the sidebars for showing a picture of you or your blog button, follow options and a few navigation items, but try not to overuse them. Especially, if your main content column looks too small compared to your sidebars, consider using only one of them – that is usually enough for most blogs.
#7 Use tags reasonably
If you’re using a tag cloud for helping your readers to find content related to a specific topic, then try using your tags reasonably. Be consistent in assigning tag names and don’t use too many. For example, instead of using “cute handmade christmas presents” or “Apple Cake Recipe”, use more general tags like Christmas, DIY, handmade, recipes.
#8 Don’t be afraid of the technical side of things
You might want to take some time and familiarise yourself with the basics of HTML and the like. Most of the stuff you can learn online really. It takes a while if you’re not used to it, but it can be really helpful in customising your site and in solving some annoying problems with how your posts show up.
If you can’t solve a problem yourself, Google is your friend. There are many forums that know the answers. Also, only use what’s appropriate. Just because you learnt how to produce blinking text, doesn’t mean you should include it in your page.
# 9 Picture quality matters
Always try using high quality photographs. It makes such a difference! People appreciate good pictures and photographs and those are also more likely to be shared or end up on Pinterest.
Think about getting a decent camera if photographs are an integral part of your blog posts.
Also, enhance your picture using Photoshop or open source software like Gimp.
#10 Layout no go’s you should avoid:
1. Using dark background and light text works for some websites, but for most it doesn’t.
Be cautious in choosing text and background colour. I think it’s always better to use a text colour that’s darker than the background and a background colour that is more light and subtle. You don’t want your reader to end up having a bad headache after reading your blog!
2. Automatically playing music or videos. Most people REALLY do not appreciate automatically playing music or videos on blogs. The site takes longer to load and if you’re already listening to music on your computer, it’s nothing but annoying.
Some people have automatically starting videos on their sidebar, mostly for advertising purposes. If you’re trying to make money with your blog, think about only accepting ads that won’t chase away some of your readers!
3. Horizontal scrolling. Whereas vertical scrolling on a blog is totally fine, horizontal scrolling is just annyoing and some of your content might be hidden.
Many screen resolutions in use today still have a width of 1280 pixels or less. Hence, you shouldn’t make your screen much wider than 1000 pixels. If you go a bit lower, you can also easily support resolutions like 1027 x 768. An alternative is a so-called responsive layout which uses the entire width the user’s resolution provides. These layouts can look good on a smartphone as well as a full HD widescreen. Obviously, they are technically a bit more involved, but WordPress’s new default theme Twenty Twelve is a good example that can be used as a starting point.
Liked it? Have feedback? Please do tell me!
And stay tuned…Part 3 of my Blogging Basics is coming up next week! The next part will be all about your blog’s content! x