You’ve got something to share and your blog is a means of doing that. For those who use it well, a blog can introduce you and your interests to others, build your credibility as a writer and (if you’ve got it designed well for search engines) bring you readers too. However, if you mess it up, it can send a message to readers that you may have wished you never sent. While it’s true that your blog is a unique expression of who you are and what you have to say, like actors on the stage, successful bloggers cultivate audiences. The most broad appeal possible is where to start designing your blog from so be careful to avoid the pitfalls that narrow the field of potential readers from the outset.
Text in Graphics to Make “Pretty Text” vs. Real Text
Font styles are somewhat limited for web pages. Some people want their site to look really good with fonts like you can use in word processing packages. So how do you do that? You can make it in Adobe PhotoShop or another graphic package and save out your text as images. This works really well as far as looking good, however, because images are naturally larger than text, the pages will load slower. But, the biggest drawback is not size, it’s that you have your text, which tells what your site is about, locked up in images. It’s not accessible to search engines that crawl web sites.
What does that mean? It means that if you’re relying on traffic to your site from search engines, you want real text, not images of text that only humans can read. If your site is not dependent on search engine traffic, then this may not matter other than the slower load time for the image laden pages.
Be sure you also avoid these pitfalls:
- Too many posts on the front page (too slow to load)
- Too many images (too slow to load)
- Too many animated icons, embeds, etc. (distracts readers from content)
- Broken links
- Not updating frequently enough
- Too much sidebar clutter (distracts readers from content)
- Too much advertising
- Monetizing the blog before it’s reader and search engine friendly
- Failing to provide an RSS feed
- HTML markup that does not validate
- Links to bad neighborhoods
- Not answering comments promptly
Clean and fast loading
A blog page should load in a reasonable amount of time and that means clean and fast should be the goal. If you post to many posts on the front page or use too many images and embeds, or if your images are not scaled and saved in the most efficient format, then your pages will take longer to load. Impatient users and dial-up users may bail out and go to another site. You can usually make a very nice layout using HTML and CSS without the whole page being a sliced up graphic.
Be Cautious About Colour Schemes
Don’t turn people away just because they have trouble focusing on and reading material on your site. There are colours for backgrounds and text that are pleasing so do your research first. Just because it looks cool to you doesn’t mean everyone will find it easy to read and appreciate your psychedelic color scheme. Try out your color choices on a mix of people before you get too far into your design.
Keep the Animations to a Minimum
One thing you should avoid is a big flashy welcome page as the default page of your blog because most people find it very annoying to have to sit through it, or to have to click a skip button to dump it. If you want your written content to be front and centre you are judged on then don’t use background sounds, or videos that automatically load and start playing. Only use these when they are a necessary adjunct to your text, don’t use them just because you may know how.
Make sure your site is easy to navigate. Have someone who’s not familiar with it give it a whirl while you watch. Ask them to find posts by categories or titles and watch them as they work. Listen to what they have to say and fix your site to make it work better for readers. Thereafter, check your blog site’s navigation and all the links frequently to ensure they are in working order. Also remember to keep the contact information on your blog current and complete by editing your About page and Contact Information as soon as anything changes.
Regular Writing Schedule
Adopt a regular writing schedule and keep your blog updated knowing that readers lose interest in blogs that are infrequently or sporadically updated.
Blog Review Checklist Adapted from Liz Strauss
- Audience Which key words would your readers use to describe your blog? What do think you think they will like best about your blog?
- Purpose What is the purpose of the blog? Why does it exist? Is the purpose stated plainly where readers can see it? How well does the blog meet that purpose?
- Content How well does the content support the purpose? Is the content readable, interesting, accurate, entertaining, and appropriate?
- Design How well does the look of the blog communicate the kind of blog it is? Is navigation easy and intuitive? Do items flow naturally from the first to the next? Do the color palette, image, and type choices support the content or call attention away from it?
- Posts Are postings made on a consistent schedule? Can readers find a notation of what that schedule is? Do posts reflect the unique purpose and style of the blog? Do they offer variety and interest within the blog’s purpose and theme?
- Comments Do you read and respond to comments to form a sense of community? Consider which posts get most comments and which get none. How does that effect the topics that are being posted?
- Writing: Is your writing clear and respectful of readers? Have you established a writing voice that lets readers know who you really are? Is the blog essentially free of errors in grammar, usage, spelling, and punctuation?
- Organization: Do you name categories with titles that readers can understand? Have you set up categories and sub-categories in a manner to draw readers into your back-list? Does your blog feature “Golden Oldies” that new readers would have interest in?
- Promotion: What are you doing to let readers know about the blog? Is the blog listed listed in directories? Do you read and comment on other blogs within your readership? Have you included rss or atom feeds?