I’ve been writing Blog Design for Dummies for over five months now. My book will be… wait for it… 352 pages and full color. That means I want to feature many, many awesome blog designs in all their glory.
But I’ve run into a problem.
So many blog designs out there are pretty, beautiful, vivid, bold, or whatever superlative you want to throw out there.
What they aren’t?
Easy to use.
I’ve looked through literally hundreds of blogs in all types of niches trying to find blogs to feature for various parts of the book. I find a great-looking blog, only for it to have so many functionality and navigation issues that I just can’t bring myself to include them in the book. Many of these blogs are even designed by actual blog designers too. (If a blogger has one of these issues, I still may include them. After all, no one has a perfect blog. But I HAVE changed my mind on some blogs with a lot of nav issues.)
Design isn’t just about what you see – the colors, the fonts, the beauty. It’s also about how your site functions. How a user can navigate it. How easy you make it to actually read your blog or share it with others.
So, here are seven mistakes some bloggers with great-looking designs are making:
1. Overall Design Too Wide
Have you ever been to a website or blog and noticed part of the design was cut off on the side? Your eyes move towards the bottom of your broswer and you see it. The dreaded horizontal scroll bar. As users of this thing called the Internet, we expect to scroll down. We don’t expect to scroll to the right.
This happens because that site was designed using a fixed width layout that includes important content in an area that’s larger than your screen resolution (for simplicity’s sake, I’m making the assumption here that your browser window spans the entire width of your screen). Instead, optimize your blog for a resolution of 1024 x 768. Most blog headers span between 800-1000 pixels. A very, very common width is 960 pixels. If someone visits your blog with a wider screen, they’ll just see more of your background on the sides. Also, keep in mind that many blog themes now have responsive design, which adjusts a blog design to multiple screen sizes (like tablets and phones).
2. Light-colored Links
Bloggers want readers to go deeper into their blog and one way to do this is by interlinking old posts into newer ones. However, I’ve seen lots of blogs with light color schemes that select a very light, hard-to-read color for their hyperlinks (and for the navigation menu for that matter). A thin font makes this even worse, with the links all but disappearing into the background.
Stick with colors that are easily seen by the average person. Also remember people with vision issues will have an even harder time seeing those links.
3. No Easy Way to Explore Older Posts
Again, we want visitors to read our content, not just ooh and ahh over our blog design. I’ve seen many blogs that make it nearly impossible to find older posts other than going one by one through the latest posts. Provide a few options for letting readers explore your content: popular posts list, a list or drop-down menu for categories, recent posts, related posts and so on.
4. Sharing Buttons
If you want people to share your blog posts, by all means make it easy to do so! Most people have a way to share and tweet a post, but Pinterest is still often left out. As someone who works for a brand, many companies will NOT pin a post of yours unless you have a PinIt button of some sort. Having this implies permission to pin so companies feel like it’s less of a risk to run into copyright issues. Also, if you use a Tweet button of some sort, include your Twitter handle in the tweet it creates!
5. Graphic Elements that Look Clickable (but Aren’t)
Maybe it’s just me, but certain design elements look like they should be clicked. Anytime I see an award badge or button of some sort, is it wrong to assume it should link to a page about that award? Or if you have a badge that says you’re a contributor on another site, shouldn’t it link to your posts on that site (or at the very least go to their homepage)? Aside from badges and buttons, some graphic elements with arrows or > look like they should take the reader somewhere.
6. Hard to Find Contact Info
Anyone who’s ever done blogger outreach will tell you one of the biggest peeves is bloggers who don’t have a contact page or easily visible “contact me” link or some sort. Same peeve for someone writing a book on blog design *grin*. Seriously though, make it clear and simple to get in contact you. People will thank you.
7. Cluttered Sidebar
You guys already know this, but cluttered sidebars are still as prevalent as ever. Now, you can have a lot of a sidebar stuff if it’s properly organized (both functionally and visually). However, the blog-badge-and-ad vomit all over the sidebar overwhelms and confuses people. Where should they go next? Can they even distinguish graphic elements that keep them on your blog or take them away from it? Keep it clean and simple.
There you have it. Most of these are really easy to remedy (#1 probably being the hardest). Any of these hit home?