So you’ve decided to start a blog. Congratulations! You are in for an exciting journey.
As a design blogger, the topic that I’m most passionate about is the design aspect of a blog. Putting all the branding and visual graphics aside, your blog layout could be the deciding moment whether readers would stay and return, or leave for good. First of all, your blog layout has to be suitable for your demographic. Do you have a lot of images on your blog? Sometimes magazine style layout would be more suitable for your demographic.
However, you can’t go wrong with the classic scroll-down blog layout. This was how blogs looked like when it began, and it is still the most popular layout these days. I’m going to share with you my tips on the anatomy of a blog layout that works, and how you could make use of each part to attract readers and make them stay and browse for more.
1. The Header is the face of your blog. The moment a reader logs into your blog, that’s the first thing they’re going to see. So spend your time designing the header, and make sure that it tells readers what your blog is all about and the category or style of your blog.A lot of themes purchased online come with header design and built-in text that you change with the name of your blog. Even though it’s fine to use the built-in header, one day you might find a blog with exactly the same header as yours, and it’s gonna feel like wearing the same dress as another woman in a party. That ain’t fun.
If there is one thing you should invest for your blog when you’re only starting out, it is the header. Graphic designers don’t usually charge a fortune for blog headers, because blog headers are technically not a logo. On Etsy, you could find custom blog header design for as low as $30. Depending on the design quality that you’re going for, a header that’s totally customised, unique, and awesome (it should be awesome!), I’d say you should spend around $100.
2. The menu bar below the header should explain the topics that you write most about. In my opinion, that is where your main post categories need to be. The key of a successful blog is to find your niche, so there is no need to write about a million topics. You should find 3-5 topics that you are most passionate about, then you can always add sub-categories under each main ones.
I personally won’t put things like About me, Contact Us, FAQ or Advertise With Us below the header, because they are not telling readers anything about the blog. Those links could be placed somewhere that can be easily found, but not so obvious that it becomes louder than your topics. Keep your below-the-header menu neat and simple. In the image above, I’ve recommend that you put those informational links on the very top of the blog, or if you have double sidebars like mine, you could also put them on one of the sidebars.
3. The body of your blog is your post section. Your images should be as wide as the width of the text area. Having small images on your blog is so yesterday. Your theme usually comes with instruction that tells you the width of your post area, and you should keep that in mind when editing your images. If your image happen to be smaller than what it should be, be creative! You could create a collage or frames for the image by using Photoshop (which is, by the way, a must-have software for your blog). But never expand the width of an existing image.
At the end of every posts, links for comments and social media sharing should be easily found by readers. You may also have LinkWithin thumbnails to show related posts that might interest your readers.
4. The sidebar is the sideshow for your blog. It is not the main attraction, but it is just as important. Especially when you’ve decided to put banner ads to advertise brands or shops, you need to make your sidebar look good. Some of the things that I recommend to be put on the sidebar are social media follow links, banner for your own shop or e-book that you’re trying to sell, popular posts and of course banner ads if you’ve decided to have them. Make sure that they are attractive, but not distracting. Any banners that you put on your sidebar should compliment your overall design aesthetics. Of course it is not the case for Google Adsense banners, because you can’t always control how the banners are designed. But at least you can decide on what kind of ads can or cannot be displayed on your blog.
Popular post snippets need to be on the sidebar. As your readers are reading your main posts, they eyes could be diverted to the attractive images and titles on the sidebar. When they’ve finished reading your main post, they could scroll back up and click on those links. It is important for your blog layout to accommodate browsing and clicking to other pages within your site, otherwise readers would leave after reading that one post of yours, and that’s a shame.
5. The Footer is where you could place credits, copyright and disclaimer (or a link to your disclaimer page). It is also good spot for repeating some of the informational links menu and social media icons. After checking out your posts, your readers might be wondering more about you or wanting to say hello. They might not notice the menu up above (or had forgotten about it, because some of us have the memory of Dory in Finding Nemo), so they should be able to find them again on the footer.
Additional things that can work magic for your blog:
- If you post a lot of printables like I do, you would want to display your printable images in a gallery layout. You could have a separate page for this, of you could also have a slideshow above your main post area to show more printables that you have. I know what you’re thinking, why haven’t I do that myself, right? I am working with a developer to re-design my blog, so it’s on the works ;)
- Have a mailing list sign up form that pops up when someone logs into your blog. It doesn’t have to be annoying. With Ninja Popups, you could set how often it should appear. Say, someone who logs on to your blog every other day doesn’t have to see it again in another 3 months, if you set the cookie time to 90 days.
- No matter what you do with your layout, keep it simple and neat. Keep colours to the minimum because you’d want your photos to pop. You cannot go wrong with white background. Don’t post anything that moves, like gifs or those heart or snow shower animation thingy (I’ve seen them, I swear, I wasn’t high and making things up). If you post videos, make sure that it doesn’t play automatically. NO ONE should get that kind of surprises. And I personally do not like finding memes on blogs. If I want to see memes, I’d go to 9gag.
I hope that this post gives you a further understanding about blog layout that works. For the second part of Blog Design 101 series, I am going to write about DIY Blog design – for people who doesn’t know anything about programming (I can promise you that, because I know nothing about programming). If there are things that you’d like to know more about blog designing or blogging in general, pop your questions in the comments. I might reply you by writing a post about it.
If you’re still unconvinced about starting a blog after reading this post, then you could start from here: 5 Reasons Why Creatives Should Blog.