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8 Tips for Improving Your Blog’s Website Design

May 14th, 2007

Although this is an area where my current skill set leaves something to be desired, I know that high quality content alone will not guarantee traffic or inbound links. Design matters too; if the appearance of a site is so unappealing that it drives visitors away, then they will not even bother to read my carefully crafted content. So after researching this subject and combining my findings with comments from other people on this issue, I have discovered 8 simple ways in which a blog’s design can be improved without having to spend lots of money on web development.

1. Make sure that your page is balanced between graphics and text

Most visitors tend to examine a page by starting at the top left and then drifting toward the right side and the bottom. This indicates that many users will focus more on text rather than images since most people read from left to right. Therefore, it is important that both text and images are well balanced so that the overall layout of the page is appealing to the visitor.

2. Keep the layout simple

If your site has lots of graphics that are not really necessary, you might consider removing some of them to allow for more space and/or content on the page. This will make your pages easier to read and may also improve loading times. If you have a Wordpress blog, you can even switch to a more minimalist theme in order to achieve a simpler look that you can develop further later. Meanwhile, long paragraphs within your content can be divided up into smaller paragraphs to allow for more space and increased readability.

3. Check your fonts

Both size and type of font can affect how readers perceive your site and digest the information. Arial, Times New Roman, and Verdana fonts seem to be the most popular for on-screen text. The size should not be smaller than 10-point, but 12 or 14-point font is recommended. It is important for people to be able to read your text easily, and having a font size that is too small can hinder readability, especially for people with visual impairments.

4. Clean up backgrounds

Textures and colors in the background of the page need to be fairly subtle to avoid distracting the reader with too much clutter. Too heavy or overly gaudy textures can make both text and images less noticeable and detract from the value of your site’s content. If you use a color other than white for the background, make sure that there is enough contrast between the background and the color of your text. If there is insufficient contrast, text can be hard to read. This will often annoy visitors and make them think that your site is too amateurish. The safest route is to simply use black text on a white background.

5. Reduce unnecessary graphical clutter

One of the things that annoys me most about many newbie webmasters is that they will often load up their pages with all kinds of flashy, animated graphics in an effort to make their sites look “cool” or “cute”. What they do not seem to realize is that this will often increase the loading time of their pages and also distract people from whatever valuable content and/or links they may have. Severely overloaded pages can also tie up the user’s CPU (processor) to the point of making mouse movement and basic navigation very difficult.

In most cases, graphics should complement your content, not dominate the entire page. Some kinds of graphics are OK to have, however, and can actually make your site more useful. These include things like title bars, navigation icons, logos, or horizontal rules that separate different sections of the site. There are some exceptions to this rule; for example, sites that are created for the primary purpose of displaying photos and/or video will necessarily have graphics and content melded together.

6. Make sure that your site is easy to navigate

Navigation can be made easier by creating a toolbar with links to the major areas of your site. Usually this should be placed either horizontally along the top or vertically down the left side of the page because this is where most visitors will look first. On pages other than your home page, it is also a good idea to have some kind of “home” link to take visitors back to your home page without them having to press the “back” button multiple times. Having a sitemap with a visible link to it on your home page is also useful for both human users and search engine spiders.

7. Eliminate horizontal scrolling

One surefire way to annoy visitors is to make them need to scroll to the right and then back to the left again in order to read all of your text. Even if your text does not exceed the width of a normal monitor screen, overly wide text columns are make your content more difficult for the average user to read. Many people are used to reading shorter, newspaper width columns, so you may want to conform to this standard if you have pages with many lines of text.

Horizontal scrolling is OK and is practically unavoidable if you are writing articles with a substantial amount of content. Hopefully, in the future more computer users will have mice with the little wheels in the middle, which makes vertical scrolling much easier. Still, if you have pages of text that are very long, consider putting some of that content on separate pages or even splitting it up into separate articles.

8. Make your text easy to read

After you have the other design issues under control, the final touch is to make sure that your content is displayed effectively. Whenever possible, break up large blocks of text into smaller paragraphs. Use subheadings where appropriate. Numbered lists such as this one often work well in attracting more visitors. Do not use too many different fonts; generally you should either use a single font for all text or one font for headings and subheadings and a second one for the rest of the text.

Finally, don’t forget that you can make good use of boldface, italics, or underlining to highlight key words and phrases but don’t overdo it. Overuse of these tactics can make your copy look like an amateurish sales letter and may also be penalized in search engines. Overall, your website should look appealing and professional while also being quick to load and easy to read.

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