I consider myself an avid blog reader. Usually, if the content is good, I am willing to overlook bad design. However, the design of a blog DOES have a huge impact on the quantity and quality of audience it attracts.
Below are some of my tips for improving your blog design, as well as several great resources:
- Pay attention to your navigation. Make it easy for your readers to get around. Here's one simple test you can try to ensure your website works properly: Get someone who isn't terribly tech savvy (like your dad) and give him a task. "Go to my site, read my latest blog post, make a comment, and then read my Contact page." If they can do it without any help and without getting frustrated, it's a success!
- Clean up your sidebar. So many blogs are full of pictures and icons and ads and it's so distracting! If it doesn't need to be there, get rid of it!
- Try a hello bar at the top of your website to make announcements and highlight important information.
- Don't center align your text. It's hard to read and it makes it look like you don't know what you're doing.
- DON'T write in all lowercase letters. Again, it's hard to read and it's extremely annoying! Just use normal characters and punctuation and you'll be fine.
- Feel free to include ads and graphics on the sidebar of your website. However, if there are ads popping up in the middle of your post, you can be sure you're losing half your readers. Keep it clean and classy, folks.
- Include a link to donate to your blog through PayPal. I know that maintaining a blog is expensive and I would be happy to donate ten bucks to some of my favorite writers, especially if it meant that they wouldn't include silly sponsorships and giveaways every other post.
- Check the sizes of your pictures. Sometimes blogs don't load and readers exit before reading a thing!
- Be consistent. If sometimes you post in Times New Roman and other times you post in Comic Sans, it's going to look messy and unorganized. Make sure all your text is consistent and I would even consider making all your post pictures the same size.
- Consider including a search bar as well as an archive on your site. If you don't use tags properly, searching by name or category isn't going to work for your readers. Give them the option of looking for content both ways and you'll both be happier.
- Embrace white space. This is my number one tip for design in general. Fight the need to fill every corner of your digital world with buttons and colors and advertisements. Let it breathe!
These are some resources I found helpful when looking for blog design tips for myself:
A Beautiful Mess: 10 Blog Layout Tips
INCOME: Design Tips for Beginning Bloggers
Jeff Bullas: Blog Design Tips to Make Sure People Stop to Read
Sparring Mind: Blog Design on a Budget
The best advice I can give when it comes to blog design, theme, or style. Find someone who's blog you love, just based on aesthetic principles. Then copy it! By the time you fit your own information and personality there, it won't be a copy at all, but that's a great way to start.