The Doors of Dublin by Tim Sackton CC BY-SA 2.0
“Design is not about making things pretty. It’s about making things work to their best ability.” – Peter Flaschner – Professional Web Designer
What Peter said goes straight to the heart of blog design.
There’s more to blog design than just looking “pretty” or “cool”…your blog design is all about helping your blog connect with the right audience, growing that audience and finding success.
So this means what you personally think looks like the best blog design may not help “things work to their best ability.” Knowing this up front will help you design a much better blog…better for the readers you are wanting to attract.
Not just you.
You’ll see what I mean as we dive in…Ready for a crash course in blog design?
Let’s do this.
Lessons Learned in Blog Design
Years ago I had no clue how my blog design affected people who visited my website.
The small amount of time I did spend on the design and visuals were mostly decisions I made based on my own personal preference. I figured my happiness with the color scheme, layout, functionality, design aesthetics, fonts and photos on my blog to be the most important factor….All I had to do was write compelling content and people would love my blog no matter what…right?
Boy, did I have a lot to learn.
Compelling content is definitely important, yet there’s more to attracting readers than just the words on a page.
Eventually I began to learn one of the most crucial points to blogging….my blog must meet the needs of others, not myself.
Sometimes this requires me to set aside my personal opinions and preferences so I can then make choices that will resonate with my target audience.
For example, you might love the look of a predominately red and black layout, yet be turning off potential subscribers or customers because those colors are not the right match for your audience. Or perhaps those yellow buttons you think look adorable may actually be hurting your conversion rates on subscribers and sales.
Studies have been done that show how colors affect people in marketing. In fact, this study concluded that “people make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products. About 62-90 percent of the assessment is based on colors alone.” This is why I keep mentioning throughout all my blog articles about the importance of knowing who your blog audience is.
If you do not want to spend any time on audience research and just want to get to blog design, you can skip down to the subhead “What’s
Your Their Favorite Color?”
Why Knowing Your Target Audience Leads to Better Blog Design
Knowing your target audience is important to everything about your blog, so that’s why I’m going to take a short detour first and cover an effective exercise that helps bloggers identify details about their target audience…
We will spend more time later on using personas to help boost your blog marketing and overall effectiveness, but here’s a concise overview on how you can put some together.
This is worth including here because I know from experience that detailed info on the audience you want to reach helps you design a better blog.
You can pick out a WordPress theme beforehand, then once you get your target audience in focus, dive into the theme elements with more intentional purpose behind your design.
A Quick Guide to Developing Personas so You Can Design the Perfect Blog
These are steps any new blogger can do on their own, regardless of experience.
1. If you have already started blogging, analyze your website analytics . Look for answers to these questions:
A. How are visitors getting to my blog?
B. What keywords are they using to find my blog?
C. How frequently do people return to your site after the first visit?
These questions and more can be answered by using one or two methods of gathering information on people. These methods have been used for hundreds of years.
1. Take a Survey – You can create a series of questions and send them out via email and/or social media. If you need to, offer some sort of free gift or a chance to win a prize for taking the survey.
2. Interview People – Directly asking someone questions individually can be a powerful way to get to know your audience, but is also more labor intensive than a survey.
Shoot for at least 10 to 12 interviews from a wide range of your audience. Don’t only talk to those who love your blog. Be sure to also interview those who have expressed “unhappiness.” You will get much more helpful feedback to help improve your blog.
Wrapping Up Personas
After you gather the information, you should be able to piece together a “persona” that reflects your audience. Who is this person? Give them a name and identity, like “Sophisticated GenX Stacy” or “Wary Baby Boomer Bob”. The persona can and should include details such as demographics, their goals and dreams along with fears and turnoffs. All of this information will be extremely helpful in your blog design decisions.
Speaking of blog design…
Your Their Favorite Color?
Gregory Ciotti wrote an interesting article on the psychology of colors in marketing and branding.
He makes a good point that today’s extravaganza of marketing colors doesn’t actually have a lot of factual data to support what companies are doing.
Trying to say a color will always invoke “this or that” response is nearly impossible because of the human element, which includes personal preference, life experience, cultural differences, context, etc. As Ciotti writes, “Color is too dependent on personal experiences to be universally translated to specific feelings.”
Yet before you think color is irrelevant to your blog, consider some of these broader impacts that colors have on branding and online sales.
Most of your blog visitors are going to have their own general perception of color appropriateness…in other words, is the color scheme a good match with the product (like a blog?)
For example, Disney would not want to use a lot of greys and blacks as their brand colors. And Harley Davidson would be perceived much differently if they used yellow pastels and glitter.
So when you are choosing your blog color scheme, think about your audience and choose colors that encourage them to respond (come back to your blog, subscribe to your blog, order your products/services.)
Again, this isn’t based on exact science, but there have been some attempts by design professionals to organize and label the effects that colors produce, and many times generalities hold a degree of truth. Here is one example from The Logo Company:
So you’ll need to decide what “primary emotions” you want your audience to feel when they visit your blog.
Consider the emotions you want people to associate with your blog when they think of it away from their computer. Do you wish to evoke trust? Happiness? Excitement? Whatever emotions fit your blog, the use of color will definitely play a role in the first impression your blog makes on each visitor.
The Impact of Color in Marketing study (Ciotti points out) concluded 9 out of 10 people make immediate judgments on products based on color only.
Here are a few additional studies and what they concluded about the influence of colors:
1. Exciting red and competent blue: the importance of color in marketing Colors have an affect on your target audiences’ perceptions. Empirical evidence on aesthetics, color psychology and associative learning provide insights into color and brand personality. Colors can also sway positively or negatively how likeable your blog product is and how memorable it will be to people.
2. Color Research & Application If you are wanting to design a logo for your blog, choosing a color that differentiates you from other competitor logos/blogs in your niche is HIGHLY important.
3. Dimensions of Brand Personality A psychology professor named Jennifer Aaker did some studies on brand personality and boiled down five core dimensions that are normally a part of a brand’s personality. This graph lays them out… You can use the Color Emotion Guide inserted a few paragraphs back to help you select a color scheme that helps convey your brand’s personality.
Colors by Gender
When selecting the color(s) used in your blog and logo (if you have one), another thing to consider about your target audience is the male/female demographic, and how colors can affect them. If you blog is geared more toward a female audience, then you will want to choose colors and shades that appeal to them. Same thing if men are you primary audience.
There’s a great article called True Colors — Breakdown of Color Preferences by Gender that has a nice infographic on this topic. I’m posting it here because it will be helpful for you in your design planning.
Color definitely plays a part in the success of a website/blog.
There are also other things to consider in the design of your blog, like the architecture. All you need for this is a sketch pad and pencil.
You don’t need to be a great artist to draw out your wireframes.
WIREFRAMES? What’s That?
Think of the wireframes as the blueprints for your blog.
These are simple drawings that include the foundation of your blog, the structure or frame, and additional pieces all layed out like a floor plan.
You will see before building the blog where you want your “windows and doors”, metaphorically speaking. You’ll want to draw up your wireframes early on in this process.
The level of detail you include in your wireframes is completely up to you. They don’t need to be highly detailed. Here’s a wireframe sketch I did for this website back in the early days of planning:
Seeing your two-dimensional diagrams up front makes you to take a closer look at how users will interact with your blog.
There are some deeper level things we could cover about wireframes that probably wouldn’t be necessary for you at this early stage of your blogging, so let’s move along to the next phase of blog design.
How to Set the Mood with Your Blog MoodBoard
This is a blog design technique that some of you will have a lot of fun with–those of you visually oriented will enjoy this tool. Anyone who uses a moodboard will find it helpful.
What is a moodboard?
A moodboard is a collection of images, fonts, colors and textures that are gathered to help you focus on the style of your blog and what you want it to be all about.
Professional Designers (including website or blog designers) use mood boards all the time in the early phase of their projects. They sometimes use expensive tools like photoshop to make their moodboards.
Good news: Here’s a free tool that’s great for making moodboards, and there’s a chance you already know how to use it.
Pinterest exploded in popularity a few years ago and continues to be one of the fastest growing social media platforms around…for those of you who have not yet used Pinterest, the whole concept is about using “mood boards”, although they are just called “boards” on Pinterest.
Anyhow, creating a mood board on Pinterest is quite easy to make. I’m going to assume you either already know how to use Pinterest here.
If not, check out How to Use Pinterest for Beginners.
Here are five steps to creating a pinterest mood board for your blog…
- Create a new board–you can even make it a secret board if you don’t want anyone to see it, or just a few people.
- To find ideas for your color palette, do a search on “All Pins.” Pin all the colors you like starting out. You can narrow them down later.
- Next, search “All Pins” for typography and fonts.
- Your next “All Pins” search should be called something like “gorgeous blog designs” or “awesome blog design.” Use whatever term you need. Might be “manly” blog design or “goth” blog design. You can be specific or if you need more search results, you more general search terms.
- Wrapping up: Once finished, you can copy and paste the URL to this new Pinterest board and share it anyone.
Some Final Tips on Pinterest Mood Boards
- Don’t think you have to spend hours on your Pinterest Mood Board. Yes, Pinterest is addictive, so if you need to limit your time to 30 minutes, that should still be enough time for you to gather some great ideas.
- Don’t worry about how much (or how little) you have pinned to the board. If you have 12 to 25 pins altogether and around 3 to 7 pins for each category, you’re doing great.
- If you see something that inspires you that’s not technically related to a blog, like images of food, fashion or crocodile hunting, go ahead and pin it. Other images can help you capture your blog tone, atmosphere, message and branding.
- If you have the time, check out the board where you found the pin. You may find additional content that’s helpful.
Now go have fun making your moodboard.
After you create your color pallet, wireframes and moodboard, you will be more prepared than a boy scout to take the next step…
How to Choose a WordPress Theme
As you may have already seen throughout my blog setup guide, WordPress is what I recommend you use to create the design and functionality of your blog.
One of the main reasons is the plethora of choices you have on the appearance of your blog. No cookie cutter approach with WordPress, that’s for sure.
You literally have hundreds of options on the look and feel of your blog thanks to the WordPress Theme.
What’s a WordPress Theme?
A WordPress theme is simply a collection of files that form the design and architecture of a blog or website.
This is a great way to create a unique looking blog that meets your needs as well.
You don’t have to be a technophile to set up a WordPress theme. Knowing how to write some code can be helpful, but not mandatory.
If you need help with your WordPress theme, be sure to return to the website where you purchased it….You should be able to contact the web developer who created the theme, and they will answer your questions.
Passion Reloaded Responsive WordPress Theme by United Themes CC BY-SA 2.0
Another selling point to using WordPress is you can change the theme of your site at any time with relative ease.
After you get inside your WordPress theme, you’re probably going to want to add some plugins.
What are WordPress Plugins?
Plugins are separate programs that add features and enhancements to your theme. Think of them as home improvements that make your blog a better place to be for all.
The number of plugin choices available reaches into the thousands
When you want to modify, customize or enhance your WordPress blog, you can do this with plugins and not need to get into making changes in the core programming, which most people don’t want to get into.
Most bloggers just want to be able to seamlessly integrate their design changes. Maybe you want to add a pop up opt-in for your email newsletter, add a testimonial box to your home page, or even get some help checking your comments to make sure they aren’t spam….whatever your need, chances are there’s a plugin out there ready for you to use.
Here are a few of the most popular WordPress Plugins…
Akismet – Checks every comment that comes in against the Akismet web service to see if the commenter looks like spam or not. It let’s you see the comments in the admin dashboard. Akismet has been downloaded over 20 million times. I use it and find it quite helpful with screening out spammers.
Contact Form 7 – Downloaded over 17 million times, this plugin enables you to manage multiple “contact forms,” which includes any page on your blog that let’s a visitor communicate with the blog owner. This usually includes a field for the person’s name, address and a box for comments. This one has served me pretty well.
WordPress SEO by Yoast – I find this plugin simple to use and a big help with optimizing each blog post. It’s user friendly and I recommend it for folks who don’t know what SEO is all about at this point. This handy plugin helps you make sure your focus keyword is in every area you can optimize, including the Article Heading, Page Title, Page URL, Content, and the Meta description.
Oh, and did I mention all these plugins are free?
Once you realize how beneficial plugins are, you’ll be adding more of them to your blog over time.
If you want further information on plugins and a huge list of available plugins, check out the WordPress Plugin Directory.
Now let’s look at how you can add cool features and content to your sidebars. These are called…
These blog tools with a funny name provide many user friendly ways of enhancing your blog design. For example, every blogger now wants to have social media buttons on their blog to help promote their blog posts…well, there’s a widget for that. Actually more than one.
I’m using one now called Bluth Socialbox.
You will be happy to know that Widgets do not require any code experience or expertise. At any time you can add, remove or rearrange on the WordPress Administration Appearance > Widgets panel. In other words, you will find them under Appearance in the WordPress dashboard.
Here’s a visual:
You will get some widgets delivered with your WordPress theme…if you need help learning how to use them or want to find more widgets, check out the WordPress Widgets page.
Posting Photos On Your WordPress Blog
Using photos in blog posts has grown in importance. Today, I don’t know if you can find a blog expert out there who would tell you NOT to use photos or images and just go with text only…there are too many important reasons to include a photo in every single post.
Here’s the Why
The numbers are in, and they speak for themselves as to why you need to include visuals on your blog…
- 46.1% of people say a website’s design is the number one criterion for discerning the credibility of the company. (See how important your blog design really is!)
- 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text.
- 40% of people will respond more strongly to visual information over plain text.
- Publishers grow on average 12% more when they use infographics over those who don’t.
- Visual content drives engagement. One month after the introduction of Facebook timelines for brands, visual content–photos and videos–saw a 65% increase in engagement.
- These stats found on the Hubspot blog.
This infographic expands on this current “shift to the visual” trend and what bloggers can do to make the most of it.
Infographic by MDG Advertising
Here’s the How
The WordPress dot org website has an easy-to-follow one page guide called Inserting Images into Posts and Pages. If you need help posting photos, this should be really helpful for you.
If you have any other questions on blog photos (or blog design), you can email me.
Ready to Own a Beautiful Blog (Inside and Out)?
We’ve covered a lot of ground here on blog design. Without any technical background, you can use these tips today to make your new blog alluring to visitors.
Or give your older blog a makeover.
The reason I mention “inside and out” is because your blog design is only part of the equation. If you have not yet read Step 5 on writing attractively, be sure to do so.
Because it’s nice to have a pretty blog, but content is still king.
What’s on your mind when it comes to blog design? Any questions? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below.