Most blogs are terrible. They're ugly and kitschy, distracting the reader from what really matters: the content.
Of course, sometimes, the writing is bad, too. But there is no easy fix to that. If you're a poor writer, you have to write poorly (and publicly) until you get better.
But bad blog design? That's easy to overcome. And an important part of keeping people coming back to your blog.
Making Bad Blog Design Better
Here are seven simple tips to beat the status quo of blogging and make your design sing (or at least not suck):
1. Use a good theme
Don't build it yourself (unless you're an awesome designer). If you have the money, you can hire someone to do a custom design, or you can just get a professionally-designed theme.
Most themes range from $0 to several hundred — a small price to pay for a high-quality design. A few sites I recommend for you to find the right theme are:
- Pagelines (This is what I use)
Note: all of the above are for WordPress blogs.
There are also some nice, out-of-the-box themes on Blogger and Tumblr; however, I recommend doing a self-hosted WordPress blog, if you are able.
2. Don't get funky with fonts
Keep it simple. Nothing cursive or script-y. No “edgy” fonts, either.
Preferably, use just one to two types for the sake of consistency. This is not where you want to be too creative. Go with what's standard and tasteful. For a list, check out these web safe fonts.
3. No reverse type
Reverse type is when you reverse what would normally be the background color with the color of the font.
That is, don't do white text on a black background. It makes for a cool a poster, but it's hard to read on a screen.
The best is to do just black text on a white background. It's classic and timeless for a reason. It works.
4. Go easy on the ads
If you're just starting out, you probably shouldn't have any advertising on your blog.
You need to get some visitors to your site before monetizing. However, even once you do, make sure that the ads don't distract from the content.
If you're scaring readers away, you'll eventually stop making money, anyway.
So serve your readers first; the money will come.
5. No clip art
I am serious. This is the the worst sin you can commit in web design (well, that and using Comic Sans).
No cheesy photos, either. If you can't find an image, go without. Having nothing is better than having something that belongs in an old trade magazine.
6. No underlining
When people see underlines on the web, they want to click it. (See what I mean?)
If you want to emphasize a point, try bold or italics. And save the underlines for the hyperlinks.
Otherwise, you're just confusing your reader and when it comes time to share a link, they won't know what to click.
7. Make it scannable
Make sure that your blog posts are written in scannable chunks, so that the reader can get a general sense of what your article is about at first glance.
Essentially, this means the following:
- Use bulleted lists when you have a series of short points to make.
- Utilize bold and italics to emphasize important words and phrases.
- Use subheads (usually designated as “h2” and “h3” in the HTML section of your blog editor).
- Break up paragraphs into smaller chunks (no more than three to four lines per paragraph).
This is an important, but often-overlooked factor in crafting a blog post.
Well, that's it. At least, that's enough to keep a lot of bad blogs busy for awhile.
In summary, there is a lot you can do to make your bad blog design better. First, remove as many distractions as possible from what makes your blog worth reading: the content. Then, focus on making the text readable and enjoyable.
Notice that I didn't say anything about custom headers or any number of other nice design elements that can take your blog to the next level.
That's because, while those are nice, they aren't essential. You can do a lot with a blog that follows these basic guidelines.
A few honorable mentions
- Don't overuse social media share buttons.
- Turn of all autoplay audio and video clips.
- Kill the pop-ups.
What did I miss? Share your blog design frustrations in the comments below.
*Photo credit: Sean McEntee (Creative Commons)