Keep it cohesive, use sans-serif fonts of body text, employ brand strategy throughout your design, use 3-4 fonts, have a strategy, only use a sidebar if…
Blog design can be overwhelming. There are so many rules that you’re being told you have to follow and even reading a couple of posts about branding strategy and the “laws of design” can be enough to send your brain into overdrive.
Design is doubtlessly an incredibly important part of your blog, but you are supposed to spend your time blogging, not editing your site design to abide by the latest design rules you’ve found. So what’s a blogger to do?
Over the past few years of running blogs, I’ve discovered that some of the most effective design tweaks are also the most simple. Instead of spending hours redoing your blog colour scheme (“because red is supposed to make people hungry, I can’t use red for my dog training blog!”), here are several 5-minute tweaks that you can make to take your blog design to a whole new level.
1. Narrow down your navigation
Your navigation bar is hugely important, but that doesn’t mean you need ALL of your information in it! Your navigation bar should include 4-7 pages at the most and you should stick to the lower end of those numbers if you also have dropdowns as well.
Take action: Look at your navigation bar. What are the top 5 most important things here that contribute to your main blog goals? Do they help readers or are they not really necessary? Can you combine any of those pages? Cut everything that is unnecessary.
2. Declutter your sidebar
I’m in the middle of the taking the Jumpstart Your Blog Blueprint course from Krista Rae, and one of the most recent lessons talked about decluttering your sidebar (I’m working on this right now!). The truth is that most bloggers aren’t utilizing their sidebar properly. Your sidebar shouldn’t have dozens of ads, links, and photos. Clutter isn’t attractive.
You want to have a clear and established purpose for your sidebar, and only include things that are seriously relevant to your goals. For example, my goals for my sidebar to get new readers to keep reading my site, and join my tribe (+ get access to tons of bonus content). To do this, I only include super relevant things, like my categories, email sign up form, etc.
Take action: Look at your sidebar. Is everything absolutely necessary? Could it be moved somewhere else (like your footer)? Cut at least 2 things.
3. Remove advertisements
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of creating your now products (physical or digital) and selling them through your blog. It’s a great way to earn money from your site and you already have the built-in audience that you can promote your products to.
It’s so much better to advertise your own products in your sidebar and earn 100% of every sale than to simply advertise for other people and not earn any percentage of that sale. Besides, unless you’re getting massive amounts of page views each month, odds are that ads aren’t bringing in more than a couple hundred dollars for you each month.
If you can, scrap them.
Take action – Look at all the advertisements that you may have on your site. Are they really worth it, or are they taking away from your own brand?
4. Add social media share buttons
Want your readers to share your content? You need to make it easy as possible for your readers to do that without a second thought. If you’re on WordPress, you can install a plugin that adds social sharing buttons to your posts (I use SumoMe) in less than two minutes.
Social sharing buttons cut the hassle for your blog readers. Instead of them having to pull open their Twitter account, copy and paste the link, write up a description and tag you, social sharing plugins can do that all for them in seconds. Easy, right?
Take action- Install social sharing buttons on your blog. I recommend SumoMe.
5. Make your body font easy to read
You might have the most amazing content in the world but if your font is difficult to read, people aren’t gonna stick around!
That means that your body text should be in a color, font and size that’s easy to read. Ideally, you’ll want to have dark text on a white background, with a sans-serif font at 14px–at the very least. I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to have a body font that people won’t struggle to read, so make sure that you’ve taken care of this.
Take action- Ask a friend or family member to look at your blog and check over your body text. Ask them to rate the color, font and size on a scale of 1-10 and explain WHY. This is a great way to get specific advice on your text instead of just “Oh, yeah, it’s not too hard to read”
6. Style your email opt-in forms
When a blog visitor hands their email address over to you, that’s an act of trust. You want to make it as easy as possible for the visitor to feel comfortable giving your their email address, and that includes making your email opt-in forms as professional as you can.
I mean, would you rather give your email address to someone whose form looks like this…
If you’re anything like me, you’ll think that the second one (from XoSarah.com) looks so much more professional AND stylish. You don’t necessarily need to have a totally gorgeous form like the one above, but you do need to try to create a professional-looking form.
If you’re on WordPress, you can use a plugin like Optin Cat, or you can even try to style the form on your own!
Take action – Look at your email optin forms. Do they look professional and trustworthy? If it was on someone else’s site, would you want to sign up using that form?
7. Upload a favicon to your site
A favicon is the small icon that appears next to your website’s address bar. It’s just a small part of your site, but it really helps pull your entire design together and make it look complete.
To create a favicon, you need to create a 16 x 16 pixel image that represents your blog. Most often, it’s a shortened version of your logo, but you can also use a graphic that represents your aesthetic or the initials of your site. Follow this tutorial to set up a favicon on your site.
Taking action and improving your site doesn’t have to be hard! Doing all 7 of these tips took me less than an hour and massively improved my site. It’s seriously that easy.
Here’s my challenge to you
While you might not be able to do all of these right away, I want you to take 5 minutes every day for the next week and complete them, one at a time. Instead of spending 5 minutes browsing your Twitter feed, you could be taking your blog design to the next level. Isn’t that worth skipping Kanye’s latest Twitter rant?
You can get started right away. Yes, right now. Pull open a new tab and get cracking!