Momcomm Monday is my new weekly feature to help you become better writers, better bloggers, better social media geeks. If you missed last week’s, catch up on how to improve your writing.
“WordPress (or anything but Blogger) is the only way to have a nice blog.”
“I have to pay someone to design it.”
“I don’t know how to code anything.”
To all that I say, WHATEV!
Of course, all of those are GREAT, but there are plenty of tweaks you can make to your existing blog to improve it. But first things first…
Why is it important to have a blog that looks professional and polished?
It’s fairly simple:
More readers: People are drawn to blogs that are easy on the eye, even if they can’t specifically pinpoint why. A great blog is clean (doesn’t have to mean sparse), focused and easy to navigate. While I agree that looks AREN’T everything, your content has to work that much harder if people find your site confusing, hard to use or just plain fugly.
More PR opportunities: Some of you want to do product reviews, work with brands or other sorts of opportunities. Us PR/Marketing people are a picky bunch (usually) so if you want the good gigs, your site needs to make a great first impression.
How to Make Your Blog More Professional
1. Avoid distracting backgrounds under your blog content.
You want to make the main feature of your blog – your content – stand out as much as possible. But dark backgrounds and patterns can really distract your readers.
If you must have a really dark background, make sure the color of your blog posts is white, off-white or a really, really light version of a color. Combos like bright shades of red, pink, blue, etc on black backgrounds really hurt the eyes.
2. Avoid too many fonts, font sizes and random font colors.
Too much of just about anything is a bad thing (just ask me about the Nilla wafers I scarfed while writing this).
Having too many fonts, font sizes or random colors make a blog confusing to navigate through. You want to make your posts legible, not distracting. A general rule is to stick to no more than three of something.
If you think you need another font for emphasis, try formatting the font you have with ALL CAPS, bold or italics (don’t underline on the web since it usually denotes a hyperlink).
If you like to color your headers, then try pulling a color from your blog header instead of coming up with a new color.
If you like to change font sizes within a post, then try to stick with a couple of sizes, not five or six.
Remember, they key is LEGIBILITY, not LEgiBility.
3. Check your load time.
According to Daniel Scocco from Daily Blog Tips,”75% of the Internet users do not return to sites that take longer than four seconds to load.”
Did you hear that? SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT.That’s a lot of people to lose just because you’re addicted to blog badges. 🙂
To check your load time, take the website speed test. Your blog shouldn’t take more that 2 seconds to load. When I took that, I had no idea what the results meant so go to Daniel’s article and compare it to the likes of Problogger and others. (check it a few times because mine varied)
If it’s too slow, then google “how to speed up a site’s load time.” There are tons of resources (some more technical than others).
4. Turn off the autoplay music.
I mean, really, it’s so 1990s. There’s no one on Earth who can convince me this is a good idea.
Picture the mom sitting down during naptime only to hear Jay-Z suddenly blare on the speakers. Or the PR rep sitting in a quiet cubicle-filled office doing blog research and – BAM! – here’s some Kenny Chesney for ya.
If there’s one thing readers will thank you for, it’s turning the music off.
5. Make it easy to use your site.
Walk through your user experience. Are you making it easy for people to find what they’re looking for?
Regardless of whether it’s a blog reader or a PR rep, the most common actions someone is going to take on a blog are: reading your About page (or something about you, even on the home page), reading through old posts to get a feel of your blog, posting a comment and further seeking you out via subscribing, liking your Facebook page, following you on Twitter, etc.
So take a close look at that experience:
- Is CAPTCHA come up at a weird time in the commenting process?
- Do you moderate comments AND do CAPTCHA (really, you only need one if you even need that)?
- Are your old posts hidden or only offered from sorting by month (at least offer a category search too)?
- Are all your social media buttons together and obviously located (top right or left is most common)?
Take a look at navigation obstacles that someone may run into on your site. Have a friend look at it too. Then start making changes to make your reader’s life easier when they visit your site.
6. Clearly label your About and Contact pages or sections.
This is an extension of #4 but deserves some more love. These are two of the most important elements to your blog. I suggest having them as their own pages but even if they are on your home page only, make sure they are obvious and easy to find.
You’ve been in this situation I’m sure: You have a service or product complaint and you go to that company’s website. Their customer service number or email address is buried within click after click after click… if it’s there at all.
Don’t be like the big wig corporations we love to hate. Have these pages or sections visible and make it easy to get there.
7. Use single spaces at the end of sentences (not double).
I know some of you are gasping at me in horror right now and want to smack a ruler across my knuckles.
But seriously, double spaces have been a no no for years (I’ll admit I wasn’t on the clue train until sometime around 2003 though).
You’re dying to know why, right? It boils down to this:
If you’re REALLY curious, you can read the entire explanation on Wikipedia.
Now’s the hard part- actually breaking that habit!
8. Be consistent.
Really, this is something you can carry with you for ANYTHING you do related to your blog’s design. If you’re using green, yellow and blue, resist the urge to add pink words throughout your blog post. Or if you write your blog titles by capitalizing all the main words (like I do mine), then do that EVERY TIME.
If there’s anything I’ve learned about branding over the years, it’s that just because we may become bored with something, doesn’t mean others are. We as consumers (or as blog readers) CRAVE consistency whether we realize it or not.
A perfect example is Disney Theme Parks. They’re highly trained to be consistent. They point with two fingers or an open palm because pointing with one finger is considered rude. The “characters” are trained to have the same autograph so characters like Mickey Mouse signs autographs the same whether it’s Jim Bob or Juan behind the Mickey suit. And so on.
While you may have never noticed the details, you know that when you go to a Disney Park, you’re going to pretty much get a consistent experience.
What to do next
If you’re doing any of these, don’t fret! Take it one step at a time. Evaluate your site and then start making changes little by little (or all at once if you’re really gung-ho and have the time).
With a cleaner, more professional blog, you’ll gain more readers and perhaps even some PR opportunities. Plus, I imagine you’ll gain a wee bit of pride knowing you made these tweaks yourself! (You can even pat yourself on the back. I won’t tell.)
Smashing Magazine has an awesome page of some of the top blog designs out there. Study them… but NOT to drool over their design and wish it were yours. Instead, pick some favorites and ask yourself:
- How do they use color?
- Where are their contact and about pages?
- How many fonts are they using?
- Where are their social media buttons?
- How do they break up their site to make it more readable?
So, what do you find distracting about a blog’s design? What draws you to a blog?