This post is based on episode 71 of the ProBlogger podcast.
When was the last time you took a long, hard look at your blog’s design?
While having great content is important, your blog’s design will also play a part in how successful it (and you) will be. If new readers find the navigation confusing or can’t make sense of what’s in the sidebar, they may never come back to read your latest masterpiece.
Even if they do hang around, they may not take the action you want them to take simply because you haven’t told them what you want them to do.
Your blog’s design can also affect other aspects of your blog, such as:
- keeping readers on your blog for longer
- getting more page views
- getting more comments
- getting more clicks on affiliate links
- selling more products and services.
So this week I want to point out a few ways you can update your blog design, as well as talk about another option.
Look at your sidebar
If your blog has a sidebar, it might be time to give it a bit of a spring clean.
Sidebars often get cluttered over time. You start off with just a few basic elements, but over time you discover new links and tools, and before you know it you have 20 different elements on your sidebar.
And like pretty much everything else on the web, some of them can quickly break. Even worse, some of them can become security risks, especially if they haven’t been updated in a long time.
Another issue with sidebars is how well they function on handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets. If your readers can’t even see your sidebar elements on their phone, how can they possibly use them?
So look at each element on your sidebar, and think about whether you need it. If you don’t, get rid of it. But if you do, make sure it still works, is secure, and can be seen no matter how people are accessing your blog.
Look at your navigation
While your blog may not have a sidebar, it will almost certainly have some form of navigation. And it can play a big a big part on how people find your content. When it’s working well, people should be able to find your content quickly and easily. But if you haven’t looked at it for a while, it may not be working well for you or your readers.
Your menus are especially important, as readers tend to use them quite a bit. Are any of the links in your menu broken (e.g. linking to pages that no longer exist on your blog)? Are they pointing to information that’s out of date or no longer relevant?
Does your menu include categories you no longer write about? You may not want to highlight the fact you haven’t written about a particular topic in years.
Do you need to reorganize your menus? Do you have too many sub-menus, or even sub-sub-menus that make it difficult to find your content? And again, can they all be accessed easily on a smartphone or tablet?
Look at your calls to action
What do you want your readers to do on your blog?
When you’re just starting out you may not have any products to sell. In fact, you may not be monetizing your blog at all. However, you might still like your readers to comment on what you’ve said, and share your post on social media.
But are you actually asking them to do it, or just hoping they will?
By having a clear call to action at the end of each post, you can tell them what you’d like them to do. But it doesn’t need to sound like an order. You can easily say something like “What do you think about this? Let me know in the comments” or “Know anyone who might enjoy this post? Feel free to share the link”.
And what about the rest of your blog? Would you like them to subscribe to your newsletter? Find out more about you by reading your About page? Hire you for their next project? Buy your products?
Then you need to tell them.
Take a look at your calls to action, and make sure they’re still relevant. And see whether you need to add new ones, or put them in more prominent places. (If there’s a particular page or post that’s doing really well in Google Analytics, it might be a great place to add a CTA or two.)
Consider giving it a complete overhaul
If you’ve been blogging for a while, then you may find your blog’s design may no longer suit your content. This can happen if you’ve started writing about new topics, or have pivoted your blog completely.
You may also find that your design simply doesn’t work anymore. These days it’s important for your blog to be responsive so it can be accessed on phones and tablets. And so if your blog isn’t responsive, you may be losing readers.
Perhaps you just don’t like the look of it anymore. You might think it looks ugly, or is cramming too much information into a small space. Maybe you don’t like the colors, or think it has so many different fonts it looks more like a ransom letter than a blog.
If that’s the case, it might be time to give your blog’s design a completely overhaul. Fortunately, you can usually do this without losing any of your content. (But I’d still make a complete backup of your blog, just in case.)
Obviously I can’t tell you how you should design your blog. But here are a few suggestions that can be incorporated into just about any design:
- Keep it as simple as possible. The less complex it is, the less that can go wrong.
- Keep the number of fonts and colors to a minimum. Two or three of each should be enough.
- Use plenty of white space. You need to give the various elements on your blog room to breathe (and to stand out).
- Keep everything consistent. Once you’ve chosen your colors, fonts and other stylistic features, use them throughout your site to tie everything together.
Over to you
So what do you think your blog needs in terms of a design update? Can you get by with adjusting your menus and sidebar? Do you need to add more calls to action? Or do you need to tear down the walls and start again? Let us know in the comments.
Photo by pan xiaozhen on Unsplash