Blog design has come a long way from black type on a white background. Sure, some people still have blogs that look like that – Seth Godin comes to mind. That’s his style and if it’s yours, more power to you.
But for the most part, the online world continues to shift to a more visually-inspired medium. Text remains important. If you don’t have anything to say, or you say it poorly, people aren’t going to come back to your blog. But if you write well but post to an ugly blog, you make it harder for yourself to attract new visitors and keep them coming back for more.
So what’s a blogger to do?
- Clean up your mess. Over time, blogs accumulate sidebar crap. You post something that’s nice today and a year from now it’s just old. Clean up your widgets on WordPress blogs, and go over all the extraneous content on your other hosted blogs. Your blog doesn’t have to be spare, lean and mean, but does have to work together visually. When in doubt, move it out.
- Fix broken links. Do you have a blog roll? Check the links. I was shocked to find that several of my favorite bloggers either had abandoned their blogs or moved them to new platforms, which led to a lot of broken links in both the blogroll and sprinkled throughout my blog posts themselves. Take a few minutes to check for broken links and fix them.
- Design a new header or icon for your blog. You can use free online tools such as Pixlr or PicMonkey to create headers for your blogs. Use your own photos, or see the list my buddy Jodee Redmond has published on Freelance Writing Gigs for places to obtain free images under an acceptable usage license. Read the fine print; some sites require attribution, others don’t, and it’s up to you to know and understand the proper use of images on your blogs.
- Add a professional signature to your posts. It’s not necessary, but some sort of signature, or consistent closing, does make for a more professional-looking blog.
- Create pretty social media buttons. One of my favorite resources is from Carrie Koehmstedt of Carrie Loves Design. She offers free packages of colorful social media buttons, and she’s kind enough to share instructions for novices on how to download them and add them to your WordPress or other blog. You can find the free social media icon sets here.
Are you ready to up the stakes on your blog and take it more seriously in 2014? Then go for an improved design. Like a good store window, a pretty blog welcomes people inside…and once inside, your prose has to wow them!