10 Important Traits of a Great Blog Design

Aug 13 2009 by John Urban | 35 Comments

Your blog’s design can be the distinguishing factor that separates you from the vast sea of other weblogs out there. First impressions count and making sure that you have all the elements of a great blog design can ensure that readers will enjoy the content that you present.

In this article, you will read about the ten essential characteristics of a solid weblog design.

1. Good readability

One of the most important elements of a blog design is readability. Make sure that the background and foreground colors that you choose have sufficient contrast to make your text easy to read (look into some tools to test your design’s colors). Provide sufficient line-spacing for paragraphs to make longer blocks of text easier to read. Take a peek at the Viget Inspire‘s content layout, they’ve made it so that their text content is pleasant to read.

Viget Inspire

Though readers can easily change their font size settings via the web browser, make sure that the font size of your text – especially for paragraph elements – is sufficiently large (between 12-14px for web-safe fonts is a good and comfortable size).

2. A strong focus on the content

Ensuring that readers do not get distracted by the site design and focusing on your posts’ content can make the decision of subscribing to your blog and coming back to read more of your content an uncomplicated choice. Some great advice to boost your blog content can include making sure that your header section isn’t too tall so that readers with smaller screen sizes can easily see the post title without having to scroll down. Another way to center the blog design onto the content is by making sure that there are no distracting items in the background. The content is the meat of a weblog – make sure that you give its design the attention it deserves.

3. High findability

Designing a weblog in such a way that it’s easy to find other content/posts is a sure sign of a solid weblog design. A lot of this has to do with a strong navigation design that entices users to click on other sections of the site. Using tiered/hierarchical navigation schemes can help users quickly find what they’re looking for; for this, you can employ JavaScript-based navigation menus to help you effortlessly build a multi-level navigation menu design.

Utilizing the sidebar (auxiliary/secondary content) of your web pages to display recent posts and popular posts can lead to more page views: present what you’ve got to the reader, make related content easily accessible to them as they read your posts. The figure below shows you an effectual way of displaying other site content (on Webdesigner depot‘s side bar).

Webdesigner depot.

Having a search feature integrated into your blog application is always a good thing: if you’re looking for a free search widget – explore the Google AJAX Search API.

Google Ajax search

Remember that the more interesting content you display to the reader, the higher the likelihood that he or she will consider subscribing to your RSS feed.

4. A great comment section design

The comments section is where all the action happens. It is in this section that readers get the opportunity to give you feedback on the topic you’ve written about and to share their own knowledge and opinions on the subject. Having detailed debates and conversations about your posts can invite people to share their views and in turn really get the website going. Having a good comment section design tells your readers that you care about what they have to say and have given them a great place to share them in.

To supercharge your comment section and to encourage discussion, check out an application called IntenseDebate that opens up features to help you design an engaging comment section.

IntenseDebate

5. Tight integration with social networking/media sites

Make it trouble-free for your readers to share your content within their networks. Many people like sharing the content that they have been reading on places like Twitter, Digg, and Facebook. For easy social media integration and sharing of content, consider using an application called ShareThis!.

ShareThis!

6. A memorable header

When a person visits your blog, one of the first things that they will be guaranteed to notice is the design you have at the top of the web page. This is your chance to create a memorable first impression as well as to imprint your brand into their memory. To get creatively inspired on your next blog header design, check out this showcase on beautiful header designs and learn about the five types of effective headers.

Memorable Header

7. The use of effective visuals in the content

The failing of many blogs is that images within the posts aren’t design well. Consider using figure captions to make images more attractive and to make them more meaningful to readers (you can use the ImageCaption MooTools plugin for a JavaScript-based solution).

Visuals

Additionally, when your topic is such that you require the sharing of numerical data, try to make them more interesting by using effective data visualization techniques such as graphs and charts; this not only renders otherwise boring information into more attractive visuals, but it can also help readers more readily comprehend the data you are discussing.

Flot

A medley of distorted images, watermarked images, and images with a variety of alignments and sizes can result in a look that give users the impression that little care is taken into content creation.

8. A semantic HTML structure

Having a nice design for your blog is all fine and good – but you should also make sure that your HTML markup is designed and written properly and keeps semantics in mind. This not only makes it easier for you to maintain your blog, but also promotes better search engine results, which in turn can lead to more exposure to your web property.

9. Logically and coherently organized content

If your blog is a big operation and you post about a variety of content in a wide range of categories, your navigation should be up to scratch so that users can find their subjects of interest. Organization is the key to success and investing the appropriate amount of time in planning and designing your site’s navigation will pay dividends when users try to seek for more stuff on your site.

http://coda.co.za/blog/

10. A good headline/post title design

When reading a weblog, it is always the headlines that draw the readers into a post. It isn’t only how the headline is worded that is important to entice the reader in, but also how it looks and grabs their attention that can lead them to read the rest of the content. Use distinguished font styles that are bold and large so that readers don’t miss your post titles.

http://www.narfstuff.co.uk/

Consider providing meta information such as the author’s name, the date of publication, and sharing features near your post titles to give greater context to what they’re about to read.

Do you have more blog design tips?

What are some more traits that you can think of that makes a weblog design great? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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About the Author

John Urban is a sophmore at UCLA majoring in computer science. He is a writer for an online magazine StyleCeo which deals with fashion. In his spare time, he enjoys sports, being with his girl, or just doing some freelance work. If you like his work on here and you’d like for him to work as a freelancer for you, you can contact him on Twitter.

35 Comments

Sergej Müller

August 13th, 2009

John, very fine article. Love it!

Sneh | LBOI Blog

August 13th, 2009

Awesome post John! There is a lot to learn from these useful pointers! Thanks for sharing :-)

Dave

August 13th, 2009

Great set of tips. I’d add that not just integration with social media sites but use of things like RSS feeds is essential.

Sean Hurley

August 13th, 2009

Great tips, and I would add the suggestion to offer something of value for each post. Usually if you can show an example or a direct link to something they can use or benefit from you will keep a higher reader retention.

Gelay

August 13th, 2009

I tend to forget these important points, getting caught up elsewhere. Thanks for reminding me of the fundamentals.

Carl Chapman

August 13th, 2009

I would add that a great blog would also remove the ‘default’ limitation of “No Following” comments and links within them.

You can read about a simple plug-in to fix this problem and why you should here: http://carlchapmansr.com/how-to-improve-your-blog-do-follow-plugin

Join the cool people, dump “no follow”

Lucas Tadeu

August 13th, 2009

Nice tips, really handy.Thanks for sharing your experience with others ;)

David Hucklesby

August 13th, 2009

I’d like to suggest that setting font-size in pixels is rarely a good idea. I have an IBM laptop that is set to 120 DPI. The “medium” font-size at that setting is 20px. Even your upper suggestion of 14px makes an EM less than half my default size.
(20 x 20 = 400; 14 x 14 = 196)

Keith D

August 13th, 2009

Hi John
Your article shows all the characteristics that you are describing.
Great content… well laid out with nice big paragraph headings and fantastic graphics.
The graphics really kept my attention.
A post truly worthy of Six Revisions.

David

August 13th, 2009

There is such an explosion of good design on the web now – part of the huge explosion in creativity we see all around us – I am optimistic about what people can do if given the tools and the freedom to do it. Let’s hear it for everyman!

Rachel Cary

August 13th, 2009

I 2nd the comment on RSS integration. Can’t believe how many blogs I run across that do not have this set up properly so that I can easily add them to my reader. No brainer.

Great post, thanks!

Sydney

August 14th, 2009

Effective blog design includes the design of a blog itself, its navigation elements, and its communication tools. Blogs have a lot of standard elements, articles, comments, categories, and archives; all of which need to be presented well within the blog template design.

Ray

August 14th, 2009

A good blog design is a command line and a prompt.

David Parsons

August 14th, 2009

I really find this post a great reminder of how we should be making our blogs. Not flashy and annoying, but simple and readable.

Seth

August 14th, 2009

Very nice post on Blog Design. It is playful, powerful, and very well organized.

Blog Design is so important and I think you can spend too much time on it, but also not getting it right can really cost you!

Daniel Richard

August 14th, 2009

Right on! :)

Haven’t messed with any search features on my sites yet. Hmm.

Elaine Bullin

August 14th, 2009

Thank you. Some great ideas to work on. Keep it coming.

Matthew L.

August 15th, 2009

Very good post and so true. Content is king and readability is very important. It’s hard to make-out the text on many blogs I come across. It’s a wonder if they actually get consistent subscribers.

krissy

August 16th, 2009

John

Just a few thoughts. It should be legible. The writing should be in a color one can view — not something light such as yellow. The background color of the blog should be a pleasant color and should be easy to read, preferrably not black or something too dark. The font should not be too small or in a font your readers can’t read. There should not be so many graphics on the page that it will take the focus away from your posts, or take the pages a long time to download. There should not be a lot of flashing graphics, if any. Perhaps the ads should be uniform, or close to it. They layout should be somewhat simple. The design of the blog, as well as the colors, should be consistent, not constantly changing, as readers come to depend on this. The blog tone should match, at least to the degree, the niche it is in. The blog design should be easy to navigate, including an easily understandable way to leave comments, to navigate through posts, to sign up for the RSS feeds, to know how to guest post or find out more about the author or to navigate anywhere else on the blog through tabbed sections, to know how to sign up through email subscription, etc.

Thanks for allowing me to add my thoughts!

sotiris

August 17th, 2009

A Great blog with good readability will always do a better job, it’s worth spending that extra time on it to get it just right.

Andreas

August 18th, 2009

Well written!

Mark

August 19th, 2009

Good post. I am currently spending a lot of time making my blog site’s readability better.

Ashley Adams

August 28th, 2009

I do agree with you that using effective visuals is important for a good blog design. The content of your post is of course essential but it must also have a good visual effect. After all, your visitors won’t read them unless they find something interesting. Moreover, a bright visual will give a relief to their eyes.

LKM

August 29th, 2009

I think the comments screenshot inadvertently and ironically shows why comments are often a bad idea.

Calum Henderson

February 11th, 2010

Thanks for the great list post! I especially liked #3 and #6. Just launched a new blog and will definitely be keeping these in mind.

nina

March 25th, 2010

or like me you can fly by the seat of your pants and remember its your story and it doesn’t have to be professional. i started mine in desperation and it has served me well. good article though for those who want the bells and whistles. i just needed an outlet. :-)

Offersking

August 18th, 2010

Blog Designing is not about the rules, but knowing the essentials can help you come up with an aesthetically and effective design.

v

September 7th, 2010

A few aspects often overlooked on blogs are the arrangement of sidebar content. There is nothing worse than visiting an ok looking blog with a sidebar that is consistently 3 times longer than the average archive or article page. Widget design is also important – placing navigation or links to other content near the bottom is best (where people end up) and ads and other visual content near the top.

albert

September 30th, 2010

try to target the keywords first and then try to optimize it. you can optimize the site in two ways off page site optimization and on site optimization if your content is enriched with good key words you will definitely get the results

Jonnet Solomon

November 20th, 2010

if your blog is reachable on the search engine with out any special efforts then your efforts are accountable

gary roberts

December 2nd, 2010

make the content rich with the keywords so the search engine crawls can find them

gareth fields

December 11th, 2010

Content should be always enrich with proper keywords it will results to better results

Joshua Monesson

August 6th, 2011

Content is always the key if u want 2 do proper indexing…and good search engine results

stephanie betesh

August 25th, 2011

content with proper keywords will show the good results always and chance of caching is also to fast

keith norton

September 10th, 2011

content enrich with the keyword will be effective otherwise its of no use

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