This post was submitted for “Blog Design Studio’s group writing contest”. More details can be found at the end of this post.
I am starting a three post series titled “Think different. Get noticed.” focusing on improving a Blog’s Value. Part one will focus on Blog Design, while part two and three will focus on Blog Content and Blog Promotion respectively. Please share your views via comments.
Think Different. Get Noticed.
Thousands of new blogs and millions of blog posts originate everyday. What gives your blog the edge? What makes it stand out as different? What makes it get noticed? In this three part series, I will focus on Blog Design, Content, Promotion – and tell you how to stand out of the crowd by thinking different.
Your blog’s face is made up of its design, content flow and usability. Think of your blog as any daily usage product, and you will understand why Blog Design is so important.
Your blog design is not limited to a nice background, flashy colors or a popular looking theme. If that would have been the case, then Blog designers would have a hard time making a living out of it. Blog Design starts with your homepage title element and flows till the last clickable link on your domain, encompassing various important aspects like color scheme, layout, content flow, navigation, presentation, usability etc.
So let us see how thinking differently with respect to Blog Design can get your Blog noticed…
Before we begin, let’s take a little Management Walk
I can’t help but get to this. Have your ever wonder why marketing experts spend millions of dollars on Product designing and positioning? Why top of the line models are hired, Best graphics and animation are used and exotic locales are displayed? It all boils down to two words – “Recall Value”
Customer Recall Value is the most important thing that drive sales. When a customer have a choice between near identical products with near identical features at the same price point, he will pick up the product he recalls first. This recall value is created in the customer’s mind by constantly feed the customer with different product designs, advertising logos, catchy jingles, billboard ads etc. among other things and are refreshed periodically.
How does that links to Blogging. Making an analogy, a Blog’s customer are its visitors. And the most effective medium is Visual (although Audio for Podcasters and Video for Video Bloggers holds true). Creating a Unique feel of your blog via a Custom Design is an effective way to differentiate your blog from the crowd for your audience. Think of it as you are creating a high recall value for your blog in your visitor’s mind.
A good example would be that of Problogger by celebrity blogger Darren Rowse. The blog has a magazine type layout, smoothly integrating featured post, weekly video post, list of popular postings, Sponsors, Polls, Blog Network, Affiliate Links and a small intro all in the main page. How’s that..!!
1. Design First Blog Later
Every blogger says that the key to success is writing Quality Content. While I wont argue that, what should also be noted is “Competition”. Blog design is the serving that the customers will see first before tasting the recipe.
So the killer deal would be writing top quality content and packaging it in a nice container.
Almost every blogger starts with the default theme or a popular free them and then settle for personalized one after achieving some success. While this is true and a very nice model indeed, in terms of testing before you spend, it however has a few flaws.
First, this only works well for first time bloggers. The reasoning is simple. Bloggers who start their second blog, already have tested the waters. They have a fair idea of their target market and know what their deliverables would be, what value addition can they provide.
Second, coming back to recall value, since know-how about the market is already there, why not provide a nice, seamless experiecne to all the visitors from Day 0 itself..!!
While Blogging content is the most important thing, blog design should not be neglected in the light of it. Where ever possible, try to settle for a good unique blog design as early as possible, before getting immersed into blogging.
2. Know your audience
This is pretty basic yet very important. Your blog design should reflect the audience’s category. Knowing your audience’s preference, will go a long way to fine tune your design elements and squeezing the most out of it.
Let me explain it to you with some examples
- You can showcase he most active categories of your blog as a submenu item
- You can remove least active categories and tags from listing
- Add a subscribe me button at the end of every post
- Adding important elements above the fold for maximum visibility
- Blending text ads to our site’s color scheme
3. Where to start
This question largely depends on your budget. That said, it does not mean you cannot get good blog design for low budget. For those with a shoe string budget, I will cover in the next point.
If your budget permits, hire a full time designer and get a killer blog design as per your requirements. Such packages starts from as low as $200 (click here) but generally $500 dollar is the norm.
Remember the following points while ordering your customized blog
- Be clear about how you want your blog to look like
- Explain your project in detail
- Cite examples from other reference websites
- Take time out do decide important elements like the main page layout and color scheme
- Get a rough sketch before you give the go ahead for theme coding
- Keep tab on the timeline
- Negotiate the deal beforehand to avoid clashing at later stage
4. On a Shoe String Budget
So you have not tasted success yet. But understand the importance of being different in terms of Designing and want to use it to your benefit. Fret not, their are many options available for you.
There are many premium themes available for those with budgets under $100. A partial list can be found at smartblogtips.com/wordpress-themes/premium-wordpress-themes. All the themes available are popular, great looking stylish themes under $100. Check them out.
$100 is not justifiable. Then you can go for the last option. Get a popular free them, which is actively supported by its designer and serves your purpose. for differentiation, hire a cheap web designer to modify it or create a child theme for it. Sites like Digitalpoint and Sitepoint are nice starting places, which will get your job done for as little as $20 (if it only deal with changing the link and background colors, heading banners and background images).
5. Colors colors every where
Color is a subjective experience. A reaction of our brain. It gives different stimulus for different colors. That’s why we link a particular color to a particular state of mind like Blue with coolness, Green with envy, Red with love etc. Similar profiles can also me made by having a mix of different colors and creating a layout that appeals to your Target Audience.
Check out this very nice flash video which visualize colors along with their meanings – Colors in Motion.
You can use websites like Colorcombo and Colorcombos to visualize and try various color combinations.
6. Roller Coaster Navigation
Navigation depends on individual preferences. A large combination of Navigation layout can be obtained. However the most important links should be easily available to the visitors. These would be the pages which hold site content and also the most active categories / tags.
It is advisable to have a search box, near the navigation bar. WordPress provides a default search box. Or else you can also use Google’s Customize Search Box.
Navigation links should have contrasting colors which makes them stand out. This helps grabbing visitor attention.
7. Front Page Make-up
Front page layout is always an important challenge. You always want to put as many content as possible, while also maintaining control over the clutter you may cause. That said however there are few items that you must not ignore
Navigation – Highlight Main Pages, Categories, Archive Links and Search bar
Featured post or Latest post should be highlighted
Other recent post should be available on the front page
If your site is into Audio/Video then a Gallery is important
Tabbed interface can squeeze much more content in a small space
Bookmark widget which supports widely used services like Digg, StumbleUpon etc
8. Finer Layout Aspects
While there are many fine Blog Designers, they cannot do one thing. Read your mind. It is you who knows your blog and its audience the best.
So, its up to you to get involved in the Blog Design process, having a say at the images, background styles, layouts etc. you want to have. Finalizing the logo, linking it to your Blog’s theme and content etc. will have more synergy if you actively participate.
9. Keep Tweaking
Now that you have your Blog Design ready, don’t just stop there. Once a month give it a relook and see where can you tweak it a little. Tweaking can be as little as changing the font size of header tags or as complicated as rewriting various CSS style functions.
Ok. Now its time to relax and move on to Blogging. Next article in this series will focus on Blog Content.
10. Further Readings – Blog Design
Check out some interesting readings related to Blog Design
Blog Design Studio – Group Writing Contest
This article was submitted to Blog Design Contest, hosted by Blog Design Studio. There are some amazing prizes sponsored by Blogging Tips and Daily Blog Tips. Check them out.
Have a nice day..!!