Running a blog is time consuming. There's writing posts, managing social media, and networking. Not to mention the laundry list of other tasks that pop up. Then of course there's your site itself. I'm sure you've been there, up past midnight working on improvements, tweaking code, creating new pages, etc. We all want our blogs to be better, so we work like crazy improving our sites. However, sometimes it seems daunting and just not possible. Luckily there are things you can do quickly that will have a big impact. Here are 10 quick ways to improve your blog.
10 Quick Ways to Improve Your Blog Design (Tweet this!)
1. Clean Up Your Sidebar
Perhaps one of the biggest turn offs when it comes to a blog is a cluttered sidebar. I remember the time when it used to be popular to add every badge to your sidebar and have every widget imaginable. Now maybe that's still popular in some circles, but honestly, it's not a good look. Displaying too many things doesn't allow you to highlight what's really important. Instead, everything gets buried and nothing stands out.
Take a look at your sidebar and think about each and everything you are planning to display. Does it serve a purpose? It is really necessary? Is there a better location where it's better suited? Be intentional with every element you add to your sidebar. This will not only make your site look neater, but it'll draw attention to the things that are most important.
2. Streamline Your Menu
Your blog's menu is incredibly important. After all, it allows your readers to effortlessly navigate through your site. As such, you want to make sure that your menu isn't confusing and cluttered. My favorite way to set up a menu is to have it tell a story. Think about how you want someone to progress through your site. Start with home, then move on to about. Maybe add in some other pages, then end with your contact page. People will naturally start on the left and work their way over to the right, so definitely give the order of your menu links some thought.
Beyond the order of your links, make sure that every link you include is necessary. Your blog's menu doesn't have to include each and every post in existence on your site. It should only include those of utmost importance. And because your menu is limited on space, don't forget to take advantage of drop down menus. They allow you to feature a lot of links in a small amount of space. But remember, don't go crazy with too many levels of links. I personally like to keep it simple and have no more than three levels: your main level that's always visible and two sub levels. Anything more and things can get pretty messy.
3. Use Your Footer
The footer is an often underused and underappreciated element of a blog. If you're looking to improve your blog, you need to put your footer to work! A footer is more than a copyright notice. It's a great place to include links, widgets, and more! Think about how a person uses a site. They start at the top and work their way to the bottom, right? So similar to how you setup your menu to tell a story, your site should do the same.
What do you want people to do when they've scrolled through your site? Do you want them to follow you on social media? Sign up for your mailing list? Check out your popular posts? Your site's footer is the perfect place for you to encourage that next step.
4. Limit Number of Posts Displayed
How many posts is your blog currently displaying? If you've never changed this setting, then it's probably a decent amount. WordPress defaults to 10. While 10 might not seem like a lot, if your posts are long and/or picture heavy, people will be scrolling forever just to get to the bottom of your page. Not to mention, it's probably slowing down your site as well.
To make your blog a bit more user friendly, reduce the amount of posts per page. I personally like 5-6, but it ultimately depends on the length of your posts. The longer they are, the less you'll want per page. However, keep in mind that too few per page is just plain annoying. No one wants to keep hitting the next page button only to view one post at a time. If your posts are long, another option is to use post excerpts instead. This can be done differently depending on your blog's platform. For WordPress, you can use actual excerpts or you can manually insert a more tag which will add a read more link exactly where you want it.
5. Add Social Sharing Buttons
If you blog, odds are you want people to read your posts, right? Well believe it or not people are lazy. Sure they can share your posts by copying your link and typing up a quick tweet, but will they? Maybe, maybe not. Is that something you want to leave to chance? No, probably not. That's why social sharing buttons are a must have. They allow your readers to quickly share you posts on a variety of services with a click of a button. By making it ridiculously easy for others to share, your posts are more likely to be shared.
So where do you place your sharing buttons? Well depending on the plugin you use, your options will vary. My top 3 places to include sharing buttons are 1) beneath your posts, 2) floating on the side of your site, and 3) on your images when hovered. Now by all means, you do not need to have your buttons in all three places. Pick one that works best with your site's design and go with that. Or test them all out and choose the one that gives you the best results.
6. Use High Quality Photography
You can have the most beautiful blog design in the world, but if your site's photography isn't up to par, it won't matter. Photography plays such a large role in the overall look and feel of your site that it's something you shouldn't gloss over. Not everyone is a photographer, but that's not an excuse to use grainy, dimly lit photos.
Nowadays there are a ton of resources out there for stock photography. If you're on a budget, use images from a free stock photo site, such as Unsplash. If you have room in your budget, you can use paid stock sites or if you really want to get fancy, hire a photographer. Regardless of which method you take, upping your photography game will make a big difference in the way your site is perceived.
7. Make Your Images Consistent
While using higher quality photos is incredibly important for the overall look of your site, one other thing to remember is to maintain consistency within your images. This applies to both your photos and any graphics you create. No one wants to land on a site that uses a crazy assortment of fonts and colors in their graphics and totally different aesthetics with their photos. It's just not nice to look at and not to mention, it's definitely not doing anything positive for your brand.
In order to create graphic consistency, choose photos with a similar aesthetic. That means, don't choose some images that are dark and heavy and others that are light and airy. Choose one style and make sure all your blog photos fit that style. When creating graphics, choose one or two fonts to use and stick with them. Remember to limit your colors as well. Apply the same treatment to each of your graphics and your blog will come across as cohesive and intentional.
8. Break Up Your Content
When it comes to your blog posts, are you writing one never ending paragraph or are you breaking things up? If you're writing huge chunks of text, your posts could use some breaks. Large blocks of texts are not user friendly. Our eyes need breaks once and awhile, and when face to face with a never ending paragraph, your eyes don't have a chance to take a break. So take your content and break it down into smaller paragraphs. Your posts will be a lot easier to read that way.
Besides that, the average person will take a quick glance at your post before reading it to determine if it's worth reading. While breaking up your content makes it a bit easier for them to do that, your posts will also benefit from headings. Your headings will stand out, thus giving people a better idea of what they can expect from your post.
9. Resize and Compress Images
How large are your blog's images? If they're the size they came off the camera or that you downloaded from a stock site, they're too large! Your images only need to be as large as the area they'll be displayed in. That means if your post area is 800px wide, your images don't need to be any larger than that. Using excessively large images isn't doing your site any favors. In fact, it's doing the opposite as larger images take longer to download, which affects your site's speed.
After resizing your images, your image files might still be on the larger side. If you're looking to reduce their size, an image compressor may come in handy (my favorite is TinyPNG). Compressing images reduces the file size of the image by reducing the amount of colors displayed. Ultimately, compressing images reduces the quality of your images, however, in most cases you will not notice a difference. The only difference you might notice is that your images load faster.
10. Make Your Blog Easy to Read
You put a lot of work into your blog posts, so you probably want them to be read. In order for people to do so though, they'll need to actually be able to read them! Sounds obvious, right? Well some people may not have gotten the memo because I've seen my fair share of hard to read blogs.
When choosing or customizing a theme, you want to make sure that you font sizes are large enough to be read easily. I usually start with fonts at a size of 16px, but it ultimately depends on the font you're using. The fancier or more intricate, the larger you'll have to go. In addition to size, you'll also want to pick a color that's easy to read. That means stay away from light colors (unless of course you have a dark background). The key here is to go for high contrast. However, use your best judgement. Red writing on a bright blue background might be high contrast, but it's bound to give people a headache.
Now that you have these 10 ways to improve your blog, what are you waiting for? Start implementing them!