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Is your blog design ready for 2014? Four ways to tell

This is a guest contribution from Laura Windisch of 99designs.

It’s that time of year again. Time to take a good long look at your blog and reflect on what’s worked well, learn from what hasn’t, and set goals for what will. After you’ve had a chance to sort through the numbers—total visits, average length of stay and the like—give your eyes a minute to focus on what your design is doing to showcase your content.

Whether you install one of your platform’s pre-made templates or find someone to create a custom design, your blog’s appearance is what visitors will notice first. A good design will communicate your message with personality and passion.

Here are four questions you can ask yourself to assess whether your design is ready for 2014.

1. Is your design as simple as it ought to be?

When it comes to blogging, the written word rules. Keep readers focused on your content with a clean design. Here’s how.

  • Ditch the clutter. Delete any distracting background images and dead links.

  • Embrace white space. Give your text room to breathe.

  • Limit your fonts. Choose no more than three fonts (for example, one each for your titles, body text and navigation) to keep the page from looking overloaded. Whatever font you choose, make sure it’s legible.

  • Use colour carefully. Is your background light and your text dark? That’s a good start. An explosion of colour can be overwhelming, but splashes of vibrant shades will help you draw attention to important areas like call to action. A subtle background will also help the photos and images within your post pop.

2. Is your content easy to scan?

Most readers will be scanning your posts rather than reading them word-for-word. Make your design easy to scour.

  • Break it up. Headlines, subheads, lists, images and bold text are your formatting friends. They’ll make your content easier to consume.

  • Be generous with images. Treat your readers to big photos, illustrations and charts that supplement a point you’re making in your post. Visual content attracts eyeballs.

3. Can people find what they are looking for?

If you started your blog with a passion—but without a clear idea of all the topics you’d be covering—it may be time to take a step back and give your design a solid structural backbone.

  • First, get organised. Establish a clear hierarchy and put everything in its place.

  • Create noticeable navigation. Visitors will land on your blog from Twitter, search engines, links and who knows where else. Show off what else you have to offer with clear links to categories, recent posts and popular posts.

  • Include strong CTAs. Be sure your design clearly tells your audience what to do (e.g. “Subscribe to our newsletter”). Don’t assume they’ll hunt for anything.

4. Is your design memorable?

New blogs are popping up daily. As of this posting, for example, there are 72,628,476 WordPress sites in the world. Find a way to stand out.

  • Brand your header. This is the area new visitors will likely notice first, so don’t miss the opportunity to create a strong first impression of your personal brand. Play off your logo to show your personality.

  • Create a custom design. Stand out from the plethora of popular free themes with a custom blog design. A unique look will inspire your readers and keep them coming back for more.

Did you answer no to any questions? Now’s the perfect time to step up your blog design and let your content shine. Here’s to a beautiful 2014!

Laura Windisch writes for 99designs — the world’s leading online graphic design marketplace. If you’re looking for a custom blog design, try launching a contest on their website. You’ll get dozens of creative options and pick the one you love most.      

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Comments

  1. Kalen Bruce says:

    I have definitely ditched a lot of clutter on my blog, especially my sidebar. I am trying to start a mini-blogging trend to provide the most to my readers. I try to make my mini blogs very scannable, short and to-the point. I am ready for 2014! Thanks for the article!

  2. Abhishek says:

    I was planning to start a new wordpress blog and looking for themes and after reading this post will certainly keep these points in mind. Also as per new Google update we will have to keep our visitor’s requirement in mind and focus only on audience. Thanks for this informative post.

  3. Max says:

    ‘Yes’ to all questions and already on the 2014 wave. Still, much thanks for the article, Laura, a good summary.

  4. George says:

    Breaking up of article is a must have one.
    If the site loads within 3 second with a good looking template is another advantage.

  5. Troy Spro says:

    Good points and thanks Laura.

    About 2 months ago I upgraded to a more busy looking site with a lot more going on every page.

    Was good at first but after about two weeks I noticed a big drop off.

    I had a think of what to do and it was a pretty easy solution in the end and your Number 1 covers it.

    Back to what I had, simple, easy to read and no clutter.

    Pretty much after I had done this everything was back to normal and I had learnt a lot more.

    Hindsight is always 20/20 in these situations and I’m not going to make that mistake again.

    Now to work on a few more of your points.

    Thanks again.

  6. Phillip Dews says:

    Hi Laura,

    I loved this post! This is a must read! I just recently started blogging again after quitting it a few years ago to develop my career in web design and development!

    Recently though I invested in the Genesis framework and I was just thinking of designing a new logo for it so that I can make the blog stand out, After all us bloggers want to be remembered and our blogs become memorable!

    I gave my blog an overhaul at the beginning of the year as I wanted it to speed up so I invested in MaxCDN and Cloudflair which has made mine load in about 400ms that I am well happy with! Time now to start the branding (Well reBranding) process.

    I totally agree with you about the fonts and clutter as well as the short paragraphs as those really make a difference to the readers especially if they have short attention spans like I have when reading blog posts!

    Many thanks for sharing your insights!
    - Phillip Dews

  7. Although, I am a new Blogger your this post helped me to get prepare for 2014

  8. An excellent article. I especially liked you advice to be generous with images. Most people love images and it can keep your readers on your site for longeer.

  9. many people work on design rather then content. I am the one who alwasy focus on content rather then design

    • Ryan says:

      I think both are key, I’m not saying everyone should spend $10,000 on a world class custom design but you had better be willing to set up a design that is clean, and elegant. Personally, I don’t care how good the content is, if your site looks like crap I’m gone before I ever even get a chance to explore that content.

  10. Stefy says:

    I agree on everything … and add an eye-catching design and clean, valuable content and a good social presence are critical to the success of a website.

  11. GIRI Patel says:

    Hi, thanks for the info, I have a free wordpress theme now but planned to change with premium so it will help me to choose the same.

  12. Nitesh says:

    Your ideas are incredible for a good start in 2014. In the case of design my blog has passed. But your ideas for the content are very helpful and I will definitely follow it. Thanks once again!

  13. This is exactly what I have just been working on, and what I am needing advice with at the moment! It can be a jungle out there when it comes to choosing the right design for your site because you want it to look professional, but not to be so snazzy that it annoys people.

    Even nowadays, when simplicity should really be the key to good design, I still see far too many sites out there that are just cluttered with too many widgets, or have way too many posts on the homepage, causing slow loading times over wifi.

    I am no expert, not by a mile, but in my opinion, good design should be pleasing to the eye and kept as simple as possible.

  14. Kimberley M says:

    Loved this, Darren/Laura—very insightful. I’ve just designed a new blog and seemed to get most of this right, although I think I need to play around with colour contrast a little to perfect it.

    I love the mantra of keep it simple. So important from a UX perspective as well. As a design non-professional, I have to say the options for themes (free and nominal fee) are overwhelming—it can be really difficult to decide on the “perfect” or as close as you can get to perfect, one.

    Kim

  15. Super stuff Laura!

    Be simple. Reduce clutter. Include enough information to cover all bases in simple fashion and no more to resonate with your target audience.

    A simple, easy and clean way to rehaul your design.

    Thanks for sharing Laura!

  16. I am satisfied with my blog design. But have been using it for a long time now.

    I have recently purchased Genesis Frameware and hope to install a great child theme to make my blog look unique.

    But I guess once a blog has a great navigation bar, clutter free and people can find what they are looking for then I guess it is alright.

  17. Prabhakar says:

    All your advice is so relevant.
    All this is universal and long-term. Not limited to 2014.

  18. Sandeep says:

    ya my website design is updated for 2014 thanks for the great article :)

  19. Samuel says:

    One of the many articles I like to see posted and ones I like to read over.

    Design is a very important concept to online brands (regular brands too!) and your products/services.

    In today’s online world, clutter is the least accepted design trend.

    Blogs with so many items in the sidebar is despised by me. It just causes too much confusion.

    For Internet Dreams, just as of recently I installed my own custom design that I pretty much designed myself. It took alot of work but it’s worth it for my reputation and business.

    Simplicity is what I kept in mind and went forward with that concept that seems to become the design trend for the future.

    Thanks for the post on design Laura!

    - Sam

  20. Rafiul Islam says:

    Thanks for this informative article. I already changed some things on my blog after reading this article. I like this point very much ” Can people find what they are looking for?”. Thank you again dear guest writer :) go ahead

  21. Arjun says:

    is it so? maybe the New Google Hummingbird will delete our blog? if our blog does not have a better template? and what about seo?

  22. David says:

    Arjun – you’re only going to run into trouble if you take short cuts and ignore the terms of service from Google.

  23. Hemant says:

    Hi Laura,

    This is a helpful article for me, I really appreciate you efforts :)

  24. Arjun says:

    Thankyou David… Maybe I will try to follow the rules of google, so that my blog is safe! N thankyou Laura…! For such a good article!

  25. Deepak says:

    Good Information. is it really Nice.