6 Ways to Make Your Blog More Awesome
Most people start blogging because they love to write and the design of their blog comes second, after all we want our posts to be read and we hope they can make an impact. But your readers will naturally be hooked within the first few seconds of viewing your site, and the initial focus will be how your blog looks (think magazines, or even people); design is just as important as content.
I love designing and building websites, but I wanted to create something that was constant, engaging, and wasn't just built and then left to it's own devices. I love how my blog feels refreshed with every article I post, and how that then inspires me to improve my site to keep readers and to hopefully engage with them and keep them visiting. It's hard work to keep your readers consistently coming back, but it's worth it when you hear that they've enjoyed something that you've written.
I'd previously started blogs, on design or on books, but they'd never stuck; I never felt passionate enough about what I was writing. Then I got pregnant, popped out Archie and finally I had something amazing to talk about! Motherhood is just about the most fantastic thing to have ever happened to me, what can inspire and empower someone more than the little one's that they're so proud of? So, I started Hello Archie, initially to log A's monthly updates, and soon it became a bit bigger than that and here I am, almost a year down the line and still enjoying myself!
Of course, it's been beneficial to have some web design experience under my belt; I've built and crafted HA with my own fair hands and I'm very proud of it. I've been approached by others wanting to start their own blog and I wanted to share a few tips for beginners (and maybe even established bloggers) on simple things that can make a huge difference and really help not only your user's experience, but your own - if you love and care for your blog, others will see and appreciate that.
I love colour, it's my favourite part of coming up with a new layout and something you can even use to brand yourself with as a blogger, think Cadbury's purple or McDonalds red & yellow. If you're having trouble coming up with a colour scheme for your blog try, Coolors or Adobe Color CC. Keep it simple and memorable and use contrasting colours to accent certain items, such as links in your copy; the more they stand out, the more likely they are to be clicked, increasing your SEO.
I've only recently realised the true value of photography and the impact it can have on your blog; People love to see something visuals along with words - I try to include at least 2 images in every article to keep readers stimulated - I know I personally get bored when reading long articles with no imagery. I originally used my iPhone to take pictures, which would take the odd great shot, but the quality was mostly poor and I wanted to be able to use large, crisp images in my articles. I invested in a Canon EOS M which isn't as expensive as a DSLR but is still much better than your average point + shoot and I've never looked back! It works perfectly for my needs, I really love it.
You also need to make sure your images are optimised (this is usually done automatically if your blog is hosted by Wordpress or similar, if not, I use ImageOptim) before uploading them and make sure they're resized. My large images are usually 1200px x 800px because I don't want them to pixelate on retina screens (to look great on retina, they need to be double the size that you're using them at, so the width of my images is 600px, at 1200px they will still look sharp on retina screens).
Legibility is probably the most important thing about a blog - the last thing you want is for your readers to abandon ship because they're struggling to read your posts, and though it may not seem like it, simple things such as line-height, padding and colour will affect that. Make sure you're using a font size (16px is standard) and typeface that's simple and legible (typefaces such as Georgia are always a winner, I'm using Droid Serif). Black on white or white on black are the easiest schemes for people to read. Show friends and family your blog and ask them about legibility!
The navigation of your site is so important to user experience, a confusing menu will have your visitors clicking off instead of in - you need to make it as ridiculously easy as possible for readers to get to your content. Best practices are menu's that don't have more than 6/7 items, an easily accessible search bar and an 'Archives' page. I'd also recommend fitting as many article snippets on your home page as possible, this way your visitors can easily see your most recent articles and pick & choose the one's they like the look of. Also, make sure your main navigation is easily accessible at all times (I use a fixed header so that the user can always choose where to go without having to scroll anywhere to find it).
More and more people are abandoning their laptops and home computers and are using mobiles to read their favourite blogs - 40% of Hello Archie's visitors are using a mobile device. Recently, Google has said that mobile-friendly sites will be ranked higher so this one should be your priority if you want your blog to remain SEO-friendly. One step further is to make sure your blog looks great on all screen sizes and devices, making it truly responsive. If you're using a desktop computer or laptop, resize your browser and you'll see that Hello Archie will adapt to the size of your broswer, neat huh?
You definitely need to be using GA if you want to know exactly what's happening with your blog and how your site is affecting your users. You can use it to discover your most popular posts, see how many people are reading them, find out if they leave immediately or stick around and click through a few pages (that's your bounce rate - anything around 65% and below is average). You can see the location of your users, how many visitors are using mobile or desktop? The results are endless and this can really help you to improve your site.
I hope some of these tips can help you on your blogging journey and feel free to ask me any questions (not that I'm an expert, but web design and HTML/CSS are my strengths, over writing!) or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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