By Reena Cruz:
Everyone has a reason for starting a blog: passion, hobby, business, information sharing, you name it. Whatever compels you to the blogging dashboard, you’ll find yourself wondering how your blog layout and design can best attract your target niche.
Different themes and layouts will work well with certain goals, for example, and some won’t. Thus, you need to decide on the best blog design that will work with and emphasize your main goal. It may sound easy, but any veteran blogger can tell you that it isn’t.
Visually and technically planning out your blog’s design requires a lot of testing and refining. So to help ease the process for budding bloggers, we offer some basic advice to help you start achieving your blogging goals effectively.
Blogs Focusing On Sales & Ads
For most, blogging will be considered a business first and foremost. Or your blog could be a business, itself, selling services and information. As such, affiliate links, sponsorship ads, Adwords and advertising are all things you’ll be aiming to fit onto your pages. Though many people are turned off by these, if you’re discreet and highly selective, you can work these into your layout.
The location of ads is crucial to a user’s reading experience. It’s everything. Take a look at the home page of TechCrunch.com for instance. Their blog contains ads and sponsored links, but only features them in five visible places and in two spots on the side bar. No more.
In the posts themselves, ads are located in secondary places (the header above the title and below the article before the comments section). These locations don’t interrupt your reading and actually catch your eye in logical places as it naturally moves across the page. So carefully consider where you should put your ads or sponsors and how many you should have in direct visible competition with your written content.
Blogs On Design, Graphics & Images
The design and image oriented blogger should consider a clean, minimalistic approach to put more emphasis on the visual content and eye-catching artwork. After all, if you’re showcasing graphic design work and high-res images, you don’t want to bury it in text or have it compete with other content elements.
For this, try picking themes that are highly customizable and allow for easy image viewing, like ones that offer the ability to add image sliders or ones where you can specify the size of posts on your home page. Keep content on the sidebars to a minimum, as well. And don’t forget the social media sharing buttons to popular image sharing networks like Flickr or Pinterest. Check out sites like Abduzeedo andColossal, popular design blogs that put these tips into practice.
Social Media Oriented Blogs
Social media blogs are all about sharing, networking, interacting with multi-media, and spotting the latest viral post. You can get the same interaction on your blog, but with a few careful decisions.
We know that you want all the social media extras, but select ones that effectively serve a purpose for your readers. For instance, you may want to include social sharing widgets that indicate the virality of the post, allowing users to easily fish out popular posts. Or, to spark some social interaction, choose commenting systems that include ranking, pingback, and replying features.
Social media and pop culture blogs like Mashable.com or The Verge are great examples. Notice that their sharing options are carefully chosen to include one-click sharing to certain social networks—not every single one out there. In addition, their content is laid out Pinterest-style, encouraging users to visually pick out what they want to read. How your content attracts the user’s eye and lets them interact with it will play a big role in your blog’s design.
Professional Company Blogs
These kinds of blogs are great as they can act as a built-in platform for customer interaction, sharing helpful information, and promoting services. As such, you want to keep your blog professional looking.
Eliminate ad elements like Google ads or sponsored links, that is, unless your company is in partnership with some of them. Keep social media buttons available for easy sharing. To convey a sense of professionalism, your blog’s theme should work with the same layout and colour palette as your company’s website. Also, consider adding subscription buttons to update your customers automatically.
In short, be sure that your blog is in line with your company’s overall message and goal. Companies like Intuit and Hubspot have blogs that are good examples of this. They’re businesses with blogs that tie in professionalism, social sharing, and related content (both in posts and sidebars). In short, each blog element works to tie in the company’s brand and services.
Blogs Geared Towards News Sharing
It’s common for bloggers to want to share the latest news in their niche. For this, you may want to consider adding a feature that keeps buzz worthy news stories highlighted. Related ads to quality services will also be a good element to add if your readers welcome the resources. Interaction with posts via comments is also a necessity. And make good use of your web real estate by keeping it organized.
Big tech news blogs like Macrumors.com and GigaOM take different approaches. In both cases, each has some of the same elements. They highlight recent articles and have trending content in the sidebar. For comments, Macrumors uses a forum community for lengthy discussions; GigaOM gives users the ability to share their comments on social networks. Lastly, because news can cover so many topics, each blog breaks the content down into different categories. So decide how you want to handle the never-ending onslaught of daily news, first. Then you can decide on the easiest way your community can consume it and form discussions around it.
It’s ultimately up to you to decide which layout and design works out best. No matter which direction you choose for your blog, ensure that its theme is practical for presenting content, interacting with it, and achieving your main goal.
As bloggers and blog readers, what advice do you have?