Hi everyone, it’s time for part two of my Blogging Beautifully series, if you missed part one you can read it here. In the first post I asked you to think about your design in terms of creating a great reader experience, but now I’d like to start giving you some tips to start making your blog a place that readers can happily browse and hopefully return to over and over again!
There are certain elements that a good blog design should always include, the kind of features that make it easy for your readers to explore your content and encourage them to come back again. In this list you’ll find that I write about navigation a lot. That’s because it’s vital for readers to effortlessly find their way around your content, after all you’ve spent so much time writing great blog posts now you want people to be able to read them all!
So what kind of features should a good blog design include?
1 – A header or icon that links back to your homepage. I’ve come across quite a few blogs that make it difficult for you to find your way back to the beginning. I know this may seem unimportant, but actually it can make quite a difference to navigation and is frustrating to experience when you’re deep in exploring a new blog. Make sure that your header links back, or that at the very least you have a link in your sidebar or menu underneath your header, so that readers can make their way back to the start without hassle.
2 – A link to your archives. Quite simply this makes it easy for readers to find their way through your older content, especially if you have a lot of earlier posts. If someone is really enjoying your content then this will help them to explore your older work and encourage them to stay and read a while on your blog.
3 – An About Page. When I find a new blog that I’ve enjoyed browsing through, I always love to read a bit more about the author. I love to know where they are in the world, what their background is, do they have any other online projects, that kind of thing! It can be a great space to explain who you are and what the purpose of your blog is, giving readers a little insight into you and your life. My About Page is one of the most viewed on my whole blog, which really says to me it’s vital to have a way for readers to learn a more about a blog author.
4 – A way to contact you. Either create a Contact Page or leave details in your main sidebar. This way readers can be sure to have a way to get in touch when they have a question or simply want to tell you they love your blog :) Don’t make it hard for people to contact you by leaving this information buried in a paragraph or random blog post.
5 – Ways to subscribe to your blog. So there are lots of options here, an RSS button, a subscribe by email/newsletter link, a link to your Bloglovin page, or something like a Google Friend Connect widget in the sidebar. If you want readers to come back again then make sure it’s simple for them to do so. It’s worth reading up on RSS feeds to understand a little more about how they work.
6 – Links to the most important posts on your blog. What I mean is, if you’re running a certain series or have particular categories/tags that you think people would be interested in reading, then add some links or buttons to them in your sidebar. Again it’s a navigation thing and allows readers to explore your content smoothly. In my sidebar I have a link to all posts that contain my photography as that’s the most important category I want readers to pay attention to.
7 – A short introduction in the sidebar. This will give readers a brief overview of what your blog is all about. Here you can highlight the things you feel are most important about your blog and give readers quick introduction to you. It will help stamp your personality on your blog. If you feel brave enough add a photo of yourself!
9 – Social media buttons are really helpful if a reader loves your blog and wants to find you elsewhere. I know not everyone uses social media, but if you can be found anywhere else on the web and you’d like your readers to find you there, then don’t make it difficult for them to find you. Place icons or links prominently in your sidebar. If can be helpful to make sure that these links open in a new window so that readers can return to your blog once they’ve followed you on Twitter!
10 – A search bar. Again this is all about navigation. I use search bars on blogs quite frequently, if I want to find a certain tutorial, post or recipe for example. They’re a really handy thing to use rather than having to trawl through weeks or months of posts to find the information I’m looking for.
So that’s it for today. At this point I hope you’re thinking about how to make it fun and effortless for readers to browse through your blog. If there are any elements you feel are important in a great blog design then be sure to mention them in the comments section below.
In future posts I’ll write about the more aesthetic elements like your blog header, sidebar and images. If there’s anything in particular you’d like me to cover or if you have any questions then be sure to get in contact!