These days, every person with an internet connection seems to be into blogging. According to Statista.com, Tumblr is home to 350 million blogs, while the undisputed CMS ruler, the WordPress, generates over 91 million posts each month. The numbers do not lie and they give rise both to optimism and caution among the ranks of bloggers.
Namely, there is a big difference between casually blogging and doing it successfully. Only a small fraction of bloggers make a living out of it. One of the ways they manage to gain an edge is with the help of compelling design. Indeed, in a saturated blogosphere, visually standing out is a great tactic to get ahead of the game.
Window of opportunity
Writing quality and engaging posts goes a long way, but is it really enough to hit it big? Well, recent studies on reader preferences are quite telling. Among factors that add the most credibility to a blog, good web design (17%) is second only to quality content (30%). So, to nobody’s surprise, content remains the king and that is not going to change any time soon. Yet, this is not to say design should take a backseat. To demonstrate its pull, let us get into behavioral psychology for a moment.
The human brain is wired to processes visual cues way faster than text. That has always been the case, but today, people also have incredibly short attention spans. The appearance of the website is paramount because it can communicate complex concepts and ideas in an instant and imprint them into people’s minds. From a blogger’s perspective, this means one thing: there is not much time to make a good first impression and project a positive brand image.
Pulling them in
Alas, this is just the first step on a digital journey. We all know that just making a temporary positive impression does not cut it. Repeat traffic is what makes or breaks blog’s success and to really entice people to keep coming back for more, one has to provide a swell blog experience. The problem is that the importance of design declines as return readers start paying less and less attention to it. And at one point, things may get stale and prompt visitors to look further for something new and exciting.
That is when you need to influence their behavior using cool visuals. The good news is that nowadays, bloggers can quickly spruce up their blog pages and drive more traffic their way. There are thousands of different themes for major platforms like WordPress. However, notice that they are not all created equal. There are many free themes that offer little more than a generic and dull look. Contrariwise, if we take a look at top-performing blogs, we see that they tend to use custom theme designs.
So, now we know that unique design poses a powerful blogging weapon. The million dollar question, though, is how to achieve it. Well, let me tell you right away that your personal preferences and taste do not account for much. On the other hand, trend awareness and open mindset certainly do.
On top of the game
Despite what some assume, blog design must not lag behind general web design. This nothing but a poor excuse for lack of effort. Therefore, if you mean business, educate yourself. Check out some of the most stunning website designs of 2018. Get inspired, but refrain from merely copying what others are doing. Your design choices should be governed by your brand mission, goals, and values. For example, in case your objective is to tap into social media audiences, then you need to figure out how to integrate social buttons and comment section.
Should you struggle to come up with pro-level results, you might want to outsource design tasks. This investment is likely to pay dividends down the road.
Furthermore, stay up to date with game-changing trends such as mobile-first indexing. Mobile traffic has dethroned desktop-driven searches (it now accounts for 52.5% of total global traffic), and that has a profound impact on design. Main design elements now have to adjust seamlessly to smaller screen sizes. Nobody wants to see unreadable blocks of text scrambled with non-optimized images and layout. Thus, take advantage of responsive design, a technique that boosts both the visual appeal and functionality of the blog.
A match made in heaven
Our final point has everything to do with the complex relationship between content and design. Understanding it is paramount.
There is a lot of ground to cover here, but in a nutshell, a design should complement the content instead of overshadowing it. For instance, bloggers must not let the visuals impede the readability of articles. Images that reinforce core message are always better than the ones that flamboyantly distract. Likewise, empty space, infographics, and other elements can help bloggers break bodies of text and turn them into easy-to-digest chunks.
The color palette is the next key design element that affects the readability of text, sets the mood, and guides the reader’s attention. Recent years have taught us that a nice way to improve user experience is to have the background and text colors match each other. A subtle difference usually does the trick, although sharp contrast (black text on a pale backdrop) is wildly popular. It is also used to highlight and separate important design staples from other, less relevant elements.
At last, fonts are another interesting example that sheds the light on the psychology behind great design. It is by no means accidental that powerhouses in the league of LinkedIn and Google embrace Sans Serif typeface. It is a clean solution that oozes professionalism and authority: it evokes a certain emotion. This, however, does not mean that it is a one-size-fits-all solution. Beauty, lifestyle, and photography blogs often stick to the script font family, while Display fonts embellish logos across industry sectors.
The main takeaway is clear: Keep up the pace with trends, but do what makes sense for your brand, specific niche, and target audience. Put in hard work and loads of creative energy without cutting corners. That is the best shot you have to pierce through the immense noise out there.
Success by design
Blog’s design may not be the single most important piece of the success puzzle, but it sure is up there. You can think of content as the main dish and design an icing on the cake. What is as clear as a day is that they need to work hand in hand. So, to avoid getting snowed under an avalanche of better-looking blogs, master the art of visual storytelling. Follow the best web design practices and explore various creative ideas. Make sure to align your brand-driven design with your content strategy.
Following these tried-and-true steps, you should be able to build a stable and loyal readership. It is time to put together a killer, bespoke blog design.