In this series on newbie blogging mistakes, I’ll be taking a look at some of the most deadly blogging sins that first-time bloggers make. This first post focuses on a common oversight: thinking that looks don’t matter.
The reality is that when a reader first clicks on a link to a blog or a specific blog post, and the first thing that they see is a crime scene of design, they’re not going to stick around for much longer (unless they enjoy visual torture). Here are some things to look out for.
Fonts: Unless you have an amazingly legible serif font in mind, sans serif fonts win all the time for blogs. Size is also an issue here; rarely do I see blogs posts with fonts that are too big, but there are plenty of cases of tiny font sizes that can only be read by ants.
Background: No dark background, please, unless you have a light overlay on top it. If you have a dark background, you’ll probably have to go with a white font color, and that’s just murder on the eyes.
The text: Don’t forget about the effective use of white space. First, you need appropriately sized margins; hint: don’t let the text take up the entire width of the screen! Then headers—use H2 or H3 headers (also good for SEO) to break up the text. Lastly, write short paragraphs, because no reader wants to take on a big block of text.
Please, please, whenever referring to other links, do not paste the entire URL in the text. That’s an embarrassing sign of a newbie blogger, so link the URL to relevant anchor text, such as keywords.
Many seasoned bloggers are also dead set against linking to text that says, “click here.” I don’t think this is a terrible thing to do if you integrate the phrase into a proper sentence. The only issue is that the reader might be uncertain of where they’re being directed to, so perhaps it’s better to say something like, “New to blogging? Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Business Blogging.”
Readers, especially the online variety, are mostly visual creatures. Even someone who loves reading (like me) will tend to skim-read text and get drawn to the visual elements of a post.
Each blog post needs one or more images; these can include relevant stock photos, charts, infographics, funny cartoons, etc. Images are also needed for SEO purposes as well as for sharing on social media. Additionally, remember to give credit where credit is due. Don’t breach any copyright and if you’re going to use someone else’s image, credit them in the manner they request.
The most important thing about a blog is of course the writing, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the look of it. Every blog needs a decent design. I prefer something sleek and minimalist (nothing to distract from the post), but a bright and colorful design often works well too. Try to be as unique as possible with yours.
Looking for some blog design inspiration? Check out some beautiful sites below. Keep in mind, though, that if you have a lot of images and animations, these could affect the loading times. Don’t compromise your site’s speed just to have a pretty design.
That’s it for this first post in the series. Were there any visual/design mistakes that I missed? Let me know in the comments…