Have you ever heard the phrase “Content is king”?? I have. Probably 1,000 times. And while it’s true that in order to have a successful blog, your content needs to be beefy and extremely helpful, blog design and layout matters. A lot!
Whether you’re trying to set your blog up for the first time or trying to revamp the blog you’ve had for a while because you know it’s missing out on some of its potential, this post is for you. Read through these common mistakes that bloggers make with their blog layout and design and see if you can encourage readers to stick around, click around, and fall madly in love with your professional-looking website!
1 A cluttered sidebar
I know it would feel like you want to make sure a reader is able to find everything they might look for in an accessible place like your sidebar, but, trust me, putting links to anything and everything in your sidebar will do more damage than good. Sidebars with ads and stickers and tag clouds might seem helpful and useful, but to be honest, they’re probably not something your reader particularly cares about. If an ad network asks you to have a sticker on your web page, try putting it in a discreet location, like the footer or the very bottom of your sidebar. Better yet, see if they offer an “invisible” sticker (where you insert the code just the same, but no image appears).
I try to have just a few essentials in my sidebar; things like these:
- A short bio with a happy picture
- An email opt-in
- A few recent or popular posts
- And social media links
Between these, I might space out some ads or affiliate links, but I try my best to have the sidebar make sense and only offer the essentials.
2 Too many colors
If my husband read this point, he would laugh at me. I used to be quite a mess when it came to colors. My issue? I loved them all… so much. And I thought every color look great with every color. If you’re a color enthusiast like me, don’t fret! You can totally use your favorite colors in your website. Be fairly warned, in my experience blogging and observing other’s blogs, the ones who give a certain “they know what they’re doing” feel, are the ones who don’t go cray cray on the colors. By that, I mean, they pick a pallet, or even a single color, and they stick to it. I recommend that bloggers use no more 2 main colors in their blog’s color scheme. It might take you some time to choose colors that you will be happy for a while, but sticking with a color pallet will allow you to brand your blog and become way more recognizable and professional-looking to readers when they see your posts pop up on social media.
3 A layout that is hard to follow and not user-friendly
How many times have you been to a blog or website and have been confused or frustrated because what you thought that would be a quick find, turned out to be a maze of clicking on links and sidebars to try to get to where you wanted to go? This is probably one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to a web page: being overwhelmed with content and links and not having a clear, organized layout that shows me what I want to see right now. When that happens, it doesn’t take any more than a few seconds for me to decide to go back to Google and try the next link.
When choosing a WordPress theme, it is so important to have a clean layout!! It will put the reader’s mind at ease as they browse your site and will make them more likely to click through because they won’t be so overwhelmed or confused by 1,000,000 different options. Things like tag clouds and buttons are not as beneficial to a reader as you might think and usually do more to distract from your site rather than encourage a reader to click around. If you want a reader to click through your website, keep it clean and organized and leave out the nonessentials.
4 Indistinct categories
One of the biggest mistakes a new blogger can make is forgetting to hone-in their writing passion to one particular niche. In order for a blog to truly become successful, they need to be seen as a resource or service to others. If you blog about everything, readers are not going to view you as an expert in anything.
One of the ways you can avoid confusing your readers is simply by deciding who you’re going to help, and then how. Are you starting a fitness blog? Who is your fitness blog for? Men, women, older, younger? You don’t need to pick a gender to focus on as your audience, but if you decide to be gender neutral, stick with that decision and make that clear throughout your site.
Determining your niche and how you’re going to help them will help you to narrow down your specific categories. For example, New Kid on The Blog is for new bloggers who want to build a blog into a money-making business. Therefore, a few of my categories are these: Social Media, Content Creation, Tutorials, and Monetization. Basically, the main area that any blogger would want to look into in order to reach the goal of turning their blog into a business.
To sum up, in order to create relevant categories for your blog, decide who you are serving and how you are serving them. Then, break up your services into 2-4 categories. There you go!
5 No search bar
Seemingly tiny, yes, but a search bar can be the “make it” or “break it” between someone finding what they were looking for on your blog or giving up and searching elsewhere. Put this in a place where it would make sense for a user to find it. For example, my search bar is in the very top corner of my page on both of my websites. It’s discreet, but it’s exactly where a reader would look for it if they wanted to. another idea is to place a search bar in the footer of your site.
Besides having a search bar, it’s a great idea to have suggested posts on your 404 page. This is the page that pops up when there are no search results for what your reader was looking for. It gives the reader a few suggestions of popular posts to read that might help them despite not being able to find what they were looking for. It gives the reader one more chance to stay on your side and fall in love with your content rather than clicking away and finding what they need from another site.
6 Too many ads/distasteful ads
Ads are an essential part of many blogs. They help to support the blogger and their effort to monetize their site and use their blog as a business. If you’re looking to implement ads on your website, I just wrote a post on how to setup Google AdSense as your very first ad network. Ads are going to be are going to be used by bloggers for a long time to come but there is a right way and wrong way to use them.
Yes, having more ads on your side could mean more ad income; but often bloggers do not think about the implications of having too many ads or having distasteful ads on their website. A reader can be easily distracted or frustrated by ads if they appear to clutter the website or make the website difficult to use. From my experience, if an ad makes a website hard to use, I won’t think twice about clicking away to find a website that seems less spammy. If you want your website to make a great first impression, one that says you’re professional and here to serve, then don’t place too many ads on your website.
Also, be wary of the type of ads that are showing up on your website. When I first started my other website, Living the Sweet Wife, a site that encourages marriages and families, I was having ads for divorce lawyers and fake websites that help you find out if your husband is cheating pop up on my sidebar… so not really helpful to my cause in saving marriages. You probably won’t be able to control every ad that readers see, but many ad networks allow you to block certain types of ads from showing up on your website. If you have ads on your website, be sure to block the ones that might distract your reader from your purpose, and, again, only use those ads in moderation.
7 A trendy or over-popular logo
As much as you may be tempted to use this year’s Pantone color of the year and have that cute, hipster logo that everyone is pinning on Pinterest, those logos will only be cute and popular for another year or so. Before creating your logo, take some time to think about who’s eye you’re trying to catch. If you’d like your website to be gender neutral, then your logo will have to be also. You don’t want to subconsciously tell men that your website is geared towards women, and vice versa.
Also, as I said earlier, be wary of using too many colors. A good logo will have one or two main colors. That’s it. The same thing goes for fonts- one or two. Any more than that and your logo will seem confusing and, frankly, unprofessional. If you’re having a hard time finding a logo, try browsing other companies logos and take note of why you like some, and why you don’t like others. What is it about certain logos that catches your eye?
A good logo is one that is more or less timeless. Meaning, it won’t go out of style 6 months after it’s created. A way to ensure your logo lasts a long time, is to make sure that it is clean, simple, and professional-looking. It will also need to be easily recognizable whether it’s a small watermark on a photo, or the blown-up header of your blog. Check back to NKOTB for more logo and branding advice. I’ve got lots to say.
8 A bio that tells the reader what you’re like, not what you do
Your sidebar bio isn’t the place to tell a reader all about you, specifically. It’s where you tell them what you can do for them. If a reader comes to your site looking for help for a specific problem, but they read in your sidebar that you’re an ENTJ who loves coffee, they’ll have no idea if you can actually solve their problem or not. A sidebar bio should have 2 or 3 sentences telling what you’re passionate about (as relates to your blog) and how you can help the readers who come to your blog. An About page is a better place where you can elaborate on your story, who you are, and why exactly you love doing what you do.
Got any tips that I missed? What drives you nuts about site design that you wish other bloggers knew? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and pin on Pinterest in order to be put in the drawing for my new best friend!
Love you guys!