Those of us that read and visit tons of blogs every day have grown to expect certain designs and styles. In many cases blog design tends to be less attractive and less innovative than website design in general. Part of this obviously is because of the emphasis on content rather than appearance.
There are certainly plenty of beautifully designed blogs, but these are the exception to the rule.
Does Blog Design Matter?
Just how much of an impact does a blog’s design have on its ultimate level of success?
First of all, it’s important to remember that most blogs change themes more frequently than traditional websites experience re-designs. So a poorly-designed blog can quickly improve its look.
Part of the reason blogs tend to change themes fairly frequently is because of the availability of thousands of different themes (especially for WordPress), and many of them are free. I think another contributing factor is that blogs have more to gain from a fresh look than traditional websites do. When compared to most other types of sites, blogs experience much more repeat traffic. Many readers come back day after day, and as a result, a blog can grow stale much quicker.
Because of the frequent theme changes, a blog that has a great design didn’t necessarily become successful because of the design. Many bloggers have built their blog using free themes of lower quality and then upgraded the look after the blog had already become successful.
What Contributes to a Blog’s Success?
A high-quality design will no doubt help a blog, but there are obviously other factors that play a significant role in a blog’s success. While design can help or hurt a blog, it certainly has far less impact on the long-term success of the blog than the quality of content. Blog readers like to see a nice design, but the content is what really keeps them coming back.
Marketing is another important factor for blog success. Some bloggers spend a lot of time, effort, and money on promotional efforts, and some others create the content and wait for others to market it for them. Regardless of what marketing strategy a blogger chooses, gaining exposure and receiving, links, referrals, and buzz are important.
When looking at long-term blogging success, consistency is also crucial. Most bloggers don’t make it very far and those that do have been willing to work through the ups and downs, the disappointments and setbacks that are involved with blogging.
So, if Design isn’t that Important, What Role Does it Have?
If you look at the top blogs in any niche you’ll primarily see blogs with custom theme designs. The question then becomes “Is the blog successful because of the design, or is the custom theme a result of being successful?”
With so many blogs out there and so many themes, a good blog design will help the blog to stand out and be easily recognizable to visitors. This, in my opinion, is the most important benefit of a custom theme.
As readers keep coming to your blog several times a week, they’re increasingly less likely to pay attention to your design. They’ll know what to expect after a few visits, and the content will have to keep them coming back. On the other hand, the blog’s design can have a huge impact on the first impression of new visitors.
Part of branding a blog includes the image that its appearance creates in the minds of readers. These factors should not be ignored, because they mean that the blog’s design and appearance can have an impact on its level of success.
The blog design can also seriously help or hurt the level of success of the blog by how it emphasizes or de-emphasizes the content. Readability is key. In order for visitors to appreciate the content, the design should emphasize it and not distract visitors away from it.
Bonus: 8 Ways Design Influences Social Media Users:
1. First Impression
The first impression of any visitor, regardless of how they arrive at your site, will be heavily influenced by the appearance of the site. Generally, opinions are formed in a matter of seconds, not minutes, so creating a positive impression is critical. While most of your website’s visitors will have a short attention span, social media users are notoriously quick to leave a site that doesn’t impress them right away.
Obviously, when it comes to social media, first impressions can help you or hurt you. Try to evaluate your site from the perspective of a first-time visitor that is arriving from social media. Would the page increase the chances of getting your vote, or would it make you want to leave and visit another site? Pictures and images can often help with creating first impressions.
2. Page Load Time
Because most social media users are impatient, and because they have hundreds of other pages waiting for them to visit, page load time becomes even more of a factor than it is in general. If you plan to market heavily with social media, it’s a good idea to design your site to load as quickly as possible. This doesn’t mean that no slow-loading pages will have success with social media, but it can help you out if visitors are able to get to your content very quickly.
3. Readability of Content
If social media users are voting for content that they like, they need to be able to easily read the content in the first place. Most visitors that come from social media will be scanning the page rather than reading word-for-word, so make it easy on them by using short paragraphs, plenty of whitespace, bulleted lists, bold text, etc. Take the time to consider the layout of the page and how it will affect readability.
Related reading: Keys to Effective Writing for the Web
4. Emphasis of Content
If you hope to impress social media voters with your content, make sure it is front and center and impossible to miss. Are there other distractions in the design that will keep emphasis away from the content? Sometimes you will see content that is filled with advertisements not doing very well with social media when it could be doing much better with different ad placement.
5. Implementation of Buttons/Widgets into the Design
Most social media sites provide buttons, widgets, or links that you can use on your site to encourage visitors to vote. These can be very helpful, especially if they are effectively incorporated into the design. When designing with these in mind, you’ll want them to be located where they will be noticed, but not in the way.
Related: Free Social Media Icons
If you are marketing your site through social media on an ongoing basis, as more and more social media users are exposed to your site, your branding will be impacted. How does the design of your site allow you to brand yourself in a way that will make an impact on social media users?
Typically, social media traffic will average a low number of page views. You can improve this by using effective navigation that leads visitors to other content that they are likely to be interested in. From my experience, the most effective way to encourage social media visitors to look at other pages is to include internal links within the body of the content. With this strategy, you may be able to drastically increase the amount of traffic that older posts receive.
Effect design should also include navigation bars or menus that lead visitors to other relevant content. In my opinion, this can help to increase page views, but not as much as links within the content itself.
If you are attempting to gain subscribers through social media marketing, be sure to design your pages so that your subscription options are clear and easy to see. Typically, you will want to keep them high on the page so they are noticed right away, and you may want to use standard icons that are easily recognized by potential subscribers.
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