According to a study conducted by Hubspot, most marketers agree that the design of a website is the most important criterion when it comes to discerning how credible that particular company is.
But to be honest, I’m not one of those blog design gurus, and I’m guessing you aren’t either!
I am, however, very good at observing and learning and then applying what is working for other marketers in my own unique way, and that’s all you need if you want to be successful in internet marketing. The best thing about this industry is that there is never a need to reinvent the wheel.
That’s exactly what this article is going to be all about: How to use what others have shown us works to create a great looking and highly optimized blog.
So, if you want your blog to stand apart from the crowd and get you more pleasing results in the struggle for traffic, then there are some common elements that you should incorporate into your blog design.
These include elements of functional design and visual design, both of which are essential to the final layout of your blog as well as how your visitors experience it. Use this post as your shortcut so you don’t have to spend dozens of hours on research.
So, without further ado, here are the most important elements for effective website design:
1. Start with the homepage
As you know, people these days are extremely busy and their attention spans online are very short.
The visitors who land on your blog are flooded with massive amounts of content each and every day – blogs, emails, ebooks, sales pages, and tweets – and this means that first impressions matter now more than ever.
You’ve only got about 3 seconds to entice the visitors, to draw them in, make them understand what you do, and get them to take an action.
Most people land on your home page first, which is why your home page design is one of the most important aspects of your site and is integral to your blog’s success.
Here are some of the things to include on your home page:
- A graphic header image or a professionally designed banner – This will increase your blogs perceived credibility exponentially.
- A catchy, informative tagline – This tells your visitors what you do. Make it short, clear, and punchy so that they immediately understand what your site or business are designed to achieve.
- A call to action – You have a great opportunity to get your new visitors to take action and capture their email address on your home page, so use it.
- Guide visitors on where they should start – This is simple but very effective. When new visitors land on your site, it’s your job to show them exactly where they need to go next. You could create a page for ‘Getting Started’ so that they know exactly which content they can start with as well as where to find it. Take them on an interesting and exciting journey.
- Provide social proof – Have you worked with significant brands or contributed to some of the well-known publications in your industry? Or maybe you have some awesome testimonials about your product or service? If so, use them on your home page. This helps you build up your credibility with a vision.
- Show them your unique personality – Let your visitors see who you are. For example, you could include a nice smiling photo of yourself if you’re an individual blogger. If you are a business, then you could create a home page that depicts your particular value set and shows your visitors everything that you are about.
2. Come up with your brand style guide
Your business or blog is a direct extension of your particular brand and this means that if you don’t already have one, you have to create a style guide.
Make sure that it’s one that fits your personality and your brand.
The goal here is to create an experience for your customers which is consistent as they research and discover what you’re all about.
Being able to create an effective style guide for your brand helps to build trust between you and your visitors. It enhances your perceived credibility and it also provides you with a lot of web design inspiration.
Include the following in your style guide:
- A brief history of your brand
- Your primary font choice and a back up one if that one isn’t available
- Your website colors and color schemes
- Variations of your logo and how they can be used
- Image types, photography style
- Your writing style, define the tone of voice that is to be used
- Use examples for each of the points to highlights what is expected
3. Reduce clutter and use a lot of white space on your site
‘White space’ is essential when it comes to effective web design because it helps your readers’ eyes to make sense of what they are reading. It also draws them to the important points which are highlighted by the other colors.
Optimizing the amount of white space on your site helps your readers to consume your information much easier.
They can scan the page for valuable imagery or text. By using more white space, you’re essentially de-cluttering your web pages and making the user experience much more enjoyable.
The white space on your site provides a great buffer between your important stuff and the information that is not so vital. It guides your readers to exactly whatever it is they should be doing or focusing on.
Google is a famous example of how an online company can maximize its use of white space because they want you to focus on the center of the screen and they achieve that. Help your readers to navigate your content by getting rid of clutter and making use of sufficient which space.
4. Make your blog design mobile responsive
People these days are spending more and more time on their mobile devices on average.
Mobile use has long since surpassed desktop internet use, and this trend is only moving faster. This means that a lot of your readers are using mobile phones to access your blog, so make sure that your blog design is mobile responsive.
If you’re still not convinced about the importance of mobile to your blog design, then consider the announcement that Google made stating that mobile responsive sites will now rank higher in the search engine results.
And as the trend for mobile internet use grows, this ranking factor is only going to become more and more important.
5. Make your site easy to navigate
Navigation isn’t about how nicely you set up the top menu on your site. It’s a lot more than that. Your site navigation helps your visitors to find their way around your site easily, but in a manner that is very targeted and specific.
When you make your site navigation easy and effective, it’s a win-win for both you and your visitors.
They get to save time by being able to follow a specific path as opposed to fumbling around and trying to guess where they should be going next, and you get them to go precisely where you want them to.
If your site navigation isn’t optimized you will probably find that your bounce rate is, on average, a lot higher than it ought to be.
So what should you factor in when designing your site navigation?
- Create a ‘Start Here’ or ‘Getting Started’ page. Link to it straight from the home page and use it to suggest paths for your new visitors to take on your site. For example, you could show them the first, second, third, etc posts that they should read.
- Carefully pick your blog categories. Don’t include more than 10 so that you simplify your visitors’ journey.
- Reduce clutter in your site’s top menu. Keep everything simple and clear so that your visitors can see at a glance what your site offers and where they can find exactly what they are looking for.
- Include a call to action, internal links, or some related post links in your sidebar and also at the end of blog posts. After your visitors are done reading your content, you don’t want them leaving the site, so offer them something else to do.
6. Eliminate dead ends on your site
Sometimes when you click on certain links on a site, you’re taken nowhere.
Or maybe you’ll land on a page that you weren’t expecting, or even on some 404 error page. This is something that you cannot always avoid on your site, but if it’s happening too much it can be very frustrating for your visitors.
It’s very important to eliminate as many of those dead ends as you can for the sake of perceptions and conversions.
If there are links or forms on your site that don’t take visitors where they want to go, they are likely going to leave your site and not come back.
Make sure that you give your visitors a reason to stay on your site longer.
It’s worth taking the time to ensure that your pages all lead somewhere and that there are no broken links on your site.
7. Take every opportunity to personalize all aspects of your site
People have an easier time connecting with other people, not with brands. So take any opportunity that you get when it comes to personalizing your blog.
Here are some ideas to help you increase engagement and strengthen your connection with your audience:
- Show the comment count for each of the posts on your main blog page. Also, show the social shares. These are great measures of engagement and will work to encourage more readers to read a post.
- Include author bios whenever someone contributes to your blog. Add a photo and a short blurb.
- Wherever you can, include images of yourself, your family, your staff, or your clients. The most common place to use these is your ‘About Us’ page, but you can use those images anywhere on your site.
8. Make sure you nail the ‘About Us’ page
‘About Us’ pages are among the most visited pages on any sites.
If one of your visitors go to your ‘About Us’ page, it means that they’re eager to learn more about you and what you do.
So, what do you need to have on your About page to maximize conversions?
- Make sure that the page is only communicating a few essential, easy to understand things and that the page is extremely easy to navigate.
- This is a great chance to show your personality off. Use images to put a face to the brand. Alternatively, you could use pictures of your office environment or your employees. Tell an engaging story of why you exist and how you got where you now are. Don’t be a superhero, be human – that’s how you get people to connect with you.
- Make the content about them and not you. Why should your visitors care about what’s on your website? Make it clear what challenges you’re helping them to overcome.
- Don’t use jargon, but rather go with a tone of voice and writing style that is personal, unique and conversational. Strip away all the corporate jargon and buzzwords.
- Include a link for the ‘Contact Us’ page to make sure that your visitors have a direct way to get in touch with you after reading your ‘About Us’ page.
The Bottom Line (So far)
As you can see, each part of your site should be designed with one goal in mind: to quickly impress your visitors and get them to take a particular action.
In the next post, we continue with the rest of the 17 Smart Strategies for Effective Blog Design, so stay tuned!
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Updated: Originally published July 24th 2018