This is a guest contribution from Laura Windisch of 99designs.
It’s that time of year again. Time to take a good long look at your blog and reflect on what’s worked well, learn from what hasn’t, and set goals for what will. After you’ve had a chance to sort through the numbers—total visits, average length of stay and the like—give your eyes a minute to focus on what your design is doing to showcase your content.
Whether you install one of your platform’s pre-made templates or find someone to create a custom design, your blog’s appearance is what visitors will notice first. A good design will communicate your message with personality and passion.
Here are four questions you can ask yourself to assess whether your design is ready for 2014.
1. Is your design as simple as it ought to be?
When it comes to blogging, the written word rules. Keep readers focused on your content with a clean design. Here’s how.
Ditch the clutter. Delete any distracting background images and dead links.
Embrace white space. Give your text room to breathe.
Limit your fonts. Choose no more than three fonts (for example, one each for your titles, body text and navigation) to keep the page from looking overloaded. Whatever font you choose, make sure it’s legible.
Use colour carefully. Is your background light and your text dark? That’s a good start. An explosion of colour can be overwhelming, but splashes of vibrant shades will help you draw attention to important areas like call to action. A subtle background will also help the photos and images within your post pop.
2. Is your content easy to scan?
Most readers will be scanning your posts rather than reading them word-for-word. Make your design easy to scour.
Break it up. Headlines, subheads, lists, images and bold text are your formatting friends. They’ll make your content easier to consume.
Be generous with images. Treat your readers to big photos, illustrations and charts that supplement a point you’re making in your post. Visual content attracts eyeballs.
3. Can people find what they are looking for?
If you started your blog with a passion—but without a clear idea of all the topics you’d be covering—it may be time to take a step back and give your design a solid structural backbone.
Create noticeable navigation. Visitors will land on your blog from Twitter, search engines, links and who knows where else. Show off what else you have to offer with clear links to categories, recent posts and popular posts.
Include strong CTAs. Be sure your design clearly tells your audience what to do (e.g. “Subscribe to our newsletter”). Don’t assume they’ll hunt for anything.
4. Is your design memorable?
New blogs are popping up daily. As of this posting, for example, there are 72,628,476 WordPress sites in the world. Find a way to stand out.
Brand your header. This is the area new visitors will likely notice first, so don’t miss the opportunity to create a strong first impression of your personal brand. Play off your logo to show your personality.
Create a custom design. Stand out from the plethora of popular free themes with a custom blog design. A unique look will inspire your readers and keep them coming back for more.
Did you answer no to any questions? Now’s the perfect time to step up your blog design and let your content shine. Here’s to a beautiful 2014!
Laura Windisch writes for 99designs — the world’s leading online graphic design marketplace. If you’re looking for a custom blog design, try launching a contest on their website. You’ll get dozens of creative options and pick the one you love most.