I wrote recently asking you all about what makes a blog stand out from the crowd, and some interesting comments came up. I think that some of these are worth discussing.
Looks count in everything. Don’t try to tell me that they don’t. If look don’t count, then the entertainment, fashion, clothing, hair, makeup, nails, spas, exercise clubs, and health products markets would collapse. In fact, they are a huge multi-billion dollar industry, so looks must count.
Looks matter, in everything. We like to look at pretty things. We like to look at things that attract and hold our attention without blasting away at our intellect.
Which makes web page design a bit of a challenge and not so simple as people would like to tell you it is.
First, a website must be readable. It must be “look-at-able” as a young friend explained to me recently. If the design interferes with the ability to look at it, people will move on.
Second, a website must be readable. No, I’m not being redundant. It must be able to be read. Not only is it easy on the eyes to look at, if words are its product, it must be easy to read. If images are the content product of the website, then they, too, must be framed in a way as to be “see-able”.
Squinting at tiny letters or odd fonts, with graphics behind the letters, or light font colors against light backgrounds, hot neon green letters against a black background, or any color combination without enough contrast makes the process of reading the content nearly impossible. Consider that at least 25% of the Internet audience is physically disabled in some manner, many of them visually impaired, and that a huge percentage of the Internet audience is…shall I say it…”older”…it’s important that the font size, color, and style be readable so people will want to read the words.
Third, it must be navigable. If you can’t get around, how would you know there is more to look at. While I am impressed with what was done in the creation of the WordPress “Default” Theme known as Kubrick, I don’t like the single post view of the original Theme’s structure. The sidebar is gone and the only navigation is found in the next and previous links. No categories, no Pages, nothing to inspire people to hang out and look around. I’ve helped many people add a sidebar back to their Kubrick Themes just to increase navigation. Unfortunately, a lot of WordPress Themes were designed based upon that Theme, taking advantage of the fabulous coding and structure under the smooth layout, as have I.
Navigation is part of the looks. People “look” for more information when they like what they have found. They usually want more. How many of you eat only two chips from the bag? Most of us can’t stop once we start. Good navigation combined with good content and looks compels people to “eat the whole bag”.
Last on this issue of good looking blogs and websites, I personally believe that the web page design should be reflective of the content. This is more personal preference, but it also matches the fashion sense most of us have. While we might walk out the door to work wearing hot pink and orange with a purple sweater, we tend to judge others by what they wear.
We all judge people by what they wear, especially when it conflicts with the situation and environment. You’d giggle if hiking a rough mountain terrain, you met a fellow hiker wearing an evening gown, wouldn’t you? Especially if it was a man. Or the fully clothed swimmer, complete with shoes and socks. The same holds true for web page designs.
The more flashy and garish the advertising displayed, the less inclined I am to take the content seriously. The more naked a web page is, unless the content is really good, the more old-fashioned and dated it appears to me. If there are cats or dogs chasing themselves across the screen chasing my mouse, I will never take the content seriously. Trust me. This includes birds and butterflies which recently assaulted me on one web page.
If you are blogging about dancing, I expect to see pictures and graphics representing dancing. If you are blogging about rock and roll music, grunge, punk, hip-hop, or whatever the latest music craze is, I expect your blog to be reflective of your passion – in color and design as well as presentation. If you are blogging about web page design, then without a doubt I expect a well-designed web page above and below the screen as proof you know what you are talking about.
I am not saying a blog or website has to be “pretty”. Pretty is too subjective. It must, however, be easy on the eyes, easy to read, easy to navigate, and reflect the content, and reflect the quality of the content.
So looks count, but they also must be appropriate to the situation. The more appropriate the design and looks, the more likely the viewer is to stay a while longer because there is more than looks to hold my attention. There is consistency in form as well as thought.
Content is King
Without a doubt, dress up a website to be as pretty and award-winning as possible, but without good content, as 59ideas recently commented:
Look is the king’s clothes.
Exactly. Without clothes, the content is walking around naked. Still, the content must rule because it is the clothing that makes the king a king, and the king is content.
Good content means good writing, spelling, and grammar. But that can all go to the wayside if the writing grabs your attention and gives you the information you want, or entertains you. Whatever the topic, it must hold your attention and make you want to come back for more.
The blogs that stands out for you are blogs that interest you, just like when you suddenly hear a great song – to your taste of music – on the radio.
I’ve been traveling a lot recently, desperately scanning radio stations as the vehicle moved across thousands of miles. I have an auto search function that plays a few seconds of music before moving on to the next strong signal, stopping only when I push the button again. I would cringe as loud, unharmonic music would assault my ears for those few seconds, and then sigh with relaxation when something I enjoyed came through, and press the button to halt it there on that station.
So it goes with blog content. If the content being served up meets your interest at the moment, gives you the information you need and are seeking, challenges your thinking, inspires and motivates you, then you will find it, spend some time there, and possibly return. If it is really good, you will return over and over again to find out what is new, addicted to the material.
As long as a blog’s content gives you what you need, you will continue to be a fan. In time, your interests may change and you will move on to read another type of content, returning only for a while before moving on.
There are two theories in successful blog content. One is to stay highly focused upon a specialty or two, gaining an audience because they know “you” are the source for that information. The other theory is to write about anything and everything so anyone searching for anything and everything will find you, and they will be so impressed they will look around, check things out, and come back for more.
Which one do you think is really the most successful? Gaining an audience by reputation and expertise, or being the biggest garbage can along the Information Highway?
If you want to gain traffic, then work on gaining an audience by reputation and expertise. When you don’t feel good, you may go to a general practitioner doctor, right? But if you have a highly specialized form of cancer, you certainly aren’t going to stay with the GP. You want someone who knows what they are doing and talking about. You want someone who has the training, experience, and reputation.
The blogs I tend to follow have opinions as well as expertise, and I follow them because they are consistently talking about what I’m interested in, not a mishmash of everything under the sun.
What about you?
It’s About Traffic
I’ve heard over and over that a blog that stands out from the crowd is one that is popular and gets a lot of traffic. I only have two words to say about this: B.S.
Traffic is something that matters to the blog owner. It has nothing to do with the blog reader. I don’t visit blogs because they are at the top of some list. I don’t seek out the most popular and high traffic sites just because they are popular and high traffic. Do you?
Unless the blog has something of interest to say to me, unless I found it by searching through search engines, or as a referral from another site within the same industry or subject matter, I will not see it. It has to appeal to my interests at the moment, or to my work at the time. I don’t have time to be hanging out with the popular kids. I barely have enough time to keep up with my own work.
I don’t care if a blog has 5 visitors a day or 5,000. If it has the information I want, and it features enough related material to make me want to come back to find out what they are now saying on the same subject, then I will return. I will become a fan. Even if my visit bumps their average daily traffic to 6.
Yes, it is about getting known, about making sure your blog is “seen” by all the search engines and linked to and written about by other people pointing to your site. That is what helps you get found, but these things won’t make your blog stand out from the crowd. It will just make it “findable”.
Once I’ve found you, you better be readable and have good content to keep me hanging around and/or returning.
It’s About Convenience
One thing often overlooked is the old fashioned sales tool of “convenience” in blogs. Remember when “convenience” in a product was a selling point? The announcer would say “It’s easy to use”, “Even a child could do it”, “Trouble free”, “Few Repairs”, and “Makes your life easier”. Today’s blogs feature many conveniences that make life on the web easier. If your blog or website doesn’t have these conveniences, you are losing valuable traffic and audience members.
I love that most blogs today feature feeds. Talk about convenience! Without bothersome emails or newsletters to subscribe to, I can quickly keep up with the news from my favorite blogs through feeds. Oh, so convenient and easy.
I’ve been doing a lot of research on genealogy blogs and information and have been exceptionally frustrated with all the free websites offered by various monster genealogy website hosts, and genealogy websites in general. They lack feeds. I find fabulous information that I want to monitor, write about, and refer to, but I have to physically visit their site to find out what is new. It’s often hard to find the new stuff unless they’ve added a big flashing NEW!!! graphic next to whatever link goes to new information. Not very helpful, and certainly not very convenient.
To return to these sites, I will save their link in my bookmark/favorites list in my browser. Have you looked at my favorites list lately? Heck, have you looked at your own? If my mother saw my favorite bookmarks list, she’d give me that look from my teenage years and scream about how hard she works to put a nice roof over our heads and how I am ruining everything by making my room such a mess, or some martyred angst threat to guilt-trip me into cleaning my room. I’ve got folders and links all over the place, and not all have helpful names. It’s horrible to go looking for things in there, so I rarely open the door.
Feeds allow me to easily bookmark a site and quickly return to see if there is any new and interesting content. I don’t have to dig through layers of folders and mislabeled links. A couple clicks and I’m reading the site’s new content, then moving onto the next. Easy. Convenient. And really simple.
Feeds are not about looks. They are about content, because that is all the reader gets. Therefore, good content and consistent subject matter makes a blog stand out enough for me to even check if they have feeds, and then I can quickly add them to my feed reader.
Feeds, however, are about convenience, and that convenience keeps people returning. It also makes the blog stand out from the crowd of websites in general. Because they made it easy to return.
Comments are another wonderful convenience on many blogs today. Have an opinion, want to correct a fact, want to add to the conversation, then you can add to the content with your comment.
Among many of the conveniences of modern blogs are categories, the ability to categorize and group your content by topic. This increases navigation, encourages visitors to find more related content, and improves the use and convenience of your blog.
Pings and trackbacks are also a modern convenience. Pings let search engine and search directories know you’ve updated your blog, inviting them to visit. Trackback comments show you and your readers what others have written about what you have had to say. Trackbacks are critical to expanding the “web” of information and ideas on today’s web.
Blog publishing tools like WordPress are part of the convenience aspect for bloggers, making the process of publishing their content with ease, but WordPress blogs come built-in with a ton of great convenience features such as feeds, pings, trackbacks, SEO, comments, comment spam filters and fighters, and a wide variety of free WordPress Themes so choosing a good looking and appropriate web design is easy. Most WordPress Themes come with easy navigation and fairly easy to read features, ready for you to insert your quality content.
Your Outstanding Blog Checklist
So be honest and check your blog’s “outstanding blog” checklist.
- Is it readable?
- Is it easy to read?
- Is it easy to navigate, leading the reader to other content from every page?
- Does it offer content categories, helping direct readers to related subjects on your site or blog?
- Does the design match the content?
- Is the content consistent with a specific topic, theme, or subject?
- Does the content showcase you as an expert, hobbyist, or vague curiosity seeker?
- Is the content well written, spell and grammar checked, and encourage readers to read?
- Does your blog’s design and content give people a reason to return?
- How convenient is your site or blog to use?
- Does it offer feeds?
- Does it offer comments?
- Does it offer trackbacks?
So how does your blog do on the outstanding blog checklist?
Site Search Tags: web design, webdev, website, design, blog, blog design, wordpress, wordpress themes, wordpress design, customizing wordpress, wordpress tips, wordpress help, wordpress techniques, styles, css, html, php, stylesheet, style sheet, blog building, blog creation, dynamic content, wordpress templates,
Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network Subscribe