Because I learned so much from Will, Amit and the Kern+Lead team about how good design can take a blog from so-so to sensational, I asked them to share their top guiding principles. Use these to help you evaluate your own design, and help you become a Biz Savvy Blogger. Here then are:
Top Design Tips that No Blogger Can Afford to Ignore (courtesy of Kern+Lead, with some commentary by Jon Paul)
If content is king, then brand is queen.
Good content is crucial in building an audience, but you don’t want the look and feel of your site to deter or distract your readers. Try thinking all visual elements as the face to your voice. You probably wouldn’t go to an important meeting in your favorite Hawaiian shirt and sweatpants if you wanted to impress. Keep it simple, keep it classic, and most importantly keep it YOU.
A good site design is not just eye candy, it can be important on many levels.
• Further develop your own niche
• Improve the accessibility of the reader to the site
• Increase page stickiness for readers
A rule of thumb in design: less is more. You can apply this by removing or condensing anything that does not absolutely need to be there. Think of it this way: you want readers to read and not be distracted by your cool new widget.
Jon Paul says: this one hits home for me; the old ABCityblog was cluttered and confusing with lots of widgets that no one was using. It was tough love, but Will made me choose only the things that were absolutely necessary for the Poptimistic site. He was right.
Sharing is caring
The world of social media is an important and often misused new outlet. Think of these sites as tools in a toolbox, or gadgets in a kitchen. Each one has its best purpose even if you can use it for something else too. This territory is still a bit of the Wild West so here are our opinions on a few of the most popular tools. They are by no means gospel, but guidelines that may be helpful.
• Facebook – great for community building. You can use this tool as a behind the scenes view of your blog and start community discussions.
• Twitter – Great for broadcasting or publicity. Create catchy headlines promoting your posts and be community focused by ReTweeting others you like.
• Flickr – Great for the more visual learner. As they say picture is worth a thousand words.
Taking this to another level by integrating share, like, tweet, buttons into individual posts. This will allow readers to share the post to their Facebook pages thereby furthering exposure.
Jon Paul says: After all this time, I’m still getting the hang of all these different tools, and plan on digging into this more in another series of posts. My advice is just jump in and do it – don’t stay away from Twitter because you don’t know how to do it. Just do it. You’ll learn and fix it later. In future rounds of Poptimistic design, I’ll be integrating Facebook in more—but do what you can to start, and add later.
RSS is Really Super Significant
RSS can be the lifeblood of a blog and is an important piece of information. Feedburner is a great tool allowing for multiple feed subscriptions. Make this button large and accessible on every page. You can take this to the next level by embedding small RSS buttons onto every post along with your other share options. This is a short point, but do not dismiss the importance.
Jon Paul says: Amen to this. 50% of my readers take in Poptimistic in some type of RSS feed. It allows readers to access on their own time and terms.