Slow-loading graphics, hideously ugly pictures, throngs of ‘Share’ buttons and other inane design elements will kill a blog quicker than mortgage-backed securities killed the economy. When you build your blog employ the following 10 design tips to create a fast-loading, visually effective blog with a lower your bounce rate and increased conversions:
- Use Call to Actions
The best design advice we can give you is to include a call to action on every post page. Without them forget about conversions. Consider the positioning of your call to actions carefully though: they should be right after the most-important content on the page. Be wary of putting the call to action at the beginning as you haven’t earned the street cred yet and putting it at the end of your post will run the risk of losing your reader part-way.
- Use Previews
Movies use previews, magazines use previews, YouTube uses em—even drug dealers give you a sneak peak. All successful entertainment sources, publications and sales people use previews to tantalize you with things to come; your blog should be no different. Using previews on your opening page (and post pages if you want to maximize user durations) will bait your readers into reading more of your content. Be sure to use excerpts for your bait not the most-recent post in its entirety on the opening page—this will show users how much valuable content you have. It might even get them to read it.
If this were a perfect world every visitor to your site would convert and become a customer near instantly. Unfortunately this isn’t a perfect world, we have plagues, poverty, short attention spans and high internet bounce rates. Give your new viewers a half-step commitment to becoming your customer with the opportunity to subscribe to your feed. This can include RSS subscriptions or simple email-list subscription tools.
- Make an Obvious Connection to your Parent Site
People know business-oriented blogs are sponsored by companies. Since its no secret make the connection to your primary site an obvious one with a clear connection. Use the same branding and images across your main site and blog to help make the connection and transition even clearer—this will also help them transition easily from your blog to primary website. Try to use prime real estate like headers, foots and sidebars.
- Choose your ‘Sharing’ buttons Wise
For the love of god PLEASE use sharing buttons sparingly. Yes, we know you want people to share your content—but hitting us over the head with it will only make us run screaming in the other direction. Use ONE sharing button, preferable a neat and tidy one that is customizable to match the appearance of your site.
- Use a Simple Yet Powerful Search/Sort Tool
We live in a Google age, we expect to find content at the touch of a button. Make your content incredibly easy to search/sort through. Make your search/sort front and center and extremely visible. (Hopefully you have already made your content searchable with the proper use of tags). Searching/sorting can be accomplished on your site via a blog search box (Google offers a very powerful and simple one) or with a recommendation or ‘most read’ widget.
- Well-Placed Images
We’re visual creatures, hence fashion and porn being two of the biggest industries in America. We like pretty pictures. But, use them sparingly and place them carefully. Use them to break up big blocks of text (but be sure not to give your reader the impression the article is over–so right or left align them with continuing text along side the image) and/or use them to avoid starting with a big block of text.
- Make your Headlines, well—Headlines!
Headlines were designed to capture attention of the reader but the internet has really blurred the line between headlines, excerpts and text. Make your headlines, clear, readable and prominent. Make sure it is immediately visible what is a headline and what is additional text. This is best accomplished by setting your headline at least 30% larger than your text.
- Watch your Page Load Times
It doesn’t matter how sexy your blog is or how much of a rockstar the content is, if it takes more than 2 or 3 seconds to load no one will ever see it.
- De-Clutter your Sidebar
Sidebars are the junkyards of the internet. Whether they are cluttered widgets or flashing ads you need to clean-em up. If your sidebar is a widget then remove any elements that aren’t critical. If your sidebar is an ad try to ensure it is a targeted, high-quality ad with content related to your content—not some cheap-looking distraction.
Follow the 10 helpful blog design tips above and your blog will have a clear focus and pleasing appearance. A well-thought out design will ensure that you lower your bounce rate, raise conversion rates—provided your content doesn’t suck.