Editor’s note: This post was written byGary Dek, the blogger behind www.StartABlog123.com as well as a dozen other niche sites. He offers amateur and professional bloggers digital marketing advice relating to building sustainable online businesses.
It only takes people a few seconds to decide if they want to browse a site further than the homepage. In an age where every website has dozens of direct competitors, it is critical to get people to stop and read your content. A clean and elegant design coupled with easy navigation, simple blog structure, and immensely useful content can lower your bounce rate and improve user interaction.
By focusing on the user experience, this article will provide you with ideas that can be implemented to enhance your readers experience so that they will want to continue reading and share your work. Here are some blog design tips to help you achieve this.
Make Your Site User-Friendly, But How?
Ideally, you want to make your blog effortless to navigate. Do not overcomplicate your design by making it difficult to browse. Even sophisticated internet users like myself sometimes find it impossible to find the simplest information that every website should have, such as a Contact Us or About page.
The architecture of your site should be intuitive. Consider that your audience can literally access any blog in the world, why should they frequent yours? By foreseeing your readers needs and wants, you improve and enrich their lives. This is especially important if you invest significant amounts of time and money into developing your content shouldnt you reap the rewards of your hard work?
You also want to ensure that your blog loads fast. Page speed has been shown to affect user interaction as well as Google rankings. According to Crazy Egg, a 1-second delay in page load time results in 11% fewer page views and a 7% decrease in conversions. People want instant gratification, and that means not waiting more than 3 seconds for a page to load.
For this reason, when I started StartABlog123.com, my new site to teach others how to start their own blogs, I built it with a very simple layout. The basic Genesis framework ensures the site loads extremely fast, the focus is on content and improving conversions from the homepage, and the design is simple yet aesthetically pleasing.
Here are a few concepts I kept in mind, and suggestions you should implement next time you build a niche site.
1. Address Web Performance Issues
An unnecessarily large webpage can cause problems for users, search engine crawlers and even webmasters. Users tend to leave during unusually long wait times, search engines may think the site timed out, and webmasters with high traffic blogs suffer higher bandwidth costs. The problem for users can be multiplied when you consider that most individuals use mobile devices to surf the internet. And ever since Google announced that they incorporate page speed as a ranking factor, SEOs and blog owners have been obsessed with code efficiency and bandwidth speed.
Fortunately, Google provides developers a great tool to measure their page load speed PageSpeed Insights.
According to Googles tool, here are some common issues that can cause page bloat and what you can do about them:
Optimized images can significantly improve page load times. In fact, of the dozen sites I tested using Googles PageSpeed service, almost every single test came with a suggestion of optimizing images to lower page bloat. The problem was worse for mobile users. Remember to optimize images for the web when saving them in Photoshop or use a WordPress plugin such as WP Smush.it.
Enabling Compression Use A Caching Plugin
Because this is a huge topic and covering it adequately would be well beyond the scope of this article, I suggest you research and check out plugins W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache.
Unnecessary Page Elements or Plugins
Create an appealing ratio between your content and ads; make sure any banners blend in with your material; and remove unnecessary code to cut down on page bloat. For example, most Genesis themes come with Authorbox and date/comments metadata code. I dont use these features and hence I delete them from my themes code.
Additionally, if you have deleted posts and comments sitting in your WP Trash, consider emptying the trash. Then deactivate and remove any plugins you havent used in the last 6 months. By reducing the amount of extraneous data sent to users, you will increase your load time.
2. Create Evergreen Content
An evergreen is a plant that has leaves in all four seasons, and like an evergreen plant, you want your blog posts to be timeless and relevant regardless of the date. Most visitors will not stay on a webpage with out-of-date information, so try to write content with the future in mind. This doesnt mean removing any time-sensitive information.
If you currently have out-of-date content, do what you can to make it current by adding new information with the mindset of not needing to update it again in the near-future. Maybe you can add new observations to an old post. You should periodically go through your content to see what you can renew.
3. Make Your Site Intuitive
How easy is it to navigate your blog and are your pages designed to be sticky? If a reader finishes one article, can they find related ones to keep them on your site? Can your readers easily use breadcrumbs to guide them through your website?
The following are some simple tips to make your blog easier to navigate:
- A logo that is clickable and redirects to your homepage
- An organized top menu with categories
- A search box
- Breadcrumbs that help readers navigate posts, categories, sub-categories, etc.
- Dropdown menus organize multiple similar sections of a site
- An archives list will help your readers visit past blog posts they may have missed
- An About page will encourage a connection with you and your blog
- A Contact page so readers and other bloggers can get in touch with you
Similarly, to produce easy to read posts that will ensure people stop to check out your content, use the following format and styling:
- Exemplary headings and subheadings
- Short coherent blocks of information
- Relevant images
- Supportive graphics, such as charts or diagrams
- Bullet points and lists
- A strong color pallet
- Legible fonts
- Use you and I to start a conversation
If you have trouble being objective when judging your own site, ask family, friends, and peers to offer constructive criticism.
4. Advertise Popular Content
The pages that get the most traffic are usually the ones that offer the most useful content. You want to simplify access to that content by showing it off in your sidebar, thereby keeping new visitors on your site longer. If its your best and most trafficked page, chances are, all users visiting your site will find it useful.
Find ways to promote your most successful content on all of your websites pages, which can also improve your internal linking. There are several WordPress plugins that allow you to highlight popular content, such as my favorite WordPress Popular Posts.
5. Create A Mobile-Friendly Blog
If you track your blogs stats, youll most likely find that the majority of your readers are visiting you from phones, tablets, or some type of mobile device. If you dont have a responsive design yet or a theme that is mobile-friendly, youre going to lose out on readership and even drop in rankings for mobile search results. Dont expect users to spend time navigating a complicated site from their phone nobody wants to stick around, zoom in, and continuously scroll left and right to read your content.
Bottom line develop a responsive design for your existing website (which shouldnt cost much for a simple site) or make sure your next redesign incorporates a responsive theme.
If you want to make sure your audience is going to stop and read your blog, you have to make it stand out. Your content has to be engaging and your site should be eye-catching. For more tips and ideas, analyze your competitors and steal good design concepts from them. The idea is to find the inspiration to create your own unique and compelling style. Think about what makes certain web pages pop and follow their example, but in your own way.
Have you found specific design strategies that keep visitors on your site longer? Let us know in the comments below.
Author: Noemi Tasarra-Twigg
Editor of Splashpress Media, writer, and geek bitten by the travel bug.