For me, it’s usually a recipe with a mouthwatering photo of something I want to get in my belly IMMEDIATELY. However, if I click the link and find myself on a cluttered, unappealing blog post, my excitement immediately plummets. It’s even worse if the writer has made it hard to find the information I want.
Now instead of fantasizing about my dinner, my mental energy is being used to sort through large chunks of text and oversized images. Sigh. I’m not even hungry anymore. I’m certainly not going to go look for more posts on this blog.
What should this experience look like? Let’s start from the same place:
I see an appealing post on Pinterest, and I click through. This time, I find myself on a clean, well-designed website.
I’m greeted by a simple but beautiful image introducing the blog post and confirming I’m in the right place. I scroll quickly down the post, scanning the headers, happy to see the post covers several points I’m interested in, and all of the images included are relevant but not overpowering. Excited by the appearance of a thorough and professional article, I begin to read, and the airy layout helps me read quickly without losing my place or tiring my eyes.
By the end of the article, I’m so pleased with the content I explore the rest of the website.
As you can see, the design of your blog posts can be a big determining factor in whether a casual reader becomes a fan. But it doesn’t take a design degree to make your blog beautiful – just implement these tips.
The text in your blog is obviously the most important element – it’s what your readers are, well, reading!
Your blog post should have at least three different text styles: title, header, and body. If it works with your writing style, adding subheaders can dramatically increase your post’s skimmability.
Each text style should be distinct from each other – the most basic way to achieve that is through size.
I recommend starting with your body text and increasing the size of the subsequent styles by 50%. So if your body text was 12pt, your subheadings would be 18pt, headers 24 pt, and title 30pt.
You can also play around with color, capitalization, and weight.
It’s a common temptation to format blog posts like they’re a high school essay; each paragraph needs at least three sentences, no fragments, etc.
But no one’s grading your blog posts, and your audience cares more about how easy your blog is to read than how well you stuck to MLA or APA format.
Since blog posts are read through screens, consider how tired our eyes get when staring at a screen. To make your post easy on the eyes, break up your paragraphs and leave plenty of white space between paragraphs.
This is a simple, but important tip: make your links a different color from your text.
If you just underline your links, I won’t be sure if you’re emphasizing the words, or if it’s an actual link.
Color also makes it easy to find if your reader is scrolling back through your article looking for a link you mentioned.
Beautiful images can make your blog post more visually engaging, but remember, images are supporting elements, not the main event. (Unless you’re a photographer.)
I’m a strong advocate for having a title image for each of your blog posts – but not so that you have an image to pin on Pinterest.
Title images are a great way to bring your branding into your blog post, and it sets the tone for the article.
They also keep your blog from looking plain, or like a wall of text, both of which can turn off readers.
If you’re blogging about an event you went to, a food you ate, or giving a tutorial, you should include images of what you’re talking about.
In general, if you can include relevant images, it’s going to make your readers more engaged.
Just be sure to size your images appropriately – they shouldn’t fill the screen.
Hidden Pinterest Image
Now, having beautiful graphics to pin to lead others to your blog post is important, but the tall, vertical images that do best on Pinterest don’t always work within the design of your blog post. But here’s a little trick to embed your image in your blog post so that it can’t be seen on the post, but appears as a pinnable image.
Just plug this code into your blog post, and, ta-da! – a hidden pinnable image:
<div style=display:none;><img src=”(your image url)”></div>
Now, there’s no rule that you have to have a sidebar.
You can choose not to use one and put your information into the footer instead of a sidebar. This is a great option for streamlining your reader’s experience.
If you do choose to include a sidebar in your blog, keep this acronym in mind: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Remember your blog post is the main event and your sidebar is secondary.
Don’t include any flashy images that draw attention away from your post, and don’t overwhelm your readers with too much information.
What should be included in your sidebar is your highlight reel: information most relevant to your readers.
I generally suggest a short bio, one paid offer, and 3-5 of your best posts.
The footer is an often overlooked, but powerful, part of your blog design. No blog should be without a footer.
The most important part of your blog’s footer is what you immediately follow your blog post with. Assuming your reader loved your post (I’m sure they did) they’ll want more from you – and it’s you’re job to tell them how to get more.
Some next step options include:
- Encouraging them to sign up for your email list
- Suggesting related posts on your blog
- Asking them a question for them to answer in the comments
- Promoting one of your paid offers
If you chose to forgo the sidebar, your footer is where you should shift your highlight reel.
You don’t want to overshadow the next steps you’re leading your reader to.
Include who you are and what you do as a quick introduction to your reader. If at all possible, include a photo of yourself to make your reader feel like they know you.
Sierra Kellermeyer is a brand designer who helps businesses increase their perceived value and professionalism through strategic brand design, allowing them to attract more high-level clients and feel more confident getting visible online.