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Does Blog Design Really Matter?

Posted by on October 31, 2011

Let’s just start this post off with a short, simple answer:

YES.
Blog design DOES matter. It will affect your visitors, your commenters, and the overall time they spend on your site.

I’m not going to lie, I enter giveaways every now and then whenever I have a chance. And I’ve found some blogs I just HAVE to revisit, and others… that I wouldn’t exactly want to go through the torture of visiting again.

You are running a blog, an outlet you want people to stop by and read. And if you’re a book blogger, you most likely want publishers to send you ARC’s. That means publishers have to INVEST in you. They’re snapping off a portion, however small, of their marketing campaign by sending you one, two, or five ARC’s.

If I were a publisher, I wouldn’t want to send a review copy if a blog is as dark as some of their covers with font the color of blood. Does that mean your blog shouldn’t be dark? No! By all means, make it dark, (I’ve even designed some dark blogs), but always keep in mind, a dark background should have easy-to-read font. And if your background is cluttered to the extent that I can’t stay focused on your content, then, well, I wouldn’t really want to stay.

And sidebars. Sidebars shouldn’t be cluttered either. I’ve visited blogs with two sidebars, filled to the brim with images of books, images simply for the sake of visuality. Stop. Its just too much. It makes me want to pluck out my eyeballs and cover them with a blanket. Pictures are pretty. Sidebars are meant for filling. But note the difference between filling and cluttering. And try to leave some space between your post content and sidebars.

Lastly, whatever colors you use and content you choose, ensure one thing: Make your visitors feel comfortable, at home, at ease. Make them want to come back.

ETA: A few awesome comments brought this to my attention: loading. Some of us have set our blogs to post more than 7 of our most recent posts on our home pages and have flash widgets that make a page take eternity to load. Your blog isn’t the only blog out there, don’t make your readers leave, draw them in. Make your pages load faster. Make your visitors stay longer.

On a complete sidenote, if you’re ever in the need for a blog design by yours truly, please stop by here. Thanks!


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16 comments

  1. I love your blog. It's so bright and pretty. :) Mine is not bright, which is weird because I love bright things. Oh man…At least my font isn't the color of blood?? :)

    This is a great post. It's also important to say that people put SO MUCH on their blog that it takes forever to load.

  2. I COMPLETELY AGREE!

    Less is more. I follow a few professional bloggers (people who make thousands a month blogging) and the one I especially follow is Problogger.net which provides SEO tips and design tips and one tip they continually hammer out is LESS IS MORE and how the more white space you have and the less cluttered your blog is, the more professional and attractive it looks. So, yeah, I have barely anything in my sidebars except links and my goodreads challenge, and ads (which are awesome because hey 45$ for me to post some image for 2 weeks? YES PLEASE!).

    It's torture for me to go to a site with all this crap and widgets that play music and especially the sites that crash my internet browser when I have other tabs open working on things. That is the worst!!

  3. Thanks, I'm gonna go limit the pics on my sidebar widgets right now :D

    While I'm at it, though, two settings things that really bug me:

    1. limited feeds drive readers away. If I've friended or RSS followed your blog and it only feeds me the first few lines of a post I'll unfollow after the first post or two. I read too many blogs in my reader to have to click through to yours.

    2. if you want friends have a friend widget. I hate blogs that run contests that say “GFC follow me to enter!” but don't have the GFC widget anywhere on their page. If following you is hard I'm not gonna do it.

  4. It's definitely important to have a nice looking blog. You want your blog to make a good impression on visitors. If it hurts their eyes or if the text is difficult to see and read, that's not going to encourage anyone to read your content or to ever come back. And if you have 19 countdown widgets and half of them don't even fit in your sidebar, then your blog looks really sloppy. And if your blog looks incredibly sloppy, then it is likely that I won't bother to read it because I'm going to assume you don't put much effort into it. If your blog makes noises at me then I'm going to close it without ever looking at anything on it.

    There's a website that will clock the load time of your blog. Use it. If it takes more than a few seconds to load, then you need to do some combination of the following: remove unnecessary crap from your sidebar, re-size images to be smaller, lower the number of posts per page.

    Another thing I'd like to mention is that people who haven't done so should enable the mobile templates on their blogs, especially if they have a lot of images and stuff. It'll make it much easier for readers to access content away from home.

  5. I absolutely agree! I have the worst time with the really dark colours when the font is darker as well. Or those really strange fonts that are like script. It could be the best content ever, but if I can't read it then what's the point? I don't think my blog is the best design ever or anything, but it's generally simple and I know it's easy enough to read the content, which is the most important.

    Jill — totally agree about those social networking bars that pop up. They take forever to load and they basically just annoy me.

  6. Your post definitely reminded me (again) how having a great blog design is quite important. I know that, personally, I too don't really like reading blogs with too dark backgrounds + too dark font colors, nor those with too many things in the sidebars.

    Thanks for the post!

  7. Yep, blog design is important! You can even gauge what someone's review style is going to be like based on what their blog looks like. If they've taken time to make their blog look nice, they're more likely to take time on their content. :)

  8. Tweeted this!

    I've visited a lot of sites that simply don't care how their blog theme looks and it's a bad thought to have. If your sidebar is overlapping your content or your content overlapping your sidebar, or anything previously mentioned in the comments before mine, then you're not going to have repeat visitors!

    Of course, some people have personal preferences on what they don't like on a blog that other people might like, but it seems like pretty much everyone agrees on the major things :P.

    Excellent post!

  9. I totally agree, Hafsah. You want your blog to reflect your personality but you don't want to load it up with too much extras like a lot of images/widgets/music. Hard to read font is also really annoying when I'm trying to visit. The other thing that bugs me are captcha codes when I'm trying to leave comments.

  10. I've been having problems with my computer crashing because of blogs with too much as well. I recently did a bit of an overhaul on my blog and made just one side bar. I don't do widgets and try to only put up buttons for events I'm personally taking part in. I'm not a big fan of seeing buttons all over the place on peoples blogs. The roll bar with buttons is much better.
    I do agree that design matters, but you can get a free design that is very simple and as long as you keep things cleaned up that's just fine. Content is still the very most important thing. New bloggers can get their blog up and running without forking over money, they just need to remember to keep it simple.
    Oh, and I agree, the bar thing on the bottom ALWAYS crashes my browser. ALWAYS.
    VERY good post Hafsah, hopefully people who really need to read this, do.

  11. You're so right. We are very visual creatures. I'm pretty lenient when it comes to most blog designs but my one major pet peeve is sounds or music. This post just reminded me that I really need to work on my blog design badly. Hopefully over winter vacation!

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