This week, a guest post by Bob Dunn, AKA @bobwp. I think he’s been living around a writer for too long because he’s into those metaphor and analogy things. Learn how to spice up your blog so it’s a comfortable and inviting house your readers won’t want to leave.
6 Interior Design Tips to Make Your Blog User-friendly
BY Bob Dunn
Your blog is your house. And your visitors ring the doorbell with one question in mind: “Will I find what I need here?”:
Your content may be incredible, but it won’t get read unless you have set up the basics that will get your visitors from point A to point B quickly and effortlessly.
Your readers want clean, simple, easy-to-use. If the experience is clunky, complicated or cumbersome, you can bet they won’t be back—even if your posts are astounding.
Here are some tips to make your blog user-friendly:
1. Start with a strong foundation.
If you have a WordPress blog, the theme provides its framework. It is your foundation—the house within which everything fits. If it is weak, it won’t support all the things you need your blog to do. Theme design is a huge factor in usability, so shop around. Look at other sites for ideas. If you have a very specific look in mind, just be aware that it may mean some customization, which equals more time and money.
But with all the theme choices out there, often you can find one that gives you what you want. Consider looking at premium themes and imagine your content fitting into one of them, nice and tidy, with no wasted space or expensive remodels.
2. Make your front door as inviting as it can be.
Ever visited a house in your home buying days and the front door was all chipped, with the paint coming off and the weatherstripping coming loose? It didn’t matter what was inside because your experience had already been ruined. Well, your blog’s header is like that front door.
I’m going to use that five-letter marketing cliché here: brand. Your header is prime real estate and it should reflect your brand. If you are a business, use your logo and colors. If you are a writer and you are branding yourself as author, you might consider putting your face in the header, or at least in a prominent spot on the home page.
If your blog is about gardening, well, you get the point. I find so many blogs that use the default photo (the one that came with the theme) in their header. If you are talking about marketing on your blog and your header image is a picture of a stream in the woods, what does that tell me about the inside of your house? Does it give me a clue about your content? You might also consider a tagline that sums up what you are about in a short phrase or sentence.
3. Make it easy for readers to find your main rooms.
Your top navigation bar takes visitors to your blog’s main pages—your ‘rooms.’ As you build your house, decide which ones are the most important and label them accordingly. Don’t clutter that bar up with too many buttons because I may get lost. Make good use of your sub-navigation menu. Make it easy to read with clean, simple fonts and enough contrast between the background and font colors so I don’t have to strain my eyes to figure out what it says.
Because I may be looking for the bathroom and that could get kind of tense.
4. Be sure your garage has all the tools your readers need.
Your blog’s sidebar has all the tools your user needs, kind of like a garage. In this case, the tools are the widgets and plugins. With WordPress, some themes, and even plugins, allow you to create custom sidebars for each page. That means that the most important content for each page can be placed on the side of that page.
For instance, on your home page, place the sidebar widgets people will most need when they first land on your blog. On your about page, you might include widgets like social media connection buttons, your latest tweets, or even a few testimonials. If you have a products page—books or other things—consider using affiliate links that showcase your product (and allow you to make a few extra bucks at the same time). Think in terms of what logically fits in that sidebar, and whether it’s a distraction, which you definitely don’t want.
5. Sweep off that front porch and make the iced tea.
This may be the most important place of all: your front porch. It’s where people will want to hang out with you and your other guests, put their feet up, get to know you better. Be sure it’s easy for readers to comment on your blog (consider axing the moderation of comments and that pesky Captcha that makes readers copy those wiggly letters and numbers). Make sure they can easily connect with you on other social media platforms—Twitter, Facebook, etc.—so they can continue the conversation.
Just one word of caution: Be sure you are active on these platforms and aren’t putting them there because they are shiny and pretty or your friend Kate has them. There is nothing more frustrating than clicking on a Twitter account that hasn’t been updated in three months.
6. Make the playroom friendly and your ‘toys’ shareable.
As kids, we learned to share our toys when we played. Same thing on your blog. Don’t keep the best things hidden when your friends come over. Make it easy for your readers to play with (and share) your content on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. They also should be able to ‘stumble’ it through the social share site, StumbleUpon. Keep those buttons in front of their eyes so all it takes is one click.
Because if you don’t make it easy for me to share, well, I might not want to visit your house anymore.
So, which part of your house has been the most challenging?
Does your house also have other parts?
Which of these six have you had the most fun with?
Bob Dunn is a WordPress trainer, coach and speaker. He provides online, one-to-one support and onsite training, webinars and workshops for groups. He blogs at bobwp.com and is also a contributor at For Bloggers By Bloggers and the BlogWorld Expo blog. You can catch his dynamic presentation at BlogWorld Expo in New York this June.