How To Design Your Blog

21 Blog Design Element Checklist

Writers at heart, many bloggers rush through selecting their blog design elements without much thought when they first start. But the reality is that design is core to your blog’s brand and readership. Therefore, out-of-the box blog set-ups most likely won’t work for you.

Blog design doesn’t require artistic training. It requires strategic (read: high level) thought, determining your blog’s goals and target audience (aka: persona) before you jump in and start blogging.

Review the blogs you read frequently to become familiar with your options. Consider which blogs you like and which elements of those blogs attract your attention. Make a list of those elements you want and those that you don’t want.

Here are twenty-one blog design elements that you don’t have to be a graphic designer to select.

  1. Blog theme is used to enhance the blog’s visual layout and usability. It can be a template, custom developed or a combination. When selecting a blog theme, you need to look at how it allows you to portray layout. This includes factors like columns, sidebar widgets, header and footer
  2. Color scheme. Which colors do you want to use on your blog? How do they render on different types of devices? Are these colors associated with your brand? Are they consistent with your offline collateral and your retail establishments?
  3. Typography. It conveys more information about your brand than most people realize. Know the difference between serif and sans-serif typefaces; between headline and body fonts. They are the written voice of your web site and should be consistent with your brand image and comfortable for your target audience to read. Text that’s difficult to read can hinder your traffic building efforts.
  4. Type size. Remember you want your readers to be able to see your text. Therefore, if people over 40 are an important segment of your target audience, use a big, easy-to-read typeface or provide an option to select a larger size.
  5. Type colors. Using color highlighting for text can liven up a page but it’s critical to keep it easy-on-the-eyes. Too many colors confuse and some combinations will just turn visitors off and drive them away.  If you’re using a white (or other light color) on a black (or dark) background, use a half a size larger type so that it’s legible. While it’s counter intuitive, people with low vision issues can read this type easier.
  6. Backgrounds. What color(s) and/or images do you want to use as a background on your blog? This is the stage dressing for your site. Warm colors project a human focus while cool colors are associated with technology. But you don’t want the background to attract so much attention that it distracts from your content.
  7. Images. How do you plan to use photographs, images and figures in your posts? Many bloggers use a small image at the top of their posts to draw readers in. Among the decisions to make are what size photographs will you use, will they be in color or black and white and will they have captions, borders or other effects? Will you use images through out the post as Satorialist does? Make sure that you have permission to use all images and photographs.
  8. Video and other content formats. Are you planning to include other forms of media like video, audio or presentations? If so, make sure that you associate text with these media objects so that they can be found by search engines.
  9. Content presentation. How will the text be laid out on the blog? Remember that many readers just quickly scan for information so that bullet points can help. If you’re using paragraphs, do you plan to highlight sections? If so, how?
  10. Post metadata. This includes information about the author, publication date, categories, tags and post excerpts. How should this text be formatted? Will authors have photographs and links to their social media presence(s)?
  11. Styles for lists and block quotes. Numbered and bulleted lists are important tools for organizing and presenting content. Block quotes identify other sources of information. How do you want to distinguish these elements?
  12. Easy-to-understand navigation (aka UX or User Experience Design). How do you want the navigation to look and work? Is there more than one level of navigation? Most importantly, does the navigation make sense to your visitors?
  13. Static page layout. How do you want non-post pages to appear? Typically these include about, content and policy pages. How should the content of these pages look to the reader? Will you accept comments on these static pages?
  14. Linking policy. What is your policy on linking to other publications and blogs? Will you have a blogroll? Will you allow links in your comment section?
  15. Comment policy. Do you want your comment section to be open, moderated or closed? Remember that you can’t just keep the good stuff. You need to have a policy for what is accepted and what is not.
  16. RSS and Email Options. Do you offer readers these choices? If so, will they receive the full text of your blog or do they need to click through and come to your site?
  17. Social sharing features. How do you want to present social media widgets, links, and/or buttons? Do you want to encourage readers to share your content?
  18. Mobile presentation. With increased mobile usage, does your blog render in a readable fashion on a mobile device? If not, it’s a good idea to add this to your To Do list, especially with the increasing usage trends.
  19. Print. Do you have a separate style sheet for when readers want to print your content out? If so, don’t forget to include your blog address and phone number if appropriate. Remember someone else may get your post, make it easy for them to contact you.
  20. Internationalization Needed? If you’re global, consider what languages you must support to provide full service to your target audience. Be aware of what changes or modifications need to be made to account for cultural differences.
  21. Monetization. Are you planning to monetize your blog? If so, how do you plan to use advertising and what is your policy as to where it should appear? Similarly, what’s your policy about affiliate programs? How do you disclose your association with advertisers, sponsors and affiliates?

While you may be itching to jump into the blogging fray, take the time to think through the blog’s design elements. Good planning and design can enhance your blog’s effectiveness.

Are there any other features that you would add to this list? If so, what are they and why do you think that they are important?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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Photo credit: GeishaBoy500 via Flickr

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  • http://paulasstory.wordpress.com Paula

    Hi Heidi,

    I love the list, it covers everything that some people may forget to think about. I know I had forgotten a few.

    Anyway, I think I wanted to mention that some of this is hard to do if you are on a hosted site like wordpress.com. You have limited design access for the free account and even for the paid bits, you may not get total control. I do think you have the right ideas for those on self hosted sites though so I really do think your list was great.

    Paula

    • http://riversidemarketingstrategies.com/ Heidi Cohen

      Paula–Glad you enjoyed the post. While blogs that aren’t self hosted may be more limited in terms of options, many users change very few of the options they have. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • http://www.dogwalkblog.com Rufus Dogg

    One quick tip that may not be immediately apparent: If you link throughout your blog post, dedicate at least one full paragraph (preferably near the top) to be link-free. Many times, readers access your blog through a mobile device such as an iPhone or iPad, where a double tap magnifies the content full view. If there are links there, it jettisons them off to the link location rather than the magnified view of your post. If you use WordPress, WPtouch should be installed/activated.

    • http://riversidemarketingstrategies.com/ Heidi Cohen

      Rufuss — Thank you for the mobile content tip. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • http://roadstories.ca Boomergirl

    I like your blog design very much. I like the font. I like the size of the font. It’s clean, not cluttered and a great masthead.

    • http://riversidemarketingstrategies.com/ Heidi Cohen

      Thank you so much but I can’t take credit. I had a designer who’s amazing! Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • Andrea

    thank you! I am even more inspired to start my own blog now (in the research, brainstorming/plotting phase) and this is very helpful! :) Happy Marketing Heidi!