I know most of you reading this aren’t designers, but you’ve probably learned enough code to add and edit a few things here and there, right? So what do all those blog designers with pretty, perfect sites know that you don’t that makes their online home look so damn good? Here are 10 things to check that will create a big visual difference and make your site easier to navigate to keep readers attention longer.
Have you ever visited a website and been faced with a wall of text so dense it actually hurt? Like, you really want to read that post but just couldn’t go forward without a headache starting to burn behind your eyes. Don’t do that to your lovely readers! I know you’re smart enough to not have white text on black, but there are two more things that will make reading easier and it’s fairly simple to change them both. First is the spacing between the letters and the second is the line height. Start with 1 and then adjust to find what looks best with your design.
This is what I use
font-family: lato, sans-serif;
Want to make your site look like a designer had their paws on it? Add more whitespace. People seem to be afraid of whitespace—like if they move columns too far apart readers will just never find their sidebar. But they will, I promise! A little room to breathe makes sites easier to navigate (that seems to be a theme here, huh?) If you look at my site I not only have padding around my posts (30px), but also pretty big margins between my columns (40px).
This one is important for those of you with thumbnails on your home, category, or archive pages. Readers are likely scanning your site and might click on a post based purely on the thumbnail before they even get to the title. If the photo is only displaying a random corner instead of your beautiful DIY project or recipe, you may be losing clicks. Luckily this is an easy peasy fix for you WordPress users and I’ve already created a tutorial.
I am a stickler for clean columns. Why? Because they give your site the overall appearance of being organized. I will literally move things over pixel by pixel to get them lined up properly, which is why my titles align with my photos which align with my text which align with my post meta. The same goes for the sidebar—everything has the same indent and the same width, which makes them easier to navigate and look damn pretty.
This is a random one, but in doing Fix-It Friday I’ve come across this issue repeatedly. All of the links in your navigation should appear on one line (or two if you really need that many), but you shouldn’t have six links on the first line and one or two stragglers on the second. It looks like a mistake since most themes are not designed to have multiple-line menus. First, make sure all your links are absolutely important for users to find, and then kick one to the curb or get yourself a theme that allows for a drop-down menu.
Have you ever walked into a store with cash in your pocket and the intention of making a purchase, only to find the store cluttered and all the employees mysteriously missing? Not only would I not spend a penny, I probably wouldn’t go back to that store again. Unless it’s Target…I cannot help myself when it comes to that place.
Aaaanyway, think of your site as your star employee. They should be available immediately to help readers find what they’re looking for, share your latest products and services, and send them off with exactly what they need.
Analytics will help you see where users are clicking most. Keep your site clutter-free and create sales funnels to help guide them from post, to product, to purchase.
I know you want to try every new fancy-pants plugin and name your categories creatively to match your niche, but sometimes it’s best to keep it simple. This goes hand-in-hand with organization—if your site does too many backflips before a user even reads a word, they may give up on waiting and go elsewhere.
Choose names that are universal—there’s nothing wrong with calling your about page “About” and your shop page “Shop.” Your blog intro should be somewhere toward the top and categories should be listed in the nav or sidebar. It doesn’t mean every site has to be exactly the same, but users tend to look in the same place on every site for things like about and contact, social media links, and categories. Make it easy on them!
This is how we build recognizable brands and keep users from becoming cross-eyed looking at your site. Use the same fonts, in the same colors, at the same size throughout your site. Keep the sizes of photos in blog posts and graphics in your sidebar consistent. Use headings the same way to break up text in all of your posts. And be consistent throughout your social media profiles as well. When an image pops up on Instagram your followers should instantly recognize it’s from you. Creating a style guide will be helpful in staying consistent.
Now that phones are turning into mini mini iPads, this is a must-have with any site. Don’t make users swipe all around and re-size to read that awesome content of yours. Make it so smooth and simple, they glide through your site reading post after post.
Think about the times you end up reading blogs on your phone. For me it’s in the morning when I’m looking for any excuse to stay in bed or when I’m out and about waiting for an appointment or getting my hair done. I want to find sites that I can spend a good 30 minutes on lazily scrolling through content. Is your site working for your readers when they’re away from their computer?
A Clear Purpose
What is the purpose of your header? What is the purpose of the pages in your nav? What is the purpose of each item in your sidebar, post footer, site footer? Were those questions easy for you to answer? Will they be easy for a new reader to answer?
Anything that doesn’t have a clear purpose is clutter and could stop someone from moving through your site.
CLICK TO TWEET: Anything that doesn’t have a clear purpose is clutter and could stop someone from moving through your site.
When a good designer builds a site, they have a reason for every character, every pattern, every line. They put things in specific places for specific reasons and if you’re the one designing your site, you need to do the same. Take time to consider whether each element on your site is helping the reader and drawing them in or pushing them away.
The bottom line – keep it clean and consistent, make sure the content on your site is purposeful, and make it easy for new visitors and long-time readers to find what they’re looking for fast.