Recently, I was looking at the judging criteria for the UK Blog Awards, and part of it includes looking at the design, style and usability of each website. This means the judges will probably look at everything from headers to footers, to sidebars to fonts and so much more.
So, this got me thinking about my own blog, but also in terms of what I admire about other blogs (and what’s not so great!) And today I wanted to share my thoughts with you, including the top five things that you can sort out on your blog right now. If you’re guilty of any of these, don’t worry - if you change them, then you can get even better results!
#1 | YOUR SIDEBAR IS MESSY
Sidebars are a funny topic these days. The trend used to be to have one and fill it with loads of different things. Now, it seems that a lot of people prefer to not have one at all. Take a look at the difference between these two blogs:
The top one doesn’t have a sidebar and the bottom one does. Both give off a different message but still look professional.
Some people think sidebars look unprofessional, but I disagree. It’s what you put in your sidebar that’s important. That’s why the blog on Bloguettes looks so good because their sidebar contains the most important information for readers and still looks really clean and tidy.
The problem comes when you’ve got a million buttons or adverts promoting other bloggers, or things you put on there ages ago that you completely forgot about.
We’ve already mentioned the solution - include only the most important and relevant information on there. You can include things like:
- Social icons
- Newsletter sign up/opt in
- Profile picture
- Search bar
- Popular posts
Anything else, get rid of it. Be brutal - it’ll only help you improve.
#2 | IT’S TOO DIFFICULT TO GET IN TOUCH WITH YOU
When you visit a new blog for the first time and you fall in love, what do you want to do? Follow them on social media, of course! You want to subscribe to them on Bloglovin’ so you can keep up to date with their posts, tweet them when you share their content and even pop them an email to let them know you love what they’re doing.
That’s all well and good until you try to look for all these things and you can’t find them...anywhere.
So I do something with this information in my sidebar that I learnt from my Magazine Journalism days. You know when magazines are stacked on shelves and you can see certain headlines? Where those headlines are placed is called ‘above-the-fold’ - meaning it’s placed where someone will see it without having move it or take any other action.
So the one thing you want people to do when they get to your site? That’s what you should put above-the-fold. If you want to grow your social following, put your social links up there. I want people to download my eBook and join my community, so that’s one of the first things you see in my sidebar.
But having your contact information easily visible for people (by including your email address on your contact AND about page), encourages them to get in touch with you, which means growth for your brand.
#3 | YOUR TEXT IS TOO SMALL AND UNTIDY
OK. So there used to be a trend going around the blogosphere that involved text on a post being two things:
The problem with this? Whilst you might think it makes your blog look good, it’s actually very difficult to read and looks messy. The natural way for someone to read something is left to right - centralised text messes that up completely.
So pretty please, do yourself and your readers a favour - make sure your text is always aligned to the left. It will really help your blog look so much more polished.
#4 | YOU’RE MISSING IMPORTANT PAGES
I work in the Marketing department for a sixth form college and we constantly get enquiries from people. The main way they get in touch with us is through our contact page. But can you imagine if we didn’t have that information? Or if we didn’t list our entry criteria, or where about's the college is located?
There is nothing worse than not being able to find the information you need from someone’s website. You don’t want to have to tweet them saying you can’t find their email address or worse - have to give up completely.
If you want to make sure you’re leaving yourself open to as many opportunities as possible, then you need to include these important pages on your website, especially an about and contact page. And if you don’t want to put your email address on your site there’s a way around it - just include a contact form instead, where all messages get delivered straight to your inbox.
#5 | YOU HAVE THINGS THAT DON’T WORK
It’s very easy to add things to your site and then forget about them, like links and widgets. But if a visitor to your blog clicks on something and it doesn’t work, it’ll instantly put them off. And it’s just the same for widgets. If you’ve rebranded or your blog has a very specific look and feel, old widgets might stand out - and not in a good way.
It’s like your social sharing buttons. The regular ones are unlikely to fit in with the overall theme of your blog. So why not give them a bit of TLC and customise them? Yes, it might involve you learning something new, but it will really help to improve the overall impression of your website and brand.
Is there anything in this list that you need to sort out on your own blog? What else do you think makes a blog look unprofessional?