Starting a blog seems like an easy thing. You create an account, pick a name, theme and you’re set to go, right? Wrong! While a theme may meet most of your design needs, you still have to fine tune it to fit your own personal brand.

Think of your blog as a cat: You might have a cool cat – playful, great at snuggling on your legs while you’re asleep, just, the best purrs you’ve ever heard, but if your cat is not physically cute, you may have a problem getting other people to pay attention to it. And we’re not trying to disrespect/objectify your pets, we’re just saying all that inner beauty talk was invented by corporations to sell self-help books to kittens. That’s just a fact.

So, if you have a physically attractive cat/blog, that should be enough to get your stats jumping, right? Wrong again! (Wow, you’re really terrible at this, but that’s why we’re here, holding your hand)

You should have your site designed in a way that matches your content. Piggybacking off of that cat analogy, if you’re keeping one, it should be equipped to serve you depending on where you’re keeping it. If it’s just a pet, then you should be okay with it just being cute and fluffy. If you live in a place with snakes, you should look into getting a cat that can fight. You don’t want a scaly slithering serpent getting into your home and terrorizing your loved ones while your best defence is sitting pretty on your nice cushions, Baba Jimmy. Please ensure Kanyau can throw hands…errr…paws before you adopt her.

Now let’s get into how you can get your site design to work for you.

1. Widgets

These are the little embeds to web pages that perform functions and whatnot. You know the ones. Ideally, you should have not more than three widgets per page. The most important ones are for navigation and subscription. The former should have great attention paid. You could have two, one for the latest/top posts and another for navigating time periods. The one with time periods should not be a calendar unless you post regularly every day without fail. If you do posts weekly, consider doing one that navigates by months, as it’s neater.

Other widgets you could add include social media embeds. For those, do not add Instagram embeds that show image previews unless your blog focuses on images e.g. travel, photography. You have the option to include simple social media link buttons that don’t overwork your audiences’ devices.

Do NOT use stat counters or maps of any kind. We’re not doing site design like it’s 1999.

For blogs focused on writing, try to avoid carousels.

2. Media

First, don’t use Flash content. It’s compromised and you’re risking the safety of your audience. Not cool. Do not have audio or video that auto-plays on your landing page. Apart from being distracting, it causes a load to the user’s device that they hadn’t agreed to in the first place. This is the kind of thing that has Itel phones catching fire in matatus, and that is also not cool.

Try to reduce or completely avoid using gifs in your posts. Sometimes, they take long to load and can keep moving the text on display when one is reading. If you must, use static images. Like the first points on widgets, this is meant to reduce the moving components of your site for a smooth user experience.

If you have a logo, strike a balance between prominently displaying it and having it not be imposing. If you don’t have a logo, hold on to the previous sentence as you find somebody to design one for you.

3. Colours

Nursery school is so underrated. They teach you about colours but everybody is too busy trying to prove to grown-ups that they’re not babies anymore and should be treated with all due respect. But, it really helps in life. Do not go for colours that clash e.g. brown does not go with yellow. Avoid neon colours except in logos. Make sure your site’s background colours do not make it hard to read your text. Usually, black text against white/grey backgrounds and vice versa. Also, unless your background is black, your text should be black. Seems obvious, but we’ve been around blogs (it’s our job, really) and have seen enough of them use blue for the font colour. It’s confusing and should be reserved for hyperlinks.

That said, play with colour combinations and see what works for you.

4. Text

Your text should not span the entire width of the screen. If you can, have it in a way that can be read on a computer monitor without having to move your head from left to right. For reference, see Microsoft Word when zoomed to 100% or the page you’re reading this on right now.  You don’t want your readers getting neck cramps and needing massages after they visit your site.

Choosing fonts should also be driven by your content. Times New Roman is good for formal websites, while fonts resembling Calibri are for less formal websites. Fonts with loops are for sites that don’t care about their readers since they choose to present themselves in a way that allows reading when in motion. Keep it simple.

Did these tips help you get your blog to adorable serpent-repelling cat levels? Let us know in the comments below, add some ideas we may have missed, share with your fellow website owners and follow us on Twitter for more.

If you need help with your site’s design, don’t hesitate to seek help from seasoned persons. It will help you in the end.

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