It happens to all of us. We’re innocently checking out some new blogs then blam-o! We’re hit with flashing banners, or loud music or an indecipherable cursive font. Wait, what decade am I in? Is this 1999?
If you have a blog or are considering starting one, there are some definite do’s and dont’s you should be aware of. I made a few of these “don’t” mistakes when I was starting out also, so don’t feel bad if you’ve committed any of them. We don’t start off knowing everything, we learn along the way!
There are a million different ready-to-go blog themes out there for the various blog platforms, which is great. However you probably should customize it somewhat if you chose one of them. You don’t want a blog that looks exactly like hundreds of other blogs. If you can afford to have someone customize a personal design (or logo) for you, or maybe just tweak a design you like, it’s definitely money well spent!
It’s fine to have some kind of background pattern or texture for your blog. And by this I mean outside the main column where you write. Never put a background pattern underneath the main column. Subtlety is KEY here people. No colorful stars, no flashing anything, no neon cats. You get the idea, Subtle, subtle, subtle.
It might be too late for this, but consider your blog name carefully! It’s getting harder and harder to get a good, short blog name, but you don’t want to use anything suuuuuper long or a strange spelling. Try not to use dashes or anything weird because no one will remember it.
Most blogs have two columns, but some do have three. This is a personal thing for sure, but I really dislike three column blog layouts. Way too cluttered for me. MORE white space is always desirable, not less. Ask any graphic designer about white space and they will tell you it is key to good design.
Badges and banners
When I first started blogging, I was OBSESSED with getting all kinds of badges and cool sidebar “stuff” on my blog. I’m not talking about widgets where you keep your archives, contact info, etc. I mean those little badges letting the world know you were voted by some random person as a top 50 blog, or whatever. I spent so much time getting them sized right and in the correct places and I do not know why. Now I absolutely abhor them and don’t ever put them on my site. They’re ugly, useless, and just make things cluttered. Less is more! The more badges you have, the less professional your site looks. If you want people to know about your successes in the blog realm, put it on your About or Press page, not your sidebar.
Oh boy this is an area I could go on and on about. But I’ll keep it simple, like your font should be. Keep it simple. Do not use some fancy cursive font or anything even remotely weird looking or hard to read. You really want to make sure the font is one of the basic types such as Times New Roman, Helvetica, Arial, Courier New, Tahoma and Verdana. These are also all browser safe, meaning they work on both PC’s and Mac’s. Here are some more.
Another font issue is color. This can definitely be subjective but generally white font on a black or really dark background is very hard on the eyes. I personally cannot read sites in this style for more than 2-3 minutes at a time because I start seeing double! Keep it the standard black font on a white or light background, which is much easier on the eyes and a classic look. For a reason.
One last key thing to remember with fonts is do not write in all caps, bold or italics. Normal, normal, normal please.
For the love of god, please do not center the text in your posts! I’m not referring to when you center text under a photo. I am referring to the entire blog post being centered. It makes no sense. Books, magazines, newspapers, etc. are never written like this and neither should your site. This was brought up at the BlogHer event I went to last year and they said “you are not writing poetry, so do not center your text.”. Truth.
If you do have links or badges or other goodies on your site, make sure the links are always working and look correct. Sometimes things can change or get wonky, and you don’t want your site design looking all funky because of that.
Photos make blog posts better. Almost 100% of the time. But if you are using photos make sure you are using ones you took yourself unless you got express written permission from the owner, and linked back to them. Contrary to what a lot of newbies think, Google, Yahoo, Bing or any other search engine do not own the photos you find on them. They merely help you find the information. There are some instances you can use photos if they fall under the Fair Use Act. Here is a link for more info on all this.
Animated GIFs on homepage
I think this is obvious from my opening statement, but having music play on a blog when it opens is very MySpace. In other words, outdated. Just don’t do it.
Make sure you have your contact email address as well as a contact form, if you want to use one. Sometimes the forms don’t work or you have no idea if your message was really sent, so having the email address also is important. Don’t make people spend 5 minutes searching for it either, have it on your top bar or sidebar in an obvious place.
Either learn to spell or use spell-check. After I see a couple spelling errors on a site I won’t go back. There’s just no excuse for it. Edit: Someone mentioned I had a spelling error in one of my posts. Great catch, snotty comment. The error has been corrected but I would like to clarify something. We ALL make spelling mistakes sometimes or don’t catch them before we post an article. What I am saying is if your site has spelling errors frequently, or many per post, that is an issue. An occasional one is obviously going to happen to most people.
For even more information and tricks, check out this post I wrote awhile back.
Hopefully these little tips will help some of you out!