Reading content from screens is already an uncomfortable experience for many people, and the competition for attention on the Internet has never been more rabid. If I’m on a website that I find boring, stressful or difficult to engage with, I can tumble back on Facebook faster than you can blink.
This puts pressure on bloggers to craft a positive experience for readers each time they visit a post. And, believe it or not, much of that experience is crafted, not in the stories you tell, but in the package it comes wrapped in. I’ve scrolled more photography websites than I can count, and there are seven mistakes that pop up repeatedly, making my eyes cross while trying to engage with their content.
If you’re committing one of the Seven Deadly Blogging Sins, don’t panic! We can get you all fixed up right here and now.
1. YOUR BLOG IS TOO WIDE
If a single line of your blog stretches from edge to edge on a computer screen, your blog is too wide. Think about the other content you read. The thinner-than-they-are-tall pages found in books. The narrow columns designed for magazines and newspapers. The shape of a phone screen.
These styles are digestible and they give a reader a sensation of “making progress” as their eyes journey swiftly from line to line. This is where readers of your blog are trained to consume content. In contrast, sentences extending the width of a computer screen are overwhelming.
Fix the problem by adding gutters on either side of your blog post to narrow it or by adding a sidebar of additional content.
2. YOU CHOSE THE WRONG FONT
Even the most awe-inspiring blog post ever written can be ruined by a crazy font…and I’m not just talking about Comic Sans. It’s best to relegate the personality fonts to things like headers and quotes if you want to use them, and stick to a super readable option for body text.
Even serif fonts (fonts with all the little extra liney bits, like the one I use for my header) can be difficult to read. And if I can tell you the name of a font on sight (I’m looking at you Papyrus and Bradley Hand), it’s probably best to skip those, too.
Fix the problem by choosing a simple sans serif font (one without the extra liney bits, like the one I use for my body text) for your body font.
3. YOU FORGOT TO INCORPORATE DIVIDERS
Don’t lie, you’ve done it just like I have. You’ve clicked on a blog post and, instead of thoroughly reading it start to finish, you did the quick scroll n’ skim to see if any of the content immediately jumped out at you. I hate to break it to you, but this isn’t just a thing you do. A giant wall of text without any divisions is just downright overwhelming. Even if it would only take 5 minutes to read, it LOOKS like it would take ages, and sometimes that’s all it takes to scare away valuable readers.
Fix the problem by incorporating some form of divider, whether they be a numbered lists, images or pull quotes from your post. If readers are looking for eye-catching content that will reach out and draw them into your post, give it to them!
4. YOU MADE MIND-BENDING COLOR CHOICES
If your blog is written in hot pink on a black background, please just no. Again, your readers are trained by common media to read dark text on a light background, so choosing the inverse color palette for your blog can be an unpleasant shock to the reader’s system. Many color combinations are also just downright difficult to read, especially as qualities like brightness and contrast as they appear on someone’s computer are not under your control.
Fix the problem by sticking to a dark font/light background color scheme and incorporating color through heading fonts, images or sidebars instead.
5. YOU WROTE ENDLESS, RAMBLING PARAGRAPHS
I know you have tons of great information to share with your readers, but presenting that info in the form of one, giant, overstuffed paragraph is, um, off-putting. Structuring your blog posts like your college European History essays aren’t doing anyone any favors.
Fix the problem by keeping paragraphs to a single idea that takes three to four sentences to express. Varying paragraph length is also a great way to maintain a pleasant flow for readers as they travel through your blog post.
And did you know that single-sentence paragraphs, can pack a real punch?
6. YOU WROTE SENTENCES THAT ARE ALL THE SAME LENGTH AND STYLE
If all of the sentences in your blog post take up four lines of text, readers may get bored or exhausted halfway through and click away. If they are all short and choppy, it can feel uncomfortably bumpy, like reading on a plane with heavy turbulence.
Fix the problem by varying sentence length. Follow a long, detail-packed sentence with a short bit of commentary to emphasis your point and create rhythm. Yep. Even one word sentences are great tools to keep handy.
7. YOU CHOSE AN OVERCROWDED LAYOUT
I’m sure you’ve visited one of those websites that uses every square inch of its real estate to tell you something. From blinking ads to recommended content, everywhere you look something is yelling at you to do a thing. And all the lines of text are squished as tightly together as possible. Not only can this overwhelm a reader, scaring them away from your site altogether, it can also be ridiculously distracting and send them off on a tangent to some other corner of your website…or even off your website onto someone else’s, never to return!
Fix the problem by giving a reader room to breathe. White space is your friend. Increase the line height of your body text and leave some empty space here and there. Be judicious about the links, images and ads you include on your blog post, and make sure they supplement the experience rather than detract from it.
Here’s the honest to God truth: getting a reader to stick with you all the way through a blog post is no easy feat. Set yourself up for success by creating a welcoming, pleasant and digestible experience on your blogs posts!
Do you have more tips for great blog design? Share them in the comments!