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5 Essential Items for Every Blog

There is a lot that is subjective about blog design. One person’s simple and clean is another person’s stark and boring. Ascetics are important but they should never overrule functionality. We’re going to look at few things every blog should have no matter what it looks like.

Header

First impressions mean a lot and your header is the first thing people really see when they visit your blog.

Headers should not be:

  • Too big – if I have to scroll down to see your first post, your header is too big.
  • Too cluttered – your blog’s name & tagline (simple & concise) are the key elements, plus of course, your logo. You can possibly have links to social media sites and other pages on your blog if it fits the overall theme of your site.

Headers should:

  • Give a clear image of your personal brand.
  • Set the tone of your site.

All the circles in the tree are linked buttons!

This header from O2O member, Carissa Rogers of Good N Crazy is one of my all time favorite headers! Not too big – you can see her first post directly beneath the header. Not too cluttered – the relevant links (such as social media icons and links to additional content) are contained in the tree graphic. Sets the tone of her site – the colors used in the header are repeated throughout the site.

Easy To Spot Social Media Icons

Readers want to connect with you, don’t make them search for that information! As Community Manager for One2One Network, I’m daily looking at blogs of our members. I want to make sure that we’re following members on Twitter, that we “Like” their blog pages on Facebook, that we’re subscribed to their feeds, etc.  The top, prime spots on your sidebar should be dedicated to making yourself accessible across social media platforms. Including your…

Easy To Find Email Address

A link with an html “mailto:” code is super helpful but even a graphic or plain text with your email address is fine. And for the record, just say no to contact forms.

Sidebar

Sidebars are tricky beasts. Where should they go – right side or left side? What should be in them? How much information and content should be in a sidebar? Here are a couple of things to consider.

  1. Placement – “Nothing is quite so vexing to me as a blog whose sidebar is on the left. The natural movement of our eyes is from left to right: if we want visitors to read our blog post, we want their eyes to land on it first. This idea is reinforced by usability studies done by renowned usability expert Jakob Nielsen (e.g. Horizontal Attention Leans Left).” via Brad Shorr of Six Revisions.
  2. Content – Content should be useful and fresh. Move multiple years of archives and old awards to a another page. Widgets should fit within the parameters of the sidebar. The overall look of the sidebar should be clean and uncluttered. And as mentioned earlier, prime real estate should be given to those ways that people can reach you (social media links and e-mail).

Generally speaking, 2-column blogs are easier to navigate vs. 3-column. If you just have to have 3-columns, make sure they contain relevant information and are uncluttered.

Be Searchable

Good PR firms and marketers are actually going to do their homework first before contacting you with a pitch or opportunity. It’s in your best interest to make it easy for them to find the information they seek. Many blog templates have search box plugins and widgets that you can easily add to your sidebar (in an easily found spot!). Google and Lijit are also search providers that I often see when searching blogs for potential projects. If you don’t have this already, get one today!

To round this post out, I will confess that my personal blog, is pretty much lacking in ALL these things. And in writing this, I even see some improvements that can be made here on the O2O blog. That being said, I’m going to be taking my own “advice” soon! What kinds of things do think are “must-haves” on a blog – on your blog?

5 Comments

  1. Freaking Excited to see my AWESOME TREE-licious as your example! WhooHoo!

    Everyone has to go give kudos to @dotatdabbled for her wonderful tree.. she’s the artist!!!
    She rocks my world!

  2. PS to answer the last question, it drives me nuts when the first post of your blog has been shortened to a ‘read more’ excerpt. Don’t make me click to finish the first post.. 🙂

  3. A blog needs a good comment system. The basic one on Blogger doesn’t let you respond directly underneath a comment.

  4. Leaving your email address as text is a great way for bots to find you. HORRIBLE advice.

    It’s interesting about the right sidebar being so readily accepted. A few years ago, a sidebar on the right got you laughed right out of town

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