Personal blogs are usually forgotten when thinking about visual updates. The focus that is put mainly on the content is totally understandable but this does not mean that we should dismiss the importance of design. That is especially the case in the event that the personal blog does not feature responsive web design, which is a recipe for disaster, as every single designer knows right now.
The appearance of a personal blog is obviously something that is subjective. You may not agree with some of the suggestions below because of that. However, it is really important that you take into account everything that could improve your online presence since nowadays, personal branding is vital.
Your personal blog is a business card for you so you need to make it shine. You cannot do that just with the content that you write. With this in mind, here are some suggestions to consider.
By simply having a website navigation that is highly attractive and well-designed, you can keep people on the blog for a longer period of time as they are tempted to explore. Obviously, the navigation can also highlight your personality, which you do want from a personal blog. Experiment with different navigation bars. Make them smaller or larger and see what gets more clicks. Just make sure that everything fits in well with the overall theme of the blog.
The common approach with personal blogs is to add a slider with the latest posts added to it. This is not necessarily the best approach because you may have some articles that are not so interesting in the last ones you wrote. The limitation also appears based on the slider plugin that is used. Most of those that are available will only list the latest posts and will automatically add featured images to them. Take the leap towards a plugin that allows you to choose what you add to the slider. If possible, look for as many customization options as possible. That allows you to clearly highlight featured posts or other posts you see as being really important for your personal blog.
Most sites do not have a splash header but this tool can be highly effective in the event that you want people to see something. We are referring to a header region that presents what is, in your mind, the most important thing on the blog. For instance, if your goal at the moment is to find a new job, you may want to highlight a link towards your CV or a page where you present why a company may consider hiring you. While the splash header is usually a technique used by business oriented sites, it can work on personal blogs and it will make it look different. You can use the splash header on every page of your sit or on just some sites that you consider important.
After reading a blog post, many visitors are wondering where to go next. If the article was really good, the visitor wants more. In most themes we have previous and next links at the end of a post but they are not that attractive. Do make necessary modifications so that you can highlight those often forgotten links. Also, do consider positioning. Think about when the reader finishes with a page and may look at the screen for something more to read.
If you want to make the area even more useful, use one of the plugins that allow the addition of the featured image to the link in this region. It only makes everything more attractive.
The general belief is that nobody looks at the footer of a site. This is completely incorrect. In fact, the footer is browsed by many visitors and most personal blogs out there just add a blogroll and some general copyright information in this region. Do take that extra time to add some sort of call to action to the footer.
For instance, how about writing a message in which you invite people to subscribe to your newsletter if they enjoyed your content? If you wrote a book that is useful for the reader of the article, highlight it and offer more details or a link to the landing page. The possibilities are endless and the Footer area is definitely one of the most overlooked regions of a personal blog.
Most personal blogs do not fully take advantage of the About The Author area at the end of a blog post. In most situations we just see a couple of sentences and some links to social profiles since that is what the used plugin allows. While this is definitely a good idea, how about adding a link to your main About page? All that you have to do is invite people to learn more about you at that particular link. Many of those that liked what you wrote and that do not know you will want to learn more.
You have to also take the necessary time to properly design the About page. Many just write a small text, add a few links and one image. This is not actually enough. Remember the business card statement made above. Improve this page and make it stand out. You can even make it a separate page that is completely different than the rest of the blog if you think that this is better for you.
Since we are talking about a personal blog, it is normal to want to feature as much as possible. Bloggers want to have conversations with readers and that is usually started by highlighting different possible conversation topics. Unfortunately, this usually leads to so many articles that are listed in the sidebar, making it really cluttered. Top that with widgets that are chosen because of appearance and you can easily understand what you can end up with.
One thing that you can do is use tabbed widgets. Use one that features popular posts (those with the most traffic), featured widgets (those that you choose) and recent posts (really common and necessary with all blogs since visitors expect to see this). As with any other addition you make to the personal site, make sure that it will look great. When using some plugins there is no way to make them fit. Also, you can take the same tabbed based approach with social media profiles if you have many and you want to add them to your site. Adding one widged for each would clutter the design.
Do you have many people that follow you on Twitter or that are subscribed to your newsletter/RSS feed? If so, do you show these numbers on the blog? Such statistics can be highlighted absolutely anywhere and th reason why you want to do this is really simple. People are much more likely to trust the advice or recommendations of a blogger when they see that the personal blog has a large following. Experiment with the design. You can opt for something subtle or for something really big and impressive. Just do not add such a feature if you do not have that many followers since it would have the opposed effect to what you want.
This is particularly useful in the event that you are a designer, artist, photographer or similar. Collage style backgrounds are interesting and thy always make blogs stand out. However, it is really easy to overdo it. Most personal blogs that use such a background do it improperly. The trick is to make sure that the collage used does not distract the reader. Images that are too cluttered or too colourful will not be suitable for personal blogs.
A common mistake with personal blogs is adding the ads without actually thinking much about the overall design. This usually happens because the blog owner rarely thinks about the fact that he/she could end up making money with what is started as a hobby. As traffic grows, the possibility to make money appears. Ads are then added and they do not look too great.
When creating the design for a site or even when choosing a theme for a WordPress install, you do want to see areas that can incorporate ads. If ads look like afterthoughts, advertisers will not really be interested and visitors will not be tempted to click them if you add them.
Think about what happens when you visit any site that you like and you cannot find the search bar. That is frustrating and can make people leave. You do not want that to happen. The best possible position for the search bar is really high on the page. The only thing that you have to be careful is that you do not take attention from the more important parts of the site. Such a small addition to the blog’s design can easily increase time spent on site. Many think that a search box in the sidebar is enough but most internet visitors will look for the search box in the first pixels of the site, usually in the right side.
Most personal blogs do not have a favicon. To be honest, this is impossible when using a free service like WordPress.com or Blogger.com. However, if you do own your hosting, you do want to design a favicon that is appropriate. The reason for this is that the modern internet browser has many tabs opened at once. In many situations it is this favicon that is remembered. You do want to be remembered!
This is an area that is so often overlooked on a personal blog. The vast majority of personal blogs will use quotes in articles. By simply styling them in a way that is a lot different than the content you gain a lot as people will notice that, will read the quotes as they are seen as important. If they are important and filled with good information, more time will be spent on the blog. Interviews will particularly look better.
The process of selecting post images stands out as a really important decision, one that is often overlooked with personal blogs. Every single image that is used has to stand out and has to make the reader want to click. At the same time, you want to be sure that the post image is styled properly in order to fit the design of the blog in a proper way.
It is worth adding that you can easily improve this by learning a little Photoshop or similar. Just try to improve some images and make them perfectly fit with the design that you use on your personal blog. Creating a template that you follow and that you just modify can be particularly useful for series that you publish on your blog.
No matter why you initially started the personal blog, it is not an excuse for not doing all that you can in order to make it look really great. Simple modifications as the ones that were mentioned above can help improve the design, which in turn will make people more attracted to what you write about. No matter how great the content is and how good you are at writing, if the blog is not appealing, visitors will not even give you a chance.
We should highlight the fact that we are talking about a personal blog so you can easily ask for feedback about the design used. Ask your readers about what they like or what they do not like. Ask what features should be added and what features should be removed? This can help you out a lot in creating a better design for your personal blog.