Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest Blog of all?

This post is about Blog presentation. And frankly I’m a bit nervous to be writing about this topic. Let’s face it, the look and feel of your blog is a very personal thing. And many of you are Scrapbookers so it’s even more of a personal thing. So let me state up front:

This post is aimed at highlighting points to consider if your presentation is focussed on your audience rather than on your own preferences. If you write your blog purely for your own purposes and are not really concerned about ‘reader friendly’ aspects then this post is probably not goingTop Tip: Blog Presentation to interest you.

Having read a number of articles on blog design from professional bloggers like Yaro Starak and Darren Rowse I thought it might be helpful to pull some of the fundamental items on presentation together.

Now these guys blog about blogging with a focus on making money from blogging. I realise that this is not what most of us are about, so I’m not advocating that we all jump on their ‘business focussed’ bandwagon in how we design our own blogs. But many of the fundamental presentation principles are worth considering for our own personal blogs if we want them to appeal to a broader audience.

The majority of us use a template or blog skin chosen from a limited range provided by our blog platform provider. I have recently moved my blog to my own Scraps of Mind domain where I have a huge range of templates to choose from and I’m blessed with a daughter who can hack the code to tweak them further to suit my needs. But I realise that most of you just have the free templates to choose from with a limited amount of customisation available to you.

Presentation factors to consider:

  1. Contrast.Try to ensure there is good contrast between your text colour and your background. For some reason black text on a white background is far easier to read than white text on a black background. And some of the other colour combinations in the various templates can also be challenging to read. You need a crisp contrast between background and text.
  2. Font. Try to ensure that you choose a font style and size that is easy to read on a screen. The prevailing wisdom says that serif fonts (ones with the little sticking out bits on the letters, like Times New Roman) are better for reading on paper and sans-serif (clean lines like Arial or Lucida) are easier to read on the screen. As a visually challenged person I do find it a struggle to read the text on many blogs I visit. And I assume I am not alone.
    My ‘old’ Scraps of Mind blog had a larger font than my current template. I’m still a bit iffy on whether the reduced font size is a good idea. I’d love to know if any of my readers would prefer me to upsize my font again or if this one is OK for you.
  3. White space. It is a whole lot easier to read a long post if there are some ‘visual pauses’ in it. Use white space to create these pauses and break your your text to make it easier on the eye. Your reader will have a better chance of absorbing your information if their eyes can take it in through smaller chunks. So make sure there are gaps between your paragraphs. And try to keep to short paragraphs where possible.
  4. Use graphics to break up your text. For many of our posts this is not too difficult, given that most of us are into scrapbooking and photography. But sometimes your post doesn’t have a picture to break it up. I have found the blockquote feature on my template to be quite useful to bring a little visual variety into my ‘all text’ posts. Dot points are another tool you can use or even some careful use of bold or italics. The eye loves variety. As long as you don’t go overboard you can bring a bit of this into the most wordy of posts.
  5. Sidebar. Whether your template has one or two sidebars. Give some thought to how your arrange your sidebar widgets. The information you consider most important should go ‘above the fold’. Above the fold refers to the area that your reader sees when they first load your blog; before they start scrolling. What you consider to be the most important information may be different to someone else but try to ensure that it sits above the fold in your side bar.

A good test is to think about which blogs that you find easy to read and think about why that is so. I hope this is one of them. Although there’s still a long journey to go to improve it. Any suggestions for improvement from you would be more than welcome.

Please feel free to add your own additions to this list on improving blog presentation in the comments. I’m sure all readers (including myself) would appreciate them.

So to sum up. Your blog is about you. It belongs to you and needs to be what you want. But if you are seeking to make it easier for your readers to read your content then it might be worthwhile giving some of these points your consideration.

Other related posts:

Blog Post Titles – make them meaningful
Link up your Blog
Blogging 101

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10 Responses to Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest Blog of all?

  1. Martha~aka~Krash June 23, 2007 at 3:18 am #

    Oh yes. Customization! Love to try, hate the limitations I have right now being with the free version of WordPress. I’m having a heck of a time trying to customize a proper profile for MySpace! That site is just plain “fugly” most of the time! Great info here Karen:)

  2. Karooch June 24, 2007 at 9:54 pm #

    Before I moved to my own domain I paid WordPress $15 for the rights to do some limited modifications to my template. I chose a template which let me use my own header but I was also able to choose my font and background and make the template a bit wider. The ‘I’ part of this of course is my daughter Seona.
    Now I’ve signed up for $15 per year for WordPress to register and maintain my own domain name and I’ve moved onto Seona’s server using the WordPress.org software. We still have a bit of tweaking todo and there’s more for me to learn but overall, I think it will be worth it.

  3. Kahshe Cottager aka Jen June 25, 2007 at 10:36 am #

    Part of the fun of blogging is making the site attractive as well as readable. I am still working on it!

  4. PacificTonz June 25, 2007 at 4:45 pm #

    Thanks Karen, I am loving blogging but have so much to learn. It is great that you are willing to share your knowledge and experience. I would love to have a wider format but I can’t find one that gives me the other flexibility I want at WordPress and I do not want to move again so keep hoping for a new widescreen template.

  5. americanmom June 26, 2007 at 2:20 am #

    Hey Karen, Thanks for always sharing your blog knowledge. You explain things in an easily understandable way (believe me, that IS a true talent!). I only have one question – can I borrow Seona?

    As for your blog, I love all of the changes. I like the gray “quote” boxes you use…they do mix it up, a little change for the eye to read. And your font size change is fine. If I haven’t had my morning coffee yet, I just click View, Make Text Bigger, LOL.

  6. Karooch June 27, 2007 at 1:28 pm #

    Jen, Toni Erika glad you find what I write useful
    It’s my challenge to come up with articles that will be good value to you.
    And thanks for the View Text tip Erika. Believe it or not, I didn’t know about that one…duh!

  7. Real Women Scrap June 29, 2007 at 7:29 am #

    Great blog ideas and definitely ones that I tell all my blog coaching clients. I think the readability factor is absolutely crucial because it’s all about content. Love the tips…and love Darren and Yaro too!

  8. karooch June 29, 2007 at 9:34 pm #

    Thanks a lot, I appreciate your kind words.

  9. Kayla Lamoreaux June 30, 2007 at 12:38 am #

    Love this post – good things to remember for bloggers. Thanks for sharing your know-how! You are amazingly kind and generous to the digiscrap community!

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