Ahmad Imran

Blogger, writer and founder of the REASONTOUSE platform. Passionate about providing quality information to help you refine your blogging skills and art of online writing.

Everyone is different and everyone’s formula of success is different to others.

However, from the people who have achieved what you are dreaming for, you need to listen to them and look for the clues which they have left for us.

Because success leaves clues. Tony Robbins said it formally but it is a widely accepted reality with only a few exceptions.

As a new or intermediate blogger who manages his/her blog design as well, it can be a tedious task to make sure that they are doing the “design” part efficiently. I agree that content is the king but until you reach to a certain level, your content needs be supported by a neat, practical and attractive design as well.

There are many excellent blogs out there but I read a few more than others. Their content is full of value and for a new blogger like me, they provide a wealth of information to improve my blogging.

I picked one blog post from each one of them (typical to represent the rest) and dissected them for common trends in design and features.

I wanted to find what are the common themes and design elements that these successful bloggers are implementing in their blogs.

“I found 8 consistent items of design which I believe every blogger should consider when designing the layout and formatting of their blog posts.”

First, let me tell you who I picked for this analysis.

 

 

My Sample Set of 5 Top Blogs

The 5 reputable blogs that I have analysed for this exercise need no introduction in the world of blogging. I must have missed many other brilliant blogs but this is purely because I am attracted to these blogs more than others.

It does not mean that these are the 5 best blogs in the world. It also does not mean that their design is the best and it should be followed blindly.

I have no connection with any of the founders or authors of these blogs either at the time of writing this blog post.

Here are the 5 articles I selected and their respective brief introduction.

 

110 Content Marketing Goals Worth Pursuing by Sonia Simone on Copyblogger blog published on 6th of August 2015. Copyblogger was started by Brian Clarke as a one-man blog in 2006 and is now considered as one of the best resource of information in the world of content marketing with a an annual revenue in 8 figures and growing.

2How to Build Your Blog’s Audience with Long Form Evergreen Content by Darren Rowse on Problogger blog published on 19th of June 2015. Darren Rowse started blogging in 2002 and his massive experience and smart work in the world of blogging has earned him a huge audience and loyal followers since then.

3Bring Old Blog Posts Back to Life: 5 Strategies that Work by Neil Patel on NeilPatel blog published on 1st of August 2015. Neil is an entrepreneur and an influencer who has co-founded the Crazy Egg and Hello Bar. His articles are in-depth, full of value and well researched generally.

47 Secrets of Wildly Successful Entrepreneurs by Derek Halpern on Social Triggers blog published on 6th of August 2015. Derek is an expert marketer and entrepreneur whose articles are data and research backed to produce desired results for his followers and readers.

525 Valuable Lessons from Seriously Successful Writers by Bryan Collins on Boost Blog Traffic blog published on 23rd of July 2015. Jon Morrow’s blog is one of the best for those who wish to increase their readership and blog growth by tried and tested advice and experience through his articles.

 

But I did not choose these articles for their content quality.

In fact, my aim was to choose a typical “blog post” from these websites to analyse and review their design elements. Something that will help me and you to fine-tune our blogs if we think that is relevant.

Time to dive in.

 

Lesson No. 1 – Easily Readable Blog Post Body

Straight to the point.

All five samples showed that the text in the main body of the article is easily readable with the following observations.

  • Light background with dark text demonstrating sufficient contrast for ease of reading.
  • Font size between 14px to 20px (approximate average 18px) and line height greater than 1.5 times the font height.
  • Article width to be between 600px to 700px with plenty of white space for eyes to rest and ease of reading.
  • Short paragraphs with not more than 3 or 4 sentences generally.
  • Excellent use of headings and sub-headings.
  • Conversational tone which dies not feel corporate or official.

 

 

Your writing in the blog post’s main body is the key – make sure that it is easily digestible by your readers.

Don’t let them drown in the sea of text.  Respect your visitor’s time and they will thank you for that.

What is the one small change that you think you can do in your blog post main body design today ?

Perhaps the font size?

Or the line height ?

 

Lesson No. 2 – Sidebars are Not Gone Anywhere

This is the second significant finding in my list of 8 key blog post design principles.

All 5 blogs included a right-side positioned sidebar in their design. Although many new blog designs are calling the sidebars redundant and counter-productive, however these experts don’t think that way.

I was also against the idea of having a sidebar when I started my blog. I thought that the blog design gets congested and less attractive with an introduction of a sidebar.

I was wrong.

A carefully designed and well engineered sidebar accommodates many of the key widgets and information clusters which your visitors and readers are subconsciously looking for. By providing them with this information in this location, you are offering them an opportunity to read and engage more with your content.

Here are my key observations.

  • None of the sidebars showed any third party advertisements (at the time of this analysis).
  • Email subscription form was a must-have widget in 4 out of 5 blogs. Boost Blog Traffic was the one where the email subscription form was not included in the sidebar but this is because it appears above every post on this blog.
  • “Popular posts” was a feature of 4 out of 5 blogs while Problogger was an exception. Darren showed links to his books and pillar content instead.
  • Lastly and most importantly, the sidebars did not feel to be full of irrelevant information to the expected audience of the blog.

Here is an example of a clean and practical sidebar on Copyblogger.

 

 

I have a mix feelings about using a sidebar.

On one side, I believe that text feels more elegant and design seems attractive without using a sidebar – Medium posts and No Sidebar are two good examples.

However, as a blogger, I believe that there is not just the text we need to make pretty and design jaw-dropping. We have a lots of other information we need to let our readers know about. It is difficult to achieve this without using a sidebar.

If you listen to me, I would personally not use it. I have gone for a side-bar free design on my website. Sorry experts but I love minimalism.

It is up to you to decide to opt in or out of the sidebar option.

 

Lesson No. 3 – Simple Logo & Menus

Let us talk about the logos first.

4 out of 5 blogs have a simple text logo. Problogger is again an exception with a simple graphic added to the left side of the text.

Put it this way, none of them will win any award if they go to a “logo contest” for design.

Now don’t get me wrong.

A simple logo does not mean an easy logo. It has to be unique and easy to remember.

“The point I am trying to make is that do not spend extortionate amount of time and effort in designing a logo for your blog. Keep it simple, to the point and professional looking.”

Let us talk about the menus and navigation now.

This is where the an extreme caution is required.

The aim of the exercise should be to make the life easier for your site visitor. They should be allowed to easily find the required information with least number of clicks. Depending on your areas of interest, categories used on your blog and further sub-categories, your menu structure and navigation can be completely different from any of these examples.

This is perfectly fine.

Except Copyblogger which used double menu at the top of every blog post (like me), the rest of the 4 blogs used single row of main menu at the top of the page. Have a look at all the examples.

 

Did you notice that none of the menus are complicated and overwhelming?

They are to-the-point, brief and logical.

Is there any scope in your present “menu(s)” to be a bit more structured and organised?

 

Lesson No. 4 – Email List Signup is Vital

As a new blogger with a relatively small email list of subscribers, I am struggling to understand the extra ordinary emphasis given to the email list – always.

These experts have confirmed it through their blog post design that to capture the email address of their site visitor is important for them. Possibly, very important.

Hence it appears on every blog post.

4 out of 5 blogs positioned their email signup form in the top right corner of the sidebar. The only exception is the Boost Blog Traffic which went a step further. Their email signup form sits above everything on every single page of their blog.

 

 

Is your email signup form in the top right hand corner of your sidebar?

Or somewhere even more visible and easily accessible?

If not, there is a hint in here for us.

 

Lesson No. 5 – Encourage and Make Social Sharing Easy

Copyblogger, Problogger and Social Triggers had their social sharing buttons at the top and bottom of the blog posts.

Neil Patel and Boost Blog Traffic went a step further. They offered social sharing buttons on the left side vertical bar as well.

 

The key is to make social sharing as easy as possible for the visitors. The buttons allow the users to share the article with their fans and followers extremely easily.

These experts realise the importance of the social media in today’s blogging. With a huge fan base, this helps them to go viral with their content and to spread their message.

Another factor I observed was that all these experts showed the total and individual number of shares on each platform through these social sharing buttons. It is a proof that their content is read, liked and shared.

For me and you, we need to play it carefully.

Depending on how big your social following is, you need to design and position your social buttons accordingly.

Is there anything you can do today to fine-tune your social sharing options??

 

Lesson No. 6 – Tell Your Readers About the Author

Copyblogger, Problogger and Boost Blog Traffic included “About The Author” section at the end of the blog post. It included a small information about the author of the post.

Neil Patel is a one-man blog at the time of writing this article. All articles were written by him. He has added a “bio” widget about himself in the sidebar which appears on every blog post and hence serves the same purpose – telling his readers about the author.

Social Triggers is again a one-man blog at the time of writing this article. Derek has cleverly included his personal images and his personal information in various places which tell his readers about him and his expertise.

 

The point to understand is that your readers want to know about the face behind the article. They want to have a confidence to trust what they are reading and why should they act on it.

If all of your articles are written by you, then give your readers enough information about you and show them that you are not afraid to show your face and personality to the world.

If your blog has various authors contributing to it, make sure that their face and information is available to your readers so they can trust on what they are told on your blog.

To me, blogging is personal and informal.

Tell your readers that they are dealing with a human being and not a robot.

 

Lesson No. 7 – Show Your Best Content Frequently

“Popular Posts” and “Pillar Content” are two such examples which these experts have used smartly in their blog post design and layout.

It is about maximising the exposure of the best performing content by these experts. There can be a few different algorithms to establish the success of an article (most overall clicks, most clicks per week, average daily clicks etc.) however the objective is the same.

Copyblogger has a massive list of 30 popular posts in the sidebar and Neil Patel, Social Triggers and Boost Blog Traffic have 5, 9 and 12 respectively.

 

 

Have you got some articles and blog posts which are performing better than others?

Is there any way you can showcase them in your sidebar or anywhere else?

Time to think.

My personal strategy at the moment is slightly different.

I use “related posts” plugin (Yuzo) at the end of every article.

As I mentioned earlier, it is not a rule to follow the blog post design principles by these experts as a must – however, a consistent approach by these giants tell us a lot to consider.

 

Lesson No. 8 – Make Your Blog Searchable

I don’t think that this one is given proper consideration by many bloggers as it should be.

Problogger and Boost Blog Traffic incorporated search facility in the main menu of their blog.

Copyblogger, Neil Patel and Social Triggers included a search box in their sidebars.

I checked all these websites on my smartphone as well. The design is generally responsive and the search facility is available in mobile view as well.

“The idea is to provide your readers an option to search your blog database if they are looking for specific information. You don’t want them to be unable to dig out a specific article which they need to read.”

As a blog owner and manager, it is your duty to keep your audience engaged. Provide them every opportunity that you can to find and read your blog posts.

Search box just serves this purpose.

 

Blog Post Design Principles – What Next?

Time to think.

Time to review our blog post designs.

Let me repeat here that everyone is different and everyone’s formula of success is unique to themselves. Do not take this analysis as a “writing set in stone”.

If you want to experiment something which is completely different from what these experts are doing, try it. It is your blog and your audience, you need to find the best formula to attract and engage with the readers to your best abilities.

However, if you feel that any of these blog post design principles is worth considering and implementing in your blog, go and do it.

Monitor the progress and see if it makes a difference.

Blogging is all about adjusting and learning the best skills.

My aim in this article was to spend some time and analyse what the successful bloggers are doing on their blogs and how can we extract some common themes from them.

Don’t forget to leave a comment below and let me know how you find this article.

Did it help?

Are you going to do any change in your blog design after reading this article?

I have a list of 3 things I need to review in my existing blog design. You will see some changes in my blog design in the near future.

And don’t forget to share it with someone who you think can benefit from this article.

Because sharing is caring.

 

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