I just saw a post on Kieron Donoghue’s affiliate marketing blog that he’s going through a redesign at the same time as moving from Blogger to WordPress.
Kieron’s old design was the classic Blogger template, you can see it here at archive.org.
I actually kind of liked it, nice and uncluttered and it let the content shine through, and Kieron’s blog is really quite good. Full of personality and loads of useful tips, he’s on just about every UK affiliate’s blogroll.
Anyway, having been through a few redesigns myself, for this blog, and for some I’ve built for other people, I thought a little check-list of what to look for in a new design would be handy, so here we go:
1) How much do you really need in your sidebars?
Addicted to widgets? They’re great fun to play around with but they slow down your blog and detract from the content.
If you can get everything in one column all the better. The fewer distractions, the more will get read. If you find cool stuff, put it in the body of the post where it will get seen by all your RSS subscribers.
2) Stay slim ‘above the fold’.
Make sure your logo, blog title and any top menus don’t push your great content too far down the page. Mine’s too big right now, so do as I say, not as I do! Your first blog post and first paragraph of content shoudl be visible on at least an 800×600 screen.
3) Think about how you are going to monetise your blog?
If your blog is there to promote you as an expert, and get your lecture tour of the US off the ground, then you don’t need to smother it in Adsense and Chitika ads. If not, then think about where you are going to place your ad units.
At the end of a post is great, give your readers something to click on when they finish reading and reach those dead-end spots. Also a block above the fold is good, for all those visitors who would otherwise hit the back button, give them something else to click on.
4) Spend a little on a custom logo and header
There are some awesome, and very cheap designers at Sitepoint Go on, spend a few dollars and give yourself a nice unique look and feel that people will remember. You’ll be glad you did. There are some great article on designing site headers and logos at Before & After Magazine if you feel up to the job yourself.
5) Don’t forget the content!
I left this until last deliberately as it’s the last point that gets remembered most.
Give your content room to be read, lots of white space between the text and and side columns, and keep the line length to about 7 words on average. This is about as much as most people can take in in one glance and makes it easy to read. Newspaper columns are that width for a reason.
Make it clear where one blog ends and the next one starts, use images to highlight your points where you can, it’ll make your blog less daunting to readers.
If you’re struggling with content, have a poke round Problogger.com. Loads of great tips on how to overcome writers block and consistently turn out posts that people wil want to read.
Good luck with it Kieron, I hope this helps you find yourself a design that makes your great blog stay as easy and useful to read.