Guest Post by Dustin Stout.
Often times one of the most overwhelming aspects of building a business blog is design. Web design in general can be an intimidating, confusing, frustrating, and expensive part of building online success, especially when you know how relatively easy the other parts of building a successful corporate blog can be in comparison!
Well, here is some more bad news (if you can take it): You have about 5 seconds at most to make a visual impression on a visitor before they decide if your site is credible and worth their time. The good news is that you can communicate credibility and value by following my 5 simple keys!
One big thing that you should keep in mind when implementing the following keys is simplicity. The most successful business blogs out there incorporate the following keys, and they do it with simplicity (well, most of them anyways).
The five keys I’ll be covering are:
- Content Focus
- White Space
- Social Prominence
Lets jump right into it!
The dominant colors of your business blog will set the tone for a visitor within their first 5 seconds on your site. You don’t want to screw this up. When a visitor lands on your homepage, you want them to have the right impression and emotional response immediately. While staying true to your brand’s identity, it is helpful to keep the following in mind in regards to what colors communicate:
- red – increases the heart rate; draws attention
- orange – communicates youthfulness and action
- yellow – increases energy and inspires cheerfulness
- green – easiest color for the eye to process; encourages relaxation and growth
- blue – associated with trustworthiness and authority
- black – elegance, style, strength
- white – balance, cleanliness, and purity
Always be sure that there is enough contrast between the background color and the color of your text. This would seem like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen far too many people make the mistake of making their text nearly blend into the background.
2. Content Focus
You want your content to be the visual focus of your blog. The purpose is to display value and authority through your content. Therefore, make sure that the majority of your screen space is dedicated to just that– your content!
Sidebars, menus, footers, banners, logos– all secondary to your content. To make sure of this, take a screen shot of your blog and divide it up into sections. Out of the 100% of screen space that you can see in a single screen shot, what percentage of that space is dedicated only to content? Here’s an example:
As you can see from the image above my content takes up the majority of my screen real estate. This is what I would encourage you to do with your business blog. Don’t let anything even come close to visually overpowering your content. Period.
3. White Space
Clutter communicates chaos. Chaos is not good for business. Unless your in league with that shady Joker character from the Batman movie. In which case you’ll probably want lots and lots of explosions to happen when people read your blog, and since I’m not an expert in Flash animation, I can’t help you. However if you are not into the whole chaos thing, white space is your best friend!
Give your content and your readers room to breathe (so to speak). Our eyes need room to visually “breathe” in order to process all that they are taking in. If everything is small, cramped and cluttered, then the brain has trouble taking it all in. When things are nicely spaced out with some empty space surrounding the main objects of focus, we can process things better with more enjoyment.
The space doesn’t have to be white, any color will do, as long as its just plain color with nothing to focus on or be distracted by. The space surrounding your content should be the most down-played color within your color scheme. Your readers will thank you– if not verbally, then with their ongoing return visits.
Typography refers to the type or fonts that you use throughout your site. Most people just stick to the defaults, and that is just fine. However if you want to optimise your typography, it can make a world of difference for a user’s experience and really take the wow-factor of your site up a notch.
A good place to find fonts is from our good friends over at Google Webfonts. They’ve made hundreds of high-quality fonts available to the digital public for free. Don’t get carried away with this though. It’s best to stick with 2 fonts. Not too fancy, not too ordinary, and for the love of God stay away from Comic Sans or Papyrus.
Here are the two types of text to consider using unique fonts for:
- Titles, headings, and sub-headings. This should be the more bold of the 2 fonts. Could be a script or a display font, but not too fancy that it becomes difficult to read.
- Paragraph text font. Something simple and easy to read. And when I say easy to read, I mean super-duper easy to read.
One extra mile you might go is one that most bloggers wont– that is to take the time to optimize the size of your fonts. Without taking your through an entire lesson on readability and comprehension philosophy here’s what it boils down to: You want your content to read like a book. Meaning if someone holds up an average book to their computer screen and compares the size of the fonts, they should be pretty similar in size.
Practically, this translates to 60-75 characters per line of text. This way, each line is not too long, making it difficult to keep track of where you are when you start a new line. Also, the lines aren’t too short, forcing the eyes to have to reset too often, making it very annoying.
5. Social Prominence
One thing that kills me when visiting a corporate blog is when I feel like I’m spending more time trying to figure out how to share something I’m reading than actually reading. Or even worse, I have to dig to find links to their social media profiles. There is no better way to kill your corporate blogs growth potential than to make social sharing difficult or cumbersome.
Make sure that you include an easy and seamless way for readers to share your content. Make it prominent, make it obvious, and make sure it’s not in the way. Confused yet? How about a perfect example? Boom, you got one directly to the left of this post. You see that beautiful social share bar? Get one for your site. Non-negotiable.
If you have an awesome blogging theme like Standard Theme , it comes built in and you don’t even have to do anything but activate it in the settings menu. However if you don’t have a theme that already comes with one built in, the best one on the market is the “Digg Digg” plugin (owned by the nice folks over at Buffer). It’s simple, easy to use, non-intrusive, and will follow your readers down the page as they read, making it obvious, simple and seamless to share your content across the interwebs.
And that about sums it all up! All of these are just to get you pointed in the right direction. Don’t be intimidated by them, but take them into consideration one bite at a time. It will surely pay off in the end! If you understand the these 4 keys to making your business blog visually appealing, you will have more success, less stress, and be a step ahead of all the rest when it comes to starting a profitable business blog.
Do you have any questions about any of these keys to visual awesomeness?
[This is part of the Building a Killer Business and Corporate Blog Series. Guest Post by one of our Community Leaders, Dustin who actually runs a web design shop where he can help you out in this area of need!