Hello! My name is Kayla, and I’m the owner/designer of Sweet Anne Designs, and the blogger at Saynotsweetanne.com. I have a Bachelor’s of Fine arts with a concentration in Graphic Design. I’ve worked with web for over 10 years, and WordPress/Content Management systems for about 9. I’m currently the Divisional Web & Graphic Designer for an International Non-Profit agency.
For this article, I contacted several designers from around the US to pick their brains about blog design and its impacts. Their responses were very interesting and largely similar. Since there was so much information covered in the interviews, I’ll be breaking them up into smaller posts. So check back!
The Design is your face
In this day and age, when clipart is readily available and everyone seems to know someone who knows someone, I sometimes have to convince people that what I do as a graphic designer is worthwhile. I often get questions like, “why does a logo matter?” and, “can’t I just use something from Google?” These are some of the same questions that I hear from bloggers. “Do I need a fancy header? Can’t it just be text?” or “I’m just using the default theme, is that okay?”
I don’t like to tell clients what to do. Instead, I explain the reasoning behind, for example, a nice blog header, or a customized theme, and let them be the judge. In the course of the discussion, I often find myself saying “your blog design is your face, and you want a face to be proud of.” After that, convincing isn’t usually hard, because the reality is that a good design makes a blog Attractive, Professional, and Friendly.
Imagine you’re driving down the highway. There are restaurants right and left, and you are trying to decide where to stop for dinner. There are two diners in front of you. One sports a brightly lit, pretty neon sign with legible words and a crisp outline. The other has hand painted, crooked, and peeling sign. Which would you stop at?
Your blog design, header, colors, photos etc. are just like that sign. They are the first thing that a reader sees, and they are the quickest information to process. In seconds, a reader will compare your website with everything else they’ve ever seen, and decide if it is worth their time. If the design is good, they will stay.
“Customers loot at and evaluate your site within seconds, so you need to catch their attention, engage their interest.”
- George Todoroff, Lead Web Designer at Buckeye Interactive
In keeping with the business analogies, imagine you are hiring. Your first interviewee of the day enters with a wrinkled shirt, stained pants, flip flop sandals and a bright pink bow in their hair. The second interviewee is wearing a clean, crisp suit with a tie, shiny dress shoes and nicely cut hair. All other aspects being equal, which of these candidates will get the job? The one that looks professional.
To a reader, poor design is viewed the same way sloppy clothes are. It comes off as unprofessional. In the example, a wrinkled shirt might be the equivalent of a hard-to-read font. The flip flips might be a 1980’s photo of yourself on the sidebar that you keep because it is your “best photo”. The pink bow might be a set of social media icons that make no logical sense with the color or theme of your blog. All of these elements add up.
Conversely, a beautiful photo, matching colors, legible font and coordinating buttons can send a message of professionalism. Just like matching suit and tie, your blog design should be uniform, thought out and consistent.
“If you want to be professional, it is important to look professional. The old saying ‘you only get one chance to make a first impression,’ is especially true in the blogging world.” – Jonathan Russel, Professor of Web & Graphic Design at Central Michigan University
Finally, your blog design goes a long way to make your blog friendly. Imagine that you’ve hit upon a small country store, and you’d like to go inside to buy a snack. How would you feel if when you walked in, half of the boxes on the shelves were empty? What if you couldn’t tell if they were cash only, until the attendant irritably tells you so? What if the aisles were crooked and had dead ends, leaving you to wander around looking for things at random? How would you feel?
Chances are, you would feel frustrated. This is the same sort of feeling that broken links, illegible text, nonsensical navigation (or a lack of navigation), and distracting ads give to your reader. Blog design can go a long way to alleviating that feeling, and leaving your readers with an impression of friendliness. With easy to find navigation, legible font, and illustrative photos, your blog design increases usability and keeps reader frustration to a minimum.
“[The first thing I see on a blog is] the masthead and navigation. I want to know what I’m looking at and where I can go next. I’ll move to the content as soon as I’ve gained a foothold on how to work the contraption.”
– Derek Rudel, Graphic Designer/Creative
These are some of the first points I often make with clients, but there is so much more. Check back for information on how good design helps you stand out, how it helps you retain readership, as well as handy do’s, don’ts and tips!