One that particularly stood out to me was Blair Culwell, who not only writes the blog The Fox & She, but also does blog design ‘for the stylish blogger’ at Leap. I thought the crop top and white culottes she was rocking would be a solid indication of her authority on style, but man y’all, she also has the back-end knowledge on lock.
Luckily for you all, I am a ferocious notetaker and wanted to share some of the tips and advice she gave that I found particularly useful. If you’re looking for more information from Blair, be sure to check out her new resource site, Blog Better by Leap.
On a sidenote—I talked with Blair during the networking suite portion of the conference about small changes I could make to A Touch of Teal to step it up a notch. Can’t wait to roll them out over the next few weeks.
1. You only get one chance to make a first impression. People are going to form their opinion about your whole site right when they hit your page. To make sure that you get the most bang for your buck in these critical first seconds, be sure to:
- Use only 2-3 fonts, and use a basic font (i.e. Arial, Open Sans, Georgia and not one that requires CSS) to ensure faster load time. Stay consistent with how you use these fonts.
- Make sure your images span the full width of the column.
- Do not center-align text, instead, rely on the ever-faithful left-align.
2. Install Google Analytics. This is the industry standard and will give you solid insights onto where you’re sourcing a lot of your traffic from. You can look at what posts are bringing you the most hits, and create more content in that vein.
3. Utilize WordPress Plugins, if possible. Like me, Blair recommends using SEO by Yoast to maximize your content for search engines. She also recommends installing the Reduce Bounce Rate Plugin, as this will take into account when people scroll on your site, therefore reducing your bounce rate. Since Google counts a high bounce rate as bad—a healthy one is 35% or less—this plugin can directly impact your page rank, thus driving more traffic to your site.
4. Some design trends are great. For instance, sticky navigation bars—like mine!—allow readers to easily navigate through your site no matter where they are on the page. Sticky social icons are also good, but know that people are more likely to scroll through your content and follow your blog for a while before they connect with you on every social media platform.
Smaller, clean logos are also beneficial as they help create the aforementioned great first impression and don’t take up as much vertical space. This pushes more of your content to the “top of the fold,” which both readers and advertisers alike favor.
5. Some design trends are not so great. Be wary of editorial-inspired sites. Most readers don’t know how these work, and while they may look cool, there is too much going on to keep sustained interested.
Be equally wary of sliders that rotate images. Not only do these generally slow down your site, people tend to associate them with advertisements and your blog should be a beacon of authentic content.
6. Go mobile, or go home. In this day in age, if you don’t have a mobile-responsive site you’re really hurting yourself. Google rates mobile-responsive pages higher and readers like to be able to scroll through your site while waiting on their Starbucks order.
7. Think about the goals of your blog and figure out how you can achieve those goals through great design. The top left of your page is a great place for a “shop” tab and the bottom right of your page is great for a call to action (this is because our eyes’ move in a “Z” formation when reading). In a similar vein, he left side of the page is the “strong side” based on this formation, so move your post column to the left and have your about column on the right for maximum content exposure.
8. Get savvy with your images. A few best practices to keep in mind:
- Compress your pictures for web (72 dots-per-inch aka dpi). These will still look beautiful but help your site load faster.
- Make your images twice the size of your content column. This will allow your images to look great on both a regular screen and a retina screen.
- Be smart about how you name your images. As many key words as you can get in there, the better. Google can’t search an image, but it can search the image name.
- Take advantage of the “alt text” as this will help with keyword searching. Try to get three to six keywords or phrases in there.
9. Do the back-end maintenance. Delete any old plugins you aren’t using. Keep the ones you are using up to date, along with WordPress itself. This will help you keep your site safe from vulnerabilities. And, of course, back that sh*t up.
Photos by Kim Graham