Navigation is a vital aspect on any website in the world just for the simple fact that without the ease of navigation through a website we would never actually find the certain pages we are looking for. I find it extremely annoying when I cannot find what I am looking for - your visitors will probably feel the same, hence making navigation crucial.
A good example of an easy website to navigate through:
As you can see on the fuelyourcreativity.com website, it is easily navigated through; with the main navigation bar on the top of the page, the blog posts are easily indentified, and below the logo is a list of all the categories for easy access to your specified blog post.
There is also a "most popular posts" section, pagination and a list of the social networking links, all in all making this an easy accessible website.
This step, I could write a whole article about as this section is the first thing that catches the users' attention. It is within the first few seconds of visiting a website that a majority of the visitors decides whether they like or dislike the website, and whether they will close the window or if they will stay.
You have two decisions at the start of the design phase of your blog redesign. Should you use a template or should you create your own unique design which will set you apart from the rest?
Using a template
If you have none / little knowledge about creating a website, then this certainly would be the easiest / cheapest option, but will it get you exactly the results you had hoped for from the beginning?
Below are websites that sell cheap templates:
The best thing would probably be having your own unique design, even though it may cost more to start with (if you don't design it yourself). Creating your own design, if done properly of course, will gain you the admiration of your visitors, which is an excellent reason for them to return. Below are a few examples of excellent designed blogs that will catch your attention:
Many blogs are used as a secondary income, or the bigger blogs as a permanent income, but whichever it may be for you, adverts can be a vital part of making money online. Having a sidebar to display advertisements, utilizing Google ad words or text links are all good ways to make money online. However, keep in mind that you should never overcrowd your blog with too many ads. Yes, we all like to make money, and with advertisements on your blog it can be fairly easy, but don't overshadow the main reason with your blog, as this can be a big turn off for visitors.
A well-crafted logotype is a great addition to your pr-kit. It will give your site, and brand, more credibility and the visitor will now remember your site, by both looking and reading.
Number five on the list we have something that, unfortunately, is way too common. Many websites tend to include just about everything they can get their hands on as they think it will make their site "rich on content". Yes, you should add things that you, your site and your visitors can benefit from but do not go over the top and start adding things that are not related to anything on your blog. Remember that less is often more.
Since you are redesigning your blog, it is probably fair to assume that you are already using a certain piece of blogging software? Software such as Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla and Expression Engine... So the next stage of the decision making process is - do you stick with what you have or do you move on and try another blogging software package?
If you really want to show off, then you can always create your own CMS (Content Management System) and start blogging using that, but remember that this requires a LOT of time to build.
Having a well recognisable strapline is a huge advantage to have. If you have a catchy strapline people will instantly be reminded about you, giving them more of an incentive to return. Here are two famous lines that everyone can recognise:
"I think, therefore IBM" – IBM
"Trust me - I'm a Doctor" - Dr. Pepper
"Live Your Moment" - Xbox
A good strap line can certainly have a big influence over your visitors so take some time and exercise your creative muscles.
8) Content / Text
This is definitely the most important point of them all, because if it wasn't for the good content why would people even bother visiting your blog once? Ok, people might be able to find your blog but if the content is just nonsense they will never return.
So good content is imperative and a couple of fonts that come recommend for easy reading are:
These are of course just a few, there are plenty more, but the fonts just mentioned tend to be especially appreciated on the web.
9) Valid HTML / Cross Browser
This point will be broken down into two parts. Firstly, valid HTML is definitely advisable as good clean valid code is a good recipe for getting you high onto Google and other search engines.
To check if your code is valid, visit any of the two links below:
HTML validation - http://validator.w3.org
CSS validation - http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/
And secondly, cross browser compliance is a must as you want to hit the scope of as many people as possible. Why limit your design to only a couple of browsers when you can broaden your horizon and reach even more visitors?
A good way to see what your website looks like on every browser is to go to http://browsershots.com, add your URL and wait while it creates a screenshot in every browser.
This is the last point on the list and it is definitely one of the most important as what's the point in having the best blog design and the best content if there isn't anybody visiting your website?
There are numerous ways you can drive traffic to your website. A couple tips that we can give you are:
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) - This can be broken down into a number of parts such as; keywords, Meta tags, heading tags, valid code as mentioned in part 9 and many more.
Social Networking - Joining the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Design Bump and Stumble Upon are all great ways to become friends with many people in your working field and therefore gain more traffic.
Advertising - This one isn't like the other two points as advertising on other niche websites can cost a little bit of money. There are also free alternatives, such as link swapping and guest blog posts. However, both the paid and the free "ads" can gain you a lot of traffic.
Often neglected and overlooked, usability should perhaps be the main concern regarding web design. If you haven't already, make sure to test your existing design before changing it. One method to measure what your visitors's think is the quick, dirty and cheap Think-Aloud method.
While testing usability can be very costly and thus considered a privileged limited to the large and wealthy, there are tests that require very little in terms of time and money. The Think Aloud method is one that falls into the category of quick and dirty usability testing. Using it you will not reach the level of statistical accuracy like bigger and more detailed surveys, but you will hopefully be able to retrieve enough constructive feedback from your participant to get an idea of your site user friendliness.
How the "Think Aloud" Usability Method Works
- Recruit a participant - Sit down with a person that matches your demographic in front of a computer
- Record the survey - Initiate the webcam and video screenshot software such as Snagit
- Give tasks to do - Simply ask him/her to complete different tasks on your site
- Do not help - Do not lead your participants on and in any way tell him how to do complete tasks given
- Have participant think aloud - Make sure your participant through out the survey gives feedback out loud with no restraint
- Do this three times - Repeat this with at least three different participants
For more information regarding Usability, check out what master Nielsen writes on http://useit.com