Design an effective blog

1. Use prototypical website layouts, avoid totally new and never-seen-before layouts, to make it easy for your users to find what they want.

2. Make sure your search box is clearly visible, above the fold, at least 27 characters wide, and that it functions properly.

If you use a WordPress site, use a plugin like Relevanssi to improve WordPress built-in search, which lists the results by date, not relevance.

3. Use plenty of white space. Don’t fill every possible space with banners or messages, so users can easily consume the information you produce.

4. Include images in your blog posts and position them using the rule of thirds.

The rule of thirds says that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines. The most important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections. See the rule of thumb in action in the image below: An example showing the rule of thirds in action.

5. Make sure it’s possible for visitors to clearly understand what your blog is about and who is it for, no matter which page they land on.

People start reading your website from the top left corner. That’s where you want to place the most important information.

6. Use large fonts of at least 14px, short lines like the width of Tynan’s blog posts, limit paragraphs to 3-4 lines, and add a subheading after every 2-3 paragraphs, to make your text easy to read.

Make sure that different text elements have a different look and feel such as main headings, subheadings, regular text, italic text, quotes, lists and so on. You can use a tool like TypeTester to test and compare different fonts, sizes, and so on.

7. Use a lead magnet to attract visitors to sign up to your email list.

The purpose is to encourage repeat visits and build a relationship by providing value beforehand. There are other ways to encourage repeat visits from your visitors: Invite them to subscribe to your RSS feed whilst stating how many people already follow you, ask them to follow you on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook, and offer to subscribe to your blog posts over email, Feedburner is a good tool for this. Make sure you focus on ONE of these options the most, email list is best, but give a choice of up to 3 options.

8. Improve your sign up forms by putting your labels above the input box, not next to it, asking for as little amount of data as possible, an email address is enough in most cases, and having your submit button say what’s coming next.

Make sure your form offers the exact thing people search for on Google to come to the site. The One Question, a site helping people find their life purpose, has 30% of new visitors sign up via this form every day, using these techniques.

9. Use your own photography instead of stock photos.

If you can’t decide on a color scheme, use an online color matching tool like Adobe Kuler or Colorexplorer to find what colors match.

10. A/B test your most important pages and design elements, constantly, and measure the improvement.